My Own Iron Rod

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Me at this exact Girls Camp in 2009

At 14 years old, I looked about the same that I do now, except somehow much ganglier and with a nice set of braces on my teeth. I was awkward and anxious, but funny and loyal to my friends. At this point in my life, Girls Camp was the peak of my spirituality. I loved all aspects of it: the camping, the outdoor activities, the bonding, the sisterhood, the spiritual growth. But many memories of my time at camp each summer are less sunny. I frequently experienced heat exhaustion. I was stung by a scorpion. Twice. I dealt with drama among other girls, watched as leaders became terrifyingly ill, and even peed myself once (but that’s a story for another day).

A specific experience has been weighing on my mind for the past couple of months. My third year of camp, the leaders planned a specific spiritual activity. All of the girls were gathered together and blindfolded. In groups, we were guided to a wooded area and told to hold firm to “the iron rod,” or more realistically, a long PVC pipe. We proceeded to walk along the path while our leaders aimed to tempt us off the rod. Many were laughing and saying ridiculous things. “Follow me! We’re having a party!” or “There are a bunch of cute guys over here, come with us!” However, a select few chose a softer approach.

About halfway across the rod, I heard a soft voice whisper to me “Amber, there is a rock in front of you. Take my hand and just step to the right.” Before I knew it, I was being pulled across a clearing to sit on a bench with one of my beloved leaders. Tears were streaming down both of our faces. I had messed up and I was so embarrassed. I thought I was in tune and responsible. I thought I was doing the right thing by listening to the soft voice guiding me away from an obstacle. In actuality, I had been deceived and I was ashamed.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized how gross this activity really felt. At the time I felt that I was learning an important lesson on how easily I could be led astray. In fact, I know that was the intended lesson. But I also think that intent is the problem. When young people tie shame and embarrassment to their choices, they carry that shame with them for years, and likely, their entire lives.

Being deceived is not fun. It hurts so much more when it occurs at the hand of someone you believed could be trusted. The unfortunate truth is that those we trust most tend to be the ones most likely to deceive or betray us. We are more likely to believe the people we trust. But trusting someone does not exempt us from being lied to or even merely guided in the wrong direction. The people we trust are not perfect, and we should not expect them to be. We can hope that they have our best interest at heart, but tragically we also cannot be surprised when they are wrong.

All those years ago, I subconsciously learned the lesson that my leaders were capable of deceiving me and leading me away. The soft, sweet voices are often the easiest ones to trust, but soft and sweet doesn’t necessarily mean true. I have spent the past several years trying to discern truth from deceit.

It is in our human nature to be flawed and incorrect, and that nature does not exclude leadership at any level. I am on the path of finding my own truth. Thinking critically about the truths church leaders proclaim has been liberating. By refusing to accept things at face value no matter who they come from, I have found my own direction. I strive to always be guided by love.

The Iron Rod is the Word of God. The Word of God at is very core is love. Throughout my life, I have been taught things that both foster and inhibit pure love. I am starting to recognize that I can choose to only hold onto things that foster it for me.

Becoming Christlike and learning my divine potential is tied completely to my ability to love and accept those around me, and in extension, to love and accept myself. I am learning to be comfortable forging my own path, even when that means unlearning things that soft, kind voices taught and continue to teach me that don’t help foster love in my life.

The Middle

We’re told that the world is black and white

Good or evil

Right or wrong

And sitting in between is always gray

because it has to be a mix between the two

some right, some wrong

some good, some bad

But to me the middle is full of color






It’s something entirely different than the black or white

It’s not all the possible shades of gray

Because it is not gray at all

It is me

And I am so many colors

Choosing Between the Boat and the Ocean

This past Sunday I attended a ward that wasn’t my own. I sat in the back and left promptly after sacrament meeting. But I’ve been thinking about one of the talks ever since I left the building.

The man started his talk with a story about a friend of his recently announced that they were leaving the church. He repeated how they had been overcome by doubt. After expressing his disappointment, he followed up with the story about the individual stranded in the ocean who is picked up by a weathered boat and fisherman (You know, this one). After spending some time on the boat and noticing all it’s dents and blemishes, the rescued becomes worried and asks to be let back into the ocean to swim the remainder of the way to shore on their own. After the speaker finished the story, he remarked proudly that the boat represents the church and the fisherman is those called to lead it.

I understand the point of this story. Humans and the institutions they create cannot be perfect. In fact, small dents, paint chips, and difficult machinery shouldn’t keep us from utilizing those institutions for good. But this story, especially when listening to it yesterday, fills me with unease.

It seems to belittle and invalidate the feelings of those who are sitting in doubt while simultaneously diminishing the real institutional flaws of the church as mere “dents.” Feeling doubt is often more than uncomfortable, it is painful. And sometimes it feels like the only place on the boat you’re comfortable being requires you to hang over the edge. When we say that people who doubt are willingly climbing back into the ocean after being rescued by a perfectly safe boat, we ignore the fact that getting back into the ocean might be the only real option someone has. Sometimes the dents are actually leaks and the boat is slowly sinking. Sometimes the faulty mechanics are keeping the fisherman from being able to keep the boat on its proper course. The paint chips can be signs of a system unwilling to fix or even acknowledge the errors of its past.

