Enduring to the End is Kind of Hard

Kacy Faulconer is an author, thinker, blogger and all-around great person. We’re excited to share this guest post from her.

When I was a kid the churchy end-all be-all was getting to the temple. It seemed like the last big thing after getting baptized and doing Personal Progress. Once you went through the temple (covenants made, endowments in place) the only thing left to do was endure to the end. D&C 18:22 puts it like this: “As many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” Easy peasy!

It dawns on me that enduring to the end is kind of hard. It’s not necessarily smooth sailing once you “enter the the strait gate.” Grabbing hold of the iron rod is, I think now, less “you’re all set,” and more “hold on tight!”

The adults I knew best as a child (my mom, my grandparents) were selfless and charitable. They did the right thing. Doing the right thing seemed to come easily to them. I took for granted that if I survived the perils of peer pressure described in seminary videos and never started smoking I’d grow into a nice, good adult.

I see now that doesn’t automatically happen. I see this because I am middle-aged and still not selfless or charitable. I see this because people my age (and OLDER) struggle with faith, fidelity, finances, fear, depression, temptation, doubts, and other unmentionables that make “enduring to the end” kind of a big deal.

The elderly Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet when I was young. He was another example of a benevolent old soul just hanging around and enduring to the end. There was some buzz as he became too incapacitated to speak at conference. My mom explained to me that some critics of the church complained that our leadership was too old. This complaint seems quaint to me now—especially since 74-year-old Dieter Uchtdorf is one of the hottest commodities we have in terms of the LDS milkshake bringing folks to the yard, but at the time it blew me away. Old people are so perfect and kind! They’re like little angels walking around. Of course our prophet would be a really, really, old guy!

I had kind of a patronizing attitude, if you think about it. Anyone who gets to the end or close or even halfway in a manner that could be described as “enduring” is a champion. Ezra Taft Benson was a champion. Perhaps there are some who grow naturally benign, wise, and good as they get older. But I think mostly it is hard-won.

I just read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s about an old guy—An old guy for whom it is not too late to fix his marriage and change his life. The book explains that to outsiders one of the characters looks like a doddering old man, but inside his heart beats as passionately as a teenager’s. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, and all that.

I don’t know what to say about enduring to the end except to appropriate some unhelpful advice Amy Poehler shares about writing in her book Yes Please: “The doing is the thing,” Poehler says. “The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing” (xv). The enduring is the thing.

I guess we can help each other endure by being nice and compassionate. Once after my youngest daughter had started kindergarten I saw my neighbor wrangling her fit-throwing toddler and baby at the grocery store. I was remembering how hard it was to shop with all my young kids on board and feeling glad that I could shop while they were at school now but also feeling like I hoped she didn’t feel stressed out because the situation she was in used to really stress me out and I just kind of wanted to beam goodwill at her. She looked at my kid-free cart and snapped, “Wouldn’t THAT be nice.”

Yeah. It is nice. But the kid-free shopping trips I now enjoy have been a long time (maybe 15 years or so?) coming. She lashed out because she was having a hard time. We all do it. It’s OK. How many times have I been in her position looking at someone else and jealously thinking that they had it made? How many times have I blocked someone’s goodwill with contempt? Lots, probably. Maybe enduring to the end would be easier for me if I stopped doing that. Everyone has their particular struggles. It’s worse when people are mean.

I’m not sure if Facebook is a greater help or hindrance when it comes to enduring to the end, but my friend posted this quote from Marvin J. Ashton on his wall which caught my attention both for addressing some of the reasons people struggle with enduring to the end and for suggesting how to endure to the end with style: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other” (Marvin J. Ashton, April 1992 General Conference).

Enduring is the thing. It’s kind of a big deal.

Comments

  1. “This complaint seems quaint to me now—especially since 74-year-old Dieter Uchtdorf is one of the hottest commodities we have in terms of the LDS milkshake bringing folks to the yard”
    I LOThis complaint seems quaint to me now—especially since 74-year-old Dieter Uchtdorf is one of the hottest commodities we have in terms of the LDS milkshake bringing folks to the yard”
    I LOL’d!!!

  2. And apparently I don’t know how to computer. Woops!

  3. Enduring is what it all comes down to – and it’s hard – you’d think life would prepare you for it better!! Or maybe it can’t really be prepared for. Maybe that’s why it’s called enduring!

  4. I am 76 and am struggling with my body aging, but as you mentioned, my emotions raging. I watch with horror as my 84 year old husband grows really old and I just cannot make myself pretty anymore and I sense non understanding from the younger folks. I was reaching to God in despair and He let me know now was the time to become brave. Hmmm bravery. All right, I am willing.

  5. Terrific post. BCC has been on a roll.

    You touched on this briefly with the grocery shopping – I’ve been thinking a lot about being joyful for others, not just learning to live with my own/others disappointment. I may have to endure an okay life for me, but watch others have a great life. I suppose that is when I would practice charity, but somehow, it’s much harder than when I am in a “higher” position. Jealousy is a fierce beast.

  6. Excellent thoughts. We may look older and older, but inside we are still more or less the same sort of person.

    I remember with chagrin when I was in my 20s and found out that someone’s grandfather (a very faithful and active high priest) drank beer sometimes. I was judgmental about it. The older I get the stupider I feel about that for several reasons (one of which is that people his age weren’t even raised to be as committed to the Word of Wisdom as people in my age group, but also just because I have empathy now as someone who is aging).

    When we are young, we have this idea that so long as we make it to marriage, things will be fairly easy. We think “enduring to the end” is just basically waiting while still being good. We don’t realize that the trials of being a parent to a teen rival and perhaps surpass the trials of being a teen, and that the best years of your life are still always the ones ahead, not some nostalgic past.

  7. Thank you!

  8. Mr Miller says:

    I think enduring to the end is the most difficult task! My mom has a picture in her house of the Savior Jesus Christ suffering in Gethsemane. There is a quote on that picture that says “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it” It never will be easy, but let us not forget we have tools that will help us endure to the end. We have the scriptures, Bible and Book of Mormon to provide us God’s gospel. The gospel will teach us of the God Head. We will learn of God our eternal father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We have to discover who we truly are, and what our divine purpose is in this life. When we understand those things we will be grasped to the rod as told about in Lehi’s dream, found in the Book of Mormon.
    I know by having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and being worthy of the Holy Spirit by repenting of our sins and by keeping his commandments it will allow us to endure to the end. Be as Paul of old and fight the good fight knowing you are on the Lords side for “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24” Last of all remember prayer. Our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ love you. Remember the Savior suffered every pain, every temptation and every trial. You would not be able to say to him…You don’t know what I am going through. He does know what you’re going through and he is the best one to turn too because he will know how to help you.

  9. I appreciate this. I work in a temple with a lot of old people. The longer I’m there, the more I appreciate them and what they’ve been through and continue to go through. We have a 93 year old who joined the church 6 years ago. We have a 90 year old who just got back from a mission a few years ago. I got home the other night. I work with a man who’s on his third wife and was excommunicated some time ago. He says he’s finally able to read the scriptures and feel like he’s getting it (at age 70 something).

  10. Thanks for quoting Elder Ashton. It seems he’s slipped somewhat from the collective memory, which is too bad, because he was good and wise.

  11. Clark Goble says:

    Elder Ashton has long been one of my favorite Apostles. Gave some fantastic talks – especially in places like Stake Conferences.

  12. This is a beautiful post – thank you! It is reminiscent of a talk by Pres. Monson from 1972 called Finishers Wanted: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/04/finishers-wanted?lang=eng