The parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1 perfectly connects preparedness with spirituality. D&C 45:56-57 clearly defines the characteristics of the five wise virgins: “And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and HAVE TAKEN THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR THEIR GUIDE, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day” (emphasis mine).
The “Oil in Our Lamps” Comes from Taking the Holy Spirit for Our Guide
Only if we take the Holy Spirit as our guide can we hope to avoid deception, be wise, discern and receive truth, and be guided in our quest for spiritual preparedness. The Spirit gives light; the Spirit witnesses of truth and teaches the words of Christ (and also protects us from deception). The goal is to practice until being led by the Spirit is a familiar and beloved daily experience. Only taking the Holy Spirit as guide will place us among the five wise virgins, lamps full of oil, flame burning brightly, prepared to meet the Bridegroom.
How Do I Take the Spirit as Guide? Learning the Process
Beloved late Apostle, L. Tom Perry said, “I believe it is time, and perhaps with some urgency, to review the counsel we have received in dealing with our personal and family preparedness. We want to be found with oil in our lamps sufficient to endure to the end” (“If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, November 1995, p. 35).
I have found it a process, rather than a sudden change, however—a process that requires far more of surrender than white-knuckled will power. And knowing what I need to do doesn’t mean I know HOW to do it.
I knew the importance of spiritual preparedness long before I knew how to go about it. I knew the goal, but could not seem to fully accomplish it. I heard the prophets calling me to fill my lamp with the oil of increased spirituality and closeness to the Spirit. I knew I had to obtain this “oil” for myself. I could not borrow the ability to “take the Holy Spirit as a Guide” from anyone else. The question, “How to take the Spirit as my Guide moment by moment?” puzzled and troubled me for years. I read stacks of books, prayed many prayers, and cried many tears trying to make it real in my life. I yearned to know how to translate all my sincere service and activity in the Church into a sense of sureness and oneness with the Lord. Although I often felt the Spirit, I was more often troubled. I was missing much of the joy.
“Taking the Spirit as my guide” has been my long-term quest, but I keep asking, “Lord, how is it done?” Some of my answers have come from an unlikely source—the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. Years ago I was brought to a study of A. A. literature because of a son’s addiction. I have found in the real-life stories of reformed alcoholics vivid examples of a mighty change of heart. Without exception, those who follow the program and succeed in transcending their addiction do so because they come to realize that their very survival depends on the decision to turn their lives over to a Higher Power—on reaching out to Him, relying on Him, inviting His Spirit into their lives moment by moment.
In one of the A.A. books I read, “Crushed by a self-imposed crisis that we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything, or he was nothing. Arrived at this point, we were squarely confronted with the question of faith. We couldn’t duck the issue” (Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered form Alcoholism, p. 53).
My Spiritual Life Depends on It
How many times have I chosen to “duck the issue”? How much of my life has been ruled by self-will? Alcoholics who attend A.A. learn that their addiction is triggered by unchecked anger, resentment, pride, and other negative emotions. They learn that if they do not consistently take the Spirit as their guide in order to dissolve, transcend and conquer these negative emotions, they will continue to turn to liquor and will die of alcoholism.
Here is the amazing tie-in. I have learned that the bottom line principle for my spiritual preparedness is identical to the principle upon which their physical survival rests. If I do not take the Spirit as my guide on a moment by moment basis—I will die spiritually. I will not be stripped of pride and envy. I will not have a heart full of charity. I will not have the strength to fulfill the other requirements. I will not abide the evil day. I will be hewn down and cast into the fire.
I Must Quit Trying to Run the Show
How do I prepare my heart so I’m open for the Spirit’s guidance? First, I must learn, just as an alcoholic must learn, that a life run on self-will will surely fail. Operating from self-will I am always on a collision course with something or somebody, even though my motives are good. I have to stop being like an actor who wants to run the show. In the A. A. book (Ibid pp 60-61), I need to learn from the example of those who forever try to rearrange the lights and the scenery, and even unwittingly usurp the part of Director by ignorantly presuming they know how the rest of the players should play their roles. Are we sometimes convinced that if others would only do things our way, the show would be great and life would be wonderful?
