Finding the light in our Wilderness

-1 Nephi 17:13

Join Us for the

3rd Annual Southern Utah

Widows & Widowers Conference

Supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

January 4th – 6th 2019
St. George LDS Institute of Religion
943 E 400 S, St. George, UT

Open location in maps

Cost: FREE
[Register Now]

Our purpose in putting on this incredible, uplifting conference is to have all come and build friendships, have fun!, increase our love for the Savior, to gain tools to help and encourage us to live like the Savior did, and receive all of the blessings and love He has for us!

This conference is dedicated to the spiritual and temporal needs of those who have lost a spouse. It will be an opportunity for widows and widowers to get together and support and uplift each other. It is supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but not officially sponsored by the church. The organizers take full responsibility for the content of the conference.
Content is based on principles and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

We invite all widows and widowers to attend, even if it has been a long time since they have lost their spouse, or if they have remarried.

You will find love, peace, and friendships at the conference. Come alone or with others. We hope you will join us.

Panel 1



Friday January 4th 2019

  • 9:30 am – All hikers: please meet at Institute building for prayer at 9:30 am and extra information
    • Advanced hike – Gap Trail to Scout Cave
    • In case of inclement weather the hike will be cancelled
    • Please wear good shoes, bring water, and snacks
  • 1:30 pm – Meet at the St George Temple in the waiting area for the 2:00 pm session. 
  • 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm – Talent Show, Karaoke, and Socializing at St. George LDS Institute of Religion 943 E. 400 S. St. George, UT


Saturday January 5th 2019

  • 9:00 am – 10:00 am – Join us as we kick off the conference at the St. George LDS Institute of Religion 943 E. 400 S. St. George, UT
    • 9:00 am- 9:50 am Breakfast – 
    • 9:00 am Registration starts – Registration tables in the North and South Foyers
  • 10:00 am Welcome to the Conference

    • Keynote Speaker: Roger Merrill
  • 11:00 am Workshop
    • Dating and Remarriage – Paul & Virginia Graf
    • Red Flags in Dating – Jonathan Decker
    • Sealing Covenant – Brother Christansen
    • Being a Light for Grieving Children – Tiffany Coughran
  • 12:00 pm – Lunch
  • 1:00 pm  Workshop
    • Finding Light When All We Want is Darkness – Taylor Orton
    • Overcoming Adversity – Lincoln and Laura Bench
    • Complicated Grief – Shara Olgive
    • Dating and the Art of Attraction – Nathan Taylor
  • 2:00 pm Workshop 
    • The Grief Cycle or Healing the Grief Wound – Tiffany Coughran
    • Facing Hardships with a Pioneer Spirit – Brother Mangelson
    • Finding Light Through Fun (Getting to Know You) – JJ Morales
    • Lyrical Light: A Musical Workshop – Amanda Jensen
  • 3:00 pm General Session
    • Keynote Speaker – Jonathan Decker
  • 4:30 Group Picture in the Institute Building
  • 5:00 pm Break for dinner
    • On your own for dinner, several small groups will be going to various near by restaurants.
  • 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Dance Instructions
    • Advanced Level instruction: Milka Douglass
    • Beginner Level instruction: Leila Headlee
  • 8:00 pm  DANCE & Photo Booth
    • Join us for a “Fast Songs Only” dance
    • A fabulous D.J. will be there! Same guy as last year!
    • Some tables with board games will be set up for those wanting to socialize off the dance floor, feel free to bring your own board game to play.
  • 11:00 pm – Clean up

Sunday January 6th 2018

  • 9:00 am Fast and Testimony Meeting together, you can bring family and friends. 
    • We are joining a family ward for sacrament meeting
    • Address: TBD


Panel 3

Speakers and Workshop Facilitators

Brother A. Roger Merrill – Keynote Speaker

Brother and Sister Merrill completed their three-year assignment as president and matron of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple on November 1st, 2015. Brother Merrill previously served as a missionary in the Texas mission, bishop, high councilor, stake president, member of the Melchizedek Priesthood General Committee, Area Seventy, and Sunday School general president. He is currently serving as a gospel doctrine teacher and a sealer in the St. George temple.  

Brother Merrill was born in Salt Lake City and raised in the Monterey Bay area of California. Professionally, he is an author and consultant in the area of leadership development. He and Sister Merrill have co-authored several books on personal and organizational leadership.

Brother and Sister Merrill have seven children, twenty-seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. They love being with their family, writing together, doing family history work, serving in the temple, and participating in a variety of outdoor and cultural activities.

Jonathan Decker – Keynote Speaker and Workshop: Red Flags in Dating
Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He has presented at BYU’s Education Week and writes a weekly relationship column for LDS Living. He has been featured in Patheos, BeliefNet, MormonHub, and Meridian Magazine. Jonathan knows the pain of mourning and the struggles of blending families. He lives in St. George with his wife and five children.
To connect with Jonathan and read his articles, visit: “Your Family Expert” www.yourfamilyexpert.com
Tiffany Coughran – The Grief Cycle/ Healing the Grief Wound


Since 2002 Tiffany has been consulting individuals and families struggling with addiction, abuse, and loss. Her clinical chaplaincy work began in 2010 as she addressed her own grief as a new widow. Unpacking over 400 bereavement case studies, Tiffany began to see patterns in grief and sequential steps to healing.


