For the Strength of Youth Conferences

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Youth attend a For the Strength of Youth conference

For more than a decade, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held For Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences outside the United States and Canada. These conferences proved to be not only a strength to youth but also to the young single adults who served as counselors.

In July 2019, the Church announced that beginning in 2021 and 2022, all stakes within the U.S. and Canada would participate in FSY conferences every other year. In the years that stakes were not participating in FSY, stakes would plan treks or youth conferences to be held for their youth.

Deviating from traditional youth conferences, the FSY conferences are directed by young single adults who are called as counselors to serve with the youth, meaning adult leaders do not attend FSY conferences with the youth from their wards and stakes.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong said of FSY: “A five-day FSY conference brings you together in larger groups for classes, devotionals and gospel study, and for dances, variety shows and many other fun activities. You’ll love gathering, meeting other faithful youth and friends, including from beyond your ward and stake.”[1]

Originally, the Church also announced that during 2020, 292 stakes would begin holding FSY conferences would be held in various locations in the U.S. and Canada as preparation for the full implementation in 2021 and 2022. However, due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Church cancelled all FSY Conferences for the year.

The Church later provided the following information about FSY:

What is FSY?
“For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences are modeled after Brigham Young University’s Especially for Youth (EFY) conferences. These five-day events have been held extensively outside the United States and Canada for a number of years. Youth may attend beginning in the year they turn 14 and until their high school graduation. Each stake will be invited every other year.
“FSY conferences include activities, devotionals, and classes designed to help strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and provide opportunities for youth to grow spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually. Beginning in 2020 in the United States and Canada, FSY conferences will be provided by the Church and held locally with the support of BYU. Areas outside of the U.S. and Canada will continue holding FSY conferences under the direction of the Area Presidency.”
Do all youth from a stake attend the same FSY conference?
“FSY is a five-day conference. Stakes will be invited to the conference or conferences their youth are eligible to attend. In areas with many stakes, youth may have options of choosing among several conferences. In such locations, youth and their parents may register youth for the conference that works best for their family. Youth are encouraged to register early to ensure they can attend the conference that best fits their schedule. Participation is, of course, not required.”[2]

The cost for attendance for each youth is shared by the individual and the stake or ward. The cost is much less expensive than the traditional EFY Conferences. BYU no longer administers traditional EFY, except for EFY Special Edition (at Church historical sites such as Nauvoo, Palmyra, Independence, Salt Lake City) and EFY Express. BYU staff now facilitates the FSY Conferences.

How and when did FSY conferences develop internationally?
It started with concerned area presidencies in different parts of the world asking the question, “How do we strengthen our youth?” This is according to Elder Larry S. Kacher, a General Authority Seventy, who became involved with FSY conferences while serving in area presidencies in West Africa and Eastern Europe.
In those parts of the Church, youth programs have fewer numbers, are spread farther apart and don’t have many opportunities to come together. So bringing the youth together for a week is significant, he said.
Elder Kacher related an experience from some years ago when he attended an FSY conference in Ukraine. Watching the hundreds of young Latter-day Saints, he recognized the joy and happiness in their faces as they realized they weren’t isolated in the gospel.
Drawing upon the model of a Brigham Young University program called Especially For Youth, the Church started piloting special multi-stake youth conferences in 2006 in western Europe and South America — and “the seed was planted,” Elder Kacher said.
“From there it took off internationally, spreading from area to area,” he said.
According to Elder Kacher, in the process of gathering information, Church leaders were impressed by the success of the FSY program internationally and asked, “Why can’t we do that domestically?”
Discussions with BYU began to take place, and in July 2019 the Church announced FSY conferences would be part of the new Children and Youth program.[3]

FSY and EFY

FSY is modeled after the popular and effective EFY program. Hank Smith, a BYU professor and EFY speaker for the last 20 years, said:

“I think the Lord started this program back when it was awesome but not crucial. He gave it 40 years to grow,” Smith said. “Now right when the Church absolutely needs it, it is ready. I believe FSY can become an integral part of what it means to grow up in the Church over the next few decades. There will be tens of thousands of teens who will be inspired and changed because of this program.”[4]

Laura Welch, who attended EFY as a young teen and has been a speaker for years, agrees. “The reason this is happening is because EFY changes lives,” Welch said. “They are taking EFY to the masses.”