FSY Conferences Are Coming to Town

Yesterday the Priesthood and Family Department of the Church distributed a Notice to the effect that the Church is going to start holding FSY (“For the Strength of Youth”) Conferences in the United States and Canada. Apparently this is already a thing internationally; they are just bringing the program to the domestic market. The FSY Conferences will be modeled after the EFY (“Especially for Youth”) Conferences that have long been a fixture on the BYU campus.

Teens will be eligible to attend beginning in the year they turn 14 until they graduate from high school. In any given area the conferences will be held every other year; it is anticipated that each conference will be geared to an attendance of approximately 500 youth. All domestic stakes will participate beginning in the years 2021 and 2022. In 2020 a selected group of stakes will hold such conferences basically as an opporunity to work the kinks out; the notice has a list of the affected stakes. (If a given stake doesn’t feel up to doing it that soon for some reason, they can opt out through their AA70.)  Dates, locations, financing arrangements and other details will be given at a later date. Treks and Youth Conferences are not supposed to be held in the same year as an FSY Conference, but Young Women and Young Men camps may still be held annually.

The conferences will be five-day events for large groups (as indicated above, averaging 500). They will include devotionals, classes and activities designed to develop faith in Jesus Christ and help youth develop spiritually, socially, physically and intellectually. It was interesting to me that young single adults will be called as the counselors for these events, and as a result stake and ward leaders will not be attending with their youth.

I would like to solicit your thoughts about this. I’ll start with a few of my own. I have zero personal experience with EFY Conferences at BYU, and from what I’ve heard the cheese factor can be substantial. But that notwithstanding I think this has the potential to be a good thing. And I’ll tell you why:

I am of an age when one starts to begin thinking about retirement, which is a delicate way of saying I’m pretty old (60 if anyone cares). And I have been active in the Church my whole life. And I strongly believe that the foundation for that life of engagement with the faith was laid in my youth: seminary, youth conferences, scout camps, mission, BYU. Conversely, my two children left the faith by the end of high school if not before. Their reasons are their own, but it didn’t help that they had very little peer support. You can’t go though high school with a single church friend and expect to build a lifetime commitment. That ward was later dissolved, largely for a lack of a critical mass of youth.

So what I’m saying is I think this has the potential to be a positive thing. I don’t even really care too much what the activities are; being together with a large critical mass of faithful youth is to my way of thinking the most important part of this proposal.

The logistics sound challenging to me. For one thing, in our area the number of active young adults might make it challenging to field enough leaders. But logistics are for another day. In my view anything that can facilitate our young people meeting and interacting and becoming friends with other young people is a very good thing.

OK, I’ve rolled the ball out onto the court. Now what are your thoughts about this new program? (For those who have actually attended EFY Conferences, I am especially interested in your take on this.)

Comments

  1. I am in seeing this play out. As a parent to YSAs who desperately need all the money they can earn at summer jobs to help keep down debt in college, I would be hesitant to have them take a full week or more off work to be councillors. In an area that also does not have lots of YSAs, I can just about guarantee mine get called.to do it, too. Or maybe they will be like some seminary teachers, called but with pay? Asked to do it all summer as a calling/job? Fsy circuit?

    I am interested in how the attendance costs are spread as well. Some will entail a significant amount of travel (chaperones or not?) in order to gather such a big group. I do think in a setting of 500 teenagers most will be able to find others to befriend, and with social media much easier to maintain long distance friendships.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    EJ, good point about the availability of YSAs for what would basically be an entire week out of the summer. That hadn’t even occurred to me. I think EFY counselors are paid, so maybe that is part of the deal with FSY. But even if paid, getting an entire week off from aother summer job may be an issue.

  3. Jack Hughes says:

    My feelings on this are mixed. I do like the fact that Big Church is serious about investing in the youth on a massive scale, and willing to pull most of the weight rather than pushing all the organizational tasks down to overworked local leaders, usually with mediocre results (e.g. most stake-run youth conferences). I’m not so sure about one-size-fits-all programs, though, especially as individual youths have very diverse interests and needs, and the Church often fails at trying to be all things to all people. I’m worried about this program becoming another attempt to force Utah culture down the throats of us out in the Mission Field.

