A few years ago I had a problem, a serious problem. I was addicted to peanut M&Ms. Now, before you discount this as a funny story or even a non-serious problem, I should impress upon your minds the seriousness of the matter. This problem was in every sense of the word an addiction. It was unhealthy, unrelenting, and insatiable, and – as a hallmark feature of a true addiction – I was largely unaware of the magnitude of the problem while ensnared in its chains.
I had, have, and still do love peanut M&Ms more than any human should, and this particular problem started when I was visiting one of my brothers’ homes in Arizona. He had a large jar of candy sitting on the counter and it just so happened that this large jar of candy was filled (literally filled, like a swimming pool of sugar and peanuts and chocolate) with peanut M&Ms. While we were there visiting this candy jar was available for any and all to partake at their leisure. No limits, no effort (except for lifting off the candy jar lid, which I soon just left sitting on the counter for ease in stuffing my face more quickly), no parental influence to tell me that was enough (after all, I was an adult right?), nothing but myself to govern my appetite for the delicious treat. This trip (in which I ate the majority of his candy) was only the beginning of my problems.
Soon after this initial frenzy, and my true discovery of these M&Ms, I quickly transitioned from ‘wanting’ them to ‘needing’ them. I needed them every day. I needed them to be by my side to give me comfort when I was weak. I needed them to speak peace to my heart when others were mean to me or didn’t understand me. I needed them to assure me that everything was fine and I needed them to feel good (this is healthy right?) – and it just got worse from there. Soon, not only did I ‘need’ peanut M&M’s, but I ‘needed’ them in a larger quantity and with less frequent breaks. At first, a small (single serving) package would fill the void, which quickly transitioned to me ‘needing’ a ‘tear-n-share’ size bag. This seemed a simple enough transition, after all, good + more good = more good. Then, over time, my dependence upon M&M’s grew and I needed a ‘small bag’, then a ‘large bag’ (I completely skipped the ‘medium bag’ since it seemed appropriate). This problem escalated into my ‘need’ for a family size Ziploc bag (you know, the kind you get at Walmart or Costco in the mega bulk section) which I would hoard for myself and devour in a weekend. Read that again to understand where I was…I would consume an entire 45 oz. bag of peanut M&M’s in a weekend – by myself.
What happened next, was disturbing, but also very logical. I began to store them. I began to think to myself “what if I can’t go to the store and buy more?” or even worse, “what if I want some (need some) and don’t have any?” That was unacceptable to me, so I ALWAYS had more than I needed just in case I wanted some. In fact, I remember a time when I went to the store and bought 2 or 3 ‘tear-n-share’ size bags for a trip only to reason with myself that ‘I would probably need more’ so I went right back and bought twice that amount. I am not proud of this. When I was home, I hid them in various locations (in case someone found one stash – I would always have another). I was totally prepared for any event, because I knew that I would be safe and that nothing was going to prevent me from enjoying M&Ms.
Now, the law of diminishing returns is in full force when you eat M&M’s. But that doesn’t stop most people, and it certainly didn’t stop me from trying to plow through it chasing the delicious taste of the first few M&M’s (you know, the one’s I could taste before my body started begging me to stop). I would make myself ill each time I would feast upon them. Many times I would go to bed in an absolute state of sugar-coma vowing to not go quite that overboard next time – only to eat a bowl of M&M’s for breakfast the next day. I had M&M’s in my baseball bag, my golf bag, my wallet, the pocket of every pair of pants I owned, my computer bag, my car, and probably my scripture bag. There was no activity (including sporting events that I participated in) that was exempt from the tentacles of my disease (yes I did also buy them at the snack shack). I made sure of that. I even painted a pumpkin in the image of a yellow M&M for Halloween.
To be fair and honest (as you can imagine) I gained 40 pounds during these dark times. 40 pounds! Imagine if you put 40 pounds of M&M’s on a scale, because that’s exactly what my hindquarters and midsection was comprised of (your welcome for that image in your minds) and it was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination.
Flash forward a few years to now – and I have shed this habit. I still love M&M’s but I managed to free myself from their addictive powers, and since I can see a lesson to be learned from this experience, including turning weaknesses into strengths (See Ether 12:27) I’d like to relate it to a parable that we all know; a parable in which my M&M’s can (and hopefully will be) likened to ‘oil’. This story is found in Matthew 25:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
If we consider my love for, storage of, preoccupation with, and constant protection of M&Ms a ‘simile’ for what we should be doing with our ‘oil’ we can learn a valuable lesson. Do I have sufficient storage of oil in my lamp? Am I worried that if I take a trip I might run out? Am I worried that my rate of oil consumption is more accelerated that my rate of oil storage? Do I have enough oil stored up in case of emergency? What about Saturday night when I know the store is closed on Sunday? Have I prepared my oil stash to last the night or next day? What about if we were bears and I had to survive a long harsh winter in a cave? Have I stored enough oil for myself? Have I helped my family store their oil? Do I have various stashes in case one gets spoiled? Am I confident that no matter what happens I can and will have access to this oil in time of need?
This gathering and hoarding of oil is a good thing – and the more weight we add the better. Imagine the spiritual pounds we will add if we continually seek after, feast upon, and store this oil to the same degree that I did with M&Ms. There is no law of diminishing returns with this oil – in fact it’s the opposite – the more we eat, the better it tastes, the more ravenous we become and the more spiritual pounds are added to our hindquarters and midsections. Then, when the rubber meets the road and the bridegroom comes – we will have enough in our store to abide the day. Those without stores of oil or ‘no meat on their bones’ will be left asking those who appear more plump to ‘give us of your oil, for our lamps have gone out’. These spiritual pounds are not shareable, and they are only gained by repeated consumption of spiritual food and the only advice we can give at that point is to ‘go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves’ – or in other words – go get yourselves some M&Ms and start eating.