Chapter Twenty-Seven: Plenty of Oil

One of my favorite stories is the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable ten women take oil lamps with them as they go to meet the bridegroom. Here's the deal: They don't know when he's coming. That's why they take oil lamps with them. If he comes at night, they'll be ready to follow the marriage procession to the wedding and wedding feast.

Matthew tells us that five of the virgins were wise and five were foolish. What made five of them foolish? Even though they took their lamps with them, they didn't take any oil. The virgins who were wise, on the other hand, took "oil in their vessels with their lamps" (Matthew 25:4).

Well, it got to be late and everyone fell asleep as they were waiting for the groom. At midnight someone started yelling that the groom was finally coming. When the virgins awoke, they realized in the darkness that they had to light their lamps. The five foolish virgins, of course, didn't have any oil, so they did what made sense. They asked the other virgins for some of their oil.

You might think that if the wise virgins had been righteous they would have given some oil to the foolish virgins. But nooooo! They refused to share. Instead, they told their foolish friends to go buy their own oil—even though it was midnight. How selfish!

While the foolish virgins ran off to look for an open store, the groom came. Those who were ready and waiting for him went with him to the marriage. After they arrived, "the door was shut." When the foolish virgins finally arrived with oil in their lamps, they began banging on the door and calling out, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" Then came a voice from inside the door. It was the groom! But instead of opening the door for the foolish five, as they excitedly expected, he told them, "I know you not" (Matthew 25:10-12).

At first it might seem that this story is merely about five forgetful virgins and five selfish virgins. I was always taught to share, and it only seems right that the five prepared virgins share with the others. I'm sure you would have shared your oil, right? But wait a minute! This is not just a story about ten virgins, oil, and a wedding. It's a parable about the Second Coming. The ten virgins represent members of the Church, and the groom represents Christ. In the last verse of the parable, the Lord says, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).

The oil in the parable is our testimonies. The wise virgins couldn't give away their oil when the groom came for the same reason you won't be able to give away your testimony to someone else—or receive a testimony from someone else—when Christ comes again. If you don't have a testimony when Christ comes, there will be no getting one. It will be too late. The door will be shut, and you will not be allowed to enter. In other words, now is the time to develop and strengthen your testimony. Now is the time to put plenty of oil in your lamp so that you can be ready when he comes.

Turns out the five wise virgins weren't selfish after all. They just couldn't give away something that others have to work for on their own. The years you spend reading the scriptures every day, the thousands of prayers you say, the hundreds of Church meetings and seminary classes you attend, the countless hours of service you give, and the mission you serve can't be given to someone who never does those things. Your testimony is yours. You earned it. You can bear it, but you can't give away what has become a part of you through sacrifice and hard work. And neither could the five wise virgins.

So how do we develop testimonies? Drop by drop. You can't fill your lamp all at once. You must work on filling it every day by living the gospel, following the prophet and other Church leaders, serving others, sacrificing, and enduring. It's the small things that fill an oil lamp with oil. We all have different amounts of oil in our lamps. A few examples of testimonies follow. Find out where you are, and determine to improve on what you already have.

One-Drop Testimony: This testimony is based on the testimony of others. You believe because your parents believe. That's not such a bad thing to begin with, but remember that when Christ comes you will need your own. Often people are satisfied with one drop because they don't want to make the effort to change and improve. Change can be difficult, and some are not willing to add more oil to their lamp. They go to Church because they have to, or they go to Young Men or Young Women meetings because there's nothing else to do. Sometimes they don't go at all. One-droppers usually don't serve in the Church unless forced by parents or coerced by leaders. When the Groom comes, one drop will not provide sufficient light to make it through the darkness.

Teaspoon Testimony: Composed of a little more than just one drop, this testimony is based on fun. In other words, if Sunday School is fun and my teacher brings doughnuts, my testimony is good. If my seminary teacher is exciting and has a good sense of humor, then I'll believe. If we go boating, hiking, or skydiving, or take the shuttle to the moon for Young Men and Young Women activities, then the Church must be true. But once things get boring, my faith dwindles and my testimony weakens. If Church isn't fun and there's no one to entertain me, I'm outta here.

Having fun in Church is great, but you can squeeze only so much oil out of being entertained. Teaspoon Testimonies don't last. Those who have them will end up searching for more oil when Christ comes again.

Half-empty, Half-full Testimony: A lot more than a teaspoon, this testimony is based on your positive or negative attitude about life and the Church. If you don't like the bishop because he doesn't say hello every Sunday, your testimony's half-empty. If your bishop caters to your every need, your testimony's half-full. If you feel that everyone loves and accepts you, you're good to go. But once you begin to doubt that you're accepted, there goes your testimony. The frightening thing about this testimony is that it's based on perception—your perception.

This testimony is also based on the direction your family is going. If your mom and dad are active in the Church, so are you. If your parents are inactive and don't read the scriptures or pray, neither do you. If life is not going well and you're stressed out, your testimony becomes stressed out, and you doubt some of your beliefs.

A Half-full, Half-empty Testimony is shaky because life has its ups and downs, and people are inconsistent in how they communicate, feel, and act. You don't want to be a testimony chameleon—changing your testimony with your environment. A half-full or half-empty lamp will only get you halfway to Christ.

Overflowing Testimony: This is the kind of testimony the five wise virgins had. They were prepared, and no one could take away their oil. An Overflowing Testimony is one that is based on the Lord Jesus Christ. It comes by doing what the Lord has asked of you. It comes from prayer and fasting, scripture reading, and regular attendance at Church. It comes through the power of the Holy Ghost, who has born witness to your spirit that Christ lives and that the Church has been restored.

If you have an Overflowing Testimony, you don't need to be forced to do what's right. You just do it. If life is hard and you're experiencing stress, you go to your faith for strength. If your parents aren't doing what's right, you do what's right anyway. If the bishop doesn't say hello, you understand that he's a busy man with a lot to worry about. Your testimony is strong because you know Christ lives and loves you. He is your rock. When you're invited to the wedding and feast, your lamp will be burning brightly.

How's your testimony? If it's weak, I challenge you to strengthen it. I know you can. But keep in mind that you'll have to work for it, and you'll be tested. Don't be discouraged. You can succeed. With patience and faith, you can be ready for the Second Coming.

Remember, you can't fill your lamp all at once. Just one drop at a time is all the Lord requires. Start today, and your lamp will have plenty of oil when Christ comes.

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