Enduring to the End: What Does It Mean?
One of the most sacred commandments in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to “endure to the end.” This directive appears explicitly in our canonized Scriptures at least 18 times (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; 1 Nephi 13:37; 1 Nephi 22:31; 2 Nephi 9:24; 2 Nephi 31:15; 2 Nephi 31:20; 2 Nephi 33:9; 3 Nephi 15:9; 3 Nephi 27:6; 3 Nephi 27:16; Alma 5:13; Alma 38:2; Moroni 3:3; Moroni 8:3; D&C 10:69; D&C 14:7; D&C 20:29) and even more if you count indirect references. But do we know exactly what it means to endure to the end?
I think it’s telling that enduring to the end is only referenced twice in the New Testament and many more times in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants. Our concern with enduring to the end has increased in the latter days over time and distance from being able to directly receive the teachings of Jesus Himself. I have always understood enduring to the end to mean two things: (1) continuing to the best of our ability to go on living despite life’s hardships and (2) staying true to our faith and the sincere beliefs that we have despite the trials we’ll experience as a result.
Both New Testament references to enduring to the end seem to address the latter point clearly. In Matthew 10:22, Jesus tells the Apostles after a list of abuses they will endure at the hands of men for their faithful obedience to God: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” “Endureth” is a holy recognition of the sacrifices these disciples are being asked to make in order to further God’s work on Earth. It is not easy to be hated, especially to be hated by those in power who can abuse, torture, and even kill you and your loved ones. But the Scriptures provide us with many examples of those who endured anyway and blessed entire civilizations and peoples through their ministry.
As for the former interpretation, that has always been my personal understanding given the most plain and simple reading of so many Latter-day Scriptures on the subject. I want to emphasize here that we should not blame or judge someone else for attempting suicide, dying by suicide, or pursuing actions designed to shorten their life. The Church instructs us that “a person who [takes their own life] may not be responsible for his or her actions. Only God can fully understand and judge the situation.” Only God knows their circumstances, their mental state, their pain and suffering, their environment, and their heart. Death by suicide is not a failure to endure to the end. Those who say it is are only revealing their own spiritual and medical ignorance.
I would never want my personal belief in enduring to the end to be used as a cudgel against people who are already immensely hurting to call them sinful or wrong. Enduring to the end is a personal matter. The only way I believe this part of the commandment applies to others is that we have a duty to bear up one another’s burdens (Galations 6:2; Mosiah 18:8-9) and do whatever we can do to help others endure instead of becoming yet another part of their life they have to endure.
I learned recently that many understand “enduring to the end” to mean never wavering from full, active membership and participation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ll admit that because I am an adult convert who did not grow up in the Church this definition never occurred to me, but it’s possible it’s what many others have been taught. And there are some Scriptures that seem to carry related meaning, such as Alma 38:2: “…I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end.” The juxtaposition of those two ideas implies that enduring to the end means keeping the commandments. I believe this is a heavier and broader emphasis on obeying than the New Testament verses, which highlighted serving as a witness of the Lord specifically. In line with this interpretation, the Church’s Guide to the Scriptures defines “endure” as “To remain firm in a commitment to be true to the commandments of God despite temptation, opposition, and adversity.”
But other parts of the Latter-day Saint canon do not deviate much from Matthew and Mark. D&C 20:29 reads: “And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.” This strikes me as a more detailed version of the New Testament verses, but it maintains the same spirit of the text. We must endure in faith on the name of Jesus Christ, but it says nothing about adherence to the Word of Wisdom or Temple attendance or tithing or other things that many now associate with enduring to the end.
In Moroni 3:3, ordination includes: “In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest (or if he be a teacher, I ordain you to be a teacher) to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.” Here is yet another addition to our understanding of enduring to the end: by enduring with faith on the name of Jesus Christ to the end, we can access the power of repentance and remission of sins. Because repentance is not a one-time event but a necessarily ongoing process (after all, as imperfect beings we cannot help but continue to sin), it makes perfect sense to me that we must endure in faith to the end so we can repent until the end. Otherwise, we’re not accessing the full power of the Atonement and the blessings that come from continuing spiritual progression.
In my view, enduring to the end is a complex commandment with the space to hold multiple meanings and interpretations. It speaks to ideals such as long-term commitment and a willingness to do the harder right instead of take the easy way out – principles that are fundamentally opposed to the fickle instincts of the natural man. I hope that even as my understanding of what it means to endure to the end evolves during my own spiritual progression that I will continually have the strength and resilience to endure hard things for what I believe. What does enduring to the end mean to you?