In 1960, Dr. Walter Mischel ran a social experiment putting a group of young children alone in a room with a single Marshmallow. The children were told they were free to eat the Marshmallow at any time. But if they could wait for 15 minutes, they would get a second Marshmallow.
To further complicate things, the children were left alone with no one to monitor them. They had no idea they were on camera.
The ensuing videos are hilarious. Some children showed strong resolve to earn that second Marshmallow. Others struggled and soon caved into the lure of the delicious treat. A small group happily devoured the Marshmallow as soon as the adult left the room.
Researchers followed the progress of these children for years. They wanted to know if a Marshmallow was an indicator of future behavior. The premise here is that people lack the ability to change.
I believe change, even fundamental change, is the very purpose of mortality. In fact, fundamental change is the theme of the Book of Alma. The story of Corianton is an example of the power of change.
Corianton was, most likely, Alma’s oldest son. He was a good boy and was a great example to his younger siblings. My guess is Alma constantly reminded Corianton of the importance of being a good example.
Corianton freely accepted this heavy responsibility.
Alma grew to trust Corianton and invited him to join him in reclaiming the dissident Zoramites. This calling was an indicator of how proud Alma was of Corinaton’s example.
For some unknown reason, Corianton allowed himself to be seduced by a harlot. Corinaton’s horrible example was the death knell of Alma’s mission to the Zoramites. As a result, the entire crew of all-star missionaries had to return home falling short of their goal.
Alma was shocked that Corianton, who had dedicated his life to being an example, would be so foolish.
Alma was heartbroken. He severely reprimanded Corianton. Because Alma’s strong rebuke was recorded, many of us see Corianton as a tragic story on one who fell short of such great potential.
But now the rest of the story…
At the end of his lecture, Alma challenged Corianton to repent. This was a defining moment in Corinaton’s life. He knew had disappointed his father. Corianton became a social pariah among his friends and likely destroyed his relationship with his brothers. He had every reason to give up.
There was no reason to hope.
He was lost.
Or was he?
What about the atonement?
So quick was his transformation that Alma trusted him to go on another mission. In fact, so complete was his change that he was considered to be trustee of the sacred plates, a responsibility reserved for prophets.
No, our future cannot be found in a Marshmallow. We cannot let our poor choices of the past be an indicator for future performance. The atonement provides each of us hope.