This is an excerpty from one of my scripture journals. Which I love. And which I hope we all have. It is my most valued tangible treasure.
Matthew 25:1-13 & Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-57
“The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto 10 virgins.” A virgin in not just an unmarried girl, virgin means that something is untouched and undefiled. Virgin land is land not built on where the original vegetation still exists, there are trees, or rivers, or cactus, or whatever naturally exists there. Virgin saints are uncut, undefiled, uncontaminated, they are not of the world. They have not been bull dozed and rebuilt by the world. So, what does it mean that the “Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto 10 virgins”? It doesn’t say “is likened unto 5 virgins and 5 harlots, but rather 10 virgins. And we know the outcome of this well known parable: only 5 of the 10 are wise. Only 5 of the 10 make it to the marriage feast. Only 5 of the 10 end up at their final destination.
This parable is not about the world, it is not the wicked vs. the righteous. This is about the church – the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. All of the virgins are uncontaminated, and they know that the bridegroom is coming and they are all anxiously awaiting and expecting to go with Him. These girls represent 10 members of the Church who know and expect Christ to come and expect to be ready for Him. But these girls weren’t all prepared. At least not all of the way. “At least we have our lamps”, they could have said. But that wasn’t enough, they didn’t bring any oil. How could you light the lamps without the oil? You can’t. So why does the Lord use they symbol of oils in the lamps in this parable? “These are they that kept the Holy Spirit as their guide”, is what the Lord tells us in latter-day revelation concerning the wise 5. What does that mean? How is their oil symbolic of the Holy Ghost being their guide? The imagery is clear that oil is the source for light, which literally enlightens us so we can see where we are and where we are going. Oil was absolutely necessarry if you wanted light to shine for you in a darkened place. And those lamps were personal light sources. They didn’t light up an entire room, they lightened up your path – where you were.
We all have the gift of the Holy Ghost in the church, but letting it guide us and be our constant companion, is another story. To have your path constantly lit – to be a walking witness of what it means to” have the Spirit as your constant companion” – that takes a lot of repenting, a lot of sincere searching, and a whole lot of acting on what we receive. It is a lifetime of learning, experimenting upon the word, of realizing through experience how the Holy Ghost communicates with us. Pres Packer said: “As an Apostle I listen now to the same inspiration, coming from the same source, in the same way, that I listened to as a boy. The signal is much clearer now.” (“Prayers and Answers,” Ensign, Nov 1979, 19) Imagine that! A man who has qualified for the Priesthood office of Apostle, who must be guided by the Holy Ghost in order to fulfill his responsibilities – he has learned how to truly take the Holy Spirit as his guide. His lamp is full. His path is lit. And he listens to the same source as we do. His oil, is the same as ours. He has learned how to get it and how to use it.
“At least I am here at church”, or “at least I went on a mission”, or “at least I’m not as immodest as her”, or “at least I have my lamp.” These “at least” statements are not enough – they will get us just what that suggests: “at least”. And at least it did for those five. Why didn’t they have the oil? They brought their lamps – why not the oil too? Foolish! (Just as their name suggests). Maybe they ran out of time or didn’t want to make the extra effort of buying it or pressing the olives themselves. Olive oil would have cost some money, perhaps they didn’t want to sacrifice unless they had to. The tradition goes that the bridegroom will lead a procession and that the wedding party will be following along, and the route will lead by the brides who will then join the party and end up at the feast. So, if these 10 virgins are waiting for the groom to lead the procession by them to go to a feast, then midnight would be rather late to expect this to happen – that is a very unexpected hour. They must have thought they would not need the oil – that maybe it would still be light outside, maybe he will come in the morning, or maybe others lamps would provide enough light for them – let the others sacrifice and get the oil. The clay lamps would be something they already possessed, it is the oil that you have to keep replenishing, sacrificing for, and working to get. Like the spirit. Like President Packer said – the signal was much clearer now. “Now” comes after a lot of fine tuning. It is human nature to want the rewards with the least amount of effort – and if we approach learning to communicate with the Spirit this way – we may just leave our lamps empty.
We are waiting – just as those 10. And we would be so very wise to keep our crucial oil reserve filled and refilled. And whenever we feel it depleting, as we so often easily lose our eternal perspectives from the “there and then” to the “here and now”, we will see things as they are, and view those distractions that keep us from being prepared as so unimportant. For when that call comes, and we arise to prepare our lamps and we have that moment of realization that we really are ready, we will be so grateful that we saw things as they really are, and had labored in our everyday lives – every moment up to that point – to truly have the Spirit as our constant companion.
I suppose that we will either be ready or we won’t. And nothing we seem more important than being ready.