Last week our Relief Society had a kick off for the holiday season and presented a "Music and The Spoken Word". Five Parables that Jesus taught were shared which were each followed by a special musical number that correlated with the Parable. It was truly a delightful evening. Very well planned and thought through. I love extra Relief Society Meetings that are spiritual and meaningful.
I was asked to present the Parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25 and speak about how it had helped me through some of my personal trials and in my preparation for the Second Coming. After much thought and prayer I felt impressed to speak about some of my personal trials and how I have realized that casual spiritual preparation in today's world will not be enough to keep us strong and steadfast. All of us need to step it up a notch or two or three. I'm not sure it is exactly what they had in mind, but it is what I felt needed to be said.
Here is a copy of my thoughts.
Nearly 12 years ago my oldest daughter was struggling with some very debilitating health issues, which had been plaguing her for several years. One day I was visiting with a very dear and very wise friend and I was actually whining to her about how I couldn’t believe that Amy could keep her faith and be so optimistic when our prayers in her behalf were never answered. My friend stopped me abruptly and told me that obviously I didn’t understand the Doctrine of the Gospel because my prayers were being answered. She said; “ We weren’t sent here to earth to learn how to walk, it won’t matter if Amy ever walks. We were sent here to Know our Savior, and look at Amy she knows her Savior. Your prayers have been answered, you were just praying for the wrong thing.
That conversation that day has been the catalyst for a quest of mine to truly learn and then instill in my life the Doctrines of the gospel. As I look back at that day now, I realize that like the unprepared virgins, my lamp was only half full. Ironically, I was a fully active participating member of the church, attending all of my meetings, diligently serving in my callings, reading my scriptures and teaching my children at home, and yet I had missed some very important lessons. I had faith, the “Primary” kind of faith. We’ve all heard the stories in primary---Someone loses a cherished object, they kneel and pray and then they find it. Another person is sick, he is blessed and he is miraculously healed. I believed it, I knew the Lord could heal my daughter, but what I was missing was more than just Faith. I needed Faith in Jesus Christ, Faith in His timing, Faith in His ways, and Faith in His plan.
As I began my quest to truly understand the Doctrine of the Gospel, or to fill the top half of my lamp with oil, many opportunities were placed in my path to help me discover these truths.
In our family we have a son who has chosen a different lifestyle, very removed from the values that he has been taught. Through extremely difficult circumstances I have learned the Doctrine of Agency. No matter how much I plead in prayer I have realized that the Lord Cannot and Will not override someone’s agency. I have studied books, articles, and scriptures extensively to know what I can do to help my son return. I wanted “How to’s” –“Do This and Do That’s” but everything I have studied over and over again comes back to the same premise. Turn my concerns over to the Lord and then work on me. Develop my spiritual strength, increase my temple attendance, intensify my own personal worship and then my son will see the Joy that living the gospel brings to me and someday he will have a desire to follow. He has become the reason to fill my lamp with oil.
A few years ago I was called to teach institute. I spent almost every waking moment of the next three years reading, searching, studying scriptures so I could be prepared to lead and discover with these wonderful Young Single Adults the doctrines of the gospel. That is when I realized that no wonder my lamp was only half full when I was just reading the scriptures. I needed to feast in the scriptures to learn the lessons buried deep in them to help me understand the Lord’s plan in our lives.
We are truly living today in enemy territory. A casual living of gospel standards and practices are not going to be enough to keep us worthy of exaltation.
Julie Beck, our past General Relief Society President shares with us
“Never at any time in the world have we needed more faith from the women of God. Without it, we will not be able to navigate in this life. The adversary will pick us off one by one, and we will be drawn off course by the many, many voices that are out there distracting us.”
Julie B Beck, BYU Womens Conference, 2010
The Lord is giving me a second chance to see if I have learned anything since that life changing conversation with my friend 12 years ago. Now my youngest daughter has been struggling with unresolved health issues for the past year. This time I’ve become much more patient with the Lord. I am continuously working on filling my lamp with oil. I’m certainly trying to trust in Him, in His timing and in His plan. I still plead for relief and answers for her, but I also strive to have faith in His love for her and for me.
In closing I would like to share a quote from Elder L Tom Perry
“The Lord has given us a beautiful plan about how we can return to Him, but the completion of our mortal journey requires spiritual fuel. We want to emulate the five wise virgins, who had stored sufficient fuel to accompany the bridegroom when he came. What is required to maintain a sufficient store of spiritual fuel? We must acquire knowledge of God’s eternal plan and our role in it, and then by living righteously, surrendering our will to the will of the Lord, we receive the promised blessings.”
Elder L Tom Perry, 2008 October General Conference
A great verse in the D&C explains one of those promised blessings as we strive to fill our lamp with oil. The Lord is speaking:
…for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.