What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Stuti Sakhalkar
The story of the Ten Virgins is one saturated with meaning. Each time I read it, I am able to peel off another layer of symbolism or application. This story has specific and important meaning to our day, and for that reason has been discussed often by our leaders.
First, it is important to note that the ten virgins were all “members of the Church”. Having all received invitations to the marriage celebration, they each fully expected that they would be allowed into the wedding. Each presented herself at the door, readily waiting for the bridegroom so that they might enter in with Him.
Spencer W. Kimball spoke to this effect when he said:
I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ and not the rank and file of the world. (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 253)
We read early on in the story that half of the virgins were wise, and half were foolish. Their wisdom (or lack thereof) was in relation to their preparedness. Each had been previously instructed (we may assume) or inherently knew what would be needed for the night’s festivities: oil.
It must be observed that the virgins without oil were never regarded as evil, but as foolish. Bruce R. McConkie made this distinction when he wrote:
Not good and bad, not righteous and wicked, but wise and foolish. That is, all of them have accepted the invitation to meet the Bridegroom; all are members of the Church … but only five are valiant therein. (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:685)
The foolish virgins knew that they did not have oil with them. Yet we read in Matthew 25:7 that all the virgins trimmed their lamps once they had been notified of the bridegroom’s arrival. Commenting on this oddity, Elder Robbins notes:
They all thought they were ready. Outwardly, they all appeared prepared. (Lynn G. Robbins, Oil in Our Lamps)
Indeed, the foolish virgins believed that they were entitled to enter in with the bridegroom. Having received an invitation and made the effort to await His arrival, they thought all was well.
But when the bridegroom tarried and did not come until midnight, the foolish virgins realized that despite all their outward demonstrations of piety, they had failed to prepare sufficiently and thus could not make the final journey.
Speaking later to these foolish virgins, the bridegroom said: “I know you not”. Their failure to heed earlier warnings and prepare for a later eventuality showed that these virgins had not internalized the principles they outwardly professed to acknowledge and obey.
The fact that the five foolish virgins knocked, expecting to enter the marriage supper, indicates one of two things: (1) they thought they could prepare themselves after the Bridegroom came, or (2) knowing that they at first had not been prepared to enter, they were hoping for mercy. Either way, the door was shut. (Lynn G. Robbins, Oil in Our Lamps)
As this is parable, we find abundant modern application. For example, President Kimball has said:
Hundreds of thousands of us today are in this position. Confidence has been dulled and patience worn thin. It is so hard to wait and be prepared always. But we cannot allow ourselves to slumber. The Lord has given us this parable as a special warning. (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 253)
Much like any admonition to prepare for the Savior’s coming, this parable has both spiritual and temporal implications. For its spiritual application, President Kimball explains why the oil could not be shared:
The foolish asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant. . . . This was not selfishness or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. . . . In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 255 )
In a temporal sense, we may observe in the parable the fact that the oil was a physical object of needed acquisition. This necessitated the purchase or barter to obtain the oil in preparation for the bridegroom’s arrival. Likewise, we have been commanded time and time again to store a year’s supply of food, water, clothing, and fuel to withstand and survive the great perils that will precede the bridegroom’s literal arrival.
We cannot say, when we arise to trim our lamps, that we were not warned. We cannot say that we had insufficient time, nor funds, nor opportunity. We have all been warned of the bridegroom’s arrival, and have been sufficiently and repeatedly instructed as to what type of oil we must store in preparation for the event(s).
It is up to each of us to determine whether we will be wise or foolish; whether we will outwardly display our belief and obedience while inwardly and privately failing to comply; whether we will be able to enter into the Lord’s rest, or whether He will shut the door and say “I know you not”.