Especially For Youth

January 13, 2005 | 25 comments
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Today is the first day of registration for Especially For Youth, and I am waiting in the queue: #276 of 325 people waiting in line. The website reminds me, “Please remember that applications for EFY are NOT prioritized on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. Every application received will be considered equally in our random selection process.” But I am on the computer anyway, and I like the feeling that all of us queuesters are so excited to have our children meet at EFY.

In this crowd, someone will undoubtedly have something snarky to say about EFY, but make no mistake about it: this is a big deal for my children. We live in a ward with about 25 active youth — and ours is one of the main “youth wards” in the Stake — so the prospect of mingling with a horde of Mormon youth is pretty exciting to them. My oldest daughter attended EFY two years ago at the University of Utah, and she still corresponds with some of the people she met there. This year we are going for the BYU experience. (We have nothing against the Midwestern EFYs, but this gives us a convenient excuse to visit family in Utah.)

Their excitement for EFY also reveals something I take to be important beyond this event: as members of the Church, we benefit from feeling like we are part of something bigger than our own life project. We are repeatedly encouraged to be contributing members of our families, wards, and communities, partly for our own good. If my children are asked to live standards that are not embraced by their neighbors and classmates, they can take strength from the fact that many other youth are facing similar challenges. As a father, I am grateful that they will have the opportunity to meet some of those youth this summer.

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25 Responses to Especially For Youth

  1. Kevin Barney on January 13, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    I grew up in Illinois, and although we had a great group of kids in our ward, I know very much how your kids feel and why they are excited for EFY. I loved youth conferences, and when I finally went to BYU I was like a kid in the social candy store.

  2. MDS on January 13, 2005 at 2:12 pm

    As a youth, I never attended EFY, and made fun of those who did. It was perceived, at least by me, as something that the kids on the hill did, and that my family couldn’t afford. I used to quip to my EFY-attending chums that the adverstisements should run something like “Now, for only $200 (or whatever the tuition cost back then), your child too can have a testimony, and a T-Shirt to prove that he has it!”

    My attitude changed after my mission. In need of a summer job, and at the encouragement of a friend who had had a great experience doing the same, I applied for and was accepted for a counselor position. This was and remains as meaningful an experience for me as was my mission. Every week, I had a fresh group of young men, who, more likely than not, were excited about the gospel. At night, after all the activities of the long day, I had a captive audience of somewhere between 10 and 14 young men, all of them with scriptures, who were ready to learn. For the most part, the lessons we taught over the course of the week correlated with the missionary discussions. J. Reuben Clark nailed it in “The Charted Course of the Church in Education” when he said “The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the spirit; they are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.” These were lessons spent deep in the scriptures, and some nights we spent hours cramming as much of the gospel in as we could.

    One concern about EFY is that the positive changes so many youth experience there need to endure. The youth are warned about the temptation to fall back into old ways, and encouraged to “take it home” with them. Counselors have a role to play in this. At the end of the week, contact information is exchanged, and I still occasionally get e-mails from kids who are returning from missions, or marriage invitations.

    While I’m sure that the sessions at the U and the Y are fun for the kids, I always enjoyed the local sessions best. For one, I got a chance to travel. I got paid to fly to New York and see the sacred grove and other church history sites there, an opportunity that would not have presented itself otherwise. Second, there is just a different feel from the youth that aren’t from the Wasatch Front and other heavily Mormon areas. They are there, for the most part, for religious reasons, and not for some NCMO. If I ever send my kids, I think I will send them somewhere where they can associate with youth who are the only member in their school and learn what kind of dedication it can take to be that person. The sheer joy someone from such a background experiences while at an EFY session, realizing, perhaps for the first time, that there are lots of other people just like them, is contagious.

    I should also note that, while there still is a heavier concentration of wealthy kids at EFY than I would like to see, there are scholarships available. Additionally, a kid with a little bit of determination should be able to muster the funds somehow. I think it would be well worth it.

