Sur(prize)! It’s Worthless


I hadn’t seen one in years, but there it was. It was a prize in my cereal box of Coco Puffs. It brought back so many childhood memories! I always loved it when my Mom would buy cereal that had a prize in it. In fact, whenever I happened to be with her when she was grocery shopping, I would look for the cereal that gave a prize. Sometimes I would stoop so low as to recommend to my Mom to buy Shredded Wheat or some other undesirable cereal, just to get that prize. And so it was that last week when I pulled that prize out of the box, I sat back in my chair as I allowed memories to flood over my mind. I couldn’t help but smile.

Last weeks “prize” was typical of what you find in a cereal box. It was an image of a character out of a popular children’s movie made out to sit on top of a pencil. It reminded me so much of the other prizes that I saw over the years. They were trinkets that could catch your eye, but were of little or no value. It is a wonder that you fell for it so often as a kid; buying cereal for the prize. None of them were ever any good or lasted; just a flashy piece of plastic that soon was in the junk drawer of your dresser. But somehow, as a kid, you would hold onto that “piece of junk”, because it was supposedly free. I didn’t even have the heart to throw away my “prize” from last week. Instead I put it on the counter top as if I would someday use it. A worthless piece of plastic that will be moved from a shelf to a drawer then eventually to the trash can where it belongs. Sometimes it is just hard to throw away worthless things.

A lot of today’s prizes, presented to us adults, are just as worthless. They are marketed differently. The advertising of the “prize” makes it so appealing. Sometimes we never grow up. We continue buying things of little or no value. We enslave ourselves trying to get these prizes when, in the end, almost all of these “prizes” end up on the roadside. They wait for the sanitation truck to pick them up and take them to the destination they deserve. We have been warned over and over regarding these worthless “prizes”. We have been given plastic cards to use that actually seem to make the “prizes” free. Alas, they are not and the day comes when the price needs to be paid, usually long after the “prize” has been carted away. Nothing testifies of the worthlessness of most possessions as a move from one house to another. It gives you pause when you start rummaging through your “things” when moving. Sometimes “I stand all amazed” at the lack of judgment I have used when spending my hard-earned money!

Sometimes it stings to hear these things. I guess that’s why the Lord gives us prophets. They have the courage to speak the truth. I know when I listened to Elder Hales’ General Conference talk a few years ago, it hit a nerve. When that happens to me, I know it is because I need to improve in that area. He said:

“We must remember that the adversary knows us extremely well. He knows where, when, and how to tempt us. If we are obedient to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can learn to recognize the adversary’s enticements. Before we yield to temptation, we must learn to say with unflinching resolve, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Our success is never measured by how strongly we are tempted but by how faithfully we respond. We must ask for help from our Heavenly Father and seek strength through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. In both temporal and spiritual things, obtaining this divine assistance enables us to become provident providers for ourselves and others.”

Elder Hales further advised:

“Being provident providers, we must keep that most basic commandment, “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). Our world is fraught with feelings of entitlement. Some of us feel embarrassed, ashamed, and less worthwhile if our family does not have everything the neighbors have. As a result, we go into debt to buy things we can’t afford—and things we do not really need. Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude. Money we could have used to care for ourselves and others must now be used to pay our debts. What remains is often only enough to meet our most basic physical needs. Living at the subsistence level, we become depressed, our self-worth is affected, and our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and the Lord are weakened. We do not have the time, energy, or interest to seek spiritual things.” (Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually, Elder Robert D. Hales Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).

Elder Hales gave two suggestion when he said, “When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, “We can’t afford it, even though we want it!” or “We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!”

Let us be careful that we are not allowing ourselves to buy the unwanted and unneeded, and mostly worthless “prizes” of life. The allure is strong! Let us heed the words of the prophets!


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