Some days I feel like climbing back into the ocean. Sometimes that really seems like the safer option. The boat is rocking and sometimes looks like its veering off course. Right now I am clinging to the side rails hoping that my questions do not become to heavy to carry.

But if they do, if I find the ocean is becoming more inviting than the boat itself, I don’t need a fisherman to gently let me back in the water and leave. I also don’t need a fisherman who will jump in the ocean to save me, dragging me back onto the boat I was trying to escape. I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.

I feel like all I think about is doubt (I even think this is my third post on this topic in this past year). And maybe it isn’t productive to have this focus. But doubt is a natural companion to faith. It shouldn’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be shamed. I don’t need stories telling me how I should be ignoring my doubts. I can’t ignore them. They are as much a part of my experience as my faith. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away.

What I need is people to sit with me and listen, for people to get in the ocean with me and tread. Maybe you’re already here in the water. Maybe we can find each other and together face our doubts head on.

Environmentalism is a Christian Issue


Bridal Veil Falls (taken from

I remember growing up thinking that one of the worst possible things you could do was litter. I recall many times when my parents would vocalize their disgust witnessing people throw trash out of their car windows or seeing garbage littered across the park. It was ingrained in me not to litter from such a young age.

My family also started recycling when I was younger. We started by having to divide up the cardboard, plastics, glass, and paper and drop it off at recycling bins behind our local grocery store. When recycling become more commonplace, my parents paid to have it picked up with our trash. My grandparents composted much of their waste as well. I grew up knowing there were simple steps to limit the waste being put into landfills or oceans.

I also grew up thinking that these were things that good people just did. Good people care about the earth right? And in my mind, my little midwestern Mormon community was full of good people. [Read more…]

Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?

I grew up in the church. My father is a lifelong member, descended from many great and noble pioneers. My mother is a convert with a powerful story. I attended church with them almost every week throughout my childhood. I felt the spirit strongly at Girls’ Camps and Youth Conferences. I loved my leaders and I wanted to share all of the good that I felt. I remember standing in the Women’s Garden in Nauvoo, IL, completely overwhelmed by the Spirit I felt there. I wanted everyone in the world to feel the exact way I felt that night. [Read more…]

How to Retain Millennial Membership

The millennial generation overall has shown to be less religious than previous generations, a phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed by church leadership.

When asked earlier this year, the newly appointed First Presidency shared their thoughts on millennials and how they plan to both retain and bolster millennial membership. President Nelson responds first that it is crucial that leaders “help [millennials] understand how precious their [lives are],” which is a nice sentiment, but really should be something that is already happening. Eyring followed up that, in his experience with current missionaries, he has noticed immense strength. This is really kind of him, but also doesn’t particularly answer the question. Oaks spoke last, saying that marriage is important to this conversation, claiming that “the young man and the young woman are stronger when they marry,” that “many things the world cites as problems with millennials disappear” once they marry, and that “partnership is the secret.” [Read more…]

We All Worship a Different God

cloudsSomeone who studies religion knows that there are many Gods and ideas of divinity throughout theology. They understand the differences between these beliefs and the intricacies of what God means to many people. However, I am not that person, so my knowledge is much more limited. But recently I have started to notice the subtle differences between the God that I worship and the God that people around me seem to worship.

Of course, the God that I have known and learned about throughout my life is different from the one(s) that my Hindu, Muslim, and even various Christian friends know. But the more I question my own beliefs and the more I learn about the beliefs of others, the more I am sure that none of us believe the same things, even when we claim the same religion.

[Read more…]

On LDS Singlehood

I feel like there are a lot of directions I could take this post. I have many thoughts because it’s directly pertinent to my current experiences in the church. I am a young, unmarried BYU graduate. I have faced and am currently facing the woes of dating within the LDS culture. I’ve seen roommates and friends get married, all while remaining very single. I’ve gotten really upset about how my dating life is playing out. I could write a novel about this topic and still not discuss everything worth discussing.

I do want to preface that my experience is my own. I have, of course, discussed dating with other single LDS members, but my perspectives really are personal. They may not apply to everyone, especially since I am not what I would describe as a typical young Mormon (whatever that may even be). And especially because my experience is limited due to my age. I cannot speak for individuals who have been in the dating game longer than me, especially those of whom have “aged out” of the YSA program. I also don’t have the perspective of divorced members. In case you were wondering about the nuances of this topic, there are many.  [Read more…]

Fraud Among the Faithful

This past week in Relief Society we talked about conversion. Specifically, we addressed that new converts need to feel not only converted to the gospel itself, but also the church culture. There is a new language, new rules, and new etiquette to learn. And often when converts do not feel like they understand or belong, they fall away.

I am not a convert, but in this discussion, I felt like I better understood myself and how I view myself in relation to the church community. I know the language, the rules, and the etiquette, but sometimes I still feel like I don’t really belong.  [Read more…]

The Inadvertent Objectification of Women in the Church

I’m finding it hard to piece together the words and emotions I wish to convey on this topic. Mostly, because it’s difficult for me to explain but also because it is painful.

The way women are viewed in the church is something I think about continuously. I am aware of my womanhood and the effect that has on my existence. Unfortunately, a lot of the effects I feel are due to others’ perceptions of womanhood. Since the LDS church plays a large role in my life, the way I feel viewed by the church community is often at the forefront of these thoughts.

[Read more…]