Many of the parables of Jesus use relatable everyday experiences to represent less-obvious spiritual truths. Why do so many people have a hard time accepting the gospel? Because not all seed falls on good ground. Why should we be hopeful even if we’ve made serious mistakes? Think of the father of the prodigal son or the Lord of the Vineyard. They were kind and generous even toward those who arrived at the eleventh hour or who “came to themselves” later than expected.
Near the end of the Savior’s ministry, He began to share a different kind of parable: stories about a king or other leader who holds people to account, punishing them harshly for seemingly small mistakes. Two examples are the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son.
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, a group of young women wait excitedly to participate in a wedding. The event is delayed for hours, and while they wait, apparently with their lamps burning the entire time, they all sleep. Finally, at midnight, the groom arrives, and the feast is about to begin. Five of the women are prepared with extra oil, while the other five have run out. The ones who are ready are admitted to the feast. The others go to buy oil (apparently there were oil shops that stayed open very late), but when they return, they are not allowed into the party. The bridegroom explains his decision to exclude them by saying, “I know you not,” or in Joseph Smith’s revision, “You know me not.” (See Matthew 25:1-13.)
The Parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son has similar characteristics. A wedding feast is delayed, this time because the invited guests fail to arrive. A group of replacement guests is assembled, consisting of anyone who is willing to come “both bad and good” (Matthew 22:10). When the king arrives and surveys the crowd, he notices that one person in attendance is not dressed appropriately: “he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment” (Matthew 22:11). After asking this person to explain his appearance and receiving no answer, the king has him not just thrown out, but bound “hand and foot” and cast “into outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13).
In both of these parables, people are punished harshly for what appear to be minor infractions: dressing inappropriately or running out of supplies. We can all relate to the embarrassment of arriving at an important event unprepared. We all know that sinking feeling when we wish we had taken our preparations more seriously, but it’s now too late. So it stands to reason that the most important event of our lives—returning to the presence of God—requires the most careful preparation.
Unsurprisingly, church leaders have interpreted the oil and the wedding garment as representations of the intangible things we need to acquire in order to prepare to meet God:
- Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught, “Oil fills our souls when we hear and feel the Holy Ghost and act on that divine guidance. Oil pours into our hearts when our choices show we love the Lord and we love what He loves. Oil comes from repenting and seeking the healing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ” (“Hosanna to the Most High God,” General Conference, April 2023).
- Elder David A Bednar explained that the wedding garment represents “converting faith in the Lord Jesus and His divine grace” (“Put On Thy Strength, O Zion,” General Conference, October 2022; see also Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Chapter 5).
A recurring theme in the Book of Mormon is the importance of preparing now for the Final Judgment. Alma emphasized this point to church members in the land of Zarahemla:
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.Alma 5:29-30
I think I might ask Alma’s questions in reverse: Is there anyone among us who is completely stripped of pride and envy? I doubt any of us can make that claim, and if we think we can, we might want to check again. But I think that’s exactly his point. We ought to be meticulous in our preparation. We ought to hold ourselves to a high standard today, because we certainly will when we stand before God. (See Mosiah 3:25, Alma 12:14-15.)
Today, I will prepare. I will fill my soul with oil by seeking and following the guidance of the Holy Ghost. I will put on the wedding garment by exercising faith in Jesus Christ and relying on His grace. I will strive to prepare as conscientiously as I can, knowing that when I actually return to God’s presence, I will want to be as prepared as possible.
What powerful insights! The parable of the wedding feast has so many layers. This scripture helped emphasize to me why it’s so important to live a righteous life to be prepared for the 2nd Coming when we are invited to the feast.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Thanks for the comment, Adam! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I think that passage from Revelation is an excellent addition. Have a great week!
Adam Whitten ^^^