Book Note: The Gathering
Why I Love April

notes from The Infamous Woman with the Big Camera

Last Saturday, Haley and I got the opportunity to go to the General Young Women Meeting at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City.  This is a yearly event that happens one week before our spring General Conference---the time when we have the opportunity to listen to our prophet and other leaders. The Young Women meeting is directed to 12 to 18-year-old girls. Like General Conference, the Young Women meeting is televised, and most groups get together at the church to watch it, but there are also tickets available to the conference center. I'm not really clear on how they are distributed, but this year our stake had the opportunity to attend. I'd never been inside the conference center, except for a quick glance inside during the open house when it was first constructed. To see it full of people was amazing. Even just sitting down, the spirit was overwhelming. Maybe because the place is enormous.

Before the meeting started, I had a little bit of camera drama. I brought my camera along because I was hoping there would be time to take some pictures of the temple in that glowy light that happens just before the sun dips below the mountains. (There wasn't much, but I did get a few pictures of all the girls with us.) When I got to the Conference Center, I discovered that they have the full security detail---X-ray machines like in an airport and a more thorough bag search than I've ever experienced. The security people at the main doors told me I would have to check my camera. So, I had to walk all the way around to the other side of the building (this was the only time I had to snap a few photos of the temple, and I was feeling so anxious that I didn't get any good ones) to the bag check. Once I got there, they told me that no, I actually could take my camera in, I just couldn't take in the bag. That seemed odd, but since Haley wanted some photos of the inside, I thought it was good, too. So I walked back around the building, stood in line again to go through the security check (one person asked me if I was a member of the press, lol...maybe my camera really is too fancy?), only to be told that no, I couldn't bring in my camera. I politely argued with the security lady (the one digging in my purse, checking out every zippered compartment), telling her that the other department had told me I could. She finally let me through with a very stern warning to not take any pictures during the meeting. I felt like everyone in the lobby was staring at me. When I went back to the bag check after the meeting, the guy behind the counter handed me my camera bag and said "Oh, you're that lady. You're infamous here now!" and he went on to explain that any camera with a removable lens is not allowed inside the conference center, and then there were several joking comments all around about why I needed such a big camera in the first place. I left wishing I'd just kept it at home.

The talks that were given in the meeting were incredible. Since I still have so much trouble writing publicly about my spiritual experiences, most of the details are in my personal journal. But, I feel strongly that I should blog about President Henry B. Eyring's talk. It's titled "Walk in the Light." Here is the thing I am discovering as I work in my calling in Young Women: just as my first year of teaching was a little bit about exorcising the ghosts of the experiences I had in high school, working with the young women is forcing me to remember myself at their age. A few weeks ago, I taught a lesson about making wise choices, and I found myself crying as I taught it---and I never cry when I am teaching. It wasn't so much about the lesson material as it was me wishing that I could have really heard what I was teaching that day, only heard it it when I was about fifteen or so. By "hearing" I mean really listening, taking something in and making a change because of it. I walked a lot of dark paths because of my not-so-wise decisions, but looking at myself from a distance I know that I thought I knew everything, and that I never would have listened even if I had gone to church.

So as I listened to President Eyring's talk about walking in the light, and how every decision you make either keeps you in the light or takes you away from it, I kept remembering that lesson I gave, and the overwhelming feeling I had of how impossible it is to teach teenagers the things that you know---how hard it is to get them to hear what you are saying so that they don't make the same mistakes you made. Several times during the talk, President Eyring's voice filled up with emotion, and I wondered if his thoughts were similar to mine---if he was feeling that not many of those girls would really and truly hear him, and would end up walking their own dark paths. Or maybe just that not all of them would hear him---that even just one would choose to walk in darkness.

Because if I have learned anything on my life's journey, it is this: you can be forgiven for almost anything, but forgiveness doesn't eliminate consequences. The effects of the decisions I made as a teenager are still with me. I left the conference feeling a renewed desire to be, somehow, a better mother and leader and example---to manage to teach my daughter (and my sons, too, as they enter adolescence) and the young women at church, somehow, just a few of the things I have learned, so that they can stay on a lighted path.



WOW!! I often remember the times being in Young Women and feeling so secure and guided by the wonderful leaders and friends that I had. Yet, I still chose a darker path for awhile, but those experiences and teachings and the love that was shared stayed with me, helped me see the consequences of my behavior and led me to a more sunny path. I hope you can take this and know that you do have such an influence on those girls, that they can feel how you care and hopefully, they too will remember your words and teachings when they need to make decisions in their lives. Haley is blessed to have you as a mother as are your sons. Adolesence is so difficult, as I have a son who is 12, soon 13, and I pray that he "listens" to me. I think he is now, let's pray he continues as his life gets more complicated. Thoughts and prayers,Valerie


You know you might not be able to keep them all on the path, but just might be able to plant some seeds so that some of them will return.


Your daughter is so lucky to have you there with her. My mother was YW president while I was a laurel a few years ago and we are so much closer because of that. Like Maureen said, you can’t keep them all on that path, they’re young and they love to use that agency they’ve been given. :) If my mom had read this I think she’d tell you this; For those who seem to not be listening to your guidance, just love them. If they know that you love them, that you care and are interested in their lives, it’ll make all the difference…even with those Mia Maids ;). They may not stay completely out of trouble, but you’ll notice they’ll keep coming to YW. And if they keep coming eventually something is going to sink in and you’ll see a change.

It's true too. I know because that's how my leaders were with me and it made a HUGE difference for me during those rough years. You're YW are lucky to have you.


Great camera story! I appreciate what you aid here, Amy. Good stuff. My brain is too tired to write more, but I liked this very much.

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