This was written by Amelia, who has contributed to Exponentblog in the past. It is cross posted at Laughtear.

i ruined a cake last night. it was monday–specifically the monday on which i was in charge of family home evening for my mid-singles group. and i had arranged for a friend of mine to come do a presentation about the perceptions of race in the mormon church and the 1978 revelation regarding blacks and the priesthood. over the course of the weekend, i had an email interchange with one person who was put off by what he believed would be an exercise in blaming and criticizing the church. “liberal indoctrination” i believe he called it. and then i got a message yesterday from a church leader reminding me that all presenters need to keep their comments appropriate. i was frustrated. i was trying to do something interesting and different rather than the typical mediocre fare and it was being treated like something borderline sacrilegious when nothing could be further than the truth. and it felt like i had been put in a difficult position between the speaker i had invited–a man i respect very highly and who i trust implicitly to read his audience accurately and plan his presentation accordingly–and people at church.

i had forgotten to arrange for others to bring refreshments, so i decided i would make some dessert. and it seemed like it was one problem after another. every egg i broke got shell into the bowl–one egg even spurted egg nastiness onto my sweater. and when i went to put the cake batter (of cake number two) into the pan, i plopped one spoonful in and stood looking at it. it was superthick, and i knew i had done something wrong. a quick look at the recipe revealed that i had put an extra quarter-cup of flour in the batter. and that was it. the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. it felt like no matter how hard i tried, whatever i did just got screwed up.

i stood there for a moment, staring at that cake with all of my self-criticisms flooding into my head and all of the stupid little things that don’t matter at all building themselves up into damning evidence of my ineptitude. true, the fact that my hair is really long and takes far too long to manipulate into something resembling a style isn’t really evidence of inability, but the fact that i let it frustrate me seemed to be. and a rogue egg splatting onto my clothes doesn’t demonstrate my incompetence, but the fact that it made me swear and slam a few things around seemed to be. it’s amazing how these little things can undermine our best efforts and intentions and abilities and make them all seem meaningless in the moment.

my cake turned out. it was delicious, in fact. in spite of–or, if you ask my mom who has been saying for a couple of years that that particular recipe needs more flour, because of–my adding too much flour. the FHE was fantastic–an informative presentation, several people asking provocative questions, and almost everyone thanking both the speaker and me for making it possible. and maybe–just maybe–i’m not an utter failure after all.


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Caroline says:

    I’m glad everything turned out so well. I bet that was one of the best fhe’s your ward has ever known. Absolutely perfect for MLK day.

    I know I also have my moments of feeling like a failure. I grew up dreaming of an amazing, successful future. Not that my life now isn’t great, but I often wonder if I’m living up to my potential.

  2. AmyB says:

    Kudos to you for being brave enough to talk about race. It’s a topic that can cause a lot of tension and most people would rather ignore, but there are truths that need to be spoken. I know you’re not a regular blogger here anymore, but I’d love a little taste of what your presenter spoke about if you’re up to sharing it.

    Like Caroline, I’ve been wondering if I’m living up to my potential as well. I’ve been having a bit of a personal crisis lately . . .feeling like I’m not good enough at what I do and wondering if there is something out there that I could be really good at.

  3. Anonymous says:

    i spent an hour talking to a friend last week about the decisions i’m currently trying to make. part of what has spurrred my decision making is that i constantly feel like i’m failing to realize the potential i’ve been given. when i explained this to my friend–a former professor who has been teaching full time for twenty years and who i respect very much as a scholar, a teacher, and a person–he very thoughtfully shared his own experience in grad school (which was remarkably like me own) and then advised me to forgive myself. to simply learn to let go of my feelings of failure and keep pushing ahead. it was good advice.

    on race: i’ll try to write something up. there are a lot of mormons who want to understand this particular issue better and who don’t know where to go for additional information. and i’m thinking of contributing more regularly here again. if they’ll have me. 🙂

  4. Deborah says:

    Thanks for this Amelia. I’d love to read that write-up, when you have a chance . . .

  5. Dora says:

    I’m sad that some members in your ward took such a negative approach to the FHE you planned. Sounds like they do not know you very well. And I’m glad that the FHE went so very well. I was very sad to miss it, since the speaker is one I also admire greatly.

    On the subject of not feeling up to par. It seems like this is one of those things that everyone has to deal with every once in a while. I know I do. I wiah I had some wise words to contribute. But I don’t. I just keep plugging on, and try to remember the good times past, and imagine the better times ahead.

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