One of the well-known teaching techniques of Jesus Christ was the art of the Parable. This is a brief fictional story which uses something found in common every-day life to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.
The Savior’s parables are known for their many layers of meaning and applications. The Parable of The Ten Virgins is a lovely and powerful example. I believe it gives us wise counsel as we choose our New Year resolutions, and in turn, set lifetime goals.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is found in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Ten young virgins have been invited to a wedding, and are gathering in anticipation. They await the arrival of the bridegroom, whom they will follow into the wedding. They know that he is coming some time during the night. However, his arrival is delayed until the dark hours near midnight.
The focus of the story is on the lamps each one of the virgins carry and the available supply of oil. As the midnight hour approaches, the lamps of all ten of the virgins begin to flicker and burn low. Five of the virgins have prudently made preparations for this. These five “wise” virgins have brought an extra supply of oil with them. When the cry of the bridegroom’s friend comes at midnight, these virgins are ready. They rise up from their slumbers, recharge their lamps, and go with the bridegroom.
For the other five virgins, it is a different story. They have not prepared, and their oil has run out. They try to borrow oil from the others. But the 5 prepared girls do not share, explaining that there wouldn’t be enough. The virgins with empty lamps run off to find more oil, but by the time they return, the bridegroom has arrived, the door is shut, and they are refused entrance.
Obviously, this parable teaches the importance of “Being Prepared“. It is understood to be symbolic of preparing ourselves to meet the Lord at His Second Coming. Former LDS prophet Spencer W. Kimball discussed the difference between the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins and why the oil could not be shared.
“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. How can one share obedience to the principle of tithing; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge? How can one share faith or testimony? How can one share attitudes or chastity…. Each must obtain that kind of oil for himself…. In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market. In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living. Fasting, family prayer… control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures-each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity-these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.255)
We all know that if we want to successfully accomplish a big goal (such as losing weight, quitting a bad habit, saving for a vacation or retirement…) we have to break it down into smaller, specific goals and then prepare to stay committed for the long haul. Day by day. We each have a fresh new year ahead of us!! Now is a chance to re-evaluate our life, our direction and where we would like to be by next year.
I suggest that we be sure to include goals that will not only bring us true and lasting happiness in this life, but the life to come. We should ask ourselves: How will my New Year resolution help me to BE PREPARED?
I leave you with Elder Wirthlin’s encouraging words:
How do we know if we are wise or foolish? When we hear inspired counsel, we obey.
That is the test of wise or foolish.
What does it profit us if we listen to wise counsel and do not heed the words? Of what use is experience if we do not learn from it? What good are the scriptures if we do not cherish the words and incorporate them into our lives?…