In a recent June 2007 Ensign article entitled “Oil in Our Lamps” Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy wrote an excellent commentary on the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 and its connection with our latter-day temple worship and worthiness. As Elder Robbins notes, one way to “liken [these parables] unto us” is to “study them with the temple in mind.” In the parable of the ten virgins Elder Robbins compared the following to the LDS temple:
- The virgins were to “meet the bridegroom” at the bridegroom’s house, which, since the Savior is the Bridegroom (D&C 33:17), is symbolic of our latter-day house of the Lord, or temple.
- As the marriage ceremony takes place in the bridegroom’s house to “teach about qualifying for the kingdom of heaven”, so does the sealing marriage ordinance in the temple today qualify us for entrance into the highest degree of the Lord’s celestial kingdom in heaven.
- The ten virgins represent members of the Church, some wise and some foolish, but all members of the Church.
- Those wise virgins with oil in their lamps were able to enter the bridegroom’s home. Likewise, church members who are worthy of and have a temple recommend are allowed into the temple.
- Constant effort had to be taken to ensure that oil was in the lamps in biblical times, as does our effort today to stay temple worthy.
- The virgins without oil in their lamps were not permitted into the house, as are church members without a temple recommend.
- Olive oil in the lamps is a symbol of purity, as is a temple recommend today a symbol of personal worthiness.
- The foolish virgins could not borrow oil from the lamps of the others. Today, a church member cannot loan a temple recommend to another.
Elder Robbins continues to discuss how the Bridegroom was the keeper of the door at the marriage supper, so is the Lord the literal “keeper of the gate” at the entrance to the celestial kingdom (2 Nephi 9:41), which entrance is also represented in the temple. Robbins notes that the Lord will “symbolically be checking recommends at the door to the kingdom of heaven,” but this checking will also be very literal, as endowed temple members will quickly recognize.
In a different but related parable, another requirement for participation in the marriage supper was the wedding garment. Elder Robbins directs us to Revelations for a description:
The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready … arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)
Elder Robbins equates the wedding garment spoken of in the parable with the temple garment worn today as a “reminder of sacred temple covenants.” He then reminds us that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), but adds Joseph Smith’s translation with the addition of “wherefore all do not have on the wedding garment.” In another place, Joseph taught:
For be assured, brethren, that the day is truly near when the Master of the house will rise up and shut the door, and none but such as have on a wedding garment will be permitted to enjoy a seat at the marriage supper!1
The article concludes that we should consider these comparisons between the scripture parables and our participation in temple worship today, which should motivate us “to desire to be temple worthy.” And I would add, to attend often as well.
One may well ask, since the symbolism and references to the temple seem so clear and extensive, did the Lord have the temple in mind when he gave the parable?
Part 2 will be about the temple imagery in the parable of the talents.Notes:
- “Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, the Divine Redeemer of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 45-56 [↩]