    I’m also opposed to the forced or manufactured “spiritual experiences” that have long been utilized in youth-oriented events like these. They need to focus on making it fun and worthwhile, and let the spiritual stuff be a by-product.

  4. I’m a little younger than Kevin and have spent the last 30 years working with either YSAs or the Youth. I agree that our youth need a strong foundation. I read the announcement and accompanying material with dismay. The program will be a positive experience for many of the youth, at the expense of those who don’t fit into the extroverted, BYU-bound, can’t-wait-to-serve-a-mission types. In other words, the youth on the margins who need the most support. I think the cheese factor will be huge. It will be “awesome” for the kids who still use that term, but not so much for those who don’t fit into the crowd.

    The FSY program will average 500 youth, in smaller groups of 10-15. The kids who attend EFY report that they are split up to mix with attendees from other states. I know youth who would be lost in that environment. They depend on ward friends at activities, and refuse to attend multi-stake events. Just telling them to go out and make new friends won’t do. Facing the prospect of being placed in group of strangers for a week, they will opt out. They are more interested in face-to-face friendships, not long-distance acquaintances.

    The program uses YSAs instead of local leaders, who understand individual needs of the youth. How are these people vetted, besides requiring the men be clean-shaven RMs? There are families in my ward that would refuse to send their children off for a week without knowing the chaperones.

    My stake currently has a four year cycle of youth conferences, two of which are a church history trip, and a handcart trek. If FSY is mandated every other year, the youth will still visit Palmyra or Nauvoo, and have an exercise in non-historic futility, but the other opportunities to plan conferences specific to their needs and interests will be gone.

    Who pays for this? Links to programs outside the US show $150-$250 a head. My stake in Michigan currently coughs up the $$ for youth conferences, so all the kids can go. I suspect this will not be the case for FSY. In an area where fund raisers barely cover the cost of girls camp (less than half for scout camp) only the rich kids go to EFY. By the end of the summer, the youth have divided themselves into the “cool” group who went and learned the new line dances, and those who didn’t. It takes the rest of the year to erase some of those boundaries.

    I hope that FSY will be different from its predecessor, but aside from the scale, I don’t expect it will. I think it will be a program that serves the 99, but pushes out the 1.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    I never participated in EFY as a youth (too expensive for my family and too far away) but my teenage nephews have done it every year for the past few years. My wife and I used to joke that their parents were “buying their son’s testimonies”. The oldest started college last year (not BYU) with a full academic scholarship. He recently announced that he wants nothing to do with the Church anymore, won’t be going on a mission and that he never really believed.

    I’m mentioning this because a major youth program like FSY needs to be something more substantial than water balloons, comedy skits and testimony meetings, and certainly more than a kind of Mormon sleep-away camp that concerned parents pay a lot of money to send their kids off to, hoping for them to come back with a stronger testimony. If they focus on making it appealing and of value to the widest possible audience, the religious aspects will arise naturally or be inconsequential. Give them choices. Not every teen likes to do rah-rah spirit cheers or go to dances. How about activities like computer coding, robotics or stop-motion animation? Creative writing? Maybe have intellectually stimulating TED talk style lectures about things that interest young people, rather than the John Bytheway-style circuit speakers and mediocre Mormon-pop musicians.
    I hope they get it figured out before my oldest comes of age for the program in 5 years. If not, there are plenty of other worthwhile summer activities out there.

  6. In Australia we have had these programs running for years. I have had two of my children attend. For background we live in a very small stake about 3 1/2 hours from where the closest temple – which was where the FSY was held. My kids come from the smallest ward in that small stake – and have had hardly any active youth their age.

    My oldest was already jaded with the church when she attended, she had some friends from our stake attend and this made it easier. She also made some other friends from outside her stake. She had a fun time and enjoyed it but it did not strengthen her already dwindling testimony. She is no longer active.

