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For Strength of Youth conferences in U.S. and Canada postponed until 2021, church announces

FILE — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church Office Building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Latter-day Saint leaders have postponed this summer’s For Strength of Youth conferences in the United States and Canada until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release issued Monday morning.

Decisions about For Strength of Youth conferences scheduled in other countries by stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be made by area presidencies based on health guidelines in respective countries.

Nearly 300 stakes in the United States and Canada had scheduled For Strength of Youth conferences in 2020. An updated schedule for the biennial conferences in 2021–23 can be found here.

The church will refund participant fees on or before April 30, the release said.

Church leaders previously announced March 12 that all public gatherings of the church are suspended temporarily, worldwide.

A typical Latter-day Saint congregation has a busy summer schedule for youth. Each ward or branch holds a five-day camp for Young Women and a separate five-day camp for Aaron Priesthood quorums. It also holds either a five-day For Strength of Youth conference, a youth conference or a trek. Teens attend from the year they turn 14 through high school graduation.

For Strength of Youth conferences are new in much of North America but have been in place in much of the rest of the world for a decade or more.

The church announced last summer that stakes in the United States and Canada would hold For Strength of Youth conferences every other year. In the year that a stake holds a For Strength of Youth conference, it will not hold a stake youth conference or trek.

Nearly 300 stakes in states all across the United States and provinces in Canada were scheduled to have their first For Strength of Youth conferences this summer, though the new program was scheduled to launch in full in 2021 and 2022.

Many teens had registered for For Strength of Youth conferences this summer. The cost is $75 per teen. The congregation pays an additional $75 per teen, and may also help with the personal costs of teens who need financial aid.

Adult ward and stake leaders are integral in the boys’ and girls’ camps, youth conferences and treks. For the For Strength of Youth conferences, they generally help with registering the youth. A limited number of adults will attend For Strength of Youth as session directors and teachers.

The majority of leadership at For Strength of Youth conferences will be provided by young single adult counselors ages 19-30. Many had been identified and were preparing for conferences this summer. Each young single adult For Strength of Youth counselor was to be responsible for 10 teens. He or she was to lead daily devotionals, discussions, activities and motivation.

For Strength of Youth is modeled on Especially for Youth, a program that began at Brigham Young University in 1976 to provide an Education Week for Latter-day Saint teens. BYU’s Education Week is a week of spiritual and self-development lectures hosted by the university in August each year.

Especially for Youth originally required students to come to BYU’s campus in Provo. It expanded to include remote Especially for Youth Special Edition and Especially for Youth Express events.

For Strength of Youth will replace the Especially for Youth campus events. BYU will continue to offer limited Especially for Youth Special Edition and Especially for Youth Express events.

For Strength of Youth conferences generally will be held on university or college campuses and the youth will stay in dorms. BYU will help manage and schedule the For Strength of Youth conferences.

Stakes and districts outside the United States and Canada have been using the For Strength of Youth model for a decade or more, and they “have proven to be a strength to youth and also to the young single adults who serve as counselors,” according to a letter sent last summer by church headquarters to general and local church leaders.