Questions come naturally for Amber Richardson, and her inquiries have led her to deeply meaningful projects like a video series, a podcast and now a book.
“I’m interested in spirituality and women’s issues within the framework of my own experience, which is within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she says. “As I pursue those questions with openness and sincerity, I find ideas and concepts that help alleviate some of my own stress and pain, which for me generally originates in a place of feeling ‘less than’ as a woman. It seemed to me that Heavenly Mother would be the ultimate answer to this pain.”
Step One: Embrace the curiosity
The unexplored topic of the feminine divine, or Heavenly Mother, tugged on Amber’s soul like a magnet.
“It was kind of astounding to me that there was a place for this divine feminine equal within our theology but very little discussion on her compared to her counterpart and her son,” she says.
Amber researched the topic but wished there was more published on Heavenly Mother. One day while reading the story of Moses and his mother, this question crept into her mind: “If Moses is a shadow of Jesus, than who could his mother, Jochebed, be a shadow of?” She began seeing parallels between Moses’s mother and the narrative of the feminine divine.
“It’s a very similar story if you look at it symbolically,” Amber says.
Amber studied other mothers and queens in the scriptures to find symbolic similarities.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t I cull the scriptures for all of the queens, start cross-comparing their stories and do extra Biblical research to see if there’s anything there?’” she says.
Amber found more answers than she expected.
Step Two: Expand the idea
Amber wanted to share what she learned with others, so she published some of her research on the Q.NOOR blog. But because of the short nature of blog posts, she still had more information and insight to share.
Soon, Anna Killian — a photographer and friend of Amber’s — approached Amber with a proposal to collaborate. They’d use Amber’s writing and create stylized photo shoots to capture the stories of regal scriptural women. They conceptualized “Woman, Crowned” and decided to fund it via Kickstarter.
With the help of 598 backers this spring, the crowdfunding campaign exceeded their goal of $20,000 and raised more than $27,000 to produce the book. “Woman, Crowned” will be released in 2020.
Amber and Anna have completed five photo shoots of five queens — Bathsheba, Vashti and Asenath from the Old Testament, the queen with the 12-star crown from the book of Revelation, and Queen Lamoni from the Book of Mormon. They have five more photo shoots in the works.
Step Three: Stay authentic
Amber has been deliberate in every detail of the photo shoots, from the colors to the props to the ethnicity of the original queen. She cast models who looked like they could be from the Middle East or Ancient America, depending on the character being depicted.
“As I was getting to know these women, I realized there’s a lot of diversity here,” Amber says. “I like the idea of visually creating a multi-faceted representation of the divine feminine. We’re not painting Heavenly Mother to be one race, but visually communicating that she is all.”
Collaborating with Anna and the models on truly understanding these women’s lives and what they teach about women’s divine nature has opened up the stories in ways Amber hadn’t expected. Deeply studying the women in “Woman, Crowned” has also led Amber to a place of personal peace and confidence.
“I’ve become successful in moving inside of my own skin, telling my own stories and doing it from a place of love and trust. I trust myself, and I’m happy to offer that to anyone who finds it engaging or useful,” she says. “Even though there is a lot of uncertainty in my life, I’ve cultivated peace by choosing to do what I love.”
Helping women regain their power
As a podcaster, Amber Richardson has the courage to address the difficult subject of healing from sexual violence. In fact, she says a podcast is the perfect genre for the topic.
“With the earbuds in, you can go anywhere. It’s totally private. Nobody has to know you’re exploring this territory,” she says.
“On Sovereign Wings” — a podcast for women seeking to regain their power — released its first episode in September 2018. In the following months, Amber created seven more episodes with the help of co-creators Tasha Diaz and Mae Warner. The episodes allow women to tell their stories and offer insight into healing within a spiritual context.
Amber makes the interview process gentle and deliberate, with guests sharing at their own pace. The topic lends to heavy deliberation and demands a slowness as the pain is addressed.
“I’m so pleased people are finding the podcast and it’s helping them. It’s been a major source of healing in my life,” Amber says.
Originally published in the 2019 July/August issue of Utah Valley Magazine.