    My second attended with a strong testimony and it got stronger. He is quite introverted but managed to make some good friends from outside of the stake and probably strengthened some friendships within the stake. He loved it so much we enrolled him in another areas the following year (we were going to be there on holidays) – this was quite expensive being from out of area. He found it harder here to make friends as he went in knowing no-one but he still enjoyed it.

    He is now preparing to go to his third in 6 months (back in our area) and is excited to attend to strengthen the friendships from his first. Due to social media he has kept in contact (irregular) and caught up with some of them at multi-stake dances when we attend the temple. He is hoping to put in his papers for his mission when he returns from the next one.

    In our stake we usually have a handcart activity on alternate years about every 4 years, but this year due to planning issues we are getting both only months apart.Due to how small our stake is ours go from 12 – 18 years of age to have enough youth to do it. So my second child is looking forward to his second – and being one of the big kids. I was always critical of these as I feel they don’t fit in with our local culture but he loved it so much I am ok with it (being Aussies I think we should celebrate our own church history – go on a boat for several days, get ship wrecked and then sit on a beach for several days – shipwrecked). My third child is now really looking forward to both the trek and FSY because of her brothers excitement.

    I have not had any of the YSA I know personally attend as leaders but I have heard from parents of some who have that it was a great experience for them as well. They spend months training to lead the program and it is a calling. Usually only RM’s but I know of some who aren’t. It is also a great strength to them to establish friendships with YSA’s in areas where there are few. We do not have the summer job culture here in Australia as there is only a 6 week break over summer.

    It did not manufacture a testimony for the child that didn’t believe and strengthened the testimony of the child that did. It helped create and strengthen friendships that have helped both of these youth – regardless of their activity in the gospel. Hopefully one day those friendships will help the oldest feel welcome back at church.

    I hope my third enjoys it as much as the second child – it will all depend on the attitude she takes in with her.

  7. I attended EFY as a teenager and later my husband served as a counselor for a summer in college. This program sounds a lot like EFY. Of course it won’t be good for everyone, but I’m a strong introvert and had a great experience. It did strengthen my testimony, and there was plenty of cheese, but it I didn’t think it was manufactured or manipulative. It’s just intense as a result of being in a large group of true believing teenager with peppy counselors. (I could have done without the dance at the end though.) And I know my normally quiet husband had a great time going from camp to camp for an entire summer, being as goofy as possible to bond with a bunch of teenagers.

    If more kids get the chance to do something like that I think it’s a good thing, even if it’s not for everybody.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the comments so far. And Aussie, I was especially hoping someone would share there experience from the international version of the program; thank you for the careful and detailed report!

  9. I agree with Kevin. FSY sounds like something that can support youth in living the teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ. Our family has prayer, scripture study, Family Home Evening, etc, yet having peers for support can make a big difference.
    EFY is expensive. I hope the cost of FSY is minimal so all can attend. Because of the expense and time off work, our children could attend EFY once. We tried to have them attend closer to the age of 14 than 16 so it did not interfere with work.
    As a parent, I would hope the FSY experience would be a good balance between, spiritual, new friends and fun. Even a community service project would be nice. I am hopeful the new will be better than the old.
    As a parent who really wants the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ to carry on in our family for generations, I appreciate all the support and help I can get.

  10. They have been holding these in Britain for 10 years or so. YSA apply to be counsellors and from those who apply counsellors are called and set apart. That application includes a recommendation from the bishop. Boys have to have served missions, and all have to be temple worthy (although girls don’t need to be endowed). They go for a weekend of training together a few weeks before FSY proper, and then often another weekend just before it starts. It seems they like it as much as the youth for the opportunity to get together. I think they hold 2 a year here, and YSA from all over Britain can apply to be counsellors, regardless of whether their Stake is in involved or not, and they can do both if they wish. There is no pay but they get food and board free of charge and their travel reimbursed.

    As for the cost for youth, from the Stakes that I am aware; most if not all of the cost is covered by the Ward. Generally one fundraising event is held a year and the money generated is used.

