The Great One-Day-Youth-Conference-at-Home Experiment

by Lowell Durham, Jr.

Associate Editor

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    “Somebody in the back of the room said, ‘Why don’t we just stay home?’ First there was a long silence and then we started to think. There just isn’t a more important place than right here where we are. This is the place that is ours—our home, our Zion, our place in the gospel.”

    So the youth and leaders of the Norfolk Virginia Stake just stayed at home and had one of the best youth conferences they have ever had. The theme of the conference was “How To” and developed into their title “The How-to Jamboree.”

    Under the direction of the stake president, Walter H. Hick, and with the help of Brother James Cole of the high council, Mark Welton and Becky Wertman began planning a one-day, stay-at-home youth conference.

    They began by outlining a program. Seminars with qualified leaders would be held, and each Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women group would follow its own particular schedule through the seminars that would benefit them most. The seminars were divided into several areas: homemaking, leadership, sports, dance instruction, calendars and agendas, spirituality, and a special area for the adult leaders. In addition to these seminars, there was a visit from astronaut Don Lind, who spoke and gave some special spiritual insight into the life of an astronaut and how important the gospel can be to a man who faces the special challenges that he faces.

    The Norfolk Virginia Stake youth leaders also invited Faye W. Buckley, a well-known local celebrity, to organize and conduct a special choir in just one day. It was a great success and a learning experience for music people in the stake, as well as a good chance for the youth to get together, cooperate, and produce some music in a very short time.

    The day began early with registration at 7:15 A.M. There were a few wrinkled faces and shuffling steps in the beginning, but by 8:00 in the general assembly and welcome session, all were wide awake and ready to begin. Each Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women group was given a schedule to follow, and the great one-day-youth-conference-at-home experiment was about to begin.


    The spirituality seminar emphasized the fact that as members of the Church we have a responsibility to be spiritual and to impart this feeling of spirituality to others. Creating or the “how to” of spirituality was the emphasis. Guidelines for spirituality were set and included things like knowing what the qualities of a spiritual person are and the importance of the physical atmosphere—or just being sure that you are in good places. The importance of modest and tasteful dress was discussed in relation to spirituality, along with care in the use of good language. Prayer was discussed as being most important to the spiritual well-being of each of us.


    In the seminar for sports, even the girls were invited to participate. Jim Eakins, a member of the Church who played basketball for BYU and then professionally with the Virginia Squires before being traded to the Utah Stars, led this popular seminar. Jim talked about the over-all structure of the athletic program of the Church and emphasized the importance of good health both physically and spiritually. Jim narrowed the subject down to sports on the ward level and, as one young lady was heard to say, “made the rules so easy to understand that anybody could play.” The emphasis again was “how to” build a good ward sports program.


    In the leadership seminar the principles of presidency were stressed. Leaders of quorums were challenged to teach correct principles to their quorums through having faith in their program, preparing to meet the challenge, presenting their ideas through proper and creative communication, and by realizing that good leadership is a lot of hard work. Helps were given in organizing and setting goals and priorities, and the seminar instructor said that giving excuses will not get the job done. The instructor also emphasized the point that a good leader gives credit and praise where it is deserved. If a job is praiseworthy, tell the person responsible that you appreciate his good work.


    The dancing seminar and the seminar on homemaking were most popular with the ladies, but some of the males managed to get included in both. The men were persuaded to join in the dancing and really enjoyed themselves more than they wanted to admit. In the homemaking seminar the leaders arranged to have a five-foot-ten-inch “baby boy” on hand to practice their child care skills on. The baby had a giant pacifier, a doll, a giant diaper, a mustache, cried very little, and cooperated with the leaders in demonstrating several correct principles of child care.

    The baby was later seen eating fried chicken and drinking root beer at the conference luncheon, and no one burped him.

    At 5:00 P.M. the final seminar was finished, and it was time to dress for dinner and the activities that would follow. These included one-act plays presented by the Hampton Ward and the Williamsburg Branch. Then the choir that had been practicing in groups all day long finally got together for the big number. It was great! After the program a formal dance provided a fitting end to a unique one-day experience.

    It turned out that staying at home for a youth conference was more fun than anyone had thought it would be. And just about everyone learned more, did more, and felt more than he ever had before at previous youth conferences. “The young people did the planning, they did the work, and they had a great experience with their conference,” said Brother Cole. “A youth conference at home can be great; give it a try.”

    How did they have a great time at their one-day youth conference? Their first “how to” rule was—stay home!

    Photos by Lowell Durham, Jr.

    Mark Walton did a lot of last-minute planning in order to make the “One-Day-at-Home Youth Conference” a success. Mark was the executive chairman

    A subgroup of the homemaking seminar was the sewing class. Maybe this girl will have her outfit finished in time for tonight’s dance

    One of the most popular seminars was Brother Franklin’s class in leadership. He discussed many principles that could be helpful to young leaders

    Becky Wertman served as assistant chairman of the youth conference and helped in organizing the seminars. Mark and Becky conducted some meetings and provided direction when necessary

    While the youth were spending time working in their seminars, the leaders had a seminar of their own

    The stake center was divided into seminar areas, and each area was decorated to fit the subject of the seminar. The interest in these classes, planned by the youth, was very high

    No matter how good all the programs are, lunch always seems to be one of the most popular times at a youth conference. No seminar on munching needed!

    Although the seminar on sports was mainly for the young men, the girls found they could learn something too

    Mia Maids, Laurels, Venturers, and Explorers each had their own individual schedules to follow. Schedules were planned with particular interests of each group in mind

    All in all, the great one-day-youth-conference-at-home experiment was a great success for all concerned. Including the lunch