“‘More of Us to Find’ Naramata Youth Conference 1975,” New Era, Oct. 1975, 20
“In the midst of the miracle of serving,” said President Spencer W. Kimball, “there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! … The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways,” he continued, “the more substance there is to our soul … indeed, it is easier to find ourselves because there is more of us to find.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “There Is Purpose in Life,” June Conference Address 1974, New Era, Sept. 1974, p. 4.)
It was all that was needed. After all, what better theme could there be for the annual Canada Vancouver Mission youth conference than the counsel of the living prophet? And once the youth leaders, members of the conference’s “central committee,” had decided on service—“More of Us to Find”—as their theme, they let it influence every decision, from finances, to organization, to decisions in their own personal lives.
Costs of the conference, traditionally held at the Naramata Center in the beautiful, orchard-filled Okanogan Valley, were slightly higher than the year before, and the young leaders worried about those who had greater distances to travel.
“We started thinking one night in our central committee meeting,” said Donn Mason, youth chairman, “about the conference and the gospel and everything, and what it all really means to each one of us. And we felt we wanted everyone to come to conference and to have a great experience. Then Kirk Leaberry brought up the fact that some of our youth have to travel 300 miles over dirt roads and then another 600 miles on pavement to come to conference. We knew it would be difficult for them to raise the registration fee. So we tried to find a way for every youth to be able to come.”
“I figured,” said Kirk, youth vice-chairman, “that sometime we’ve got to learn to live the law of consecration, and I thought now is a good time to start. You can’t just dive in on a law like that. You have to start gradually. Now seemed as good a time as any.”
The youth of the Kalowna and Vernon branches, the groups nearest the conference site who made up the planning committee, sent letters to the other branches in the mission. They said that they knew the cost of the conference was higher than before, but they had been able, through various fund-raising activities, to earn most of the money they needed for themselves, and they would work to earn as much extra as possible to help any of the distant branches meet their expenses.
The results of this spirit of service and sacrifice were electrifying. Branches that had earlier claimed they were unable to send their youth because of the cost wrote and said that not only would they raise enough for themselves, but they too would try to raise more than was needed. Even those branches that the committee thought would have the most difficulty wrote in to say that though they probably wouldn’t be able to help other branches, they would be able to raise enough for their own youth.
“The plan was accepted, and it spread fast,” said Donn. “I think it got around faster than the dates of the conference. When we went to a promotional meeting in one of the branches, the kids knew two things—they knew how much the conference was going to cost, and they knew that we were planning to raise extra money. It caught on everywhere.”
And as they set up the basic organization of the conference, again the central committee went to the scriptures, in the spirit of service, for their guidelines. They read the counsel given to Moses:
“Provide out of all people able men, such as fear God, men of truth … to be rulers of tens:
“And … every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.” (Ex. 18:21–22.)
Under the guidance and the approval of the district and mission presidencies, the central committee decided to divide the 300 youth who would be attending the Naramata conference into companies of ten, with captains of ten to be elected from among the companies. And then they wrote out a list of instructions for these captains:
“You are now a ‘Captain of Ten’ upon whom an important stewardship has been bestowed. Be a friend to all those in your charge, remembering that to lead is also to serve.
“Study carefully the following suggestions, which, if followed in the right spirit, will ensure that this conference will be a profound personal success—for you and those youth in your charge.
Make a friend of everyone in your group.
Assist others in maintaining conference rules.
Assist others in maintaining Church standards.
Be sure your group is awakened on time.
Do not retire until every youth in your group has been accounted for.
Be sure every member of your group is aware of, and understands, conference plans.
Cooperate with and assist your adult chaperons.
Accept assignments from the conference committee when asked.
Hold morning and evening prayers with your group.
Bear your testimony whenever appropriate.
“At all times,” the instructions reemphasized, “watch out for the girl or boy who needs friendship, some of whom can be seen eating silently alone in the cafeteria or standing shyly on the darkened sidelines of the dance floor.”
Finally all the plans and arrangements were made, and every youth who wished to was able to attend. From all over British Columbia they came—from Bella Coola, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Penticton, Prince Rupert, Kalowna, Vernon, Terrace, Kitimat. They brought brothers, sisters, and nonmember friends. One even brought her mother. In addition the entire mission presidency and their wives attended, the district president came, and many excited adult leaders were there to serve as chaperons. Even the Regional Representative was able to take part in the activities. All were welcomed; all were cared for; all fell within the “midst of the miracle of serving.”
