Whoa! We just read the Lord's description of the wise virgins. They are those who receive the truth, take the Holy Spirit as their guide, and are not deceived.
So how do you and I become wise as we prepare for the Second Coming? First, we must accept the truth when we hear it. A few years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley told the young women of the Church, "You do not need to drape rings up and down your ears. One modest pair of earrings is sufficient" ("A Prophet's Counsel and Prayer for Youth," Ensign, January 2001, 7). The next day in seminary, some of the young women and young men were upset at what the prophet said. They said earrings just weren't that big of a deal. They refused to obey the prophet of the Lord or accept the truth of his words.
Later in class that day, as I welcomed a sister with long blond hair, I asked her if she had heard President Hinckley's talk. She said she had. I then asked her what she thought of his remarks. Without hesitation she pulled her hair away from her ears. Where she used to wear two pairs of earrings she now only wore one pair. She looked up and asked, "Does that answer your question?" Here was a young woman who had received the truth and obeyed. Other students responded the same way, stating that they didn't realize that's how the prophet felt. They received the truth and obeyed. I wanted to jump up and down and shout for joy at their response, but I controlled myself until I got home.
In addition to receiving the truth, the wise virgins took the Holy Spirit as their guide. Think for a moment what a guide does. If you have ever been river rafting, you know. He takes you down the raging river safely. He knows the dangerous spots that could capsize the raft or trap it in a current. He tells you the rules of river rafting and what to do if problems occur. If you don't listen to his instructions, you could end up getting hurt or jeopardizing someone else. But if you listen and obey, you can have a great experience.
Listening to the Spirit is like listening to a river guide. Listen to the Spirit, and you'll be safe and ready for the Lord to come. Ignore what he says, and you'll be unprepared for that day. But how do you know if you're listening to the Spirit? How do you know if you're taking the Spirit as your guide? To answer those questions, let's explore how the Spirit works. We learn the first great thing about the Holy Ghost from an Old Testament prophet named Elijah.
Elijah was being hunted by a ferocious queen who wanted to kill him. He was terrified and came to the Lord in prayer for help. The Lord then sent him up Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai. On the mountain, "a great and strong wind" arose. The wind was so strong it broke rocks in pieces. Poor Elijah probably had to hold on to a tree as tight as he could. Next, a massive earthquake shook the ground, likely knocking Elijah off his feet. Then came a huge fire. Can you imagine going through those experiences?
The best part came next. The scripture says, "And after the fire a still small voice" (1 Kings 19:11-12). So why did Elijah have to go through the wind, the earthquake, and the fire? Maybe to teach him how quiet and still the Lord's voice can be in comparison to events in our lives that are loud and overbearing.
We learn from Elijah's experience that the Holy Ghost does not usually communicate through loud experiences but rather through quiet experiences that require us to listen carefully. We may miss the Spirit's message if we're not listening or paying attention. If we believe that the Holy Ghost communicates only in loud, overwhelming ways, we may be listening to the wrong voice.
President Howard W. Hunter said, "I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself " (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 184).
Taking the Spirit as our guide means that we are willing to take the time to listen. If our lives are so busy that we don't take time to ponder and pray, we may not hear the Holy Ghost. If we're always listening to loud music or loud television programs or loud movies, how can we hear and understand the still, small voice? Even the Nephites in the Book of Mormon had trouble understanding God's voice to them. On one occasion they had to hear the Father's voice three times before they understood it (3 Nephi 11:3-7).
In the last days Satan will do everything in his power to make things louder and more confusing. He wants to prevent us from listening to the still, small voice. He wants us to be foolish virgins who are not prepared when the Groom comes. Unfortunately, he will succeed in preventing many from following the guide of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking of the ten virgins, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ's Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came" ("Preparation for the Second Coming," Ensign, May 2004, 8).
And how will Satan prevent half of the members of the Church from being prepared? We know that one of his tactics is to make it difficult for us to hear the Holy Ghost. But we must fight back. If we're going to be ready, we must make every effort to prepare ourselves by turning down the music, turning off the television, and tuning in the Spirit. We must spend time not only reading the scriptures but also pondering them. What would have happened if Joseph Smith hadn't been listening when he read James 1:5? He would not have been prepared to pray for an answer.
We must be like Joseph and make time to be close to the Lord and become familiar with his voice. If we do, the Holy Spirit will become our guide as we travel down the river called the "last days"the river that will eventually lead us to the presence of the Lord.
Listen. He may be speaking even now. I promise that if you are still, you will hear him.