Some time ago, I addressed the parable of the ten virgins. Jim, an excellent commenter, presented some questions about the nature of stewardship and this concept of spiritual lamp oil. I can't promise to answer them the same way I would have then, but in light of a rather surreal and one-sided recent conversation*, I found it interesting when I ran into this old archived topic which I never addressed.

The essence of the topic is this: as we each have sole responsibility for our salvation, worked out entirely between ourselves and our Savior, do we not have a responsibility to invite others to Christ? Can we add oil to another's lamp?

I will be the first to say that this is a huge and complex topic in many ways. I can't even begin to address the entirety of it, as I don't understand it all myself. But what I have learned, I will try to share.

First, I should explain the basics of how I perceive all these things. Understand that I speak entirely from my experiences with the Savior and God the Father, and I don't have time or space to address even all of those.

The Priesthood is something I don't think any of us on earth really understand completely. From my experiences at the temple, my study of Joseph Smith's words on priesthood and faith, scripture, and my own personal life experiences guided by the Spirit, I feel that the Priesthood accesses a power that cannot be used except through divine principles, the most important of whcih is recognition of the value and divinity of each individual one of God's children. The Priesthood cannot compel, only invite. It is not a right, it is a responsibility.

I believe this is true of every iota of divine power. If a power works by any other device, it is not of God. God's power inspires worship, it does not demand it. Any worship we give is for our benefit, not His.

Therefore, any stewardship we are given by God can only be managed by these principles. If we do otherwise, we lose the very power and authority which grants us that stewardship. We are responsible for individuals in a very specific sense. We are responsible to guide, help, invite, entreat. Not to bring, force, compel or control. It is our responsibility to offer, theirs to accept.

In the analogy, I see the oil as spiritual strength. It is the reserve we draw upon to shine our light to the world, to serve the Savior. I don't think we can put oil in another's lamp. We can offer it, we can show them where to get it. But we can't put it there ourselves. We certainly can't generate it.

Christ, on the other hand, is the source for this oil. He is where we go to receive this strength. In a literal sense, we can't even give ourselves strength. All strength comes from Him, and He will give as much as is needed. When we demand strength of ourselves, we are looking in the wrong direction.

This is why we can't help those who will not look to Him for their strength. Perhaps the five foolish virgins, as they found themselves unprepared, should have stayed and waited for the bridegroom, rather than trying to cover their error themselves. Perhaps relying on the Savior and His Atonement in the moment of our weakness is the truest lesson we could learn from this parable.

So why serve others, why help them? What exactly are we supposed to be giving when called to stewardships, if it not oil? If it is only the Savior from whom they can draw strength?

We help them out of love for Him. We continually remind them of the invitation to come to Him.

Any time we love someone, we begin to be interested in the things they like. We want to spend time with them. Now take that feeling and multiply it infinitely. God the Father and our Savior are interested primarily in one thing: our immortality and eternal life.

It's us.

And when we love God, we love what He loves.

Even more than that, when we love whom God loves and serve whom He serves, we come even closer to Him. We feel Him in everything we do. And, we become closer to those He loves. As a parent, I can tell you that I never feel happier than when one of my daughters does something spontaneous and loving for my other daughter. And nothing hurts me more than when they hurt each other. I imagine that God's feelings are similar, only much, much more complete.

Christ wants us to serve each other because He wants us to love each other. He wants us to be connected to each other. Our interdependency with each other links back to our dependency on Him. This is why we can't love Him unless we love our fellow men. We don't love and serve them because we are somehow earning our way to heaven. That is backwards. We love and serve them because we have already felt heaven.

It is difficult to always feel that kind of love in our mortal life, with all its grit. But if we strive for His love, reach out for it, it can always conquer hatred, cut through ignorance, and bless us and everyone around us.

In a very true sense, we become One with God, doing as He does. And that is really what heaven is all about.

* Wherein a man was trying to "explain the priesthood" to me because I expressed the opinion that it would not be a good idea for a home teacher to try to date a single woman within his stewardship because of conflict of interest. But that is a topic for another time.
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