And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
What comes to mind when we hear the word "endure"? What does it really mean to "endure to the end"? This is typically brought up in lessons where we are asked what we are required to do, what it takes to reach the celestial kingdom. We have a list of covenants, actions, and promises including baptism, repentance, temple ordinances, and at the very end of the list is always "endure to the end". After we have done all these things, still we are not done. For we must endure. What does this really mean?
The dictionary defines endure as follows:
1. bear hardship: to experience exertion, pain, or hardship without giving up
2. tolerate disagreeable things: to tolerate or accept somebody or something that is extremely disagreeable
3. survive: to last or survive over a period of time, especially when faced with difficulties
One might also consider "endurance" in their definition:
1. ability to bear prolonged hardship: the ability or power to bear prolonged exertion, pain, or hardship
2. toleration of hardship: toleration of prolonged suffering or hardship
3. persistence over time: the survival or persistence of something despite the ravages of time
Endure is the action. Endurance is the ability to maintain that action. No matter how we look at it, "endure" implies harship, trials, pain, and tough times. Simply put, even as we do all the Lord has asked us to do, life will not be easy. We will be asked to suffer and persist through that suffering. Why would the Lord want us to suffer?
Suffering begets growth. When someone undergoes physical endurance training, they push their body to the limit. An endurance runner trains their body to handle more and more, increasing the distance they are capable of running. A weight lifter slowly increases the weight they can lift, improving their ability to endure that weight. If someone were to attempt to run a marathon with no training or lift three-hundred pounds with no training, they would find themselves broken. Such a person would never be able to reach their "end" goal.
If we are to endure to the END, we must train. As we live our lives, the trials we face naturally increase in difficulty. Are we preparing ourselves to face those difficulties? Are we building our spiritual strength, increasing our spiritual endurance so that we may reach the "end" without breaking? Enduring is so much more than simply waiting. We do not simply do all the Lord has asked us to do and then wait for the end. To endure is to act- to grow, to build, to train, to suffer.
How do we build spiritual endurance? Nephi explains:
And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
2 Nephi 31:16
"Follow the example of Jesus Christ" and you will be able to reach the "end". To do that, we must learn of Him, for if we do not know His example we cannot follow it. The more we study His life, His words, His actions and come to understand the man He was and is, the better we will be able to follow His example.
And so, to endure to the end implies that we must study our scriptures diligently, seek out the Lord in prayer, serve our fellow man, and in other ways pattern our behavior after the Lord.