Imagine a young man who is home alone and is getting hungry (it’s far-fetched, yes, but just try to imagine it). Now imagine that this young man decides to try to make a grilled cheese sandwich on his own for the first time.1 Imagine that this young man’s parents had never taught him how to make grilled cheese and that he had never observed them very closely when they made it.
Let’s say, though, that this young man gets all of the ingredients just right: bread, cheese, a little butter on the outside of the bread (and a little mayonnaise inside because he’s brilliant). Next, he gets out the pan and puts it on the stove. (We’re also imagining he doesn’t have a special griddle or other appliance for making this treat.)
Now imagine that a certain thought takes hold of his mind—a thought that so many people have been ignorant enough (or temporarily insane enough) to think: “If I turn the heat up high, it’ll be done faster.”
Imagine what happens next. (Or perhaps you don’t have to imagine.)
He’s going to get either perfectly crispy, golden-brown bread or perfectly gooey, melted cheese—but not both. Most likely, he’ll have bread that looks and feels (and probably tastes) like lava rock and half-melted cheese, which is about as appealing as half-told tales.
His problem, as you can see, was a combination of ignorance (which is excusable) and impatience (which, though understandable, is less excusable). If he were to repeat this mistake the next time, it would be even less excusable, since it couldn’t be blamed on ignorance but would result almost entirely from impatience.
To get it right, he would have to discover the miracle of medium heat.
The medium setting on a stove is perfect for grilled cheese and many other dishes because it allows food to be cooked through without being overdone on the outside. The only downside is that it requires more time and attention, which require patience.
The Lord has said, “Continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13). He’s talking here about the kind of perfection that goes well beyond making perfect grilled cheese sandwiches; He wants us to become more like Him. Jesus Christ is the foremost example of patience. And part of following His example means enlarging our perspective, looking beyond the things of the moment, and seeing the greater reward that comes from self-discipline, faith, obedience, steady and consistent effort, long-suffering, and love—in other words, having patience.
By definition, patience implies waiting, which may sound boring, but as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, has taught us, it’s much more than merely waiting: “Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”2
It’s not just sticking the grilled cheese sandwich on the pan and forgetting it; it’s watching and flipping it at the right time.
It’s not just getting through school or seminary or church; it’s actively learning or worshiping.
It’s not just waiting for a testimony of the Book of Mormon to be bestowed upon you because you asked for it; it’s continuing to read, study, ponder, pray, and live according to the precepts of that book.
It’s not just sitting there while friends make fun of your religion; it’s praying for them and really wanting them to have a change of heart and doing what you can to bring it about.
It’s not just waiting until 16 to date; it’s learning to love obedience and trying to understand how following the prophets’ counsel will bless you.
Patience and temperance, or self-control, are both part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:22–23). Though there are urgent things that require immediate action or a ready response (just as there are some foods that need intense high heat), you should see yourself tending toward greater patience and self-control. If you sense that this is happening, it’s a sign that the Spirit is working in your life.
The miracle of medium heat may give you a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, hamburger patties that don’t look like hockey pucks with a pink center, hash browns instead of hash blacks, and rice that’s soft and fluffy instead of hard and chewy. But patience will have its “perfect work” (James 1:4) in your life, helping you press forward to become more like Jesus Christ, bringing the influence of the Holy Spirit, and ultimately helping lead you to eternal life.
As you notice the things that cause you to become impatient, think of that grilled cheese sandwich (or whatever other dish makes sense to you) and what you might be sacrificing by letting impatience guide your actions. If you’re guilty of giving in to impatience too often, you’re not the only one. You can repent and try again to follow Jesus Christ’s example and teachings. There’s more than one grilled cheese sandwich to be made, and it’s never too late to learn about the perfection that’s possible through patience.