Join us for an edifying and uplifting experience.

The 20th Annual Education Conference will feature two days of instructive and inspiring presentations from influential speakers on a variety of Gospel topics related to this year’s theme:
By Study And Also By Faith.

This spiritual retreat is organized and hosted by Kathleen Knight and Southern Virginia University. We invite you to join with us this summer in the majestic Shenandoah Valley for a retreat that combines Gospel education and spiritual edification like no other.

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Dates: June 3-4, 2016
Location: Southern Virginia University Campus
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Registration: One Day: $35
Two Days: $50
& Meal Plan:
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Contact: 540-261-8487
See speakers from last year

2016 Presenters


John W. Welch

John W. (“Jack”) Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University (BYU). He was founding director of Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and a member of the board of editors for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Currently he serves as the editor of the periodical BYU Studies and is a contributing scholar for the Joseph Smith Papers Project. When a young missionary in Germany, Welch discovered many instances of the chiasmus literary form in the Book of Mormon. His finding, published in BYU Studies as “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” in 1969, and subsequent publications have shaped scholarly inquiry into the linguistic aspects and historical origin of the Book of Mormon. In 2015 Welch became chairman of Book of Mormon Central, a web-based resource for students of the Nephite scripture.


Al R. Young

Al R. Young has been a professional artist, author, and craftsman for more than 35 years. At four years of age, a friend gave him a drawing set as a birthday gift. Supposing the gift too advanced for her young son, Al’s mother put it atop his closet for safekeeping. After he twice climbed to the top shelf to retrieve it, she relented. He has been drawing and painting ever since.

In college, Al chose to study writing instead of art, in order to develop his own artistic interests and style. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in journalism (1976), and was later awarded an MA in mass communications (1979). He subsequently studied colonial American history and documentary editing at the University of Virginia (1979).

Al worked in various occupations for 18 years: Freelance writer and editor; part-time faculty member at BYU and Utah Technical College; partner in a consulting firm with contracts in the western United States and the Middle East; senior researcher and advanced product designer, senior engineer, head of corporate communications and documentation. In 1998, he and his wife, Nancy, founded Al Young Studios for their work in fine art and publishing.


Elspeth C. Young

Since graduating Magna Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in 2003, she has worked full time as an Artist of Al Young Studios, and, while a diverse range of commissions has given her experience in various media, she concentrates her painting primarily on religious subjects.

Even though art was the focus of her studies at BYU from the outset, a lecture, in 2002, by Camille Fronk Olson proved pivotal in refining the focus of her career. Professor Olson invited any artists who were present to consider painting the lesser known women of the scriptures. The invitation captivated Elspeth’s interest and she pursued a course of directed studies researching the women of the Bible.

A growing number of her original paintings are owned by the LDS Church as well as private collectors. Many have been featured in LDS Church publications and a sizable number of recent and current projects have been done in association with the Special Projects Department of the Church. She is the recipient of purchase and other awards in juried international and regional art competitions.

Whitney Johnson headshot 2014

Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson was recognized as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers in 2015, and was a finalist for the Top thinkers on Talent at the biennial Thinkers50 ceremony in London. She is best known for her work on driving corporate innovation through personal disruption. She is formerly an Institutional Investor-ranked analyst for eight consecutive years, including at Merrill Lynch, and is the former president and co-founder of a boutique investment firm with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. Johnson is the author of the critically-acclaimed Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, one of Inc. Magazines Top 100 Business Books in 2015. She is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, a LinkedInfluencer, co-founder of Forty Women over 40 to Watch, and was named one of Fortune’s 55 Women to Follow on Twitter in 2014. She and her husband, and their two children, live in Lexington, VA.


Madison Sowell

Madison U. Sowell is the provost (chief academic officer) at Southern Virginia University, where he has responsibility for the faculty and curriculum, the library, the registrar’s office, and the travel study programs. He is also the liaison between the University and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Dr. Sowell previously served at Brigham Young University as chair of the department of French and Italian, an Alcuin Fellow, a Karl G. Maeser General Education Professor, the Scheuber and Veinz Professor of Humanities and Languages, director of the Honors Program and associate dean of undergraduate education. For three years he lived abroad when he presided over the Italy Milan Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The author, editor, and/or translator of a half-dozen books and over one hundred refereed articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews, Dr. Sowell has focused his academic research and teaching primarily on the Italian epic tradition from Dante to Tasso. His hobbies include traveling, farming, and collecting antique books and prints. He is married to Dr. Debra H. Sowell, a dance historian and professor of humanities and theatre at Southern Virginia University. They are the parents of two daughters and have three grandchildren.

Kristen Oaks

Kristen McMain Oaks has spent much of her life teaching. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in special education (both from the University of Utah), and a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from Brigham Young University. She was a former educational consultant in the publishing industry, instructing teachers and supervisors both nationally and internationally. She was also a Visiting Assistant Professor at BYU and served a full-time mission to Japan. After marrying Elder Dallin H. Oaks, she taught and trained auxiliaries in the Philippines for two years while he served as Area President. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the Deseret International Foundation and the Primary Children’s Hospital and recently authored the book, A Single Voice. In addition to her love of teaching, she loves being a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband reside in Utah.