  3. gilgamesh on January 13, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    I had my first heartbreak at EFY. I was barely 14 – she was 15 – she liked my friend and used me to get to him. I was devestated. I still remember seeing the flower I bought her in the garbage can outside of the ballroom on the night of the final dance. That is all I remember about the experience aside from another friend of mine getting kicked out for sneaking into the girls dorms.

    Actually when I went, our stake went together. We used to go to the Y every four years so all the youth had an opportunity to attend. We did fundraisers throughout the four years to make sure money was not an issue. We would charter busses and drive together as a stake from California to Utah. That was by far the best part of the experience. I made a lot of close friends on those drives. We spent hours talking about what we learned and each time we saw each other after that, we had a reminder of what we learned. It is unfortunate that such coordintated stake EFY trip cannot happen at the Y anymore. I guess that is the price you pay for a growing church.

  4. Janice on January 13, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    I sent both my children to EFY, and I tell people even if it cost $1000 for the week and I had to beg or borrow to send them, it would be worth it. We live in Georgia and we don’t have John Bytheway visiting our high schools every year. My kids came home so spiritually fed it amazed me! Now my daughter has been married in the temple and is expecting her first child and just graduated BYU and my son is on a mission to Chile. I divorced my husband when the kids were young and remarried in the temple 6 years later. As children of divorced parents, they did really well, and EFY really helped.

  5. Jonathan Green on January 13, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    Gil, that’s the saddest EFY story I’ve ever heard. My stake in California also sponsored a bus every four years. The year I went, I had a pretty decent time, I think. The lasting consequence for me was that I learned to eat salad. I was infatuated with a girl from Canada and managed to get seated with her at the final dinner in a booth in the old Wilkinson Center. She ate her salad, so I decided to be sophisticated and eat mine, too, and discovered it was pretty good. I never wrote to her or saw her after that, but I still eat salad. On the bus ride home, a girl in my stake told me I had a ‘bad attitude’.

  6. Mark B on January 13, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    Man, Jonathan, what a killer of a non sequitur! You gotta tell us the genesis of the “bad attitude” remark!

    Was it the salad?

  7. Gordon Smith on January 13, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    In case you were in suspense, the wait was almost three hours, but both of my eligible children are registered, with a strong preference for the August 1 sessions in Provo. (Does anyone here know why the sessions show different numbers for “capacity”? We couldn’t decide whether it was better to be in big (251), bigger (730), or biggest (1279).)

    Also, I agree with Mark B, Jonathan. You need to do a Paul Harvey and let us in on the rest of the story.

  8. Mark Hansen on January 13, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    I would give one of my arms and a couple of my teeth to perform at an EFY someday!

    MRKH

  9. Gordon Smith on January 13, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Mark, That could be pretty traumatic for the kids, watching you dismember yourself like that.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on January 13, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    I never went to EFY, but my mother claims she nearly shut the program down once.

    Here’s the tale, reconstructed from my memories and what my mother told me (believe it or not!):

    When I was in High School, CES announced they were going to try out an EFY in Alaska. It would be rather expensive, and CES said it was not meant to be a replacement for Youth Conferences. However, our Sake President, who was also the CES representative, cancelled the Youth Conference for that summer and told everyone to go to the EFY to support it and make sure it could make enough money to return in future years.

    That ticked off my parents and quite a few others who couldn’t afford to send their kids to EFY (there were some scholarships, I understand, but not enough to cover all the people who couldn’t afford to attend). My mom talked with our Stake President Several times, and he refused to budge. He claimed EFY was a “higher program” than out stake youth conferences and that good LDS parents would scrounge together the money to make sure their kids could go.

    My mother managed to get the phone number of an apostle, one who had recently given a talk on “not pricing people out of the church.” She actually got him on the phone and explained to him what happened. He said he would look into it.

    A few weeks later, out Stake President called my mother and chastised him for going over his head. However, he also told her that the Apostle was looking into cancelling the entire EFY program because of her complaint.

    We got the Youth Conference that year, though we didn’t get one the next year or the year after that. After a few years without Youth confernces, a new Stake President was called (one who didn’t work for CES) and he reinstated stake Youth conferences.

