Parables of Jesus: The Lost Coin

“Parables of Jesus: The Lost Coin,” Ensign, June 2003, 29

New Testament

Parables of Jesus:

The Lost Coin

Are we doing all we can to cultivate the faith of others?

Elder J. Kent Jolley

Over the years I have collected a few rare coins. My favorite one is a prized 1886 U.S. silver dollar. When the subject of rare coins occasionally comes up for discussion in my family, I love to scurry off to find and exhibit it, as though it were the only silver dollar ever minted.

One day our young son Jeff discovered the coin lying around the house when I had failed to properly put it away. He took the coin and rode his bicycle to a nearby grocery store to purchase some candy. Later that day when I saw his cache of candy, I asked him where he had gotten the money to pay for it. He readily responded that he had simply taken “one of those old coins.”

Frantically, I dashed to the grocery store. Much to my relief, the clerk knew Jeff and had placed my silver dollar in the back of the cash register, anticipating that someone from the family would want to reclaim it. She readily accepted a paper dollar in exchange, and I breathed a great sigh of relief at having found my precious lost coin. This experience was for me much like one described by the Savior long ago.

Sheep, Coins, and Sons

In the 15th chapter of Luke, the Savior taught the scribes and Pharisees three parables that illustrate the value of a human soul. Each teaches how a soul can become lost and then be found and returned to the Lord. The first parable talks of a sheep who strays, as sheep sometimes do simply by following their noses from patch to patch of grass in the meadow. The shepherd must search out the lost sheep and lead it back to the fold. The third parable speaks of a lost and prodigal son who purposely squanders his inheritance. When he chooses to repent and return home, he is joyfully received and restored to a place of honor in the family. The middle parable is about a woman who has 10 coins. It differs from the first and third parables because it is the carelessness of the owner that causes the coin to be lost.1 In relating this parable, Jesus said:

“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

“And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost” (Luke 15:8–9).

Our Attitude toward Others

The clarion call of President Gordon B. Hinckley is that every member needs to have a friend, to have a responsibility in the Church, and to be “nourished by the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4). This is particularly true for new and returning members. We must take a closer look at ourselves to see if we are making an honest effort to cultivate the faith of those in our midst. Precious souls are waiting to be found. Let us get our candles and brooms and start “sweeping.” We can give a friendly gesture, an act of kindness, a fervent prayer, or even a clear and caring invitation to attend a Church activity.

I enjoy reflecting on the experience of Enos in the Book of Mormon and how it affected his mind-set toward others. Enos had been taught “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” by his father, Jacob (Enos 1:1). Hungering for the spiritual burdens he was carrying to be lifted, he prayed mightily all day and all night. Then the voice of the Lord came to him: “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (Enos 1:5).

After this renewing encounter with the Lord, it appears that Enos’s attitude toward others changed dramatically. Rather than dwelling on his own burdens, he turned his attention and efforts in a new direction: “I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:9). Enos also prayed to the Lord for his enemies, the Lamanites, “with many long strugglings” (Enos 1:11).

It Begins with Prayer

If we are to do the work of spiritually recovering “lost coins,” many of us may need to have an Enos-like experience. As we are taught in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by the prophets, seers, and revelators of the Church today, let us hunger and petition for the easing of our personal burdens in prayer. Then let us continue in prayer for the welfare of those around us who have become spiritually “misplaced.” An experience similar to Enos’s can happen to us if we seek after it as Enos did.

Once our hearts are right, we can get involved much more successfully in the great work of reaching out to others.

Perhaps someone you visit as a home or visiting teacher is in need of a special kindness. Maybe you could invite a young man or young woman to Mutual. Would an invitation to your home for a meal or family home evening be the right thing to do? Maybe there is a community or sporting event you could attend with that individual. Is there something you could take to the person that would open a heart? Is there some other kind of service, such as helping with yard work or offering a ride, that could help the process of trust and friendship begin or progress? The time may be right to involve the full-time missionaries.

But it all begins with prayer. The Holy Ghost will guide us to know what is best. What would happen in our wards and branches if each family used a fast Sunday to fast and pray about a less-active person or family, then to reach out in love and friendship? The key is to pray and then do! President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency has said, “Whatever our calling, regardless of our fears or anxieties, let us pray and then go and do, remembering the words of the Master, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who promised, ‘I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’” (Matt. 28:20).2

Precious Souls, Coins of the Realm

As with the woman and the lost coin, many souls are not active participants in the blessings of the gospel because they have lacked for someone who could make a spiritual difference in their lives. We, like Alma, who sought to reclaim the once-faithful Zoramites, need to go to the Lord in prayer, asking:

“Wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.

“Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee” (Alma 31:34–35; emphasis added).

Let us not carelessly leave, as I did, our precious “silver dollars” in a place that is not secure. As we prepare ourselves and our families through diligent prayer, we will have the direction of the Holy Ghost in recovering the lost coins of the eternal realm, in whose countenance has been stamped the divine mintage of heavenly parentage.3

Let’s Talk about It

  1. Hide a coin somewhere in a room, and announce to family members that you have “lost” a coin. Have them search until they find it. Read the section “Sheep, Coins, and Sons.” Ask whose fault it was that the coin was lost. Read “Precious Souls, Coins of the Realm,” and express your love for family members.

  2. Read Luke 15:8–9 and the sections “Our Attitude toward Others” and “It Begins with Prayer.” Encourage family members to identify someone they could fast and pray for. Share an experience you have had with “finding a lost coin” and strengthening that person spiritually.


  1. See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. (1916), 455–56.

  2. “They Pray and They Go,” Ensign, May 2002, 51.

  3. See Jesus the Christ, 546–47.

Illustration by Kirk Richards

Photograph by Steve Bunderson, posed by models