Elder Neal A. Maxwell
“If Thou Endure It Well”
BYU Fireside, December 4, 1984.
Thank you so much President. I want to express my appreciation to these wonderful stake presidencies [and] their wives who sit before you as your servants and the bishoprics who serve you likewise, the president of this university, President Holland whom I love and admire so much and likewise for those of you who are in the newly formed technical college stake. You’re well served by the marvelous men and women who preside over you spiritually and ecclesiastically and likewise professionally and I appreciate the lovely music of the choir, all that they have done to prepare for this evening.
Perhaps it’s the ever more rapid passing of time, but I’m developing a much keener interest in and a much deeper appreciation for those crowning qualities which we have come to call “enduring well.” Developing these qualities can be an exciting as well as sobering challenge. I think that it really means brothers and sisters, enduring well to the end but also to the very beginning. Besides, this is the life that long, long ago when in our first estate its prospects were presented to us and over which we shouted for joy. I grant you there may be days here that we may wonder what all the shouting was about. But, we’re here and we’re in the midst of all of these things, which life’s circumstances thrust upon us, but also those circumstances which are the result of a tutoring Father in Heaven who seeth fit to inflict certain things upon us because he loves us.
Can you and I therefore be like a group of ancient American saints who experienced some special stress and strain, they carried some unusual burdens, but the scriptures say they submitted cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord? In any event, we cannot tell the Lord anything about waiting. “How oft would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens . . . but ye would not.” (D&C 43:24, 3Ne 10:5, etc.) The Savior’s capacity, he about whom we have sung tonight, to endure well, was in many ways his crowning quality and his most remarkable capacity especially considering that through which he passed.
Things the Savior Endured – Love is the Key
One of the things he endured, that we think little upon, was his human abuse and human unresponsiveness. The way in which he endured that, makes him utterly unique in terms of those who have resided on this planet. “And the world because of their iniquity shall judge him to be a thing of nought. Wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it, and they smite him, and he suffereth it, yea they spit upon him, and he suffereth it.” 1 Ne 19:9. Why, brothers and sisters? Because of his loving kindness and his long suffering towards the children of men. It was his loving kindness which underwrote his long suffering. And it may well be no different for you and for me. In fact our capacity to love, and our capacity to endure well are inextricably bound together.
Real faith in God therefore includes not only faith in him, but in his timing, one of the things that it is most difficult for us to have faith in. For instance: God could not rush the restoration which required, among other things, adequate political and religious freedom. To have rushed, would have been to have crushed human agency or to have risked failure because of prematurity. Instead, Gods plan of mercy provided, as we know, for those of the dark ages, and then the restoration was accomplished on schedule.
God’s waiting for our readiness continues even now. As history’s final events are subject to his redemptiveness. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2Pet 3:9.
Enduring – in Literature - in Scripture
But back to the development of tonight’s theme: enduring well. You may think it’s simply something for “old people.” It is for all of us. Granted, we think of enduring well as belonging to the years of aging. And we have another remarkable lesson being given to us by President Kimball, who among all the other lessons he has taught to us, now shows us how to endure well to the end, as does his beloved Camilla, as does President Romney. But even so, this is a capacity for all seasons and for all ages of life. We shouldn’t be surprised that as with all Christian virtues endurance has been spoken about both trenchantly and humorously. Shakespeare wrote, “for there never was yet a philosopher who could endure a toothache patiently.” (Much Ado About Nothing) The Frenchman Laroche Luquote said, “we all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others” (Selected Maxims and Reflections, trans. Edward M. Stack, p. 26 (1956), Maxim 19) and William Walsh said, “I can endure my own despair, but not another’s hope.” And Emerson asserted, “some of your hurts you have cured, and the sharpest you still have survived but what torments of grief you endured from evil which never arrived.” Yeats spoke of enduring, “that toil of growing up, that ignominy, that time of distress of boyhood . . . the unfinished man, with all of his pain.”
Much more to the point than these observations about endurance are the key scriptures which I shall try to share with you tonight. Especially these two:
“And now my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.”
“Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father, ye shall have eternal life.”
Hence brothers and sisters we’re not simply to exist to the end, rather we’re to persist in following the example of the son of the living God. Quite a different emphasis than we sometimes think of in connection with enduring.
