“Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day” (D&C 4:2).
Three hundred youth from the Woodbridge and Centreville Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent July 23-25 at Southern Virginia University focusing on missionary service, particularly how to serve with all of their heart, might, mind, and strength.
The Stake Presidents from the Centreville and Woodbridge Stakes and University professors from Southern Virginia University taught classes based on these four key words from the scripture, which is the theme for the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide for 2015.
The Provost of Southern Virginia University, Madison Sowell, and his wife introduced the conference as keynote speakers with powerful stories about their missionary service. Brother Sowell served in the Italy mission and then went back years later to be the Mission President of the same mission. He earned a PhD from Harvard and taught at Brigham Young University for many years before moving to SVU to become Provost.
The youth chose from a variety of classes with catchy titles such as the following:
“Girls vs Guys: What should I know”
“Pause to Help and Lift Another”
“Use Your Head!”
“Recognizing the Spirit and Finding your Faith”
“Navigating the Worldwide Web in the Latter Days”
“I’m lost and I have no clue where I’m going”
“The Book of Mormon- Evidences of Christ”
Returned missionaries from both stakes were counselors for the youth. They each lead a group of twenty youth and called their groups the names of the missions they had served in as missionaries. Groups with names like Frankfurt, New York, Arizona, Belgium, England, Utah, and Taiwan became unified as they spent a lot of time together, playing get-to-know-you games, attending activities and classes, and participating in a service project. Leah Gaush, from the Lakeridge 1st Ward, said, “You always meet a lot of new people at youth conference and this year was no different. I made a bunch of new friends at SVU and we grew close through all the activities we did together. There are always great people to meet!”
Jolene Houston, a counselor in the Woodbridge Young Women Stake Presidency, explained that the service project was also based on the missionary theme of “Oh, ye who embark in the service of God.” She said, “The youth wrote letters to missionaries serving from their wards in the mission field, to the missionaries serving in their wards here in Virginia, and to the parents of missionaries serving in their wards. They also brought household items from home like laundry detergent, toothpaste, soaps, etc. to give to the missionaries serving in their wards here in Virginia so those missionaries didn’t have to spend their own money on those things.”
In addition to the service project and the spiritual uplift of classes, various activities such as Bubble Soccer, field games, dances, a variety show and the Hakka dance were in the line-up for the youth’s fun. Marion Watson, from Lakeridge 1st Ward, said, “I really enjoyed getting to know people better within my stake and experiencing Bubble Soccer for the first time ever! It was a blast!” And Hilary Watson, also from Lakeridge 1st Ward, spoke highly of the dances. “Being able to go to dances with all the people in our stake was such an awesome and fun experience!”
The Hakka is a Polynesian warrior chant. Phettah Konelia, from the Woodbridge 1st Ward, first taught the chant to all of the counselors who then taught it to the youth. The youth divided into two groups who faced off and performed the Hakka to each other.
The Variety show showcased eighteen youth acts including such talents as acting, poetry, dancing, singing, piano, violin, cello, and guitar. One particularly amusing highlight of the show was a spoof of “Napolean Dynamite” which both youth and leaders talked of afterward.
Dr. Matthew Rasmussen and his wife Dr. Jessica Rasmussen closed the conference with a powerful talk about using your heart, might, mind, and strength to serve the Lord. Sister Houston explained, “Jessica invited her husband up to arm wrestle her at the podium, which got the kids’ attention! And then she talked about how we all do our most important work when we wrestle within ourselves to follow the will of the Lord and it takes all of our heart, might, mind and strength to win that battle.”
Dr. Matthew Rasmussen taught about keeping all of those four energies in balance so that one doesn’t overpower the others. He shared a story about trying to drive a stick-shift car once without any knowledge or training. He couldn’t make the car move forward because he didn’t have the right balance between the clutch, gears, and gas.
The youth felt the spirit throughout the whole conference and were uplifted. In turn they strengthened each other. Rachel Pixton, from the Lakeridge 1st Ward said, “There is a spirit there that isn’t anywhere else.” Faith Oryang shared, “Testimony meeting touched my heart. I came into Chandler Hall not wanting to bear my testimony, but ended up bearing it, and listening to others which strengthened mine.”
By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints