The Parable of the Ten Virgins: convinced vs. converted

It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons.  The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject.  They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless.  (John A. Widstoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 8.)

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Matt. 25:1)

The ten virgins were members of the church.  They weren’t just ten random people on the face of the earth.  All of them knew what would be expected of them in order to enter into the wedding.  All ten of them brought their lamps.  The five foolish virgins’ lamps looked just like the wise virgins’ lamps.  They looked like they were full of oil.  They looked good on the outside.  They LOOKED like good members of the church with strong testimonies, but they were empty on the inside.  “They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them.” (Matt 25:3)

When did the bridegroom come?  “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” (Matt 25:6).  We must have enough oil in our lamps to last us until midnight.  Only having enough oil to last us until 11 PM will not be enough.  Much like the ten virgins, we don’t know when the Savior will come again.  We need to make sure we are adding oil to our lamps every day.  We can’t afford to ever fool ourselves into thinking that we have enough, we’ve done enough, and don’t need to be actively adding oil anymore or we may end up like the five foolish virgins who realize, too late, that they do not have enough.

Panicking, the foolish virgins beg the wise virgins to let them borrow some oil.  Elder David A. Bednar counseled us to consider the oil to be the oil of conversion.  He asked,

Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? Can the spiritual strength that results from consistent obedience to the commandments be given to another person? Can the knowledge obtained through diligent study and pondering of the scriptures be conveyed to one who is in need? Can the peace the gospel brings to a faithful Latter-day Saint be transferred to an individual experiencing adversity or great challenge? The clear answer to each of these questions is no (“Converted Unto the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2012).

Did the wise virgins ignore the foolish ones?  Did they make fun of them?  Were they mean?  No.  They told them what they needed to do to go and get some oil.  “…but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”  (Matt 25:9)

Now, in this parable, you could go and buy oil.  What if you could buy your testimony?  How much would you be willing to spend on it?  Would you run down to the nearest store and get the $5 testimony?  Or would you get the $10, $20, $100, or $100,000 testimony?  Even though you can’t buy a testimony, it does cost something.  There is a price to be paid.

I know that to gain knowledge of great worth requires extraordinary personal effort.  This is particularly true when our desire is to obtain spiritual knowledge.  President Kimball put it this way: The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones–but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them . . . Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough.  It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life . . . Of all knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389-90).

Profound spiritual truth cannot simply be poured from one mind and heart to another.  It takes faith and diligent effort.  Precious truth comes a small piece at a time through faith, with great exertion, and at times wrenching struggles.  The Lord intends it be that way so that we can mature and progress.  (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, November 1993, p. 88.)

There are those who have made a casual, even an insincere effort to test the scriptures and have come away having received nothing, which is precisely what they have earned and what they deserve.  If you think it will yield to casual inquiry, to idle curiosity, or even to well-intentioned but temporary searching, you are mistaken.  (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1974, p. 95.)

I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures.  I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God.  I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted.  At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1995, p. 99.)

The price you have to pay is the price that all righteous men and women pay – a life totally dedicated to Christ and His cause.  A life of keeping the commandments every day and enduring to the end.  A life of doing the thousand little acts of goodness and kindness that change us and make our faces show who we really are – divine children of our Heavenly Father.  Harold B. Lee said the gods we worship write their names on our faces (Elder Alexander B. Morrison, Friend, Nov. 1997)

Christ paid such an enormous, enabling price for us!  Will we not apply His Atonement in order to pay the much smaller price required for personal progress?  Being valiant in our testimony of Jesus, therefore, includes being valiant in our efforts to live more as He lived.  (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1997)

This touching story shows that the price we pay is not really a sacrifice.  It is never a sacrifice to live the gospel of Jesus Christ because you get back so much more than you give.

A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.”

Then President McKay quoted an observer who was present in that class: “Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.

“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …

“ ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ ”

He continues: “ ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“ ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’ ” (David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” The Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948)

How much is a testimony worth?  Can you put a price on it?

Your personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of your testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty.

A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life.

It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.

A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path.

As you fortify your own personal testimony, you will have power to make correct choices so that you can stand unwaveringly against the pressures of an increasingly vicious world.

…fundamental truths must become part of the very fiber of your character. They must be an essential part of your being, more treasured than life itself (Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

Those who know Christ best are those who have paid the price to know Him.