No wonder then, as a wise man wrote, “there is no disappointment we endure one half so great as that we are to ourselves.” (Philip James Bailey, Sharing the Care.) Especially I think, for Latter-day Saints. Where we have great expectations, and then must endure the difference between what we could be and what we are and to try to make of that some useful “divine discontent” rather than corrosive affliction of the self.
This quality about which we’re speaking therefore is graceful endurance and it includes becoming and growing. It includes, but is not limited to, hanging on for one moment more. It is as has been observed, a circumstance in which “all virtues at the testing point take the form of courage.” (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters) And then after you and I have passed breaking points without breaking, our virtues take the form of endurance. Besides, this life is not lineal it is experiential. It is not really chronological, though we use clocks and calendars and wristwatches. It is essentially experiential. Someone said it well, “we live in deeds, not years, in thoughts, not breaths, in feelings, not figures on a dial and we really should count times, by heart throbs.” (Phillip James Bailey).
There are therefore some salient scriptures I would share with you tonight. Each to be savored in its own evocativeness, each giving us a sense of this great quality of enduring well.
“Blessed is the man who endureth temptation for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”(James 1:12) Paul promised us a way of escape or to help us bear temptation meaning affliction as well as temptation. “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13.
Can you and I therefore endure hatred, misrepresentation and misunderstanding? “And ye shall be hated to all men for my name sake. But he that endureth to the end, shall be saved.” Mark 13:13. In this world, brothers and sisters, try as may, the record is never set fully straight anyway. Misunderstanding and misrepresentation, go with this terrestrial [earthly] territory and we as a people are just beginning to learn that all over again. Moreover, enduring well involves all of life’s seasons, not just one. “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time afterwards when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” Mark 4:17. “and now my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God. For as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments, for blessed is he that endureth to the end.” Alma 38:2. That’s your situation.
Thus the requirement to endure well, isn’t optional. Moreover, it is more than finishing life with a flourish, for aesthetic effect. “And again I would that ye should learn that only he is saved who endureth unto the end.” D&C 53:7. Our bearing capacity is thus to be generalized in our lives, not specialized and certainly not seasonalized.
The quality were focusing on tonight therefore includes intellectual as well as behavioral endurance. “for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” 2 Tim 4:3. Can you and I endure the hard doctrines and the truths as these are applied to our lives? Or will we become like those who could not handle Jesus’ teachings when he began to preach the hard sayings. “From that time, many of his disciples . . . walked no more with him.” John 6:66. The superb sermon on the mount inspired but apparently did not offend anyone. Yet the sermon at Capernaum did offend. In the latter, Jesus spoke of his Divinity and his Lordship (John 6).
Staying Power From the Scriptures
This staying power about which we’re speaking requires strength, and that strength is to be achieved by feasting upon the gospel of Jesus Christ regularly, deeply and perceptively. If you and I go undernourished by the gospel feast which God has generously spread before us, we’re vulnerable, instead of durable. As Paul intriguingly warned, we then become, quote, “wearied and faint in our minds” (Hebrews 12:3) end of quote. Think upon that, brothers and sisters. There are some among us who have become intellectually weary and faint in their minds because they are malnourished, they are not partaking regularly of the fullness of the gospel feast. Instead you and I brothers and sisters should partake from that feast in the spiritual rhythm which Alma described as thanksgiving daily. (Alma 34:38). And when we do that we do what Jesus said, take up the cross, daily (3 Ne 12:30) and then endure in faith on his name, to the end.
We can scarcely hold fast except we hold fast to the word of God. “And I said unto them that . . . whoso would hearken unto the word of God and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish, neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them” 1Ne 15:24.
The promises are magnificent for those who endure well. “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live, for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” 3 Ne 15:9. “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost, and if they endure to the end they shall be lifted up at the last day and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the lamb.” 1 Ne 13:37. “And if you keep my commandments and endure to the end ye shall have eternal life which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” D&C 14:7. “Nevertheless he that endureth in faith and doeth my will the same shall overcome and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguation shall come.” D&C 63:20.
But the sequence is clear isn’t it. Promises are to be realized after performance is actualized. “And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:15. “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:23.
