Early in our married life when Sister Nelson and I lived in Minneapolis, we decided to enjoy a free afternoon with our two-year-old daughter. We went to one of Minnesota’s many beautiful lakes and rented a small boat. After rowing far from shore, we stopped to relax and enjoy the tranquil scene. Suddenly, our little toddler lifted one leg out of the boat and started to go overboard, exclaiming, “Time to get out, Daddy!”
Quickly we caught her and explained, “No, dear, it’s not time to get out; we must stay in the boat until it brings us safely back to land.” Only with considerable persuasion did we succeed in convincing her that leaving the boat early would have led to disaster.
Children are prone to do such dangerous things simply because they have not acquired the wisdom their parents have. Similarly, we as children of our Heavenly Father may foolishly want to get “out of the boat” before we arrive at destinations He would like us to reach. The Lord teaches over and over that we are to endure1 to the end.2 This is a dominant theme of the scriptures. One example may serve to represent many passages that convey a similar message:
“Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion … , for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.”3
Blessings bestowed by God are always predicated upon obedience to law.4 Applied to my analogy, we are first to get “on the boat” with Him. Then we are to stay with Him. And if we don’t get “out of the boat” before we should, we shall reach His kingdom, where we will be lifted up to eternal life.
The term “lifted up” relates to a physical law that can be illustrated by a simple demonstration.5 I will use a spool of thread and blow into the axial hole of the spool. The force of my breath will move a piece of tissue paper away from me. Next I will take an ordinary card and a straight pin. I will place the pin through the card. With the pin in the hole of the spool, I will hold the card close to the spool. I will again blow into the hole of the spool. As I blow, I will let go of the card so that it can respond to physical forces. Before I proceed, would you like to predict what will happen? Will I blow the card away from me, or will the card be lifted up toward me? Are you ready? [Elder Nelson demonstrates that blowing down the axial hole of the spool lifts the card up toward the spool.]
Did you notice? As long as I had sufficient breath, the card was lifted up. But when I could endure no longer, the card fell. When my breath gave out, the opposing force of gravity prevailed. If my energy could have endured, the card would have been lifted up indefinitely.6
Energy is always required to provide lift over opposing forces. These same laws apply in our personal lives. Whenever an undertaking is begun, both the energy and the will to endure are essential. The winner of a five-kilometer race is declared at the end of five kilometers, not at one or two. If you board a bus to Boston, you don’t get off at Burlington. If you want to gain an education, you don’t drop out along the way—just as you don’t pay to dine at an elegant restaurant only to walk away after sampling the salad.
Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working. So wrote the poet:
Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place, and praise
Will always come to the one who stays.
Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories, after awhile.7
Sometimes the need to endure comes when facing a physical challenge. Anyone afflicted with a serious illness or with the infirmities of age hopes to be able to endure to the end of such trials.8 Most often, intense physical challenges are accompanied by spiritual challenges as well.
Think of the early pioneers. What if they had not endured the hardships of their westward migration? There would be no sesquicentennial celebration this year. Steadfastly they endured—through persecution,9 expulsion,10 a governmental order of extermination,11 expropriation of property,12 and much more. Their enduring faith in the Lord provided lift for them as it will for you and for me.
The Lord’s ultimate concern is for the salvation and exaltation of each individual soul. What if the Apostle Paul’s conversion had not been enduring? He never would have testified as he did at the end of his ministry: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”13
What if Jesus had wavered in His commitment to do His Father’s will?14 His Atonement would not have been accomplished. The dead would not be resurrected. The blessings of immortality and eternal life would not be.15 But Jesus did endure. During His final hour, Jesus prayed to His Father, saying, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”16
Early in His mortal ministry, Jesus became concerned about the commitment of His followers. He had just fed the 5,000,17 then had taught them the doctrines of the kingdom. But some had murmured, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”18 Even after He had fed them, many lacked the faith to endure with Him. He turned to the Twelve and said, “Will ye also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord … thou hast the words of eternal life.