  11. Molly Roo says:

    I worry about outsourcing efforts to instill a love for the gospel or encourage friendships in the Church. Sure, EFY is run by “pros,” but that may not replace the thoughtful planning and guidance of local leaders who have a long-term history with and responsibility for their youth. Packing kids off will be a treat many will relish, and yet a real loss in terms of youth experiencing role models in their own area trying to meet their needs. Maybe some places aren’t perceived as having adequate talent to plan a successful local effort, but perhaps they could be better supported so that youth are blessed by members who are a real and ongoing part of their life. I agree with others who worry that this may be a nice boondoggle for some youth, but a net loss for those who need the most support. It’s sad if parents and local leaders aren’t part of such important and intense opportunities for their youth.

  12. Should also have said, the breakdown of the week and activities included are pretty much equivalent to EFY. That is the model,

  13. One other comment. Some enterprising individuals started it as an EFY for Britain. EFY got wind of it after the first one or two and said they couldn’t use the name so they changed it to FSY. Looks like its adoption worldwide by the church is the latest in a long line of local initiatives they’ve adopted, including, amongst others, Primary, Sunday School, the welfare program, Helping Hands, and the Gospel Library app.

  14. I am so happy about the change. We live in Canada where there has not been EFY for some time, so folks have to travel long distances to attend EFY stateside. It’s separated the “haves” from the have-nots… i.e., Can you afford to buy your kid a testimony? Also, our stake camps have been overdone. (and leaders have overspent to put them on)… I think a standardized format will save us money and time in the long run.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Another thank you for the additional comments. And thanks to Bank in particular for the information about how the counselor thing works there (and is likely to be the framework for how they’ll do it here). And I also enjoyed the story about where the FSY moniker came from!

  16. Hedgehog says:

    These are the links to my blog posts about FSY mentioned in my previous comment:
    https://wheatandtares.org/2014/03/27/fsy-the-new-efy/
    and
    https://wheatandtares.org/2014/09/25/fsy-report-lets-pretend-its-sunday/

  17. Random thoughts:

    Sounds like the youth conference I went to at Florida State MANY years ago, except that was two nights.

    Where are these held and where do the kids stay? Dorms? Members homes?

    Are the counselors required get a background check? (Interview with a PH leader doesn’t count)

    Similar to the summer work issue, what consideration is given to students in summer school either for academic advancement or remedial studies (raises hand for both).

    I’m guessing 500 kids = 4 or 5 stakes. What do they propose for transportation, in particular in rural areas ( Aussie comment noted).

  18. Hedgehog says:

    And I see it’s my previous comment that doesn’t seem to have made it. I’ll try again.
    I wrote a couple of posts for Wheat and Tares (“FSY – The New EFY” and “FSY Report: Let’s Pretend it’s Sunday”) back when my daughter was participating. I put the links in a separate comment in case they were caught in a filter.
    FSY is held every other year on a mission-wide basis in Britain, so that every other year half the missions hold one and then the other half hold them on the alternate years. Youth have to apply online to attend, and to pass a worthiness interview. They may apply to attend FSY in other missions, but that will cost a lot more. Cost is subsidised by wards and stakes, but we still had to pay something, and as I recall it wasn’t cheap. It was held during the summer over 5 days at a university campus.
    Whilst youth from all participating stakes are shuffled for the purpose of organising into smaller groups with assigned counsellors, they can also submit the details of one youth they would like to be with. Both parties have to submit the details of the other.
    The youth generally appreciate the opportunity to meet other member youth, so they are prepared to put up with all the nonsense (dress codes etc) with an eye roll, for that benefit. It isn’t for everyone though, and my son opted out.

  19. Hedgehog says:

    I’ll also add that I was interested to note that from the OP it seems youth camps will still be running during FSY years in the US. Here in Britain, FSY was for 14 years + youth. During FSY years camp was run solely for Deacons and Beehives, not the older youth , whilst for non-FSY years the full YM and YW camps were held.

  20. Hi Michael,

    In Australia they have been held in Dorms at Private schools or universities.

    In Australia anyone working with Primary or Youth are required to get a Working with Vulnerable People card (called different things in different states) and cannot be a leader on one of these without that. It includes a police check. If you don’t get one you cannot hold a calling in those auxillaries – it’s the law.

