“Endure” certainly carries a negative connotation in our language. It sounds tedious, difficult, unbearable, or worse, boring! Sometimes it is even associated with suffering. For example, listen to these statements and how easily you could substitute the idea of “suffering” for “enduring.”
‘I endured one hour of the 6th grade band concert.’
‘She endured a 10 surgery on her back and 6 months of recovery.’
‘We endured Thanksgiving dinner with all our relatives.’
‘Mom endured watching “Frozen” for the 43rd time.’
So, does “enduring to the end” mean “suffering to the end?” We have passed through the gate on the path to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our repentance and baptism and then have received the right to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now is our task to just suffer day by day until finally the end comes?
Well, in part.
Suffering is a necessary part of our existence here. Lehi put it this way—“[I]t must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, […] righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither [happiness] nor misery, neither good nor bad… Wherefore, [man] must needs have been created for a thing of naught; […] there would have been no purpose in the end of [his] creation….but behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things… [A]nd men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:11-12, 24-25).
In other words, we have to experience misery and bad things in order to experience and understand happiness and joy. So, yes, we must “suffer” to the end. But we will have joy, too, along the way, and especially in the end.
However, if enduring to the end is just surviving until our last hour of life, then, doesn’t everyone endure to the end? Clearly enduring to the end is more than just suffering along until finally we are released from our mortal calling. It is enduring in faith to the end. Or, as the Lord said to Joseph Smith, ‘endur[ing] it well.” Enduring to the end is, then, much more than just surviving. If the goal was just survival, we could take our cues from cockroaches. Thankfully we don’t have to do that, because enduring to the end is living and walking by faith and in faithfulness.
There are three main hazards to enduring in faith to the end that are mentioned by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24. Each of us have or will face each of these hazards to some degree or another. The first hazard is affliction and persecution—“then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended…” (vs. 9-10). The second is iniquity—“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (v. 12). The third hazard is deception—“[I]n those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they should deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant” (JS-Matthew 1:22).
Everyone is well acquainted with affliction and with iniquity. I think we understand those two issues fairly well and how to combat them. Consequently, I will focus on the Savior’s warning against deception.
In modern revelation, the Lord gave a key to help us avoid deception. “And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he (Joseph Smith) be taken…And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any [other] that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before…” (D&C 43:3, 5-7).
The apparent antecedent to the phrase “as I have told you before” is in the previous revelation in D&C 42:11: “[I]t shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up the church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.”
If we are to avoid deception, we are commanded by God not to listen to anyone or anything who purports to reveal his doctrine or his will other than the properly called, sustained, and ordained priesthood leadership of the church. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. This includes teachers, authors, neighbors, rumors, newspapers, websites, blogs, podcasts, television, scholars, returned missionaries, a friend of a friend, or anyone else. Nobody talks for God but God and those properly called by God, sustained by the church, and ordained by those in authority.
The insistence of many Latter-day Saints to break this commandment is as prevalent and inexplicable as the compulsion of the ancient Israelites to worship idols in the groves and high places. The stupidity required and the results obtained are basically the same.
Many among us, those who most pride themselves on their spiritual maturity or insight, have itching ears and are constantly looking for other channels of spiritual information. Elder Oaks once called these other channels of information ”alternate voices” (See April 1989 General Conference, “Alternate Voices.”).
Does God reveal things to people who are not priesthood leaders? Yes, with regards to their own stewardships. I can receive revelation for myself. Parents can for their children. Auxiliary leaders can for their organizations.
Does God reveal mysteries to exceptional individuals that are unknown to others and maybe not yet revealed to the church? Yes. However, only on the condition stated in Alma 12:9: “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men…”
As an example of this: Lorenzo Snow received a revelation on the nature of God and the eternal potential of man in 1840 just before leaving on a mission to England. However, the concept Lorenzo learned had not yet been revealed by the prophet Joseph Smith to the church. Lorenzo Snow wisely discussed his revelation in private with his mission president, Brigham Young. Brigham Young told him that he believed Lorenzo Snow’s revelation was authentic, but that he ought not to teach it or anything like it unless and/or until “brother Joseph” taught it. A few years later, Joseph Smith revealed the same concepts in his famous King Follett Discourse. Subsequently, Lorenzo Snow spoke frequently of his revelation that “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be.”