God Tutors Us with Experience
Nor are we to misread God’s tutoring love. For he would not be a loving Father if he ignored our imperfections and we must not forget that he would not be a true Father if he were content with you and me as we now are. And the implications of that are profound. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons. For what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Hebrew 12:7 For all those who will not endure chastening but deny me cannot be sanctified” D&C 101:5. Why is non-endurance a denial of the Lord? Because giving up is a denial of the Lord’s loving capacity to see us through all these things. Giving up, suggests that God is less than he really is. It is a denial of his divine attributes, and also a denial of our own possibilities. We should therefore brothers and sisters see life as being comprised of clusters of soul-stretching experiences. Even when these are overlain by seeming ordinariness or are wrapped in routine.
Some who are very young chronologically can be Methuselah’s as to their maturity in spiritual things. So much of life’s curriculum therefore consists of efforts by the Lord to get and to keep our attention. Ironically, the stimuli he uses are often that which is seen by us as something to endure. Sometimes what we are being asked to endure is his help. Help to draw us away from the cares of the world. Help to draw us away from self-centeredness. Attention-getting help, when the still small voice has been ignored by us. Help in the shaping of our souls. And help to keep the promises we made so long ago to him and to ourselves. Thus there is clearly no immunity from these stimuli. There cannot be. No immunity from afflictions. There cannot be. Whether the afflictions are self-induced as most of them are, or are of the divine tutorial type, it matters not. Either way, the Lord can help us in a most interesting manner. Our afflictions, said Alma can be quote “swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” Alma 31:38.
How Affliction is Healed
Thus afflictions are endured and are overcome by being overwhelmed by joy as the sour notes are lost amid a symphony of salvational sounds. Our afflictions brothers and sisters often will not be extinguished, they will be dwarfed and swallowed up in the joy of Christ. That’s how we overcome, most of the time. It’s not their elimination, but the placing of them in that larger context. Endurance is also the recognition that the very process of being born again is not a one-time-thing. Hence Paul said that he “died daily.” 1 Cor 15:31. Such is the process, of putting off the old self as one becomes a woman or a man of God. Quick change artists are rare. I have not seen many put off the old and put on the new very rapidly. Another thing we must make no mistake about is this. We constitute each others clinical material. We’re in the same laboratory with each other. Agency and all. This means quite frankly that we endure each others immaturities. Which when compounded, produces considerable perplexity and frustration as to what is happening about us, and to us. Therefore there are times when we cannot be sure, and we must give the response Nephi gave when he was perplexed. “I know that God loveth his children, nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” 1 Ne 11:17. There will be times in each of your lives, have been, will be, when that must be the bottom line. You don’t know what’s happening to you or around you but you know that God loves you and to know that for the moment is enough.
Now we’ve got some marvelous models on enduring uncertainty and trusting God. First there were the three young men Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whose response to a persecuting king was, as they were about to thrown into a fiery furnace heated seven times its usual capacity, “If it be so, king, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,” and then the three words, “but if not, be known unto thee O king, that we will not serve thy Gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Dan. 3:17.
I pause here to interpolate this thought. On the beaches of Dunkirk, when 350,000 British soldiers were threatened by annihilation, there were critical hours, and the scriptural literacy of a least the educated class in England was such that in that setting, a signal was sent from the beaches of Dunkirk to British military headquarters, a three word signal, “but if not.” Quoting from Daniel. They didn’t know if they’d be rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk. But it didn’t matter, they would serve their king. And there will be times in each of our lives when our faith must not be conditional upon his rescuing us. Because in fact, he may not, as we would choose to be rescued. Matching those three young men are three young women whose names we do not have. They appear in the book of Abraham. Three remarkable young women about whom I’m anxious to know more. Who were sacrificed upon the alter because they would not bow down and worship an idol of wood and stone. Some day we’ll get to meet them. A third example is that remarkable Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she was confronted with perplexity. This interesting set of words appears. Mary’s response to the angel. She was perplexed about what lay ahead and the birth of the Son of God through her. And Mary said, “behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word, and the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38. “But if not,” be it unto me according to thy word. The most compressed expressions of this capacity to endure about which we’re speaking.
Enduring therefore quite naturally is equated in some respects with holding on or holding fast. And it certainly includes that capacity. To endure for one moment more. Again however, graceful endurance is not just surviving. But surviving as Job did with his integrity intact. This capacity to endure well permits us when required, as the Lord said “ be still and know that I am God” for the Lord God will watch over you. There are moments in our lives when we must be still and know that He is God. And in this silence there can be certitude. There are other times when we may be much like the children of Israel on the edge of a perplexing and demanding experience. In their case they stood at the edge of an intimidating, and probably tempestuous Red Sea. And the Lord said to them, “stand still, and the Lord shall fight for you, hold your peace.” And in each of our lives there will be moments when we must stand still, hold our peace and let the Lord fight our battles for us.