    I’m not sure how close EFY actually came to getting shut down, but it’s an interesting tale. I’d actually like to hear our Stake President’s side of it, but he refused to discuss it.

  11. Jonathan Green on January 13, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    Sorry, sorry. I realize now that it looks like I was implying a connection between my last two sentences, but there wasn’t one. Gilgamesh’s post had me thinking of stake youth bus rides, and that’s about the only thing I remember from the final stage of my EFY experience. I would never have been so callow as to discuss my EFY romance, which had culminated in sharing the last slow dance of the evening the night before, with a bus full of youth from my stake. I don’t remember what prompted the “bad attitude” comment, but I do remember that it struck me as completely unmotivated at the time.

    Great things can happen at EFY, but equally interesting things can happen on church-chartered youth bus trips. It’s too bad they don’t seem to happen anymore.

  12. MDS on January 13, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    Gordon, I believe the difference in capacity at various sessions is a function of what other camps are being held at BYU that particular week (sports camps, etc.) that would take available beds away.

  13. Gordon Smith on January 13, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    MDS, But all three of those sessions are being held in the same week. I wondered why the sizes weren’t the same, if they had different activities depending on the size or what? If it were just a bed capacity issue, wouldn’t they equalize all three that are happening in the same week? Maybe it has something to do with the locations of the beds?

  14. Rosalynde Welch on January 13, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    I suspect there may be a disproportionate number of T&S readers who attended the nerd’s version of EFY, Scholar’s Academy. I went twice, and had good experiences both times. Like Gilgamesh, I found romance: I had my first kiss in the parking lot outside a dance in the Smith Family Living Center, just a few weeks before I turned sixteen. And as with Gilgamesh, heartbreak soon followed: the boy didn’t write to me afterward… although he did, rather bizarrely, remember me when we met up again as freshmen at BYU in the Honors Program. I think the most lasting effect of the program for me was the introduction to BYU campus and culture; although I flirted with other schools a little when it came time to apply for colleges, in the end I only applied to BYU and was happy to be going there.

  15. Bryce I on January 14, 2005 at 12:06 am

    I think what prompted Jonathan’s bad attitude comment is that he has a bad attitude.

  16. Bryce I on January 14, 2005 at 12:08 am

    Forgot the obligatory :)

  17. Bryce I on January 14, 2005 at 12:12 am

    Gordon and other parents of teenagers —

    Do you have any sense of what the online world is like for LDS teens? Is there a blogger Assembly Hall? EFY serves a valuable function for youth in areas with low LDS population densities by bringing large numbers of kids together — the internet/blogosphere has the ability to do the same, but in a different way.

  18. Russell Arben Fox on January 14, 2005 at 12:33 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of the “Scholar’s Academy,” Rosalynde. Is it an old program? What was the application process? Was it actually a kind of alternative EFY, or just some other summer youth program? Weird. Sometimes I wonder if us white American Mormons can do anything without giving a meritocratic edge to it.

    I went to EFY when I was, I think, 14. I’m trying to remember something about it. A packed session on the immorality of some popular music, somewhere in the Wilkinson Center. And another one on rumors about the last days. Oh, and a talent show at the end of the week, where some guy lyp-synched and danced to Howard Jones’s “Life in One Day.” That’s about it. My older brother Daniel went the same year I did, and he had a fabulous time; he’s already gone through puberty, and knew how to dance, and simply blew all the competition away at the evening dances. Me, I stayed in the dorms and read.

  19. Rosalynde Welch on January 14, 2005 at 12:44 am

    Russell, I think the program is still running; some of my siblings have attended in fairly recent memory. It wasn’t exactly an alternative EFY, but it was one of the many themed summer programs at BYU–there was also ballroom dancing, and etiquette, and theater, and that kind of thing, I believe. But Scholar’s Academy was probably more like EFY than those others, I’d imagine. The program was completely open admission–there was no achievement requirement to enroll, and indeed a number of kids from my ward went one year simply because EFY had filled.

    In fact, our own Jim Faulconer taught a mini-seminar to us one year, if I recall correctly.

