Here’s a riddle: What do Boy Scouts pledge to do, prophets counsel Saints to do, and weathermen warn people from Portland, Oregon, to do?
The answer? Be prepared. For Scouts it’s a motto, for Saints it’s a commandment, and for Portlanders it’s a necessity. Anytime they plan something, they need to be prepared, because at least a few sprinkles of rain, affectionately known as “Oregon sunshine,” are bound to fall.
But rain isn’t the only thing the youth in the Portland region are preparing for. They are also preparing to stay close to their Heavenly Father and meet life’s challenges with his help. And at a recent youth conference, teenagers learned a lot about preparation—from the first planning stages of the conference to the lessons they had learned when it was all over.
It started months before the event. Painting posters, writing songs, planning decorations, and organizing workshops took the time of all the members of the conference committee. They knew that a successful conference depended on careful preparation.
Matt Baldwin, of the Cedar Mill Oregon Stake, was the chairman of the conference committee. “We talked about everything,” he said. “Should the kids bring a change of clothes for the games? How many workshops should we offer?” These and other questions guided the committee until they ultimately determined what their goal for the conference was: “for each youth to go home feeling a little bit closer to our Heavenly Father,” said Matt.
“It was fun to work on the committee,” said Amber Ganir, a committee member from the Oregon City Stake. “We’d worked on it for so long, I couldn’t believe it when the day finally came.”
All of that preparation paid off for the committee, though, and for the youth who attended the conference. They spent two days getting to know each other, talking about things they needed to prepare for, and checking the sky for rain.
The clouds threatened, but the spirits of the teenagers couldn’t be dampened. They divided into 23 teams and competed in a mock Olympics in events such as Radical Relays, People Processor, and Be-Boppin’ Balloons. The teams, even though they were made up of teens who had never met each other, worked well together, and cheers could be heard throughout the field. “That was our objective in organizing games,” said Amber. “We wanted to get everyone motivated and excited—to get to know each other and make new friends.”
The rain that had threatened all day started to fall as the games ended, but no one seemed to care. They were prepared for the change in weather and trooped inside for dinner and an early evening dance in their socks while high tops, sandals, and worn tennis shoes lined the walls to dry.
It was still drizzling on Saturday morning when the youth reunited to attend workshop sessions. They hurried to the classes they’d chosen, hoping they would hear something to help them prepare for their individual challenges. Classes offered a variety of topics—with something worthwhile and helpful in each—from “the last days” to dating.
Brett Gassaway said he was going to attend a session called “Choosing to Serve a Mission” because he planned to leave on a mission soon. Brett is taking every opportunity he has to learn about missions so he will be prepared when he leaves.
“I signed up for a wide variety of classes—things I have problems in, or things that are interesting,” said Crista Cowan. The preparation of the youth conference committee made it possible for Crista to take advantage of many classes. And when the youth were ready to listen and learn, it was possible for them to become more prepared, too.
After lunch and more workshop sessions, everyone assembled in the gym for “The Main Event.” The things they had learned and the spirit they had felt in the workshops set the tone for the meeting, and they listened to Brother David Thomas talk to them. He reminded them how much they needed a close relationship with Heavenly Father, and how they should avoid all things that would jeopardize that relationship. He said he hoped they would remember the things they had heard and felt during the past two days, and the audience seemed to nod in agreement, as if to assure him they would not forget the preparation they had received.
Listening to Brother Thomas, Matt Baldwin knew that the months of preparation were coming to fruition as the youth of the Portland area were touched by the Spirit. To close the conference, they were divided into groups of 30 for testimony meetings.
That was Heatherly Humphrey’s favorite part. “The Spirit was so strong in the testimony meetings,” she said. “Many people said they were trying to cultivate a better testimony, that they were reading and praying to do it. Others said they had been in that stage too—of wanting a testimony and working for it. Several of them said attending seminary and reading the Book of Mormon had made their testimonies twice as strong. It was clear it takes work to develop and keep a testimony.”
Yes, it definitely takes work to keep something so precious, even more work than it takes to plan a spectacular youth conference. But because of the preparation before this event ever began, by both the youth and the conference committee, it was a great event for learning and growing. And the people who participated in this youth conference left more prepared to capture the most precious thing of all—a strong testimony of the gospel.
By the time the dance ended on Saturday night, the rain was no longer just a drizzle. It was falling steadily, but it didn’t seem to matter. Umbrellas were raised and heads were covered, and the young people went out into the night—more prepared to face both the weather and the challenges of life than they were when they had come.