the importance of constant personal preparation

Jesus, our Redeemer, has given to us for our use in this day a powerful parable to stress the importance of constant personal preparedness. It is known as the parable of the Ten Virgins, a warning to all mankind everywhere.
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
“But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
“But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
“Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
“But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
“Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 25:1–13.)
It can be properly and appropriately concluded that the ten virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ, and not alone the rank and file of the world. The wise and foolish virgins, all of them, had been invited to the wedding supper; they had knowledge of the importance of the occasion. They were not pagans, heathens, or gentiles, nor were they known as corrupt or lost, but rather they were informed people who had the saving, exalting gospel in their possession, but had not made it the center of their lives. They knew the way, but were foolishly unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. All, even the foolish ones, trimmed their lamps at his coming, but their oil was used up. In the most needed moment there was none available to refill their lamps. All had been warned their entire lives.
Today thousands of us are in a similar position. Through lack of patience and confidence, preparation has ceased. Others have lulled themselves to sleep to a complacency with the rationalization that midnight will never come. The responsibility for having oil in our personal lamps is an individual requirement and opportunity. The oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared. The wise were not unkind or selfish when they refused oil to the foolish in the moment of truth. The kind of oil needed by all of us to light up the darkness and illuminate the way is not shareable. The oil could have been purchased at the market in the parable, but in our lives it is accumulated by righteous living, a drop at a time.
How can one share the blessings that come through visiting the sick? How can one share in the blessings that come from assisting the widow or the fatherless? How can one share a personal testimony? How can one share the blessings of conference attendance? How can one share the lesson of obedience learned in living the principle of tithing? Certainly each must accumulate this kind of oil for himself. Let us not procrastinate. Midnight is so far and yet so close to those who have procrastinated. “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure. …” (Hel. 13:38.)
There is an urgency in this day for us to prepare for the coming of the Lord. For you who have heeded the warning and continue in your preparations to accumulate the oil of righteousness in your lamps, great blessings are yours.

Marvin J. Ashton, General Conference, April 1974
http://lds.org/general-conference/1974/04/a-time-of-urgency?lang=eng

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