Life's recipe

Maybe he didn't belong in the kitchen — given that his enthusiasm for cooking far outstripped his talent.

Then again, maybe that's why he did belong there — for what he lacked in talent, he made up in enthusiasm.

Either way, the kitchen was where he was; cooking was what he was doing.

Today's recipe: lasagna. Shouldn't have been too tough. Boil the noodles, brown the ground beef (with onion, peppers, tomato sauce and assorted seasonings). Then put the ingredients in a pan in layers. First the meat, then the noodles, then the ricotta cheese, then the cottage cheese, and then the shredded mozzarella cheese. Then start it all over again. Then bake it.

Though well-intentioned, our cook made a simple mistake: He forgot to follow the recipe. He didn't mean to not follow it. In fact, it wasn't until he found a large package of shredded mozzarella cheese that he realized that he'd forgotten to put in the mozzarella cheese.

There stood the finished product: a pan of lasagna. It looked fine. It would probably even taste OK. But it wasn't quite right.

So what's a guy to do?

The choices were readily apparent:

Though not quite right, it could pass. It wasn't the best it could have been, but it wasn't the worst either.

Attempt to repair it. This would be just plain messy. Though the ingredients were assembled in neat individual layers, the segregation soon disappeared. Cheeses mix with ground beef, sauce runs throughout. Attempting to separate the cottage cheese from the ricotta cheese is virtually impossible. But even separating the ricotta from the noodles (or the noodles from the meat) is, at best, painstaking.

Throw it away. The drawbacks here are obvious. A lot of perfectly good — and edible — ingredients (not to mention time and effort) are wasted, with no chance to reclaim them. But discarding the entree would ensure that no one eats a less-than-perfect meal.

Life, in a very real way, is a lot like that lasagna.

We are human. No one is perfect. To return to the Father's presence, our error will require correction. The Son has made that possible. But it won't necessarily be easy.

In life, as in cooking, the first and, obviously, best lesson is to simply follow the recipe. Life's essential recipes come from the prophets and the scriptures. But, in degrees large or small, we have all gotten off the track. Our choices then are amazingly similar to our cook's.

Do nothing. Some might say the "as is" lasagna was good. But, when pressed, they'd probably admit that it just didn't taste quite right. In mortality, hiding our sins can be relatively easy. Eternally, it's impossible. The lasagna, while good, was less than it could have been — sort of like accepting a place in the terrestrial kingdom.

Attempt to repair it. One cook said she actually did, having made a similar mistake with her lasagna. No one knew the difference. And so it is with repentance. When undertaken properly, repentance cleanses completely. The past is past. The future is clear. The Atonement has become effective.

Throw it away. In cooking, some mistakes are of such magnitude that this would be the only solution. In life, we, of course, never discard a soul. But sometimes exceptional measures are necessary. Sometimes, to fully repent one must be removed from membership in the kingdom. In a sense, he or she must start over. But, ultimately, that, too, brings into effect the Savior's sacrifice for us.

When Alma the Younger realized he had truly repented of his sins, he testified of the joy and marvelous light that were his. (See Alma 36:20) So may it be with us.

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