  20. Brett on January 14, 2005 at 1:26 am

    I was a regular on the CES Youth program circuit back in my pre-teen and early teen years. When I was deacon I would go to this thing called Boy’s World. every summer in Sherman, TX. It went on at the same time as EFY. I just remember playing ariel frisbee and learning how to be a missionary. When I finally turned 14 I was so excited to go to EFY. I went with my cousin to one in San Antonio. My fragil pubescent ego got quite a boost when all the good looking 16-18 year old ladies thought I was getting ready to go on a mission and were all asking me for a dance. I don’t know if they were being sincere or just messing with me, but at the time I didn’t care. I also learned how to pass people out while I was at EFY. All the guys in my hall would gather in one room every night and we would just make each other pass out. It’s great the church decided to speard EFY around the country. It gave me an opportunity to hear speakers that I probably never would have been able to see living in Oklahome.

  21. Gordon Smith on January 14, 2005 at 10:34 am

    Here is a link for the Scholars’ Academy.

  22. Greg on January 14, 2005 at 11:41 am

    I grew up in Salt Lake, and had never heard of EFY until my mission(in California). I did go to baseball camp at BYU, which had about the same effect on me as EFY had on Rosalynde (with respect to school selection, not first kisses).

  23. Mike Heninger on January 19, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    I don’t want to ruin the tenor of this thread, but since it seems to have run its course I would like to share this personal story. I must be getting old because the times at Youth Conference in my day (early ”70s) was more of a mixture of mischief and pranks with only passing rare spiritual experiences than what is described above.

    I grew up next to one of the state universities in Utah where Youth Conferences were held all summer long and we played a variety of pranks on them. When I was in the 7th grade, I wanted to play basketball at MIA with the older boys. Often they let me because I was tall and pretty good. But when they didn’t, I hanged out with this group of crazy kids in the ward who liked to play with ouiji boards, black magic, hypnosis, and spook each other. Summertime, they often picked up small groups of other kids who were away from home at Youth Conference and brought them to these “parties” just to scare them. I disliked these jokers but I was a bit fascinated by their activities.

    One night I found a dead black cat on the road and I buried it near this old abandoned house that had burned down. The ward youth often gathered at the ruins of this house for all manner of questionable activities. Only the basement of the house remained, partially filled with charred boards spiked with rusty nails and broken glass; but it was not so cold and it was out of the wind down there. A few weeks after my secret burial of the black cat, a perfect opportunity arose during a séance with several gullible Youth Conference guests of both sexes from California. I pretended to see in a sham vision a beautiful woman with a baby who had once lived in the burned house. She was wearing a black mink coat. I fabricated that she had been unchaste and the baby was illegitimate and that she had, horror of horrors- smothered the baby! I acted out watching her do it in this fake vision, and then I described her burying the baby near the house.

    Some of the ward kids had been smoking a little weed on the sly and they also “saw” parts of my vision, which gave it a distinct element of credibility. The eyes of our young guests from California were about to pop out of their heads. I did not have to suggest that we dig at the spot I had “seen” her bury the baby. We used some broken dishes readily available. When this guy first pulled up a tuft of black hair with the accompanying smell of death, a ghostly fearful silence came over the entire group. Then this kid from California pulled the cat skull out of the ground with the long fangs, and I shouted: It’s like Rosemary’s Baby! The devil is its father. The reason she killed it was because, ah, (improvising) it was biting her breasts and drinking blood instead of milk! Mass hysteria reigned and we all ran screaming in every direction.

    Funny thing about kids that age, we never told our parents or called the police. I guess we really did not believe that we had opened the grave of a murdered baby. Everyone seemed to know, deep down, that I had pulled a good one on them. The stunt was repeated several times by others in the ward when my time on the basketball court increased, for additional recruits from the Youth Conferences. But it never was quite as good as the first time.

    Did they ever tell you at Youth Conference not to hang out or sneak off with the local Mormon boys? Ever wonder why?

  24. Shawn Atwood on February 17, 2005 at 10:26 am

    How to find out information about the month of July 4th threw 9th to go to EFY

  25. kay on June 3, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    we need to know about upcoming events as well as the old ones posted here