Service and Music Enrich Washington Youth Conference
Contributed By Kay Patterson, Church News contributor
- The conference culminated with a 720-voice youth choir and a 130-piece youth orchestra performing for a combined audience of over 9,000.
- The conference also included service projects for local organizations.
“A Perfect Brightness of Hope” (2 Nephi 31:20) was the theme for the 2014 Regional Youth Conference and Music Festival held in Vancouver, Washington, June 26–28, 2014.
The conference culminated with a 720-voice youth choir and a 130-piece youth orchestra performing for a combined audience of over 9,000 in three public performances on Saturday, June 28, 2014, at the Clark County Fairground Event Center.
Youth ages 14–18 and many nonmember friends from the Vancouver Stake, the Vancouver East Stake, the Vancouver West Stake, the Longview Stake, The Dalles Oregon Stake, and the Vancouver North Stake participated.
Missionaries from the Washington Vancouver Mission attended and welcomed many nonmembers to the three performances on Saturday. More than 200 adult volunteers participated each day in addition to 100 team coaches.
“We truly saw the hand of the Lord in bringing this event about,” said conference co-director Sister Kay Patterson. “Whether it was locating a venue, obtaining music stands for the orchestra, or solving food service challenges, time and again we saw the Lord’s hand in providing ways for us to acquire the things we needed. It was evident to us that He had a purpose for this event and was involved in every detail.”
Youth conference activities began in September 2013 with conference kickoff firesides presented to each stake’s youth introducing the plans for the conference. The firesides also introduced the music the youth would be learning to participate in a youth choir, youth orchestra, and dance teams for public performances to be given at the conclusion of the conference.
Music was selected to teach the principles found in 2 Nephi 31:20. Selections included many Mormon Tabernacle Choir pieces, including “Pilgrim Song,” “Thou Lovely Source of True Delight,” “O Light of Life,” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The orchestra accompanied many of the numbers and also performed the symphonic suite from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Sister Lori Collier and Brother Jeff Swanson directed the choir and orchestra.
The conference included two service projects for local organizations, the Salvation Army Back to School Program and Janus Youth Program. The youth assembled 200 school backpacks for the Salvation Army and 1,200 hygiene kits and 350 sock kits for the Janus Youth Program, a local charity serving homeless youth in the Vancouver area. As a thank you to the Clark County Event Center, the youth cleaned 50 picnic tables.
The youth were also treated to a concert by Kenneth Cope. Speakers included President Bruce G. Randall of the Vancouver North Stake; Elder Robert M. Call, Area Seventy; and Brother Jon Collier, CES director.
Reflecting on the experience, conference co-director Dale Patterson said, “We felt the Lord’s involvement in this youth conference and know it was according to His will that these children of God came together at this time, in this place, and for this experience that would impact their lives forever. Those who came with an open heart left with a greater commitment to become more like our Lord and Savior and with a greater desire to change so they can receive ‘a perfect brightness of hope.’”
Holly Roberts, one young woman who attended the conference, later wrote in an email, “Before the youth conference, I was struggling to know if Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were even there listening to me and if they cared . ... But after those three days of singing, testimonies, and service, I have learned that they are really there listening to me and caring about me and that there is a point and to stay on the path. I would have never seen this brightness of hope come into my life if it wasn't for youth conference.”
“I have heard many stories of the positive impact it has had on many youth,“ reported Sister Andrea Mortensen, a mother of one of the youth. ”At our house, the miracle was a 15-year-old boy coming home saying he felt the spirit.”
Sister DeeAnn Field, who attended the conference as one of the team coaches, wrote about a ward testimony meeting following the conference. “One young man admitted his poor attitude leading up to conference and even up until the second performance,“ she said in an email. ”But during that performance, his heart changed and he realized that it wasn't all about him and that he was singing his testimony in hopes that even one life would be blessed. It was wonderful hearing the strength that came to their testimonies as so many shared them.”
Emma Ferguson, who also served as a team coach, said she thinks everyone was touched by the music, words, and spirit they felt at the conference.
“I had the privilege to be witness in our testimony meeting how kids through the spirit made life changing decisions,“ she wrote in an email. ”A sweet girl who after being just baptized last November found herself in a moment of wavering faith and confusion but through her participation in youth conference found the strength and the desire to recommit herself and to keep walking ahead in faith,” she said.
“Or the girl who after listening to others’ stories and about their conversions got an answer to her prayer about going on a mission and felt strongly that she should go. And the football player who 'couldn't sing or didn't have even a good sense of rhythm' but still practiced and learned the songs and by doing that, he saw the impact that music had in his life and helped him feel closer to Heavenly Father. At times when he was with his teammates, the words of the songs would pop in his mind helping him stay true to who he is, reminding him of his infinite worth.”