Underneath the tape recorder, behind the camera, holding several inches of instructional materials while straining to recall the exact words of a dozen speakers, the sister from California trudged to the information desk.
“Help! I’m lost.”
She ran head on into a smiling “Ask Me” young person whose badge said just that.
Thousands of Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women leaders had gathered in Salt Lake City for a Heritage Arts Festival, June Conference, and a chance to listen and learn about directing youth from Church leaders and hundreds of young people themselves. The First Presidency and other General Authorities, speaking at two general sessions, inspired as well as instructed adult advisers.
It didn’t matter whether they had come from Dunn Loring, Virginia; Winona, Kansas; Beirut, Lebanon; or even nearby Murray or Midvale, almost everyone had at least one question for the scores of young people directing traffic in the huge Salt Palace convention center.
“Do you have a safety pin?” queried one lady whose hem had let her down.
“Do you know anyone who wants a ride to San Diego?” asked another woman.
Some questions were easier to answer than others. But regardless, youth leaders attending June Conference had the opportunity to meet young people from the Salt Lake Valley and outlying areas as they scurried from workshop to assembly meeting to concert to play. And when they found the right room and their cushioned resting spot, they settled back to hear more young people sing, discuss, perform, and demonstrate how to effectively reach the youth of the Church.
The workshops hit on everything from missionary preparation and creative teaching to service and cultural arts activities. While the adults spent three days at the sessions, the conference was the end of a many-months’ project for most of the youth involved. Working with members of their own stakes as well as many new friends, the youth who participated were having fun while learning about the cogwork of planning and running Church programs. They were learning because they were also teaching.
Many of the central themes expressed in the workshops were developed from actual situations. While one group of young people was singing about the need to stamp out the bear hug at dances, another group launched a campaign to lower skirts and driving speeds while raising morals, Sabbath-day activities, and obedience.
Beehive Marianne Miner, of the Salt Lake Valley View Sixth Ward, along with others in her Young Women program, joined in to help make a slide and sound presentation on record keeping. Before this she was unaware that her ward Young Women president, Annette Brantzeg, had a special testimony of keeping records. The presentation explained that when Annette was only nine weeks old her mother died. Annette was raised by her grandparents and was never told much about her mother. Because of unusual circumstances Annette did not see her father for many years. Then when she was 17, he visited her and brought with him a journal that her mother had kept for one year of her life. That journal made it possible for a daughter to come to know her mother. In that record Annette was able to share a part of her mother’s life—her courtship, the discovery of a heart condition, her experiences as a school teacher in Wyoming.
Hearing the story made Marianne think about the importance of keeping records and the many kinds of records we can keep. “I was really moved by Annette’s story. I immediately started my book of remembrance. I’m going to keep things from school and church to put in it. I’m also going to start my life story.”
Even the familiar became more meaningful for many participating in the conference. David Howell, a priest in the Bountiful Central Stake, together with other musician friends from school, rehearsed several LDS hymns to present in one of the workshops. “It was the first time I’ve played hymns in a group. We watched people’s eyes water during ‘A Poor Wayfaring Man.’ The hymns brought out whole different feelings in me. I really realized the meaning of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ ‘God of Our Fathers,’ and ‘Firm As the Mountains Around Us.’ I think we really touched others too.”
The activities of June Conference meant the end of a year’s work on the Mia Maid youth ad hoc committee for Margaret Anderson of the Salt Lake Foothill Stake. She and other committee members served as a sounding board by filling out questionnaires on activities and lessons and then passing surveys out to friends. “I’ve really learned about the needs of others this past year, especially the needs of other Mia Maids. June Conference gave me the opportunity to present a skit about really getting involved in the Young Women program. It’s also been a lot of fun meeting new people from all over.”
The skits, readings, musical numbers, and dances in the workshops, however, were only the beginning as conference visitors turned their attention to the lavish Heritage Arts Festival that encouraged them to “remember the past, to better the future.” On a much larger scale, the festival was intended to stimulate similar activities to be held in stakes and regions throughout the Church this year and next. There was too much something for everyone with displays, dramatizations, films, historic tours, concerts, and musicals spread throughout the city and everyone wishing he could see more.
“Heaven: Person to Person Please,” a readers theater written and portrayed by LDS youths 15 to 17, explored questions young people have about God, his existence, his relationship to his children, and his methods of helping them. Ranging from the small child’s “Where does God live?” to the much more mature “Why does God allow a good person to die of a serious illness or to be killed in a senseless war?” the readings illustrated faith, perception, and gratitude as the young people related their clear visions of the meaning of God in their lives.
An original dramatic musical, Title of Liberty, played before standing-room-only crowds, and Church leaders encouraged stakes and regions throughout the United States to stage their own production of the Revolutionary War saga. Centered around one family’s divided loyalties between Tory and Patriot causes, the show stressed the importance of individual as well as collective freedom.
A montage of clips from early Church films and Young Adult film fairs was popular with visitors as was the “Land of Promise,” a modified readers theater with dancing, singing, and orchestra. The script, taken from actual journals, letters, folklore, and documented histories of North America and of the Church, captured the humor and courage of America’s earliest settlers and traced the nation’s divine destiny up to the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.
There were costumed dance presentations for Young Adults and Young Special Interests as well as a collection of musical groups, many of them entire families, outlining various cultural heritages. A choral and slide presentation recalled many of the struggles of early Latter-day Saint pioneers through such recognized hymns as “Praise to the Man,” “Shall the Youth of Zion Falter,” and “Come, Come Ye Saints.” Eliza R. Snow, George Careless, and Ebenezer Beesley became more familiar to those already moved by their dramatic verse.
There was even a lavish production of the small-town but big-Broadway hit Music Man, complete with a brass band of tow-headed ten-year-olds.
When conference visitors weren’t occupied with inspiring meetings, workshops, plays, dances, and other exhibits, they found themselves strolling through a bustling city Main Street circa 1900. There was no time machine, but Heritage Square, a 50-building replica of what used to be, took visitors back to a time few recall.
The workshops, plays, and concerts were only a part of June Conference and the Heritage Arts Festival. The counsel of Church leaders gave an increased awareness to adult leaders of their responsibility to young Church members and gave youths counsel for conducting their lives. President Spencer W. Kimball stressed that as members we should be “mobilizing and stretching all our muscles and drawing on all our resources” in taking the gospel to the world. The prophet added that “we cannot improve on the doctrines or the basic organization of the Church. But we can improve ourselves, and we can improve the way in which we do our individual duties, the way we keep in step with progress.”
For the thousands of visitors and hundreds of young people who participated in June Conference and the Heritage Arts Festival, the prophet’s counsel to “keep in step with progress” took on additional significance. President Kimball announced that this year’s conference would be the last as the Church moves to decentralize and meet the increased challenges of a worldwide organization. He stressed that Church leaders were realizing “the impracticality of concentrating our activities and learning processes in the headquarters center only.”
With determination to continue “lengthening our stride,” visitors and young people participating in this year’s conference left with recollections of emphasizing proud heritages, strong youth programs, and a worldwide organization geared to take the gospel to all people.
The following June Conference and Heritage Arts Festival publications are available at the Church Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111.
One Hundred and One Ideas—projects, activities, and games centered around the United States’ Bicentennial. (Many of these are easily adaptable for other countries.) PXJM0228 50 cents.
Sharing—music and lyrics for Young Women about giving of yourself—time, talents, and enthusiasm. PXJM024A 15 cents.
Land of Promise—modified readers theater with music about American events leading up to the Restoration. PSJM0071 60 cents.