Let’s examine the dynamics: In the very act of trying to convince others to do life “my way,” (the “right” way) I see myself as virtuous, kind and self-sacrificing, only wanting good for others. But is there not an element of self-seeking in that pattern? How easy it is to become a victim of the Korihor-type delusion that we could surely wrest satisfaction and happiness out of mortal life if we only managed ourselves and others well? In Alma 30:17 Korihor teaches that “Every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength.” Whenever I attempt to “manage” my life without constant reliance on the Spirit, I learn the folly of Korihor’s doctrine.
In my experience, the very root cause of most negative emotions is trying to manage well enough to get what I want instead of surrendering to what God wants (which is to let every one of His children learn from their own mistakes). If I have feelings of anger, resentment, or bitterness it’s usually because others are not reading off MY script. I’m trying to rewrite God’s play and am upset because others don’t prefer my version. I know of no better way to lose the Spirit.
The A.A. literature suggests that whenever a person thinks they could “create a Utopia if the rest of the world would just behave, they are being selfish and self-centered.” They conclude that, “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! Only God makes that possible. . . . We had to have God’s help. This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal, we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom” (Ibid, p. 62).
Taking the Holy Spirit as our Guide is the new and triumphant arch through which we all may pass to freedom. Only by doing so can we become spiritually prepared.
Book of Mormon Keys
Colleen Harrison, author of He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, says, “I learned that focusing on the spiritual life, so exquisitely demonstrated and taught in the Book of Mormon, was the missing link—instead of the external busy-work that had previously comprised my religious life. In Matthew 7:21-23 the Savior spoke of those who had done many good works in His name but had never come to know Him. I realized I was one of them. I had been too busy serving in the Lord’s kingdom to ever become friends with the King. These twelve steps [taught by inspired men in Alcoholics Anonymous] found in abundance in the teachings of the Restored Gospel, have prepared me and led me along a pathway to a sure witness of the reality of Jesus Christ and our Father who sent Him to be my Savior and closest Friend.”
Colleen’s book is a study guide linking these twelve principles with the truths in the Book of Mormon; it continues to open the door to spiritual progress for me. First I read it cover to cover, and my spirit resonated with the message. Here was freedom from false traditions and myths! Here were gospel truths of the Book of Mormon, simplified, organized, and taught with the Spirit in page after page of sweet, humble testimony of the saving power of Christ. I was deeply touched and fed by powerful insights into the application of gospel principles. I took the author’s words to heart: “This isn’t a book you just read or a series of lectures you just listen to. This is a course, a journey, a program. . . . You must be willing to “experiment” upon these words, to act upon these correct principles. This is a spiritual program of action.”
I began to follow the suggested Book of Mormon study assignments. Almost immediately I realized I was being tutored on how to come to Christ, how to repent, how to implement the shining beautiful principles of the gospel, and finally, how to take the Spirit as my Guide consistently, not just now and then.
What Does He Did Deliver Me from Bondage Contain?
Each chapter takes one of the Twelve Steps that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous and “likens” it unto us as Latter-days Saints. Colleen verifies the inspiration of these twelve principles with specific Book of Mormon scriptures and words of the prophets. She shows how these twelve principles unlock the power we have been promised in the Book of Mormon: to get us closer to God than any other book ever written. With the discussion of each principle, He Did Deliver Me provides spiritually provocative assignments, study of related scriptures, and thought-provoking questions. Each chapter, assignment, and study question shimmers with the Spirit. And it’s primary purpose is to help us take the Holy Spirit as our Guide.
Many Problems, One Solution
Taking the Holy Spirit as our guide is the solution for not only addiction, but for every malady or challenge we face in these last days. As we spend time under the divine tutelage of the Book of Mormon, I pray that the Holy Spirit will cleanse our hearts of pride and envy, and fill us with faith, hope, and charity. May our lamps be full of oil!
Taking the Holy Spirit as our guide and retaining it by daily drinking of the pure doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon will fill our lamps with oil. Only when we are spiritually prepared, counted among the wise virgins, will we feel joy and anticipation, rather than dread when we read the following words: “Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (D&C 133:10).