Here we are at the beginning of another year. There is anticipation of what the new year will bring. For me, it is a time to reflect on the year that has past and the year that lies ahead. The past year had experiences of pain, sorrow, and difficulties, but also joy, happiness, and wonderful memories.
As I began to ponder the path of the coming year, several thoughts have come to mind—one thought is from Matthew in the New Testament. There has been much talk of the end times and the destruction of civilization. While the time of the Lord’s coming is set, none of us know the day or the hour it is to take place. Only Father in Heaven knows the time of His Son’s return. We can not speed up His arrival, nor stop or slow it down. The time is set and no one can change it. The parable of the Ten Virgins helps us understand our role at this time of the world’s existence.
It seems the ten virgins did not know the day the bridegroom would arrive. Some, thinking it was still a ways off or not understanding what must be done, did not prepare properly for his arrival. They were good women, all symbolized as virgins and all willing to greet him when he came. They were all believers in the bridegroom, eagerly awaiting his arrival. However, only five were wise in preparing oil for their lamps. When the five wise went out, they, unlike the five foolish, “took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matthew 25:4). While they waited patiently for the bridegroom to finish his business and come to them, they “slumbered and slept.”
Then, at an hour they didn’t expect him to come (Matthew 24:44), the cry went out, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” The virgins quickly arose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish pled for enough oil to get them into the marriage, as sadly, the shallow supply of oil burned out. The wise barely had enough oil for their own lamps and therefore did not have enough to give to the foolish. While the foolish ran to wake the merchants to purchase additional oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were waiting in preparedness went in with him and took part in the marriage.
My thoughts for the new year center around preparing with enough oil in my lamp. If oil represents righteousness, in today’s world it is easy to see why even the wise had just enough oil for themselves. Our families are surrounded by evil and the “very elect” struggle not to be deceived by the precepts, evil, and designs of conspiring men in the last days (D&C 89:4). Parents fight to maintain the separation between the world and gospel truth in their homes, thus providing a refuge from the storm of sin sweeping the earth. The battle is so intense, it is easy to understand the words of the five wise virgins, “not so; lest there be not enough for us and you” (Matthew 25:9).
The difficulty of obtaining oil should not thwart us in our efforts to procure our supply. The parables that follow the Ten Virgins help us in our understanding of what we must do to build a supply of the needed oil. In the parable of the talents we learn that we each are given talents “according to our ability” that we must invest and increase. It is the person ruled by fear that exclaimed, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth” (Matthew 25:25). Faith impedes fear and removes it from our life. Faith maneuvers us into the fold of the Shepard as sheep. It gives us courage to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger and visit within prison walls (Matthew 25:35-36). Oil is purchased by righteous service, or as the Savior taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
Oil is purchased through obedience to the commandments of the Lord. It is purchased by listening to the Spirit direct and guide our lives in overcoming the natural man and fulfilling our purpose here on earth. Oil is purchased on our knees in prayer, through scripture study, and through serving in the temple. It is purchased as home and visiting teachers, nursery leaders, and scout masters. Oil is purchased through service from the heart, encircled with love.
The foolish virgins and the wise virgins both “went forth to meet the bridegroom.” Both were righteous, both desired to meet him when he came. It is the opinion of this writer that the difference between the two groups was not in the service rendered, but in willing service from the heart—love—sealed by the Spirit. Remember, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Love fills the lamps that light the way for the bridegroom.
Let it not be said of us that our love and our hearts have waxed cold (Matthew 24:12). Instead, may our hearts be filled with charity, with the Spirit, and burn within us. May our lamps be full and may we “Watch therefore,” and be prepared. “For [we] know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13).