On Friday afternoon registration took place, and a cry went up from the registrar’s office: “We’re out of beds, and we have 23 more kids to house!”
“There already seems to be more of them to find!” chuckled one chaperon.
But the problem was quickly solved. The young people gladly doubled up where possible and rolled out their bedrolls on the floor where not, and once gear was stowed and friendly introductions made, companies of ten were formed and captains elected.
Excitement ran high. “I can’t wait!” confided one friendly, dimpled blond in lace-trimmed blouse and faded jeans. “I’ve signed up for the mechanics workshop. Guess who’s teaching it! Paaaaaaaat Simmmmmmmmmms!” Shannon Lee, one of the youth leaders, was pretty sure she was coming down with something, but she wouldn’t lie down and certainly wouldn’t go home—“I might miss something important!”
That evening everyone gathered for the welcoming meeting, complete with presentation of theme, talent numbers from many of the branches, and square dancing instruction. And the evening became an impromptu celebration for the callers, Brother and Sister Don Young, who wouldn’t have missed the conference for anything, not even their own 28th wedding anniversary. It was their way of serving.
The next morning seemed to come early to the young people who had spent most of the hours allotted to sleep catching up on news from the other branches, but enthusiasm was not dampened. One young man was seen dashing down the road between Columbia and McLaren halls.
“Help!” he shouted at an empty blue van parked in the middle of the lane. “I’ve got to have a pump for the volleyball or how can we possibly have our sports workshop?”
The youth had decided on their own workshops, and even these became vehicles of fun service. The items created in the leather craft workshop were presented as gifts to the special guests; the Hawaiian dance and “Lamanite Generation” groups learned routines they presented as part of the floorshow at the ball later in the evening; those who attended the “Sing, Sing a Song” workshop formed the choir that sang at the Sunday meetings, including in their program the original song written around the conference theme; the mechanics workshop participants worked on and “tuned up” the car of one of the adult leaders (cough, cough, sputter, klunk!). In other workshops the young people learned about youth in the Church, maintaining LDS standards, volleyball, psychology, and grooming for eternity.
And at a youth conference based on the words of a prophet, you would expect one of the favorite workshops to be one of the more serious ones.
“I was only able to attend one of the workshops,” said Donn Mason, “but it was great. It was Randy Bachman’s presentation on standards. He was more than what I expected. He’s a member of a popular singing group, you know, and when he came to the conference, I met him at the door and introduced myself. I asked him if he was ready and if there was anything we could help him with, and he said, ‘No, I just want a place where I can be alone to meditate and pray and get the direction I need for this workshop.’ Somehow I wasn’t expecting that. I mean, it was a real topper!”
“I attended Randy Bachman’s workshop too,” added Dwight Schmidt, a member of the central committee who had been inactive just seven months before. “The thing that really impressed me about him was that he is so spiritual. He talked about his career and some of the problems he’s had. He has had to go through a lot. The sacrifices that he has made for the gospel really taught me that if he can do it, I can do it.”
Then in the afternoon as prearranged, the young priesthood bearers and their female counterparts offered their services to the town of Naramata.
“I don’t believe it!” said a member of the town council. “No one has ever asked if they could help before!”
The young Mormons not only offered, they delivered. They divided into teams and invited a member of the town council to accompany each team. One group went to the old United Church built in 1917. They mowed the lawn, raked the yard, and cultivated the garden.
“I’ve been a minister most of my life,” said the vicar who lives in back of the church, “but this is the first time I’ve been ministered to.”
“When you Mormons are finished with the church grounds,” said a neighbor over the fence, “you’re certainly welcome to come over and do my yard.”
Several strong young men went to the home of an elderly couple who, after a lifetime of community service, found themselves unable to handle the heavier work around their home. In a matter of minutes it was done.
Down on the beach several youth were joined by their mission president in Levis and work shirt as they raked through the sand and sifted out all the stones and broken glass.
And farther down the beach three access roads were cleared and leveled. A watching townsperson said, “You know, one of my best friends is a member of your church. A fine man.”
Throughout the day thoughtful, caring service was offered in large ways and small. In meetings when those on the stand didn’t have a hymnbook, someone from the audience would jump up and give his copy to the person without. If there were not enough chairs in a workshop, a dozen self-motivated volunteers would rush to find more. If a youth was walking between meetings loaded down with suitcases, chairs, or other paraphernalia, others would quietly walk up behind him and ask if they could help carry the burden. Captains of ten conscientiously watched over their companies, and none went friendless or uncomforted, not even those not officially attending the conference.
