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Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
BYU students perform the Peruvian Carnival of Cajamarca during the Hispanic singles conference.

OREM — Hispanic young single adults from Utah and Wasatch counties held their first conference last weekend at the Orem Institute of Religion adjacent to the Utah Valley University campus.

The theme of the conference came from Doctrine and Covenants 115:5, wherein the Lord told the Saints to "arise and shine forth."

"We want to plant in your hearts the desire to 'arise and shine forth' so you can be an inspiration for others," Henrique Kidman said to the gathered young adults Saturday morning. "You arose and you're shining, because you're here."

Kidman serves as a bishop of a Spanish-speaking ward in Utah Valley. He spoke Saturday morning to kick off a day of workshops, service, food, dancing and a cultural celebration.

The conference brought out members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nonmembers alike from the Hispanic community, all there to celebrate the gospel and their culture.

"It's an opportunity to be with my own people," said Mishael Sedas, of Mexico. "What's better than to have a gospel-related gathering with my people?"

The purposes of the conference, as delineated by conference director Cenobio Valderrama, included strengthening testimonies of Jesus Christ, strengthening current and future families, and performing missionary work. Of the 1,500 people attending the dance Friday night, Valderrama estimated that 20 percent are not members of the LDS Church.

"The Hispanic Young Single Adults need to give back to the community. As Hispanics come into the valley we want ... them to be assets to the community," Valderrama said. "We don't want to change the community, we want to enhance it."

Conference participants came from most of the countries in South and Central America. Some, like Dan Cariello, grew up in the United States, with a father from Uruguay and a mother from Spain.

Despite the differences in nationalities, the group enjoyed building on common ground.

"It's important when you're away from your country and your culture to find people who have something in common," said Liliana Garcia, of Colombia. "I don't care where they're from. We're from different places, but now we're all in the same place."

The workshops dealt with personal finances, education, marriage and business. Those involved also performed humanitarian service, such as making quilts and baby hats. On Saturday, lunch and dinner were provided, followed by live music, a dance and a cultural celebration.

"Our culture and heritage still live on in the spirit of music and dance," Valderrama said. "Our ancestors live as we perform these things. They are in us and we are in them.

"I have felt the Lord directing and guiding (the conference). As (the young single adults) strengthen their testimony of Christ, they strengthen their desire and ability to serve."

On Sunday morning, the group met at the Provo Tabernacle, where Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, from the Presidency of the Seventy, presided.


E-mail: amarshall@desnews.com