I am a sucker for cinnamon rolls.
It was a problem when I used to travel frequently. I’d barely get through security, grab my suitcase and be hopping into my shoes when it’d happen. I’d get a whiff of the most delectable smell you could imagine and my eyes would automatically glaze over. My arms stretched out in front of me, and I’d abandon my left shoe and suitcase, muttering, “Cinnabon … must … have … Cinnabon. …”
OK, maybe I wasn’t quite so dramatic. But it seems those little airport stands have fans blowing the irresistible smell throughout the terminals in hopes of drawing someone else in for ooey-gooey goodness.
So this past April during the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I decided to try something totally new for me: make some of my own. I turned to a cookbook published by Food Network personality (and a friend from Brigham Young University) Kelsey Nixon for her tried-and-true recipe for the best cinnamon rolls.
I had never made any kind of roll before, let alone the mother of all rolls, the queen of cravings. But I like a good challenge and wanted to make something really special for my family for conference weekend.
I went to the store on Friday and purchased the necessary ingredients. I had to try hard not to drool as I stood at the checkout stand watching the cream cheese, sugar and butter roll down the conveyer belt.
On Saturday afternoon, the baking began. Because my husband was in class all day, I decided to bake the rolls Sunday and invite my little sister and her husband (starving newlyweds willing to be bribed into trading freshly baked goods for baby-sitting) over for brunch.
Around 1 p.m. on Saturday, the preparations began. I measured out the yeast and milk, began mixing the dry ingredients, kneaded the dough and let it rise for an hour or so. During the second session of conference, I punched down and rolled out the dough, made the sugary cinnamon filling, and measured and cut the rolls. Then I carefully placed them in their little dish and covered them with plastic wrap, and into the fridge they went for an overnight rising.
I must say, I was very pleased with myself.
But between all the preparations, mixing and cleaning, I had spent most of the afternoon focused on the rolls. I brought my little laptop into the kitchen with me so I could watch and cook at the same time. But even though I could hear general conference, I wasn’t really listening. I told myself that thanks to DVR, I could just rewatch some of the talks that I may have missed.
The next morning was wonderful. My sister and her husband came over, my husband was home, the kids were playing and entertaining themselves famously, and my rolls were turning the most beautiful shade of golden brown you ever did see.
But once again, after making a sausage breakfast hash to complement the rolls, and whipping up the cream cheese icing, I found myself distracted enough to not catch some of the talks and musical numbers.
Well, the rolls were (mostly) a hit, except for the one undercooked, doughy one that I hand-selected for my husband. I was proud of my first attempt but a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to just sit and really pay attention to the words of apostles and church leaders.
Later that evening, I saw a beautiful little picture of my friend’s family posted on Instagram, snuggled together on the couch with notebooks and pencils, watching conference together. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I wanted that. That was the moment I was striving for, the feeling I wanted to create in my home.
A few days later, I took my boys to the Thanksgiving Point gardens. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we wandered over to the temporary “The Light of the World” garden, which features magnificent sculptures created by Angela Johnson of Jesus Christ’s life and miracles. As I slowly pushed my stroller around the semicircle of peaceful bronze statues, my eyes landed on a scene depicting Christ with Mary and Martha and titled “One Thing is Needful” based on the account in Luke 10:38-42. Mary is seated beside the Savior, completely focused on his face, while Martha is standing, holding a vase, her body turned slightly away.
This simple pose hit me like a ton of bricks. I was Martha during conference weekend. In trying to get the house ready, the food prepared and activities all planned for my little ones, I missed the “one needful thing” — focusing on Christ.
I thought in my mind the words of the Savior, speaking to me: “Carmen, Carmen, thou art careful and troubled about many things.”
This scripture story suddenly became very personal to me, and tears filled my eyes.
I was so worried about making the perfect Sunday brunch that I mistakenly missed the “good part.”
Cinnamon rolls are good — boy, are they good! — but not the good part, nor the purpose of the weekend.
This October, I can’t wait for the second semiannual “Conference Cinnamon Rolls Sunday.” But hopefully I’ve learned a lesson on priorities. I know the Savior cares about us wanting to create inviting, spirit-filled homes filled with good people and good food. But he cares more about our willingness to know when to sit, be still and simply listen.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.