    It’s not compulsory for YSA to be leaders so if they had work or study commitments they could just so no to attending. I don’t know much else about that as I don’t personally know any YSA that were leaders.

    Our area covers a lot more than that many stakes so ours is broken into seniors (16 – 18) one week and Jnrs (14 – 15) the following week. Most other places in Australia have all of the age groups together.

    One year it was transport yourself and we all car pooled. The next time it our stake hired a bus and took them all up together. I know there are rules for those that bring their own cars – they cannot be used to leave during the week.

  21. French Dad says:

    In France the conference was called EFY the first year they ran it and then FSY subsequently. In non-English speaking countries, it is still called FSY.

    Costs: This year it is 90 Euros to be paid by family, with a total cost of 300 Euros (some of which is paid by ward budget and some by Europe Area if they still use the model used in previous years).

    Programs: In odd years, northern France, Luxembourg, & Belgium does it and in even years southern France. If space is available and you are not from an invited stake, you can pay full price of 300 Euros. There is an international FSY that is English speaking for kids from U.S. military and diplomat families, various expats and also for kids from Eastern Europe.

    Counselors: RM men and typically RM women. They did a good job recruiting high quality counselors, really fine people. I thought the relationships they had with the youth were appropriate, friendly but not too emotionally involved.

    I sent 3 kids to FSY. They always had a good experience. They enjoyed being around other members of the church. FSY has a combination of team-building activities and competitions, a talent show, dances, and of course religious teaching. They assign kids to groups so that they are not with people from their ward and are guaranteed to spend time with new people. They reported having a reasonable amount of free time to be with others. The level of indoctrination was less than I would have expected since the weekly church experience is designed to be 99% indoctrination and the stake youth actives hare are also indoctrination heavy. They did not report being under pressure and they felt the environment was fun and emotionally supportive. I am glad they went and I am glad that they were able to meet friends outside of their stake. The local stake activities have around 20-25 youth. My children have no strong friendships with the people in the ward or stake, so I am glad they went. I have a very positive opinion of the program.

    How did this affect my kids? They independently developed very strong opinions on LGBT equality, which is their number 1 issue with the church. It is a deal killer. Even though this was a good experience and they readily acknowledge their positive social and spiritual experiences, they don’t think this is the right church for them. There are no LGBT affirming religions accessible locally, so they will not be practicing religion.

  22. NowinTaiwan says:

    We are in Taiwan for five months. We attend a Mandarin-speaking ward with local members. My husband and I are fluent in Mandarin, our kids are not. This year our stake participated in FSY. Due to a lack of notice, our son’s language issues which are made worse by Autism, and our family travel plans, our son didn’t go. However, from what I saw, the families did not pay anything. Most of the activities tended to involve some kind of service. They wore coordinated t-shirt colors for different days. It seemed to be a great experience for the youth. I wish my son would have been able to go. From the view of a parent with a disabled child, they will need to make some accommodation to have a leader or other youth with them that they trust. I’m glad this is being implemented. Perhaps the money saved from Scouting will go to this.

  23. Brian F. says:

    I went to EFY twice as a youth. It was fun, but it was hard for an introvert with an autism spectrum disorder. This was over 20 years ago, so I imagine there will be more accommodation and understanding. It will be interesting to see how it is implemented. We still don’t have enough information. My stake isn’t one of the ‘chosen’ for next year, so it’s back to planning trek for our youth next year. I’m in the stake YM presidency, so I’m waiting with baited breath for more information. As long as there is some adaptability for local and personal needs, I’ll be happy.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you so much to those with actual foreign experience with this; sharing your contributions is invaluable to give the rest of us a sense of how this might actually work.

    The church is obviously concerned and trying hard to keep our youth in the fold. But French Dad raises a cautionary reality: the existing approach to LGBT issues ain’t gonna cut it with the rising generation no matter what else we do. That was certainly the case with my kids years ago and is even more so today. It is not an issue that will go away or resolve itself.

