I have always loved buttermints. Any and all. But then one Christmas my friend Heather brought us a tin of the most amazing homemade buttermints. First, who even knew you could make such a thing? I thought it was like licorice—something only “the store” made. Second, this was pure heaven. It melted in your mouth with the most perfectly glorious flavor. There could be no substitute. Heather’s buttermints were infinitely superior to anything else I had ever tasted.
Every Christmas we hoped we might appear once again on Heather’s gift list. And that the gift would again be her fabulous buttermints. And year after year the mints would appear. Then one Christmas we were sadly forsaken. Of course we weren’t offended. We love the Joneses with or without their holiday offerings! But we did long for that little taste of heaven. Then in March, after the snow melted, there sitting on the lawn was an auspicious-looking tin. It didn’t take much imagination to envision our dog dragging it from the porch to the snow back in December. We pried open the lid, and to our joy and amazement the tin contained a perfectly-preserved batch of pristine buttermints, undisturbed by our dog or the elements, and we lovingly savored every single one (and had a good laugh with Heather about our serendipitous snow treasure afterward)!
Finally this past Christmas I couldn’t stand the suspense any more. I had to know how Heather performs her magic. I rallied the guts to ask for her recipe. She said she’d do me one better — she’d come here and teach me how. In March we finally made it happen — a personalized buttermint tutorial. I had no idea what I was in for. I started taking copious notes. The process is extremely nuanced and detailed, with instructions like: “Cook to 250 degrees...not the bottom of the line, nor the top of the line, but right in the center of the line.” Sometimes I think the artist in me is not equipped to deal with that kind of precision. But she assured me that if I followed every step with exactness, I would have wonderful buttermints.
This week we’ve been making these fabulous buttermints (or, what my friend Luisa calls, "the most scrumptious confections of all time") and I hope this becomes an oft-repeated Easter tradition. Here’s why: The process is a beautiful analogy for the lifetime process of sanctification, culminating in a powerful atonement metaphor.
We’ve been studying the three Zion communities in the Book of Mormon for Family Home Evening over the past couple of months. Each of these communities, during a time of great adversity, was described as “the happiest people ever.” Nephi “taught [his] people to live after the manner of happiness.” One of the great keys to their happiness was hard WORK. Nephi taught his people productive skills, and to love manual labor. Making buttermints is a new skill, working with our hands.
Next is the people of Moroni: “ But behold there never was a ahappier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni...” Moroni taught the power of preparation and unity. My preparation was my tutorial with Heather. (Heather’s preparation was making 18 batches in one day, until they got it perfect!) In the buttermint making process, everybody LITERALLY pulls together (unity) for the stretching and cutting, and many hands make light work.
I think one of the best parts of making a big batch of buttermints is sharing them with our friends and loved ones. In Zion communities there is always a Service component (we share what we have with others). This kind of cooperation and outward focus leads toward no contention (peace, charity) and the kind of Zion community we find in 4th Nephi. “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people....and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”
Personal righteousness: Everybody starts with clean hands
Careful Obedience: Follow the instructions exactly
“Cook to 250 degrees...not the bottom of the line, nor the top of the line, but right in the center of the line.”
All of the instructions must be followed with precision (exactness and honor).
This kind of precision requires FOCUS: keeping our eyes on the prize and single to the glory of God.
If you follow these safe candy-making procedures, you can avoid the laborious washing process, saving much time and trouble.
Adversity metaphor: Stretching
Pull edges up and over, toward the center, so they don’t harden.
(Reminds me of how we need to be careful not to harden our hearts.)
As soon as it is cool enough to handle, butter your hands, pick up the candy and start stretching. It will be slimy and out-of-control at first. Resist the urge to knead and squeeze. Lightly pull and stretch, establishing a rhythm...side to side, over the top, repeat. When it becomes more manageable, hold the ball in one hand, pull and fold with the other. When you can, move it to your fingertips and continue spreading and stretching, using the length of your arms. It will become opaque and lose some of its glisten.
Stretching is the longest, most difficult part
It’s completely outside our control
The only way through is to stretch (grow)
Then the very nature of it starts to change
This stretching process takes way longer than we think
(How long, O Lord?)
Repentance: If you really screw up, you can always throw it back in the pot and return to the boiling step. :)
Patience: After all that hard work, you are dying to eat some, but it turns out there's a very long curing process. They are edible now, but nothing like the finished product. You have to learn to wait.
Atonement metaphor: Curing
Line a half-sheet baking pan with plastic wrap. Arrange pieces on plastic in a single layer to cure. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, making sure the cover is air tight. Allow to cure for up to three days.
Even after paying careful attention to detail and doing everything precisely,
the mints look like they didn’t work, like they won’t be any good.
Some are chewy, some are grainy, some are crunchy.
The curing process takes care of all that.
They must be entombed in sheets of air-tight plastic for up to three days.
After the three days, even the most stubborn and silly-looking buttermints will wind up perfect, white, creamy and delicious.
An Easter miracle
No matter how hard we try, how carefully we observe the commandments, we are flawed. Without those crucial three days in the tomb where our Lord lay down his life and took it up again, there is no way any of us would ever be “good enough” or reach perfection. But, given those three days of grace, there is hope for us all.
And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the [mints] thereof; and I beheld that [they were] most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the [mints were] white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
And as I partook of the [mints] thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of [them] also; for I knew that [they were] desirable above all other [mints]. —Adapted from 1 Nephi 8:11-12
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I would like to send you a little package of these wonderful Atonemints for you to try for yourself, along with a brief summary of the atonement metaphor. Just leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.