Taylor Orton – Finding Light When all we Want is Darkness

Taylor Orton

In 2016, Taylor lost his beautiful wife Alisa and unborn child Ellis in a tragic accident. He’s in his fourth year of medical school in Reno, Nevada. He has a bright, happy daughter named Emmeline who has her mom’s personality.
Shara Olgive – Complicated Grief
Shara 2013 Portrait
Shara Mitchell Ogilvie is a Mental Health Counselor from St. George, Utah where she runs a private counseling practice.  Shara started her work as a counselor with LDS Family Services and has practiced in a large variety of settings since then including working with grief and loss, women’s issues, Autism, and LGBT concerns.  In her free time, Shara enjoys reading, playing piano, exercising, and studying the gospel.  She has four children ages 12-20.
Amanda Jensen – A Lyrical Light
Amanda Joyce was raised on her grandfather’s ranch in Inkom, Idaho. She was a caregiver for her husband as he fought an aggressive form of leukemia for 4 years from the age of 27 to 31. She has a 7 year old son who holds her heart. She studies Bioethics (Medical Ethics) at Loyola University Chicago and loves to sing, play the guitar, be outdoors, teach, and learn. She loves math and science and encouraging children and women in STEM education.
J.J. Morales – Finding Light Through Fun, Getting to Know You
J.J. Morales, MBA and BA from Brigham Young University. He grew up in central California as the oldest of 5 kids and served a full-time mission for the Church in Rome, Italy. JJ met his sweetheart, Haley Jo, in college and married her in the Portland, Oregon temple. Haley and JJ have 5 kids; Claire, Thomas, Benjamin, Olivia and Sam. Haley passed away unexpectedly in November 2011 while the family was living in New Jersey. Currently, JJ teaches business classes at Providence Hall High School in Herriman, UT and is the head varsity baseball coach


Brother Paul Graf and Sister Virginia Graf – Dating and Remarriage


Ginny Strader Graf, widowed in 1988, raised her five children in Fruit Heights, Utah.  During her marriage, Ginny taught elementary school.  Widowed, she certified to work with students who were hearing impaired.  She worked with the hearing impaired in the Davis School District for 15 years before retiring in 2010.
Paul Graf raised his family of five in Santa Clara, Utah.  He is a member of the Utah State Bar.  Paul became a widower in 2010.
In May 2012 Ginny and Paul met in Venice, Italy.  In October 2012 they were married in the St. George Temple.  Paul retired in 2015 and since then they served a mission in the Africa Southeast Area Office in Johannesburg, South Africa.  They live in Santa Clara, Utah.
Brother Lavell Christensen and Sister Allyson Christensen – Sealing Covenant

Lavell Christensen was born on April 17, 1952, in Logan, Utah. I grew up in Trenton, Utah, attended Sky View High School in Smithfield, Utah, and Utah State University in Logan,  where he received two degrees in business, including an MBA. He taught seminary in South and West Jordan, Utah, before becoming the recorder in the Logan Utah Temple. He served there for 12 years, and then served as an area manager in the Temple Department in Salt Lake City for almost 6 years, before moving to St. George in late 1995, where he has served as the recorder in the St. George Utah Temple until now. He has served in several bishoprics and with the youth for most of his adult life. He is currently serving as the bishop of the Green Valley Young Single Adult Ward.

Allyson grew up in Logan, and met Lavell in a Logan Institute audition choir while they both attended USU. They have been married for 41 years. Allyson is the mother to their 6 wonderful children, and grandmother to 17 beautiful grandchildren. During their married life, Allyson has served in most of the women’s organizations at both the ward and stake levels. She is also an accomplished pianist, a fancy quilter and a computer-assisted scrapbook maker. Allyson is the best mother and grandmother ever!

Panel 5

General Info

  • The bulk of the conference will be held at the St. George LDS Institute of Religion located at 943 East 400 South, St. George, UT
    • Please plan to park on the North side of the institute building
    • Dress code for conference
      • Friday Hike – Please plan on wearing appropriate outdoor attire and supportive shoes for hiking, we would recommend a light jacket and plenty of drinking water and snacks and a sack lunch. Meet at Institute building Friday morning at 9:30 AM.
        • Intermediate/Advanced Level Hike – Gap Trail
        • In case of inclement weather the hikes will be canceled.
      • Friday Temple session – Temple appropriate clothing.
      • Friday Talent Show, Karaoke, & Socializing – Business casual or head straight over from a temple session.
      • Saturday workshops and sessions – Business casual
      • Saturday Dance – time to break out your dancing shoes and casual dress
        • Chairs will also be set up around the dance floor
        • Look for the fun photo booth to snap some pics!