LDS Church celebrates 60 years since first YSA stake

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Over 1,200 students gathered with Elder Russell M. Ballard to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the organization of the first Young Single Adult (YSA) stake. The first YSA stake was formed in 1956 and now the Church totals 1,313 YSA units worldwide.

Elder M. Russell Ballard speaks at the 60th anniversary celebration. (R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News)
Elder M. Russell Ballard speaks at the 60th anniversary celebration. They celebrate the anniversary of the 1st YSA stake in the LDS Church. (R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News)

On Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the George Albert Smith Field House, Elder M. Russell Ballard, area seventy Elder R. Scott Runia and President of the Provo YSA 1st Stake Richard N. Holzapfel spoke honoring the former and current YSA Stake Presidents.

“We are celebrating the 60th year of an idea that the brethren had that young men and young women could pursue school and serve fully in the church as adults,” said President Holzapfel.

Elder Ballard honored the past 13 stake presidents of the 1st YSA stake created in the church and shared dating advice.

“My counsel to you tonight, young men … is that you learn, if you haven’t already figured it out, how to ask a young woman for a date,” Elder Ballard said. “I don’t know where this ‘hanging out’ idea came from. It didn’t come from the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve, I can tell you that.”

Elder Ballard continued to speak about the work that has been done in the 1st stake and other YSA stakes.

Elder M. Russell Ballard and BYU students of the Provo Utah YSA 1st Stake. They celebrate the anniversary of the 1st YSA stake in the LDS Church. (Richard Holzapfel)

Students in the 1st stake helped participate and coordinate the celebration. Audrey Hamm serves on the communication committee in her ward.

Hamm said it was cool to see a large portion of her ward show up to the celebration and see everyone stand when President Ballard arrived.

“I thought it was pretty cool that Elder Ballard made a connection with dating,” Hamm said. “I was surprised at how relatable Elder Ballard’s experiences were … It was pretty awesome to have a personal connection with an apostle in that way.”

Students filled all the seats for the celebration to watch the program and to participate.

“My favorite part of the night was when I gave the closing prayer and afterward Elder Ballard hugged me,” said Jacob Acquah, a BYU student in attendance.

The organization of the 1st YSA stake was created by the LDS Church on Jan. 8, 1956.  Elder Henry D. Moyle and Elder Adam S. Bennion of the Quorum of the Twelve organized more than 8,000 students into the first student stake and divided them into twelve wards.

Elder M. Russell Ballard stands with current and former Stake Presidents of the Provo Utah YSA 1st Stake : J. Duane Dudley, (left), Marrill J. Bateman, Mark James Howard, Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Raymond E. Beckham and Noel B. Reynolds. They celebrate the anniversary of the 1st YSA stake in the LDS Church. (R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News)

In a Daily Herald article from 1956, President Antone K. Romney (the first stake president of the 1st stake) says, “The new stake will give every student a chance to be a student and also an active church member.”

By 1958, the 1st stake was the largest stake in the LDS church with a total of 24 wards. By 1974, the name of the stake changed from BYU stake to BYU’s 1st stake. In 2011, the name was then changed to Provo Utah YSA 1st Stake. This final name change allows all young adults living in the stake boundaries to attend the ward, not just BYU students.

“(It) is pretty remarkable to be a part of something in modern church history,” Hamm said.

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