“Bread May Come Back Cake,” Ensign, June 1971, 126
That Monday night was a lot like other family nights. With our five daughters we had had a depth of togetherness, and now, filled with the spirit of sharing, and amazingly enjoying it, we were ready for a closing prayer and dessert when Shelley, a fifteen-year-old sophomore in high school, snapped her fingers and lighted up with one of her inimitable ideas.
“Hey, everybody,” she enthused, “wait a minute. Before you go I want to read you something really neat.”
She wheeled out of the room and returned in a breathless minute waving a piece of typing paper.
“Every girl in the ward is going to have this on her mirror,” she explained. “It is all about how not to let the group get to you—about just being yourself and relaxing and not worrying about what other people are thinking all the time.”
She began to read:
“It is important that you do not become so enamoured of the idea of belonging to a group that you lose focus on what you hope to be as an individual. You are truly a child of God and as such you have been given the blessing of standing erect and saying to yourself, ‘I am only one, but I am one.’ And even though you need and desire very much to be part of something bigger than yourself, you can carry into every group a divine right to say yes or no, to participate or to walk away. After all, the Lord’s kingdom is founded upon that very right, the free agency that allows each of us to make choices.
“Plagued as we are by being all too human and all too desperate for the support of those we love, still, integrity, honesty, and the beautiful peace of a clean conscience are not things to be dealt with lightly. No group is worth the sacrifice of these things. And no group is so amazingly wonderful that it cannot be replaced by another.
“Your life is a one-time thing, to be guarded, respected, and given the tender, loving care of an owner who can offer it only the choices of settings for growth and eternal progression.”
As she read, I had a vague feeling that I had heard that somewhere before. Shelley was still beaming. “Our Mutual teacher gave everyone in the class a copy.”
Rinda said a prayer and we had our treats. Needled by remembering and yet not remembering, I slipped into my cubbyhole where bookcases overhang my typewriter and began to browse through a current Mia Maid manual whose pages leaped with memories. For two years some of us had agonized in happy labor over the slow emersion of that manual. Every paragraph I read swelled with the testimony, desire, earnestness, and just plain drudgery that had gone into the making of those lessons. I remembered the crises of getting approval from what seemed a thousand places. The manual is about groups and a girl’s place in those groups and the need for a girl to make personal commitments about things that really count in her eternal well-being.
Then I came to page 37, right-hand column, lesson 4, called “One of Us.” It began, “Tell your girls that it is important that they do not become so enamoured of the idea of belonging to a group. …”
When I wrote those words, I had been talking to some generic girl—a mythical Mia Maid whom I knew I loved in the abstract, a girl whose life I wanted to touch through some teacher way off out there, a girl who might or might not listen, but a girl who mattered very much.
Tonight I heard my Shelley, my fifteen-year-old, reading my words with a reverence reserved only for awesome authority. My Shelley—my words, fused in a moment of learning that no casual or formal motherly promptings could have elicited.
When I showed her the book and the words, we both laughed. Shelley blurted out, “Mom, come on! You didn’t really write that. I thought it was Shakespeare or somebody.” And I bluffed away a giant urge to hug her hard with, “Yeah, Shell.”
And that night I said a special thanks for letting me cast my bread.
Emma Lou W. Thayne