  25. Consider the molestation risks. I think that EFY counselors receive background checks and they work the entire summer, and often for summer after summer after summer. Ensuring quality counselors is much easier with that population of counselor. If FSY counselor YSA’s are called for two-week stretches, they aren’t going to receive background checks and there won’t be sufficient time to instill a code of conduct ethic. Before you put an 18-19 year old teenager over my 17 year old, I would want to make certain that they have received a background check and have been adequately trained on an effective code of conduct and how to handle a situation when a cute, vulnerable, underage teen throws him/herself at the counselor. I read all the time about molestation cases filed against institutions (schools and YMCA-type organizations) involve 18-25 year old coaches and counselors who are so close in age to the teens they coach/counsel that they give into natural urges with teens just a few years younger than them. Plus, I trust the average BYU student more than I trust the average YSA who gets farmed among the unemployed YSA in rural Oregon (for example). And the thinner the LDS population, the fewer choices the Church will have to draw from, which means that any Mormon YSA will do in a pinch. These are significant safety issues that really ought to be addressed. (An afterthought–as much as I want them to run background checks on these counselors, remember that juvenile offenses won’t show up on an 18 year old’s background check–even a sexual offense like rape. That slate gets wiped clean when they turn 18.)
    If the safety of the program is gong to go down, you can bet that the quality of the presentations also will. In trying to achieve EFY for all, we are going to water down EFY for all. It will now only be available every other year and put on by people way less qualified (and way less financially motivated). Seems like a very bad replacement for EFY.

  26. As parents, my wife and I do not believe in outsourcing the development of our children’s testimonies, but we do enjoy outsourcing well-planned fun and activities in wholesome environments that put them in contact with others their age who come from all over the country; namely, EFY. My children are all different. One is full of endless energy and the definition of an extrovert. The others are intellectual, skeptical and introverted. Surprisingly, all three have enjoyed their EFY experiences and describe it as a wonderful blend of learning socialization skills, being inspired, and exploring their faith. All said they never felt pressured to engage in any “Jesus Camp” moments. They made a large number of friends with whom they snapchat on a fairly regular basis. It mostly worked for them…and to my amazement, even my most skeptical (and cynical) child reported enjoying the week (although she said she disagreed with the way one of the counselors framed several faith issues).

    For what it is worth to those having commented about safety, friends of mine during our BYU days applied for and were hired at EFY counselors (30 years ago). The interviews were rigorous. Many did not make the cut. I have little concern about my children’s well being while at EFY and don’t have a problem trusting the process or the counselors. As you can imagine, there is no one-on-one of any kind in isolation. My sense is the proper safeguards are in place–and I’m pretty anal about this and have far more concerns about full-time missionary safety and security than I have concerns when my kids go to EFY. Just my opinion.

    My kids all report it was a wonderful, social and spiritual experience. My oldest daughter met a boy her sophomore year at EFY from San Diego (she is now in her 20’s), and they still stay in touch. My son’s roommates this past summer were from SLC and Texas. My other daughter’s roommates were from California, Idaho and Arizona.

    My family and I live along on the Wasatch Front in an affluent, Mormon “bubble.” It’s nice for my kids to meet other kids from places where Mormons aren’t in the majority. It has expanded their view of LDS life outside of Utah and its challenges.

    One summer we even shipped one of our children off to an EFY in Southern California (UCLA, I think). There, all in her group were Hispanic and Asian. It was really nice for her to learn from them and see the world from the perspective of primarily first-generation, minority LDS youth. It broadened her view of life, and deepened her faith. Somehow the cheese factor seemed to her to be more rooted in reality as they all learned about each others’ lives.

    So…what do I think of the changes? Admittedly, you have to have money to send your kids off to EFY. It costs if you have to fly them to the campus hosting the EFY group (or drive from four states away), and it costs for the week. My kids are privileged–I understand that. The change is a nice way to level the playing field and provide all LDS youth the opportunity to have this experience. I do think something is lost by their not being able to mix and meet other LDS youth from across the country.

    I should add that one of my children is currently working and saving to go on a HEFY trip to Thailand next summer. HEFY, I believe, will remain uninterrupted. As humanitarian excursions go, it’s a little ‘service-tourism’ but from what we have investigated it is more service than tourism. This is a program I support and am anxious to learn about her experiences as she plans to go.

