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?

Nicole

Nicole is an adult convert, a mixed-race woman, and a professional diplomat. She blogs at nandm.sbitani.com and writes microfiction @nsbitani on Twitter. The content of this post does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or any other U.S. Government agency, department, or entity. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way should be associated with the U.S. Government.

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13 Responses

  1. Cassandra says:

    I endured to the end of strong belief and faith until I found there was no more basis for that belief and faith. What I now find more important is enduring to the end on behalf and in defense of those that are in any way oppressed by those who would endure to the end on the basis of any sort of belief or faith in any system that discriminates against people based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, country of origin, cultural background, physical ability, spiritual background, educational background, and so on. I believe that is what Jesus would have me do.

  2. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    I appreciate your thoughts here. I think at times “endure to the end” has seemed to be a phrase used for the church to tap out of encouraging continued spiritual formation for adults–that all that is needed is enduring, not continued growth, learning, and new understanding. But I don’t think it has to be used that way. I like the idea that enduring in faith means continuing to access the atonement.

    • Miriam says:

      When I learned Spanish, I was happy to note that the translation used in the scriptures for endure is “perseverar” which sounds a lot like persevering. It seems to give me a much more optimistic feeling than merely trying to “endure” at this tapped out state of spiritual progression.

    • nicolesbitani says:

      So true!

  3. Anna says:

    I decided to stop enduring a church that caused me to doubt my worth to God. So, I put enduring in faith to a loving God as more important than enduring in faith to Mormon covenants.

    • nicolesbitani says:

      Enduring in faith to a loving God is always more important than enduring to an institution. I hope your path is bringing you peace and joy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Although not the thesis of your post, please refrain from using the phrase “committed suicide”. Death by suicide is a more appropriate phrase. Additionally equating death by suicide to an inability to endure to the end is insulting to both those contemplating death by suicide, and families and friends who have direct experience with death by suicide. It’s not about that.

    • Nicole says:

      Thank you for your comment. I am a family member affected by suicide but did not realize I was using problematic and outdated language. I updated my post to say “death by suicide” and will do better going forward. I passionately agree that equating death by suicide to an inability to endure to the end is insulting, ignorant, and terrible. That is what I was trying to convey in my post, but I apologize if it came across as the opposite. I added a line that hopefully makes that more clear.

  5. I do wish we could emphasize more the “eternal progression” rather than “enduring to the end”. Enduring seems like a chore, a deadman switch you must keep pressed or you fail. Much prefer to see it as “retain hope”. Feels more an aspiration.

    Bad enough we keep concentrating on requirements for the next life (Ce/Ter/Tel) rather than simpler requirements for this one (faith in god, hope in christ, charity/love for others)

    • Nicole says:

      Your comment reminds me of a debate I saw online recently over whether “We can do hard things” was an empowering thing to teach one’s children or not. I guess as a convert I’ve always liked both aspects: eternal progression and enduring. A lot of things in my life haven’t always felt like progression but were experiences or seasons I needed to endure or survive to make it to the next stage where I could find the energy and hope to focus on progression again. Although it resonates with me, comments like yours help me understand why it doesn’t resonate with everyone. I’m going to be thinking about your deadman switch analogy for a while…

  6. Serena Kanig Benish says:

    Matthew 24:13 is that Scripture used in “Elijah” by Mendelssohn in one of the most beautiful settings of those comforting words – an SATB chorale. He that shall endure to the end shall be saved. I have used this chorale at the end of reading of one of the Passions on Palm Sunday. It seems to me to be the one hope to grasp after reading the utter sadness at the end of the Passions.

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