Endurance Patience Faith - Exercise
As you have no doubt thought many times and certainly experienced, all the Christian virtues, including the one we’re talking about tonight are wonderously interdependent and interactive. Surely this is so with regard to endurance and patience. Clearly it is patience which cradles us amid the suffering. Paul who had suffered much, observed realistically in his epistle to the Hebrews the following: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Heb 12:11. Such a spiritual breakthrough as Paul had to be able to write to conceptualize it, to express it, is impossible without endurance.
By the way, it should be obvious to us, that the spiritual scenery that lies over the next ridge in our lives, will never be seen by those who do not press forward on the straight and narrow path. They’ll never see that green valley or the great range of peaks which lie ahead.
Peter, who knew a bit about suffering, was tough-minded intellectually, and marvelously sweet spiritually. He could empathize and he made the test of our patience and our endurance even more sharply defined. “For what glory is it, if when ye are buffeted for your faults ye take it patiently, but if, when ye do well and suffer for it ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” 1Pet 2:20. A precise and demanding delineation we must not forget.
Now my brothers and sisters the Lord has been so forthright with us as to his intentions concerning us while we’re in the mortal second estate this schooling process that we’re in. He is the perfect leader. He has told us what is expected of us, what we may expect. And among those imperial scriptures which spread themselves over all occasions is this one, “nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people, ye he trieth their patience and their faith” Mosiah 23:21. Interesting that those two virtues would be cited among the many. Patience and faith. We soon discover in the quietude of our ponderings and our thinking upon the Lord that he is a tutorial activist God. He is not passive somewhere is space. He is active in the tutoring of each of us. Peter saw that and saw it in such a way that he had long since learned to trust God more than he was able to do on that stormy sea of Galilee. And more than he did on the night that Jesus was arrested and Peter drew his sword and took off part of the ear of the [servant of the] high priest. Later in life he wrote: “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator.” 1Pet 4:19. I hope you’ve noticed the word “exercised” several times. Life does in fact consider and consist of spiritual calisthenics we’d just as soon not go through. But we are exercised in them nevertheless.
So we have been counseled by another imperial scripture: and there will be many times in your life if not all of the time when this scripture is directly relevant and applicable to you and certainly to me. “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion. And he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.” D&C 136:21. There’s nothing passive about that description of the schooling through which we’ll pass. Hence the importance of endurance.
So we’re talking about durable discipleship, not the kind that stays in place for a season and then disappears. In fact it could be said of each one of us here tonight how much we will have to give later on will depend on how much we can take. Learning therefore to endure well, is among many other things, being able to lose face, without losing heart. And that happens to us. We lose face, but must not lose heart. It’s also being able to pass through seeming or real injustice as did Job without as the scriptures say, “charging God foolishly.” Job 1:22.
A friend of mine who passed through a most severe trial, when I discussed it with him, he said simply, if it’s fair, it isn’t a trial. And he passed through it most gracefully. I know a widow of a general authority who waited patiently for over 40 years to rejoin her husband. I doubt she ever murmured. She merely kept quietly going about Heavenly Father’s business doing as Nephi urged, “following the example of the Son of the Living God.”
Being About Our Father’s Business
Granted, these are rigorous spiritual calisthenics. Notice this word again. “I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.” Ecclesiastes 3:10. Another scripture, “they were slothful and forgot to exercise their faith.” Alma 37:41. As you well know by now, this is not a religion of repose. There is an inherent activism in the gospel of Jesus Christ in which God will not be content with us as we now are because he knows what we have the possibilities to become. Actually therefore if one were to press me to say, what does being about our Father’s business consist of, in summational terms, I would say being about our Father’s business is to be about the business of becoming like his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Gethsemene and Calvary
Noteworthy is the fact that Jesus endured well. In fact, perfectly. Hence so much music about him tonight that we might remember him and what he has passed through for us. His spiritual submissiveness was total. For he was submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love and then ultimately, “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Mosiah 3:19.
