Instruction Manual

In a thoughtful attempt to domesticate me, my mother gave me a bread machine for my birthday when I was a sophomore at college. At the time I was eating mostly ramen noodles and raisin bran, so surely this would expand my repertoire. All you have to do is put the ingredients in the bread pan; so what could go wrong? Turns out a lot can go wrong. First, I would forget yeast or some other ingredient or I would not put the timer on right and a soggy mess would be waiting when i got to it. I was frustrated after having to eat a few brick-like loaves and scrubbing dried hunks of dough out of the whole machine multiple times. I followed the directions more carefully and still the dough exploded over the whole machine and baked into a mess. Time for some more serious investigation.


Eventually I determined that the instruction manual that came with the machine, from which I was taking my recipes, was for a machine with a larger bread pan. I had been trying to make a 1.5 lb. loaf of bread in a pan with a 1 lb. loaf capacity. No wonder it was so messy and doughy! But I was following the instructions! No matter how carefully I repeated the instructions, I would have never come out with a perfectly formed loaf. I had to recalculate to get an edible loaf the right size.


In my own life, I willingly followed the instruction manual I was taught. I was expecting a perfectly leavened rosy outcome to be the result. I was convinced the instruction manual I was following WAS the gospel. I was raised to be a wife and mother. It was supposed to bring me true happiness and joy. I went to seminary, I went to church, I went to BYU, I went to the temple and married. I went on to have a baby and then another. I went to church and supported my husband as gospel doctrine teacher, ward clerk, a counselor in the bishopric, high priest group leader, and in another bishopric. I had more babies. I brought them all to church by myself and sat alone in the pew for years. I stayed home while he studied and then while he worked. I baked bread, I cooked rice and beans. I studied conference talks. I used my food storage regularly. I read scriptures daily with my children. I had family home evening every week. When I was unhappy I studied the words of my church leaders about my role, and tried to more perfectly follow the recipe. It didn’t work. I tried to make my life fit in the pan, but it exploded all over. I was miserable and exhausted. I was an invisible mess.

Turns out the instruction manual was for a different model. Turns out all along there were women writing their own manual and their own recipes for their own life. They just intuitively knew what kind of bread to bake and easily found how much of each ingredient to put in. For me, it has been a rough road to conceptualize that I could choose which kind of bread to bake. It is taking some troubleshooting to figure out how to remake my life. Setting aside the recipe found in the ‘manual’; recalculating to make a fitting bread of life. There are other ways to bake bread than in a machine. There are other recipes. There are so many many different kinds of bread. So many lives that may be acceptable to God. And maybe even a life that will be also one I can continue to live.


Chiaroscuro is a play of light and shadow. Finding noisy messy lovely life in all the shades between.

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15 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    Such a great analogy. This resonates with my experience as well. Wonderful post!

  2. M says:

    A post I can relate to thank you!

  3. Eskymama says:

    Love this … and some of us survive on no-bake peanut butter/chocolate/oatmeal cookies.

  4. Vanessa says:

    This is beautiful and much needed, thank you!

  5. Spunky says:

    Beautiful analogy. Thank you!

  6. Caroline says:

    Such a terrific analogy. I might have to use this analogy when I teach Relief Society sometime. 🙂

  7. Olea says:

    I echo the other comments, this is wonderful – and I love that places like the Exponent not only point out “hey, if your bread’s not working out, check if the instruction manual is right for you”, they also give us ideas for recipes to try out.

  8. MDearest says:

    I read this right after it was posted and found a great deal of comfort in it. Also the familiar twinge of frustration that I wasn’t able to have this influence as a young woman when I was so desperately in need of it. I went on with my day and forgot my impulse to comment my thanks. I decided to do that now and let all you sisters at Exponent know how valuable you are to me. I have complicated relationships with the women in my family, and it sometimes affects my relationships with women outside my family too. Except here. Some days I can come here to read and be healed a little, and I can’t quite cobble up the words to tell you how meaningful that is to me. There is no place of complete goodness in our world, but still we keep pining for it, and trying to create it. Please keep trying.

  9. Katie says:

    This resonates with me. Such a great analogy, too.

  10. Andrew R. says:

    I am not sure what you are trying to say.

    It is that the Gospel isn’t the manual? Or, as I hope, that your interpretation of the Gospel (manual) was wrong?

    Because I believe the Gospel is the instruction manual. However, I further believe that the Gospel (or our part in it) is as individual as we are – and so we have our own manual.

    The things you list are not the “Gospel”. They are things that if we find the way to do them for us will be perfect for us.

    What is regular temple attendance? Well for some it might be a week, once a year. For others it might be a session every Tuesday evening. But if you can find the “regular” for you, it will be all that is required, and will be fulfilling. Go too often (for you), because Sister So-and-So does and she is a shinning example, and it will become a burden. Go too infrequently (for you) and you will equally suffer, but in other ways.

    So the default instruction manual says “regular temple attendance”. And yours says what you and the Lord have agreed.

    To switch the analogy: –
    All cars require an oil change – default instruction manual. My particular car requires one every 10,000 miles. Others will be 6,000 miles, or 8,000 miles.

    • Olea says:

      Andrew, I’d really like to read comments from you that don’t begin with “I hope you’re not saying what it sounds like you’re saying, because that’s wrong”.

      Please try to read and engage with the post as written, and remember that calling people to repentance is against our comment policy.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I asked which it was and then said the way I see it – my beliefs, I believe that you can’t call my beliefs into question, and I didn’t call those of the OP’s. I just said how I saw it. Please show me where I called anyone to repentance before calling me to repent.

        I found the post thought provoking and expressed my thoughts as provoked. If that’s not the purpose of this forum I am sorry. If it only to agree with everything said then it is pointless.

        But, since it’s bash Andrew R. week I am hardly surprised.

        I’m out. Since it would appear that I am only seen as a blight on your site. I wish you all well, really I do. But since I hold the priesthood, and believe that generally the Church leadership are doing a good job, and following the Lord Jesus Christ and Our Father in Heaven, I am part of the problem.

    • Liz says:

      Andrew, for the umpteenth time, it violates the comment policy for you to come on here and tell people they don’t understand what “gospel” means. To quote it verbatim: “This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.”

      Since this is not the first nor second warning, I’ve placed you in moderation. This means that each individual author can choose to approve (or not approve) your comments going forward. I appreciate your desire to interact with the community, but it overwhelmingly seems like you’re here to correct and moderate the posts here, not understand nor learn. You’re still welcome to comment, but like I said, each post author will have the prerogative to choose to approve or not approve it.

    • c7oscuro says:

      Andrew. Matthew 11:15

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