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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Sister Julie B. Beck, former president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be one of the speakers at the 17th Annual Southern Virginia University Education Conference.

BUENA VISTA, Va. — The 17th annual Southern Virginia University Education Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, June 7-8. Presenters include Elder Marlin K. Jensen an emeritius member of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Sister Julie B. Beck, former general president of the Relief Society.

The conference will feature two days of presentations on the theme, “Rejoice, the Heavens are Open.” Held in the historic Shenandoah Valley on Southern Virginia’s campus, the annual conference also features other activities and entertainment, including the Southern Virginia Theatre Program’s production of the musical “Babes in Arms.”

"The speakers are absolutely great," said Bill Harris, a Latter-day Saint from Colonial Heights, Va., who previously attended the annual conference with his wife five times. "I'm looking forward to this year. ... In the past, I've met a lot of new people and learned a lot of different things about the gospel. I've benefited from all of the speakers. These meetings have been very helpful to both me and my wife, and we've come almost every year since we started."

This year’s presenters also include Lee Donaldson, manager of proselytizing services in the LDS Church’s Missionary Department, who previously served as president of the California San Diego Mission and global director of Leadership Development for the church. Donaldson has 26 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in the LDS Church Educational System. Two full-time Institute of Religion instructors, Dr. Ronald E Bartholomew and Dr. Matthew Rasmussen, will give presentations on topics associated with the conference’s theme.

“I can’t think of a topic that excites me more than the topic of the heavens being open, angels ministering, and the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the father and the son,” said Kathleen Knight, who has organized the conference since its inception in 1997. “Each presenter in their own way will talk about revelation. One will be talking about how missionaries teach by the power of inspiration and one about how we do our callings. Another will talk about parenting with revelation. Receiving revelation is critical in our time and it’s such a blessing to know that it is available to us,” Knight said.

Other presenters will include Todd Brotherson, assistant professor of business at Southern Virginia; Dr. Kaye T. Hanson, a retired management communications professor at BYU; Glade M. Knight, founder, chairman and CEO of the Apple REIT companies and chair of the Southern Virginia board of trustees; and Paul K. Sybrowsky, president of Southern Virginia and who recenly served as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy of the LDS Church.

The conference will feature performing artists including James Oneil Miner, a popular pianist, composer and entertainer; Mark Taylor, a violinist and assistant professor of music at Southern Virginia; and Leslie Graff, an “artist whose work is characterized by organic themes, repeating patterns and expressive color,” according to her website.

In addition to the entertainment provided, many conference attendees can take advantage of highlights in the area including scenic views at the Blue Ridge Parkway, historic sites in nearby Lexington, Va., and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello — located one hour away from the university’s campus.

Since its formation, the conference has featured presenters from across the country, including such prominent Latter-day Saint scholars and speakers as Dr. Truman G. Madsen, Sheri L. Dew, Ardeth G. Kapp, Robert L. Millet, James L. Ferrell, Chieko Okazaki and Ann M. Dibb.

Southern Virginia University is the only private liberal arts college for Latter-day Saints and those with similar values. At Southern Virginia, more than 90 percent of students are Latter-day Saints and all students live by a Code of Honor based on the teachings of the church.

Full biographies of each presenter and registration information are available at svuconference.com.

Hannah Benson Rodriguez is a communications and marketing assistant at Southern Virginia University. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Virginia and currently resides in Buena Vista, Va.