The Gold Coin; or, how we should teach our youth about their worth

goldcoin Object Lesson: The Gold Coin

Supplies: Either a $1 coin (such as the recently issued gold coin) or a half-dollar coin. A small bag of dirt. A few miscellaneous objects, such as a pen or paper clip.


The teacher holds up the coin and asks the class,

“What is this?” (Wait for the class to answer: It’s a coin.)
“What is its value?” (Either a dollar or 50 cents, depending on the coin type.)

Teacher drops the coin on the ground. Kicks it. Steps on it.

Lifts up the coin again. “How much is it worth now?”

It’s still worth a dollar, isn’t it?

Teacher takes a pen or paper clip, and scratches the side of the coin. Covers it in dirt. Lifts it up. Asks again, “How much is it worth now?”

It’s still worth a dollar.

You are children of God with infinite value. You are worth an infinity of these coins. Please don’t forget this.

Some other people may forget this at times, and they may even tell you that because of things that have happened to you, or decisions you may have made, that you have somehow become of less value than before.

Those people are wrong. Nothing, nothing, can take away your infinite value as a child of God.

36 comments for “The Gold Coin; or, how we should teach our youth about their worth

  1. I’m going to remember this and even if I’m never in the Young Women program again, I’m going to give this lesson to my children. Maybe tonight even, for family home evening.

  2. Very nice. I’m going to use this for Family Home Evening tonight. Thanks!

  3. I don’t like object lessons, as I think that they oversimplify concepts. But I will use this one when the occasion presents itself!

  4. I like this much more than the dollar bill one, where the teacher crumples up the bill, then asks how much it’s worth. It’s going to be much harder to leave lasting marks on the coin.

  5. Thanks, Kaimi. I’ve heard the dollar bill story *once*, but not first-hand. Today’s Elizabeth Smart article has stirred up a good bit of grief in me today around how many years I spent as a scared, scarred, stunted celibate girl because of the *numerous* tellings & teachings of a dysfunctional morality culture. :(

  6. Use a real gold coin and you can point out that your value will never, ever be lost. And, real gold never tarnished no matter how grimy it gets.

    Fantastic object lesson!

  7. My favorite post of yours Kaimi! Great idea. One might say it’s similar to a ‘rough stone rolling’ ….

  8. Kids, your nominal value will never, ever change, but your real value is likely to depreciate over time which is why you should invest yourself in the bond market of the Gospel.

  9. I remember hearing a talk (I think In Conference) referencing Luke 20:25 where the speaker observed that just as the coin was stamped in Ceaser’s Image So too we are stamped with the image of God and no mater how dirty or defaced he would that we should be gathered into his eternal treasury.

    Ive found similar ideas expressed in other places but the reference ive been thinking of hasn’t shown up :(—hypocrites?lang=eng

  10. I think I’ve burned this bridge since I already taught my kids about inflation and asset bubbles. Great idea for the rest of you though.

  11. Great object lesson. Before we rip on the church and call the way it teaches concepts dysfunctional, please realize that we aren’t the only ones who use the “chewed gum” analogy. Other faiths that promote chastity have used it, too. I’m not validating the chewed gum analogy, just saying that Mormons are not off the grid when it comes to trying to encourage youth to be chaste. Go to any good all girls Catholic school or just about any evangelical school/church and you’ll see the same kind of struggle to keep youth morally clean.

  12. Nice, Kaimi!

    EvelynG, I agree that the dollar bill version never got as much play as the chewed gum and the licked cupcake. But I do think President Uchtdorf used it in Conference a few years ago.

  13. My wife has taught a similar object lesson using a $20 bill.

    A question I ask out of curiosity: Have these dreadful analogies (such as cupcakes, gum and boards) ever been in an official church manual? Or have they merely been passed down orally from generation to generation?

    In one sense it doesn’t matter; a bad lesson is a bad lesson. But I can’t help but wondering what has caused these Atonement-denying tales to become such a big part of the Mormon subculture.

  14. Thank you so much for this. This is what needs to be taught. There is so much damage that has come from the licked cupcake, chewed gum, and nail in the board analogies.

  15. I find myself wondering how we go from a good object lesson about one’s value never diminishing to the Lord to comment 9, which would seem to imply that celibacy is the refuge of the naive and sheltered. Perhaps I’m misreading something.

  16. Go further, and use the paper money, because it will show quick signs of wear and permit the metaphor to really take flight.

    Then define a human as “infinite worth” and put up a picture of the cutest baby possible. Age that baby through life until she’s a haggard crone or he’s a dessicated widower and point out that the human’s worth is still infinite. Follow up with appropriate scripture. Serve a wrinkly treat.

