The Gospel Doctrine lesson #22 manual objective is “to help class members prepare themselves for the Second Coming through living righteously, developing their talents, and serving others.”
To bring into conversation the three parables found in Matthew 25 for guidance on fully engaging in this mortal experience that we may be exalted.
When the parables found in Matthew 25 (Ten Virgins, Talents, and Sheep and Goats) are brought into conversation with each other a cohesive message emerges detailing how we can achieve exaltation.
Covenant Making: The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13)
In this parable, ten virgins are waiting to join the Bridegroom and his entourage as they escort the Bride to her new home for the wedding ceremony.
Since the virgins don’t know when they will be joining the bridal party, they have followed the custom of bringing a Herodian lamp to light their way in the dark. What distinguishes a virgin as foolish or wise depends on whether or not she brought oil for her lamp.
In this interpretation, the oil represents covenant making and covenant keeping. The saving ordinances of baptism, endowment and sealing can only be performed by mortals thus there is an urgency for us to make these covenants while in the mortal state, otherwise we have to wait for them to be done by proxy. This parable revolves around a marriage, signifying the sealing covenant which is necessary for exaltation.
By engaging in the covenant making we affirm our relationship with the Father. As we attempt to keep those covenants we affirm our relationships with Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. This fills our lamps.
Five of the virgins are identified as foolish because they brought lamps without any oil. None. In an eleventh hour attempt to participate in the wedding festivities, the five foolish virgins leave to purchase oil but when they arrive at the already commenced celebration they are turned away by the bridegroom: “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (v. 12)
There are times in my life when I’ve been foolish – delaying covenant making out of pride, complacency, shame and defiance. Not keeping covenants because I was up to shenanigans when I should have been about my Father’s business.
There are also times when I’ve been wise. When I’ve proven trustworthy to make covenants and striven to keep them and have been blessed with a deepening in my relationship with the Godhead and having deep-in-the-bones peace.
The making and keeping of covenants returns us to the presence of the Father, but is it enough for exaltation?
Engaging: Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30)
In the parable of the Talents three men are given talents. The first two use their talents and are blessed with additional abundance. The third man, buries his talent. When his lord, the benefactor of the talents, asks what became of the talents the third man replies: I know you to be a merciless man. I was afraid, so I buried it. I now return to you what is yours.
The lord rebukes this man calling him wicked and slothful and says that if he believed him to be a merciless man that all would have been better served by engaging in usury.
This is a significant statement because usury was an unethical practice of the time. Usury is the charging of high interest on a loan. In Judaism it was forbidden to make a profit off a kinsman. Therefore in Jewish communities it was illegal to charge each other interest but permissible when having dealings with Gentiles. Nonetheless, it was still considered unethical to charge Gentiles high interest rates.
Essentially, this lord is saying: I would have rather you engaged in unethical, possibly illegal activity, than to have done nothing.
Our mortal existence is the talent of this parable. It is a gift given to each of us that we are expected use – to explore, learn, try, fail, grow. By not fully participating in our lives we are essentially burying them. We are akin to the third man.
I know people who are so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they do nothing. Believing that no action is better than the wrong action. Physics and this parable teach us differently. In physics the most difficult object to move is the sedentary one as it takes the most effort. Whereas a body in motion, will stay in motion. Even if that motion is going the “wrong way.” It takes less effort to change a course than to start.
It’s scary to risk. It’s terrifying to be vulnerable. And yet we are asked to show up and engage anyway.
I believe the third man is called wicked because he returns the talent to his lord exactly as it was entrusted. He did not engage in the act of transformation. The purpose of this mortal existence is not solely to return to the Father, but to return to Him transformed.
Transformation: Sheep & Goats (Matthew 25: 31-44)
Upon the Son of Man’s return the sheep and goats are separated with the sheep being place on His right side (the honorable side).
Transformation is a collaboration between you and the Godhead.
It is a messy, painful, beautiful, exhilarating process. But necessary. This is how we become the “new creature” Paul described to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If we make and keep covenants, actively engage in our lives and are in the process of transformation, the Savior will recognize us as His sheep/the Bridegroom will invite us to participate in the wedding.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
To Be A Vessel, Jamillah Ali-Rashada
I believe that in the scriptures there is the letter of the scripture and then there is the spirit of the scripture. I can perform according to the letter, or I can allow the Spirit to perform through me. When I move out of my way and allow the Spirit to take hold, there is so much of a deeper presence and meaning in what it says for me. I believe that the Spirit teaches me; as I learn the words, I know the Spirit will teach me and give me the guidance to perfect me. I don’t have to be all that, I don’t have to be the smartest, the sharpest, the best of whatever, I just have to be true to myself and the scriptures and honor my covenants, and everything else will be handled. That’s where I live on a daily basis. And I live that way better on some days than others. The scriptures and being a member of the Church have given me a guidance and direction to be just that: To just be a vessel.
The Love of Her Parents, Jamie Pon
Through my parents’ teachings and my friends’ examples, my testimony grew stronger. Maybe I am just an ordinary woman, but I have a great desire to serve. During my mission, I shared with people my testimony of God and the gospel. I also shared my story of having transformed from a rebellious daughter with doubt in the gospel to a woman who now has a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Come, Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord, Mary Ellen Smoot
The Savior taught us the way when He delivered the parable of the 10 virgins, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats during the last week of His life. Using these parables in Matthew 25 as my guide, I’d like to review three lessons that Christ taught. As we listen and obey, we become sisters of light and truth.
An Invitation to Grow, Dawn J. Young
It is expected of us that we will shape our growth so that we will not be like Topsy (in Uncle Tom’s Cabin ) who “just growed,” but rather we will successfully negotiate the bumps and curves by enlarging upon our talents, by disciplining ourselves, so that our mortal experience brings us toward greater and greater mastery of those characteristics which make us worthy of association with the Divine.
A God of Miracles, Sydney S. Reynolds
How have they come to such a point? How do we access the quiet miracle that the Lord works as He transforms us, His children, into worthy heirs of the kingdom of God? I believe it is made possible because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” ( John 3:16 ). I believe it comes as we yield to the enticings of the Spirit, put off the natural man, and are filled with the love of God (see Mosiah 3:19 ). “Through the Atonement of [Jesus] Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” ( A of F 1:3 ). All mankind—that includes me, that includes you—we can each have part in the Atonement, the greatest of all God’s miracles.