“The only measure of true greatness is how close a man can become like Jesus.  That man is greatest who is most like Christ, and those who love Him most will be most like Him.  How, then, does a man imitate God, follow His steps, and walk as He walked, which we are commanded to do? (3 Nephi 27:27, 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).  We must study the life of Christ, learn His commandments, and do them.  God has promised that to follow this course will lead a man to an abundant life, a fulness of joy, and the peace and rest for which those who are heavy burdened long (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, [1988], 327-328)

The five foolish women were convinced the church was true.  It made logical sense in their minds and they went through the motions of being good members.  The five wise women had become truly converted to the gospel.  They had experienced that mighty change of heart that King Benjamin’s people experienced where “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent…has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”  (Mosiah 5:2)

The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19, 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ (David A. Bednar, “Converted Unto the Lord, Ensign, Nov. 2012)

There is great concern to make sure our children aren’t just convinced the gospel is true, but that they become fully converted to it.

Harold B. Lee talked about the young people of the Church and about the challenges they face in growing up in this world in which we live.  He expressed his deep concern about the fact that some of them could go through Primary, Sunday School, Mutual, priesthood quorums, and Seminary and come out the other end without testimonies.  He said: “Do you know why I think it is?  Because our young people have grown up spectators.” (Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer, 1985, 505.)

Our young people are very good at showing up to things.  They show up to church, young women and young men activities, seminary, devotionals, etc, but showing up is not enough.  Two people can show up to the same meeting and one of them can come away with tremendous insights and goals to make personal improvements while the other person may have thought the meeting was boring and a complete waste of time.  The meeting was the same.  The difference lay in the people.  We must be actively engaged in learning and living the gospel.  It is not enough to just go through the motions.

Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music….

…We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.

…If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance and will either quit dancing or, almost as bad, keep dancing only because of the pressure they feel from others who are dancing around them (Elder Wilford W. Andersen, “The Music of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 2015).

So how do we help our youth (and ourselves) HEAR the music?

Sometimes we become so anxious to help and teach our students that we simply disseminate to them the principles that we have learned or been taught.  We have all felt the power, excitement and motivation of personal discovery through the Holy Ghost.  The greater good for our students might accrue if we lead them in such a way that they become able to begin making discoveries for themselves (Harold B. Lee, Address given to seminary students, 24 Feb. 1973.)

The prophetic efforts of Joseph Smith did not center in sharing his spiritual experiences but rather in the effort to qualify us to have our own spiritual experiences.  The emphasis was not on what he had seen but on what we could see… Joseph invited us to check him by having our own Sacred Grove experience. (Joseph Fielding McConkie , Regional Studies in LDS Church History, 206-207.)

For the gospel to be written in your heart, you need to know what it is and grow to understand it more fully…sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more.  Studying in this way, you may not read a lot of chapters or verses in a half hour, but you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you (D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 11.)

True faith has enormous power, but there are principles that must be followed to unleash that power…. you must practice the truth or principle you have faith in. As you live it consistently, there will come a witness of its truthfulness through the power of the Holy Ghost….He will confirm the certainty that His laws will produce the promised results when obeyed willingly and consistently (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

The Lord will hear your prayers in time of need. He will invariably answer them. However, His answers will generally not come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. There is a pattern that must be followed. You are asked to look for an answer to your prayers, then confirm that it is correct. Obey His counsel to “study it out in your mind.” Often you will think of a solution. Then seek confirmation that your answer is right. This help can come from prayer and from pondering the scriptures, at times by the intervention of others, or from your own capacity, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

At times the Lord will want you to proceed with trust before you receive a confirming answer. His answer generally comes as packets of help. As each piece is followed in faith, it will unite with others to give you the whole answer. This pattern requires the exercise of faith. While sometimes very hard, it results in significant personal growth (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

I know that true happiness comes from having a lamp that is full of oil.  When our lamps are low, we feel empty.  We feel lonely, discouraged, sad, and dissatisfied.  People roam the world looking for happiness, but all the “fun” things the world has to offer leaves them feeling even more empty than before.  The truth is that the happiest people on earth are those who are living the most like Christ.  The more Christ-like we are, the more forgiving, patient, compassionate, generous, optimistic, not easily offended, resilient, determined, joyous, unselfish, peaceful, loving, and courageous we are.  And how could life not be beautiful if we are all of those things?