There had been some minor conflicts with local nonmember youth. A bus was vandalized and a young conference attender was pushed around a bit. What was the reaction of these young Mormons who were learning about service and how to apply gospel teachings in their lives?
“We only have two cheeks to turn,” said one of the youth leaders, “so we’d better solve the problem before it grows.” They discussed it and came to the realization that the troublemakers were probably just feeling left out of all the fun. So an invitation went out, formally and on a one-to-one basis. “Come and join us! There’s enough fun for everyone, and we’d love to have you.”
That night there was a dance, and Church music and dress standards were willingly complied with. The spirit of the conference would allow for nothing less.
Sunday began with a prayer meeting for those involved in the activities planned for the day. It was conducted by 16-year-old Tom Harrison.
Among those in attendance were the Regional Representative, the mission president and his two counselors, and Sister Ardeth Kapp of the Young Women general presidency. Tom asked each of them to remember to bear their testimonies at the end of their talks, and this they did throughout the day at the special Young Women session, the priesthood meeting on the beach, the sacrament service, and the special Sunday workshops. The youth added their part too as they amazed everyone with their knowledge in the regional scripture chase championships. It was a peaceful, meditative Sunday of learning and worship. The conference was drawing to a close.
As Monday dawned, the young people of the Naramata conference gathered for the last time. They came quietly through the coolness of the morning and found their places on the painted benches in a grove of pine trees near the western shore of Lake Okanogan. There they shared with each other the things they had given and the gifts they had received. They spoke of those sacred, life-bending moments when they had come to know of their Father’s love for them. They bore testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the joy of service. They witnessed before their friends their desire to more fully live the commandments of the Lord and to share what they had with loved ones.
“I thank …”
“I promise …”
“I know …”
“I love …”
What difference did it all make? How did the young people involved benefit from their experiences? Has the opportunity to serve helped them to grow?
Daven Remington: “The greatest feeling I’ve had is just the feeling that comes with service, the feeling you get deep down inside when you serve others. It can be both spiritual and physical. After a good day’s work, it just feels good!”
Donn Mason: “It has all been a learning experience for me, everything we’ve done. We’ve learned how to put the gospel into action in our lives. We not only learned how to work side by side with each other, but we also learned how to work side by side with the Lord.”
Carol Conroy: “I was just baptized last Saturday. There are still a lot of things that are hard for me to do, hard to live, but there are so many great things in the Church. This weekend has been so far out! I have found a lot of answers to questions. Up until this weekend I really loved the Church and everything, but it was sort of hard for me to accept the Joseph Smith story—how he could have started this religion. Then just this morning I knew it was all true. What would this church be without him? I know he was real, a true prophet. It’s been a great conference!”
Bev Akre: “My father is a wonderful man, but he’s not a member of the Church. I have been so involved in planning this conference that it’s taken me from home quite often, and my dad objected. I fasted and prayed about it and then went to him and said, ‘Dad, would you rather have me so involved with the Church or with something else not so worthwhile?’ I know if I just love him, he’ll come to love the gospel. One thing I have learned from this conference is that the Lord will help you make your decisions, help you along the way.”
Kathy Preece: “I was a captain of ten. I learned one thing and that was the responsibility of it all. We had some problems in our cabin, and I was called on as captain to kind of bear them and to try and work them out, and it was a good experience. When everybody is working and sharing together, it’s so beautiful!”
Dwight Schmidt: “When you are working on something that really means a lot, you grow because you spend a lot of time with people, and you help them and they help you. And then at registration, which was my responsibility, we had a lot of little problems here and there, and Sister Burnham, one of our adult advisers, said, ‘If you go to the wall, the rest is up to the Lord.’ I think that was pointed out really well because things went smoothly in spite of our problems. We were doing our part, and I think it is fantastic that the Lord pulls through to keep his side of the bargain as well.”
Violet Hart: “It’s all been just terrific! I haven’t felt so spiritual in a long time, and I feel like I am a foot off the ground!”
Tom Harrison: “From what I’ve done at this youth conference, I feel that I enjoy serving more than I enjoy anything else. That’s all I’ve done, really, is serve, and I have learned more through serving than through any other means. I know for a fact that after this youth conference is over, I am going to be an A-one LDS young man. I will live up to my standards more, and our branch is going to benefit, you just wait and see!”
The purposes of the conference were accomplished—a prophet’s words were lived, and there is more, much more, of them to find.