We've all seen that poster -- you know, the one of the cat with eyes bugging out trying not to
strangle, hanging on to that chin-up bar for dear life. Caption: "Hang in There, Baby!"
That's the image many of us get when we hear the phrase, "endure to the end." Hang on,
mustn't let go, a grim face and clutched fingers. At best, we sigh silently and think, "Keep on
keeping on. I'll make it eventually." Must we envision a desperate death grip, a weary trudge, or
an almost impossible ideal? I think we should respond with more hope.
Now, sometimes we are in circumstances where the only survival mode is to grimly hang on. If
you are being buffeted by catastrophe, reeling from disaster, stumbling in pain, then be that cat
for the moment -- for heaven's sake, don't give up and let go! Because the hurricane will
subside, the hurt will begin to heal, and you will be able to feel the help and love your Father in
Heaven is holding out for you and be comforted.
But that grim grip is not meant to be your normal, constant state; it is not the limit of meaning in
"enduring to the end." There's supposed to be joy, remember?
What does it mean to endure to the end? It is very, very important, but what is the Lord talking
about? He's not inviting us to trudge along in the dust until we die. He is inviting us to come
along the full length of the journey, His journey, until we reach our destination -- His light and
glory, His fullness of joy. He doesn't want us to drop out prematurely.
If we endure to the end, then what are we doing? We are continuing faithful, which means we
are faith-filled. Being filled with faith lifts us, brings us in tune, deepens our prayers, and helps
us see the tender mercies of the Lord, and His purposes, no matter what is going on.
If we endure to the end, we are persevering, not giving up when things get harder. We don't say
"forget it" when our kids seem more interested in squabbling than listening in Family Home
Evening, and we understand why we make this the one night they can count on dessert; it's so
you can hold out an incentive for them to shut up and pretend to listen till it's over.
Having been through those years, I can promise that your children are taking in more than you
think, and your words of wisdom will pop out of their mouths to someone else when you least
If we endure to the end, we are serving. We answer our callings and seek to do our prayerful
best. There are all kinds of ways to serve that don't involve formal callings. We can serve by
being the person who slips into the bench with the mother whose husband is away or ill or up on
the stand, and who really appreciates a second warm and loving adult to help out through the
meeting. We can befriend someone who is alone. We can keep track of a member who has
health challenges and be in touch if he is missed.
In other words, we can remember our baptismal covenant according to Alma: to mourn with
those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.
If we are serving, officially and personally, then we are exercising hope in the promises of our
Savior. What happens as we do these things? We are blessed with the Spirit; it's not just that
we get answers, but that our capacities increase. Joseph Smith, as an example, went from the
cry, "O God, where art thou?" in Liberty Jail to the assured statement that, "Deep water is what I
am wont to swim in," with a further-endurance period of two years. When we have successfully
survived enough crises, it's easier to trust that we can survive this latest one too.
Our hearts swell, and heal, as we are strengthened and taught. We grasp things we never
understood before. Fortified by what we have overcome, we gain spiritual ground, and learn
how peace can replace anxiety and fear. We learn how to actually help it happen!
If we continue throughout our lives, which we just have to do one step at a time, we are learning,
serving, climbing, persevering, rejoicing, and growing. Our Father wants us to become like
Him, not just be with Him, and that is how he leads us along in that process. Of course we
stumble -- our promise is that our Savior will help pick us up again, as many times as necessary.
We will never be left alone. The key is: Just don't give up.
If we endure to the end, we are enlarging in heart and spirit, as we comprehend more and more.
Increasingly, we "get it."
Next time you see an admonition in the scriptures to "endure to the end," don't groan -- don't
sigh -- recast it! The calling and opportunity, truly, is to become more than we are now. It is to
be "enlarging to the end," to be blessed, and transformed, to our max.
Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her
father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always
partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family
took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.
The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always
included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions
at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or
poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and
service, were the family currency.
Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the
University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was
graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law
student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother
always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years
later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends,
and her opportunities to serve.