I pause again to interpolate. Think about it, brothers and sisters. A short number of days before the weight of the atonement fell on him in Gethsemane and Calvary, He was in the courtyard or the interior of the temple and began to feel the weight and spoke out almost as if in dialogue with himself, “Father, take this cup from me” and then to himself, “but for this cause, came I into the world [unto this hour]” (John 12:26-27) and then the voice of God was heard, to reassure him. And then likewise, as the pressure of that enormous weight of the awful arithmetic of atonement fell upon him beginning to intensify in Gethsemane and in Calvary, we find Jesus groaning under the weight thereof, needing to be strengthened by an angel who appeared to strengthen him. That perfect soul untouched by sin, then took upon him all our sins. Even though he was intellectually brilliant, uniquely so, even though he was the creator of other worlds and he knew what he had to do, when the moment came, since he had never passed personally through an atonement himself, it was much much worse than even he with his brilliant mind could possibly have imagined. Hence the great soul cry [My God, my God, why . . . ] and in one of the gospels, only one does he, Jesus, in his pleading to the Father plead that the cup pass from him, but Jesus also said, “Father, all things are possible unto thee” (Mark 14:26) take this cup from me. I do not presume to know what went through his mind. Whether there might have been a moment in which he wondered if there could be some other way, he quoted back to the Father that which he as Jehovah had said to Abraham “is anything to hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). He quoted back that scriptural statement which he had used a number of times in his ministry, that to him that believeth all things are possible. So great was his agony as he felt the weight of the atonement, that he made that special pleading. And then in spiritual submissiveness, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”
It is enormously important that Jesus’ grip on himself is seen as our grip on eternity for in fact it was, on that occasion. Now significantly, being spiritually submissive as he was to perfection has been something he has now laid upon us as his followers, when he said “and what manner of men (and women) ought ye to be and I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne 27:27). Incorporated therefore in our developmental objectives is the acquisition and the further refinement in each of us of that spiritual submissiveness about which we’re speaking. Which requires that we endure to the end.
In fact, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Christian virtues, one of which we’re speaking about tonight spiritual submissiveness and enduring well to the end, are those qualities which will rise with us in the resurrection, and not much else. And to the degree that we have developed them in ourselves in this life we will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130:11).
Enduring Well Allows Us To Carry Virtues to The Next World
We will be able to call upon a porter, endurance, and it is he who will be able to make these qualities portable and we can carry them with his help, beyond the veil. And without endurance, they would simply come apart. It’s the capacity to keep them intact that permits us to take them with us into the next world.
Now I grant you that our spiritual development is to be achieved amid differentially dispensed measures of time. Having been with President Romney today, Elder Oaks and I went to call on him, that marvelous warrior of the Lord that waits upon the will of the Lord. I’m sure he’d be glad to be with his beloved Ida. But he’s willing to wait. So for some, time is like getting caught up in sticky taffy. Especially when they’re very old and they’re unwell, they’d like to be wrenched free of it. But others of us are apt to know what I would call a sudden karate chop of changed circumstances. When much of what we have known is rearranged suddenly. Whichever. Time is relative. “And these things shall be but a small moment.”
Paul said it: “for our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory. 2Cor. 4:17.
Meanwhile, if we do as invited, our load will be lightened. By doing what Peter said: “cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” 1Peter 5:7. We have cast our sins upon Jesus and he bore them. If we will cast our cares upon him, he will lighten our load. Meanwhile its easier for you and for me to endure without resentment if we remember how and why this life is so structured. “For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things, if not righteousness could not be brought to pass.” 2 Ne2:11. Now the Lord will measure our bearing capacity, he says so, he knows we’re children and what we cannot handle. But he will give us all that we can at times. And this opposition, it’s built right into the structure of life includes what I call the stern and demanding isometrics of being pitted against our old selves. It is the sternest competition we shall ever know. And since the Lord uses our old self as his surrogate we must come off conqueror. And it is that stern competition of what we are in the process of becoming which is assaulted and attacked by that which we are that provides this tremendous isometrics in which we’re to pull free, cast off that which is not good which we have been. Hence Paul’s phrase, I die daily.
Churchill – Enduring Being Ignored
This enduring about which we’re speaking also included the in-between periods of life. Winston Churchill called them his “wilderness years.” He was out of the circles of power; his talents went largely unused. Furthermore his accurate and warning voice was raised but went unheeded. He saw what was coming, but his influence was waning. His political career was assumed to be over.