Until Joseph Smith revealed this doctrine to the church, Lorenzo Snow didn’t talk about his personal revelation in testimony meeting, he didn’t distribute a pamphlet, write a book, publish a blog post, or go on the local TV station, and he wouldn’t have even if they had those forms of media back then. The point is—any individual who proclaims that they have special insight into the mysteries such as the nature of the Spirit World or the events of the Second Coming and then peddle their “Visions of Glory” or their witness of “The Second Comforter” are either deceivers or they are violating the commandment of the Lord. Frankly, I don’t think the Lord would reveal great mysteries to someone who would be so foolish as to then go out and sell books on the topic.
The saints need to learn to better detect spiritual snake-oil dealers, especially in our day of mass media and information overload. On one hand there are alternate voices that loudly clamor that the brethren are old fashioned and out-of-touch. They insist that the church will eventually “get with the times” and embrace things like same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior or radical feminism. On the other hand there are alternate voices that whisper the brethren are too progressive on whatever their particular pet view is. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much whether you fall off the path to the left or to the right; either way you’ve abandoned the straight and narrow and haven’t endured to the end.
On the Day of Judgment there will be some who will wish to excuse their straying from the path on bad information. Satan is a deceiver. He lies. We can’t place blame on him for our willingness to listen to his lies. We will all be held accountable for allowing ourselves to be deceived and for listening to alternate voices. We have the apostles and prophets, the scriptures, other church leaders, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we don’t hearken unto these voices, we have no one to blame but ourselves. “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (JS-Matthew 1:37).
Satan is a liar “from the beginning.” Of course, it isn’t hard to believe that Satan lies. The difficulty for many is they are so proud that they are unwilling to accept that even they could be deceived. “Me? Deceived? The very elect perhaps, but me? I’m special.” It is these people, of course, that are the most prone to be deceived as they trust in their own ability to detect truth from error instead of turning to the sources God has given us. Some are particularly vulnerable to lies told by scholars, others to lies told by the news or on social media, some are especially vulnerable to lies told by political candidates and parties, and still others seem the most vulnerable to lies told by friends, family and peers. Tragically, who the messenger of Satan’s lies is doesn’t particularly matter. The end result is the same—some of the saints are fooled and don’t endure in faith to the end.
This shouldn’t be a difficult concept for us: The church is true. Not everything is always well in Zion, but the Church is still true. It isn’t anemic; it doesn’t need supplements. The church isn’t true if, and it’s not true but or except. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just true. The old ship Zion isn’t going too slow, and it’s not going too fast. The leaders are not out of touch or asleep. They don’t need help from the passengers in steering the boat. Knowing this is what is means to have a testimony of the restored gospel. Those who proclaim otherwise are simply the deceivers or the deceived. They haven’t endured to the end.
Occasionally there will be scandals. There’s a Judas or a John C. Bennett. There’s a Massacre at Mountain Meadows or a puzzling historical practice or event. As President Uchtdorf said, “[T]here have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.”
Elder Holland once said, “[I]mperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.”
Don’t let the occasional scandal scandalize you.
Of course, there are some truly difficult issues in church doctrine, practice, and history. I do not wish to minimize these difficulties. No one should feel ashamed for having questions or for not fully understanding the will of the Lord. Enduring to the end means we strive to exercise faith even in the face of questions, difficulties, and trials. God expects us to be obedient even when we don’t fully understand. Sometimes when faced with questions we must respond like Adam did to the angel who asked him why he was offering sacrifices: “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6). The hope is that we will one day receive a “witness” “after the trial of [our] faith” (Ether 12:6). Patience is central to faith. And, faith, to be faith, requires some things to be unknown to us.
In conclusion, the keys of the kingdom are here. There fullness of salvation cannot be found elsewhere. May we “feast upon” and “treasure up” the words of Christ and not be deceived.