More than 3,350 youth from eastern Idaho and parts of Wyoming gathered March 15 for a special six-hour conference titled, “Youth: Hastening the Work through Technology, Family History and Missionary Work.”
Angie Kivett, director of the conference, said the original plan was to have the conference at a local stake center with 300-400 youth, but by early December there were nearly 1,000 registrations, so the conference was moved to the Taylor Chapel in the John Taylor Building on BYU-Idaho’s campus. Registration continued to increase so the conference was again moved to the John W. Hart Auditorium.
Sister Kivett said it became obvious that today’s youth have the Spirit of the Lord infused in them and they have caught the vision of family history work. “They are anxious and willing to participate and learn all they can to hasten His work if they just knew how,” she said.
Payton Fowers, 13, from the Ammon Idaho Foothills Stake, said the conference would allow her to learn more about the Church and her responsibilities in order to become closer to Heavenly Father and hasten His work.
Brittany Hymas, 16, from the Rexburg Idaho Henry’s Fork Stake, said she didn’t know much about family history but she wanted to learn how to do family history and learn about the importance of it. She said she wanted to use it for the mission she plans on serving.
Brittany isn’t alone — many youth attending the conference said they believed that it would help them in their mission preparation.
Peter Schellenberg, 18, from the Rexburg Idaho Stake recently submitted his mission papers.
“[Family history] is an important aspect of our duties that hasn’t been stressed on the youth before,” he said. “It’s important to stress the importance of missionary work and family history work on the other side of the veil.”
Cameron Zirker, 13, from the Ammon Idaho Foothills Stake, is also preparing for a mission and said that, based on the conference and the new youth curriculum, he will learn how to teach others better.
The conference featured video presentations by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and John Bytheway, an author and motivational speaker, from their RootsTech addresses in February. Addresses were given by several speakers, including Elder Dennis C. Brimhall, an Area Seventy and FamilySearch CEO; and Craig H. Miller, FamilySearch vice president.
In a video presentation from RootsTech, the largest family history conference in North America, Elder Neil L. Andersen and a grandson demonstrated how to use FamilySearch to be able to “find a cousin.”
Elder Andersen challenged the youth to “prepare as many names for the temple as you perform baptisms in the temple. These are your days.” (A report on Elder Andersen’s presentation at RootsTech was published in the Church News, Feb. 16, 2014, pp. 8-9.)
Brother Miller told youth about all the technology that has been invented in the past 12-18 years — during their lifetimes — that allows them to do family history easily. He gave them a challenge to have four different experiences:
Find your hero. Tell a story and add a picture in the system. Find a cousin. Find a record and see where it leads you. Brother Miller suggested that the reason for all the advances in technology is to have the ability to complete family history.
“I want you to think about what God has done for you and why He has done it,” Brother Miller said.
Elder Brimhall told youth why FamilySearch is “cool.”
“You can make your own book on you,” he said. He introduced the youth to the new “My Family” booklet that the Family History Department of the Church introduced Nov. 12, 2013.
According to familysearch.org, the book is an “easy and effective way to introduce family history to youth, Church members who may have limited or no access to the Internet, those who are new to technology and others who are more comfortable with a traditional pen and paper approach.”
Several youth said they can apply the lessons they learned at the conference into their own lives.
“I think when it comes to family history, and you apply it to your own life, you can interact and really get to know your ancestors,” said Emily Adams, 17, from the Sugar City Idaho Stake.
Bishop David Peck of the Hibbard 5th Ward, Rexburg Idaho North Stake, said that he thinks the youth who attended the conference learned how to “make a difference [and] make promises” and that they “want to make a difference and touch lives including their own.”
“All people of all ages can do something to add to the wonderful efforts of linking the generations together,” Sister Kivett said. “We don’t have to wait for a particular season anymore to dive into this important work. Knowing who we are is greatly enhanced when we know who our ancestors were.”