Down underneath the streets of London, they have preserved the war cabinet rooms at which Churchill presided. A dingy underground tiny room, not well lit, has a very crude square table set with the agendum placed at each place as it was in October of 1940. The coalition cabinet met there, that’s where the lamp of liberty burned. Down the hall, it’s filled with pipes. His little bedroom that Churchill slept in. On the wall is a little poster. I don’t know who put the quote up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been Winston. The quote says, “There is no depression in this house. We do not speak of defeat here. It is not a possibility.” It is that kind of pluck and courage that must enable the disciple, each of us, to carry on. And in these in-between periods as well as the periods of great personal drama.
[William Makepeace] Thackeray wrote about these with a special insight when he said, “to endure is greater than to dare ; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained - who can say this is not greatness?”
Though you and I can endure direct assaults, can we endure being abused? Can we endure being underwhelmed? Can we endure being unused and unsung? Unresponded to? The prophet Ether endured a period of time when he preached the gospel from the morning to the going down of the sun. But he went unheeded. As commanded, Mormon even endured the unusual circumstance of being an idle witness. In order that he might thereby manifest certain things to the world.
Whether therefore it is illness, pain, deprivation, being passed over, being ignored, being misunderstood, being underwhelmed, or working one’s way through doubts, trust and faith in our Heavenly Father and in His Son Jesus Christ and in His plan are what it is all about. And we must have faith in his timing as well as in his existence. And it is the sustaining of those qualities about which we’re speaking.
It means likewise brothers and sisters that you and I are willing periodically to get out the hoe and to chop back what I call the crabgrass cares of the world which just keep coming at us, day after day. These cares, along with temptation, persecution and tribulation are the four ways in which if we’re not careful we slacken and then give up.
Thus, again and again we see that while enduring is more than simply waiting, it includes waiting. But that waiting must be used to facilitate our becoming more like Jesus. And therefore we should be anxiously engaged even when it seems to us we’re doing no more than waiting. Thus we can be about our Father’s business even when it seems for the moment that we’re overcome by ordinariness and routine. And so it is also that our enduring is easier if we see it as a part of God’s unfolding. Besides, we were never promised precision in this life. Nor should the gospel be expected to lend itself to glib explanations that cover all circumstances. We endure, when we cannot explain. And it is a silence which bespeaks certitude.
Agency – The Handicapped
With the gift of agency that God gave to mankind, life cannot possibly present a perfectly tidy picture. The ambiguities of circumstances are partly if not largely the cumulative result of our varied use of our moral agency. But also the structure of life itself. But some of you may say well what of those circumstances when individuals appear to be no more than a surviving vegetable. Not able to express themselves, not able to serve. We’re not equipped to answer fully, such a question. But we should never assume that because something is unexplainable by us, that it is unexplainable. Meanwhile we should see such marvelous individuals rightfully as opportunities for service. Even when the one being served may not know.
There are also the flat periods in life which may be those periods when before new lessons come in upon us. The past lessons of life are allowed to seep quietly and deeply into the marrow of our souls. These outwardly flat periods of life when enduring well may not seem to be purposeful are probably the period of time in which quietly attitudinal realignments are occurring within our hearts and within our minds. And this means frankly that an experience must not only be passed through but absorbed into the marrow of the soul. Thus, when we really look at it, it is we, not God who need more time.
Meanwhile, the fact is, that as one might begin for instance to move away from self-centeredness toward compassion and empathy, that slow shift may be hardly perceptible. Trying to watch it would like trying watch the grass grow. But the change occurs. And the quiet periods of life often lend themselves to this sort of alignment. And it can’t be rushed, any more than one can rush through the period of one’s youth. A time when maybe for some of us acne and low self-esteem ought to be gotten rid of and we’d like to have been on to whatever comes next. Of a truth, concerning this life, there is no way to go but through. There is no around. Moreover, it’s walk, do not run.
God Merciful – He Will Wait
Hence the importance of the quality being addressed tonight. It is the love and mercy and justice of God which cause Him to wait for us. Remember the search for a handful of righteous men and women in the societies of Sodom and Gomorrah? If only ten could have been found, the Lord would have spared those societies. I’ve often wondered, who were the ten men and women who would have been able with a little personal reform to have helped make up the critical mass and spared their societies. We don’t know. God waited, but they could not be found. The critical mass was not there.