“And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”19
Peter’s answer defines the real core of commitment. When we know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ, we will want to stay with Him. When we are surely converted, the power to endure is ours.
This power to endure is critical in those two most important relationships we enter into in life. One is marriage; the other is membership in the Lord’s Church. These are also unique in that they are both covenant—not contractual—relationships.
Marriage—especially temple marriage—and family ties involve covenant relationships. They cannot be regarded casually. With divorce rates escalating throughout the world today, it is apparent that many spouses are failing to endure to the end of their commitments to each other. And some temple marriages fail because a husband forgets that his highest and most important priesthood duty is to honor and sustain his wife.20 The best thing that a father can do for his children is to “love their mother.”21
President Gordon B. Hinckley made a statement recently that each Latter-day Saint husband should heed: “Magnify your [wife],” he said, “and in so doing you will magnify your priesthood.”22 To his profound advice we might couple the timeless counsel of Paul, who said, “Let every one of you … love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”23 Enduring love provides enduring lift through life’s trials. An enduring marriage results when both husband and wife regard their union as one of the two most important commitments they will ever make.
The other commitment of everlasting consequence is to the Lord.24 Unfortunately, some souls make a covenant with God—signified by the sacred ordinance of baptism—without a heartfelt commitment to endure with Him. Baptism is an extremely important ordinance. But it is only initiatory. The supreme benefits of membership in the Church can only be realized only through the exalting ordinances of the temple. These blessings qualify us for “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers”25 in the celestial kingdom.
The Lord can readily discern between those with superficial signs of activity and those who are deeply rooted in His Church. This Jesus taught in the parable of the sower. He observed that some “have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.”26
Loyalty to the Lord carries an obligation of loyalty to those called by the Lord to lead His Church. He has empowered that men be ordained to speak in His holy name.27 As they guide His unsinkable boat safely toward the shore of salvation, we would do well to stay on board with them.28 “No waters can swallow the ship where lies / The Master of ocean and earth and skies.”29
Nevertheless, some individuals want to jump “out of the boat” before reaching land. And others, sadly, are persuaded out by companions who insist that they know more about life’s perilous journey than do prophets of the Lord. Problems often arise that are not of your own making. Some of you may innocently find yourselves abandoned by one you trusted. But you will never be forsaken by your Redeemer, who said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say.”30
Without a strong commitment to the Lord, an individual is more prone to have a low level of commitment to a spouse. Weak commitments to eternal covenants lead to losses of eternal consequence. Laments later in life are laced with remorse—as expressed in these lines:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”31
We are speaking of the most important of all blessings. The Lord said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”32
Each of you who really wants to endure to the glorious end that our Heavenly Father has foreseen should firmly establish some personal priorities. With many interests competing for your loyalty, you need to be careful first to stay safely “on the boat.” No one can serve two masters.33 If Satan can get you to love anything—fun, flirtation, fame, or fortune—more than a spouse or the Lord with whom you have made sacred covenants to endure, the adversary begins to triumph. When faced with such temptations, you will find that strength comes from commitments made well in advance. The Lord said, “Settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.”34 He declared through His prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”35
When priorities are proper, the power to endure is increased. And when internalized, those priorities will help keep you from “going overboard.” They will protect you from cheating—in marriage, in the Church, and in life.
If you really want to be like the Lord—more than any thing or anyone else—you will remember that your adoration of Jesus is best shown by your emulation of Him. Then you will not allow any other love to become more important than love for your companion, your family, and your Creator. You will govern yourself not by someone else’s set of rules but by revealed principles of truth.
Your responsibility to endure is uniquely yours. But you are never alone. I testify that the lifting power of the Lord can be yours if you will “come unto Christ” and “be perfected in him.” You will “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” And you will “love God with all your might, mind and strength.”36
The living prophet of the Lord has issued a clarion call: “I invite every one of you,” said President Hinckley, “to stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom. Together we shall stay the course and keep the faith.”37
I pray that each of us may so endure and be lifted up at the last day, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.