Parable of the Ten Virgins

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The obtuse answer the five foolish virgins receive from the five wise virgins when they ask them to share their oil seems to go beyond the idea that the oil spoken of is solely the Holy Spirit. Let us take another look at Jesus’ parable: “They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. And while the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, See, the Bridegroom comes. Go out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

“And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps have gone out. But the wise answered and said, [Not so], in case there isn’t enough for us and for you. Go rather to those who sell and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. And afterwards the other virgins also came, and said, Lord, Lord, open to us! But he answered and said, Verily I say to you, I don’t know you” (Matthew 25:1–13). Additional scriptures cast light on this parable:

“When I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. For the Lord shall be in their midst” (Doctrine & Covenants 45:56–59);

“They are now nigh at hand, and in a time to come, even in the day of the coming of the Son of Man. And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire” (Doctrine & Covenants 63:53–54);

“Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (Doctrine & Covenants 33:17).

From all this data we observe many layers to Jesus’ parable we can draw on when analyzing its meaning. As to all intents we are still under condemnation for having “treated lightly the things you have received” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54–57; cf. 90:5), ought we not guard against shallow interpretations of scripture proliferating among those who don’t search them, against the precepts of men that have entrenched themselves into doctrinal tenets? Let us rather look deeper into what Jesus taught, which his disciples understood (Matthew 13:51).

First, what defines the wise virgins is their having “received the truth,” “taken the Holy Spirit for their guide,” and “not been deceived” (Doctrine & Covenants 45:57).

That means they have learned to distinguish between the truth and the untruths that pass for the truth; between “what everyone believes” and the “true points of my doctrine” that are in the scriptures (cf. 3 Nephi 21:5–7; Doctrine & Covenants 10:60–63); between being guided by the Holy Spirit and being led by men (cf. Isaiah 9:16; 2 Nephi 28:14); between discerning deception and being blind to it.

Because falsehoods will prevail to such a degree that “if it were possible” the very elect will be deceived (Matthew 24:24), the wise virgins are the elect of God and the foolish are deceived. Although they hail Christ— “Lord, Lord, open to us!”—his reply echoes an earlier response: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name and in your name cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22–23).

In other words, during the entire time that the foolish virgins will be “among the wise”—together with them, in effect, forming a single body of believers—one might hardly be able to tell them apart (cf. Malachi 3:15–18). What decisive test, therefore, do we suppose precipitates “an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked” so that the five who are now

declared “righteous” enter the marriage the Bridegroom has prepared while the five now called “wicked” are “cast into unquenchable fire” (Doctrine & Covenants 63:53–54; cf. Matthew 13:47–50)?

Tying this scenario into additional scriptures, we find that in the day the words of Isaiah are fulfilled “the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire” (2 Nephi 30:9–15)—that also being the time “that I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked” (Doctrine & Covenants 101:95; cf. Isaiah 28:21; 1 Nephi 14:7).

While making “ready” for the Bridegroom’s coming doubtless includes obtaining needful preparedness items we can purchase from the merchants—as well as our keeping other key commandments such as “searching the words of Isaiah” (cf. 3 Nephi 20:11; 23:1; Mormon 8:23) and “looking forth for the signs of my coming” (Doctrine & Covenants 39:23; cf. 45:39)—the idea of being “faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you” (Doctrine & Covenants 33:17) more especially speaks to our whole-of-life consecration to God.

Avraham Gileadi

This article was provided by the Isaiah Institute