By Cecily Markland
Socializing, service and a slate of well-known speakers with particularly inspirational messages combined to attract approximately 4,000 young singles adults to a regional conference held at Arizona State University in January.
The event is one of the first of its kind in Arizona, said Paul E. Gilbert, stake president of the Tempe Arizona YSA Stake, one of five YSA stakes in the Valley that worked together to plan and participate in the event.
“It’s the largest YSA conference ever held outside of Utah,” adds Paul Rowley, counselor in the stake presidency of the Mesa YSA West Stake,
Speakers included Sheri Dew, Mitt and Ann Romney, retired NBA player Thurl Bailey, ASU president Michael Crow and plane crash survivor and best-selling author Stephanie Neilson and her husband, Christian. Also addressing the thousands of young people were — Clark Gilbert, president and CEO of Deseret News Publishing Company; former NFL quarterback Danny White; former NFL player Vai Sikahema. Broadway actress Christeena Driggs and her husband, Jeff —all discussing the topic of facing challenges with faith. The central theme of the conference was taken from the quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley: “There is no obstacle too great, no challenge too difficult, that we cannot meet with faith.”
“There was a great feeling as speakers reminded young single adults that there isn’t an obstacle they can’t overcome,” says Brittney Phelps, a member of the Mesa 3rd Ward, Mesa YSA West Stake, who served on the planning committee. Then, she added, young adults “put aside strife” and “came together” to “meet each other, engage in activities, serve, and have fun.”
Brittney says the service project was a highlight of the conference. On Saturday afternoon, participants were asked to each spend an hour helping to put together the 20,000 school kits that were completed and donated to National Relief Charities and distributed to Native Americans, including to 13 tribes in Arizona.
“It was so amazing to walk in and see so many people in service, while talking, laughing and having fun,” said Brittney.
The weekend activities also included a dinner, dance and live music and concerts with singer Alex Boye and “American Idol Finalist” Brooke White. On Sunday, the young single adults met together for a two-hour sacrament meeting in the Gammage Auditorium on the ASU campus.
“It was neat to see the sacrament administered and passed to that many people in a short amount of time, to see that many young adults renew their covenants together.”
President Gilbert says the regional conference was intended to inspire and motivate conference attendees but, also, to “simultaneously increase their opportunities to meet with other young single adults where there was really no opportunity to do so on such a grand scale.”
Brittney laughs, admitting that “matchmaking” was definitely one of the goals of the conference.
“We hoped people would meet friends, find dates and maybe even meet someone to marry. As we planned, I would say you never know, you might meet your future husband, a new best friend or a future wife,” she said. “You never know who you might meet, so you don’t want to miss out on that opportunity.”
Yet, she adds, whether any of the new associations will lead to marriage or not, “I feel like this conference was a great experience that changed lives. It was a ton of work, but it was definitely worth it.”
“It was an amazing opportunity that can never be replaced,” Brittney says.