  17. If you really want to bring home the message that no decision you make can decrease your value, you’ll discuss examples of people that made very bad decisions: Judas, Ted Bundy, Jerry Sandusky, etc.

  18. Amen, Amen, Amen! I hate those horrible analogies because they forget that the Atonment makes us new.

    Here is what Elder Holland said a while ago about that nail-in-the-board comparison:

    We learn that when repentance is complete we are born again and leave behind forever the self we once were. To me, none of the many approaches to teaching repentance falls more short than the well-intentioned suggestion that “although a nail may be removed from a wooden post, there will forever be a hole in that post.”

    We know that repentance (the removal of that nail, if you will) can be a very long and painful and difficult task. Unfortunately, some will never have the incentive to undertake it. We even know that there are a very few sins for which no repentance is possible.

    But where repentance is possible and its requirements are faithfully pursued and completed, there is no “hole left in the post” for the bold reason that it is no longer the same post. It is a new post. We can start again, utterly clean, with a new will and a new way of life.

    Through repentance we are changed to what Alma calls “new creatures.” (Mosiah 27:26.) We are “born again; yea, born of God, changed from [our] carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.” (Mosiah 27:25; see also Mosiah 5:1–12.) Repentance and baptism allow Christ to purify our lives in the blood of the Lamb and we are clean again. What we were, we never have to be again, for God in his mercy has promised that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42.)

  19. I have decided that I want to do a modified version of this for FHE. I have talked with DW and she is supportive.

    I collect coins so I plan to get out 5 coins that have personal meaning to me. I will show the coins and explain where each coin comes from and how it came to be in my possession (some my dad brought back from his voyages as a merchant marine, some I collected on my mission, some were inherited from my uncle’s collection, etc.)

    I will ask the kids (7 and 5) to pick out their favorite coin. Then we will go outside and get the coins dirty. Then I am going to ask if we should throw the coins away now that they are dirty (“of course not!”) The coins are just as valuable both in material worth and in sentimental value. Then I’ll reveal that each coin represents a member of our family and that Our Heavenly Father knows and loves each of our unique attributes. His love will not wane because of a little dirt. Then, I’ll explain that because HF loves us so much and wants us to shine like only we can shine – He sent Jesus to die for us so that we could become clean again and return to our Father in untarnished glory.

    We’ll go back inside, wash the coins and place them back in their protective cases and then we’ll eat a treat.

    If anyone has any comments or suggestions I will appreciate them. I give the FHE on Monday night.

  20. No, Eric (comment 19), those ridiculous analogies do not appear in Church curriculum. The former YW manuals are available online, if anyone wants to check. Everything in the manuals supports the doctrine that all of us are of infinite worth and that we can all be made clean from sin. The doctrine is beautiful, and that’s why I don’t think it needs to be embellished with an object lesson such as the one suggested—at least not in a Church setting. Although it’s well-intentioned, I think it’s kind of how the whole chewing gum analogy got started: a teacher trying to come up with something extra to get the class’s attention. The manuals provide plenty of resources; no supplementation should be necessary. It sounds like a great FHE activity, but I don’t think it belongs in a YW class. I think the shift in the youth curriculum is evidence that Church leaders want us to focus more on the scriptures and less on . . . well, I have to say it—fluff. Our youth are bright and faithful and able to learn (and to teach) the gospel without all the . . . you know.

  21. Re:#19 and #31. This is not from the curriculum, but a church magazine article from a few years ago is advocating a “sticky candy” analogy: … e?lang=eng

    While these analogies appear to be handed down orally, for the most part, it looks like they at least occasionally have ended up in print in an official capacity.

  22. I enjoyed reading the responses probably even more than the actual article:) Thanks for sharing Elder Holland’s explanation in #28, love that! I appreciated the comments on gold/silver/inflation, as well. Made me chuckle. I would venture to guess those comments went right over most people’s heads….

  23. #15 Jake Cox,
    The Deseret News article DOES describe Elizabeth Smart’s description of the chewed gum metaphor in paragraph seven. At that point, it even cites the Christian Science Monitor as a source for the story. Was this missing before? In any case, I don’t see any censorship in this instance.

  24. #35 J.A.T.:
    The Deseret News article originally lacked any mention of the chewed gum metaphor. The material you cite was added to the article only after several readers left harshly critical comments in the article’s own comments section on the Deseret News website.

    Every other news outlet that I saw covering this story mentioned Smart’s comments about chewed gum or made the obvious link to abstinence-only sex education, but the Deseret News entirely omitted it. The most charitable way I can explain this omission is that it stems from the amateurish news judgment in most of what the Deseret News publishes these days. At worst, it’s an example of self-censorship by the reporter or censorship by some higher-up editor.

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