Report: Boston Conference—A Magna Cum Laude in Spirituality


People need more than a junior high education in the gospel to deal with today’s problems, and when the announcements were made that a young adult conference was in the offering, people in the eastern United States began making sacrifices so they could attend and increase their knowledge. Young adults in school, working, or in the armed services flocked to the meetings in Boston sponsored by the Student Association under the direction of President L. Tom Perry, Boston Stake.

Special guests were President and Sister Harold B. Lee and Elder Marion D. Hanks, an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and managing director of the Student Association. Other visitors were Neal Maxwell, Church Commissioner of Education, Dr. Terry Warner, Dean of the General College at Brigham Young University, Dr. Chase N. Peterson, vice-president of Harvard, Dr. Frank Bradshaw, assistant to the director of Seminaries and Institutes, and Bishop Sterling Workman, executive secretary of the Student Association. Also present were priesthood leaders and Regional Representatives of the regions involved.

The 508 people attending represented 7 missions, 25 stakes, 4 priesthood regions, and 2 institute divisions. They came from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, Brown, and Princeton. They were from as far south as Raleigh, North Carolina, and as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thirty were nonmembers. One hundred eighteen had been baptized within the last year. Of the remaining number, two-thirds had been in the Church for four years or less. They were full of spirit and questions. They came to get answers and be comforted.

Thirty percent of the group were not formally enrolled in school, but it was pointed out during the opening sessions that there is no such thing as a limited definition of student in the kingdom of God. We are all always students—or ought to be.

Maurine Jensen of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said, “Walking across the yard of Harvard University between classes, I am usually given printed information and pamphlets from ardent students, inviting me to join everything from the political movements to mysterious cults. As I study in my room, loudspeakers in passing trucks blare information on rallies and strikes. Amidst this confusing flood of rhetoric many of my college friends are lost. They wonder what they can believe in and what is worth doing in a world of such contradictory ideas. For all of us at this conference, that question was beautifully answered. We know now that no work is more important than the Lord’s work. Because ours is a time of great stress, it is also a time of great opportunity and need.”

“The pressures of college classes,” said Rick Isakson of Cumorah Region, “where they talk about the myths, folklore, and fantasies of the Bible, can be shattering to a sheltered youth who isn’t firmly grounded in the gospel. I’ve learned that the Lord blesses us in our school work if we ask him, and I’ve become committed again through this conference to line my life up with him.”

Wilf Gardner, host Student Association president, noted the “exciting internationalization of the Church,” which he’d come to understand more through the conference. “It was so marvelous to have the counselor of the Lord’s prophet here. President Lee was marvelous,” said Wilf. “and I felt the purpose of the conference to be summed up in Elder Hanks’ remark that action follows conviction. If we can all remember that now.”

“When you care enough to send the very best—as in the case of these great visitors from Salt Lake at this conference—we know you really care,” commented Pat Price from Potomac Region.

Kurt Christensen of New York Region loved the superb music (like Tony Kimball’s violin) of the conference sessions. “This is the area of the greatest concentration of fine universities in the world,” said Kurt, “and the talent of the students reflects this. This was a time of great spiritual buoying up.”

The Student Association was originally designed to get an arm of the gospel out to students because of the unusual campus pressures of time allocation, brainwashing, and loneliness. “Floating groups of students in search of each other in a plastic world,” as Neal Maxwell called them, found themselves in the informal but inspiring session with the fabulous “D’s,” whose musical entertainment and testimonies impressed all, in the exciting atmosphere of an authentic Hawaiian luau staged by the local members; in the quiet talks in the lounge area of the fantastic Marriott lodge where delegates were housed, and in the informal talk sessions and unstructured discussion groups.

David Beardsley Simpson of Yale shared a reason for his being there: “When the girl I love bore her testimony to me and urged me to contact the missionaries, I simply had to investigate the Church. At first I was intrigued only because it moved my beautiful friend so. Finally I was baptized because I was convinced the Church is true, and the gospel fills a deep spiritual chasm that was in my life. Now to be a part of this conference is most exciting. I’ll never be the same again.”

Deborah Teske of East Rochester, New York, expressed her appreciation for Dr. Terry Warner’s part on the program. “Brother Warner remarked that when we have the secret of the gospel, we must learn all we can because we’ll be tested. I can testify to this. This is why we appreciate this conference so much and being able to listen to President Lee, Elder Marion D. Hanks, and the other wonderful guests. It’s so strengthening to us.”

Jeannine Gravelle from Paris is a convert of two and a half years and is visiting in the Boston area. Her delight at seeing so many members of the Church her age was almost overwhelming. “What a way to practice English!” she exclaimed.

Evelyn Burns and Judy Miller of Bermuda had to scrape money together to fly over for the conference. “We both had the feeling that we had to be there. There is so much to learn about the gospel and there are so many where we live who haven’t had this kind of chance. Now we can go back and be a help.” Georgi Campbell of Ontario, Canada, said, “There are only twenty-five members in our whole branch. It’s marvelous to see so many Mormons. When can we do this again?” Chi Yon Fukino was surrounded with new friends and thrilled to learn “so many things that I didn’t know about the Church that are marvelous. What a marvelous thing is Mormonism!”

“I feel great about being a woman now,” expressed Julie Davis of Cumorah Region. Meredith Barker, Boston, felt this conference introduced attitudes about woman’s role that were extremely helpful to the bright women students attending.

Greg Monson said, “Elder Hanks has a way of clarifying the toughest concerns a person might have. He really makes me want to live better. His explanation of how the Holy Ghost can function in our lives was most inspiring.”

Each speaker had a following, and young marrieds took turns baby tending so that nothing would be missed. Said Pam Woods of Cambridge, “We’ll never forget these speakers.”

It was a time of great spiritual rejuvenation, coming to a sweet climax when President Harold B. Lee closed the conference. His remarks touched the participants deeply. The comments expressed after were almost prayers of thanks for his testimony so movingly expressed. He reminded us that “each should have a deep conviction that what we are about in this Church is true. When you know this, nothing else matters.” He explained that finding one’s way to this deep conviction comes about in three ways: (1) doing your spiritual housekeeping, (2) doing His will, (3) praying for the gift of testimony.

Treasured and strengthened testimonies and friendships are the fruits of this conference where students and career or service people mingled with Church leaders and visitors. It was a gospel experience of the highest type, and delegates agreed it had been much more than “a junior high education” they had received during the sessions.

[photo] Elder Marion D. Hanks addresses a discussion group

[photo] Mingling with General Authorities was a memorable experience

[photo] Young adults contemplate the keynote address

[photo] President Harold B. Lee greets each delegate

[photo] Neal Maxwell, Commissioner of Education, explains new policies in Church schools

[photo] A delegate is thrilled to meet a prophet of God