Yet you will live in a world in which you will see some men and women without faith who will rail at God because they do not understand that human misery, at least much of it, is caused by misused human agency and if God were to take away the agency then those who rail would then rail at him for taking away their agency. These individuals want a smooth flow of blessings in life. But no consequences for misused agency. Leave us to our mud pies and sand castles they say. Do not draw our attention to the distant shore. Let us alone.
In any event, the justice and mercy of God will be seen in their resplendent entirety by each of us on the day of judgment. When we shall see the first, second and third estates in perspective and then as Alma wrote, we will openly and individually acknowledge that the love and justice and mercy of God are perfect. (Mosiah 27:31; 16:1) Because he will have honored our moral agency and he will have been patient enough to allow us to develop.
Conflicts of Agency Can Require Endurance
This poses some real problems for when we pray in the sense that there are times when each of us here would hasten the dawn, but even as we would hasten the dawn, there are others who need to have the Lord hold back the dawn. And out of that kind of complexity we will on that occasion acknowledge that God was perfect in his love, in his mercy and in his justice.
So it is that enduring well to the end or to the very beginning becomes a prime quality. It calls for shoulder squaring, not shoulder shrugging. It calls for realizing the wisdom of that wise man who said to each of us “the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory) And so it is. And that is the structure of life.
Meanwhile too, it helps us to remember that so much of mortality of necessity involves teeth to be brushed, beds to be made, cars to be fixed, diapers to be changed, groceries to be bought and on and on those endless chores go. They are mundane matters. But in the midst of these things is the real business of living. A friendship to be formed. A marriage to be mended. A truth to be driven home. A child to be encouraged. A Christian attribute to be further refined and developed. Meanwhile too, just as well, we should realize that all of us do not die quietly in our sleep at age 85.
We cannot expect to use our faith and prayers all of the time to block all of the exits for all of the people. There must be ways out of this experience as well as a way in. And indeed there must be endings, even for graceful enduring, when enough has been done and when enough has been borne. I love these ways in which the apostle John summed it up so well. Here he said, is the patience of the Saints. Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Rev 14:12.
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
So, tonight as we sang that marvelous hymn together, I know that my redeemer lives. Those words every time we sing them brothers and sisters ought to have special meaning. Reassuring words like, grant me rich supply, hear my souls complaint, comfort me when faint, silence all my fears, calm my troubled heart, and I shall conqueror death. Those lyrics embody a relationship to our marvelous Savior and to his Father in such a way that permit us to know even as our souls are being stretched, why they’re being stretched. And to know that God loves us. But we must once again, endure well. Not fitfully, not slothfully, not resentfully, but in that serenity and spiritual submissiveness, which you and I have seen in people who have passed through the most difficult extremities, who do so because they know that they’re redeemer lives. And that he will comfort them when faint.
Now may God bless you, as that generation of destiny to whom so many challenges and opportunities will be given. To develop within you, along with all the other qualities that at work in you already for men and women so young. That added sense of reverence and respect for that spiritual submissiveness which permits us to endure well to the very beginning. To take one more step when we think we cannot. To make it to the next ridge when we’re sure it’s too far to go. To endure injustice, misrepresentation, and abuse, because we are the servants of him upon whom they spat and he suffered it. Whom they abused in every way they could, and he suffered it. And we must do it for the same reason. Because of our loving kindness and long suffering to our brothers and sisters upon this planet whom we have been sent here to serve. They are that selection of humanity that is ours. We cannot help the 19th century now. But we can effect the 1980s. And you can effect the 1990s and endure to that point when your honorable release will come. And may you then hear, those marvelous words at some point, well done, thou good and faithful servant. And may we, as we now hear the choir sing, “behold tis eventide” have that proper sense that the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. And this is the eventide of contemplation, of the week that lies before us, but the life as well.
I certify to you my brothers and sisters in apostolic authority, this is the Church of Jesus Christ. His work will triumph over all of his enemies, and we are to love his enemies and our enemies, because we’re his and he has shown us how. I certify to you of that triumphal moment when all will be seen to fit together in divine design, the mosaic of the plan of God which eons of times ago, Jesus stepped forward and said, here am I, send me. And with that modest response there was inaugurated the greatest ministry we shall ever know. He is our perfect and true Shepherd. And we are his under shepherds. And we must be as he the perfect Shepherd is, and endure well, to the end. For which I pray for each of us and give my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.