  27. Benjamin says:

    I live in the US. I did not attend EFY as a youth, because I lived in Maine and there was no way my family could afford to fly me out to Utah for that.

    As a college student, however, an EFY session was scheduled to be held at my university. I was pressured in January before it was held to apply to be a councilor and brushed it off. I was pressured again in May, and they must have been desperate for councilors, because they called me within a couple of days for a phone screen and extended an offer (contingent on background check) at the end of that screening.

    I enjoyed the experience, but I wouldn’t have done it without the assurance of pay. If I had worked without pay, I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent and utilities, and I wasn’t about to ask for help from my parents or the Church when I had a perfectly good job available to me.

    At the same time, that one session of EFY in Maine had councilors from Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and then about half of them were BYU students roaming as councilors across the country. That’s right, half of the staff had to be imported because, even with the promise of pay, we couldn’t recruit enough people to make this function from the entire New England area.

    I do think this is a good move. But I’m very skeptical that the Church will be able to pull it off to the desired result.

    My biggest concerns are 1) background checks on the councilors (my children will have to work hard to convince me to send them if these do not occur), 2) pay for the councilors, and 3) the materials sent to priesthood leaders say that BYU is providing “administrative support.” which makes me worry that they are expecting local resources to carry the weight in organizing, executing, and funding the initiative.

    In other words, I worry that this is more of the Church doing what it does best, giving something a new name, claiming it is entirely different, only to end up with it being the exact same thing it was before.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  28. Paxton Hernandez says:

    A comment from Mexico here.
    FSY Conferences have taken place here since at least 2011. They have been positive experiences for most of the youth since some of them live in pretty isolated or poor areas of the country, them being the only LDS youth in their school or sometimes even in their whole towns. There are two versions of FSY Conferences here: one version is a week long event where youth stay at the venue and spend all 5 nights there. The Church owns two recreational facilities in Mexico for camps and for these kind of gatherings, El Guarda, near Mexico City and El Campo de Sión, near Monterrey. The other version is called Stay at Home FSY and youth stay at their local homes and travel to a nearby stake center for FSY on a daily basis of the FSY Week. Local stake and ward leaders provide accomodation and commuting to youth coming out of town for this version.

    In other missions of Mexico the FSY Conferences are usually held in a private or public resort. The financial costs of the whole conference are shared by the youth, their local wards budgets, their stakes budgets and the Mexico Are funds.

  29. Angela C says:

    I would love a program for the youth like the one Jack Hughes describes with creative writing workshops, programming classes, and other activities that are geared toward kids with different interests! I am 51, not from the Western US, and I had never heard of EFY until my own kids were old enough to go. My oldest went twice. My second wasn’t interested. My daughter just returned from her 3rd EFY. I agree with the observation that it may strengthen a strong testimony but it’s not going to manufacture one for most kids if they don’t already have that inclination.

    Growing up, we had multi-stake youth conferences, staying in dorms at a college campus (this was in Central PA), and those were really fun. I had a great time on the whole, with the exception of one in which a guy came through preaching against rock music (claiming it led to Satan-worship and playing records backwards as a way to “prove” it was Satanic). But it was really a cover for selling his own CDs in the lobby! It raised my hackles that anyone would bring someone in to a Church-sponsored event to sell us stuff. What happened to the gospel being free for everyone? Was the Church just a shill for this huckster? Were we gullible marks? Honestly, my daughter had a similar negative reaction to John Bytheway who isn’t there to tear others down, but just comes across as selling his own brand of cheesiness.

    Of course, EFY has had a real problem with being only accessible to the wealthy few, which isn’t right either. In our stake, the plan is announced that it will only be our one stake rather than a group of 500. If the groups are big enough, it should be a good progression to switch to the other plan. If the groups are just one stake, honestly, that’s too incestuous from my perspective. I never liked going to stake dances either. It’s just too cozy. You need to meet people you don’t already know. My daughter was really disappointed in this change because she has loved EFY so much, but as I pointed out, there’s always BYU.

  30. Looking back on my experience as a youth, I don’t think I would have attended FSY as it has been outlined so far. I was far too introverted and worked full time most summers. I went to every boy’s camp, even went as a leader one year before my mission, but I never attended EFY or any Youth conference — both for financial and social reasons. Everything I’ve heard tells me I made the right choice.

    Also, there’s no way I would have served as a YSA councillor. In college, I needed that summer income for the school year, and there’s no way being a counselor would have paid enough to make it worth my while (I earned about $2k per month back then.) Then in later years I was working as an intern or on a fellowship, so it was income + job experience.

    So, in principle the idea sounds fine, but I think two things have to happen. 1) Kids need to be able to ensure that they are in the same group with a friend or two, or you’ll *NEVER* get the introverted kids involved. 2) The pay needs to be commensurate with the effort expended (I’d say $3k a month.)

  31. Billy Possum says:

    I agree with the spirit of many of the comments. To wit: this may be a rare opportunity to redeem the good things about EFY from its “cheesiness” (“emotional manipulation,” “consumerism,” “quasi-Nazi salutes,” etc., to be clear). I attended EFY once and only once. It took a while to come off the high (and the crush), but once I did, I figured it was shame on me if they got my money again.

    I hope I can look forward to sending my daughters to an FSY that’s shiny but not full of dead men’s bones.

  32. Chadwick says:

    I went to EFY only once, at then-Rick’s college, when I was 17. I’m so glad I went. Because being at Rick’s college for a week let me know that I didn’t want to attend Rick’s college (they offered me full tuition scholarship and BYU-Provo only offered me half-tuition scholarship so I initially was leaning toward Rick’s college). Had I not gone to EFY, I probably would have attended Rick’s college, hated it, and wasted time and money in the process. Instead I attended BYU-Provo, which was better suited to me.

    I think the one good thing about kids outside Utah (like mine) is EFY can give them a glimpse into the BYU’s. Given the normal expectation is for kids to attend these schools, an EFY-like week can help them decide if the climate is right for them.

    While at BYU, I worked part-time as a student for continuing education and assisted with the EFY lottery registration system. I don’t even know to begin with the stories of parents calling me crying because their kid didn’t get into the right EFY session (either by location or friend association). Every year a few parents would threaten violence if I didn’t pull strings to get their kids moved into a better session. It really was harrowing listening to men from St George threaten to drive to Provo with a weapon and find me. I often wondered later what it was like growing up in a household with that kind of pressure.

    Also, 15 year ago when I worked there (not sure about now), there was tuition assistance available for EFY that could be as much as 95% of the cost (though transportation was still on the parents) so it’s not just for the wealthy.

  33. Wow this is awesome! I was an EFY counselor after my mission in the summer of ‘00. Just today while on our family church history vacation in palmyra we ran into an EFY group out here and had a flood of very positive memories. I was counselor that summer in Las Vegas, 5 BYU sessions, and one Idaho session. Each session varied (especially the non-BYU sessions which clearly didn’t have quite the star power ie John Bytheway, John Schmidt, brad Wilcox etc). But each had their own flavor and I honestly witnessed similar and EXTREMELY positive results despite the bench talent each of the three geographic locations had at their disposal! The unlv session was one of my favorite and impactful for me and I believe the youth. I feel the reason was exactly as Kevin mentioned-youth mingling, learning, participation, socializing, and working together. A youth zions camp. By Thursday’s devotionals every group, despite the location, had cohesively United in a brief few days of refinement to share testimony at that devotional! The introverts, the extroverts, the “Ramona California Boys” that scared the daylights out of the coordinators…all seemed to blend into just equals. Long enough to taste the spirit of Zion and have profound spiritual experiences. High excitement from this 40 year old!!

  34. Heather Todd says:

    One of my daughter just attended efy this summer, and I think you are absolutely correct that it is critical to build faith with peers in this age group to last a lifetime. I am excited that this will be replacing efy, as I hope it is accessible to more youth, as efy was expensive. One of the best parts was the young single adult leaders. This was a paid position, and most counselors were from out of our area. Our stake is a rollout stake, so we get to see the changes next year!

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