What is Enduring to the End?
Once we have entered into the covenant path that leads to eternal life, what more is there to do? We “must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men;” we must “endure to the end” (2 Nephi 31:20).
“Endure” can carry a negative connotation in our modern language. It sounds tedious, difficult, unbearable, or boring! “The end” sounds a bit ominous, too.
Thankfully several scriptures add the important and clarifying details that we are to endure in faith to the end, and that to “endure” means to “continue” (For examples, see Mosiah 4:6, 30; Alma 5:13; Alma 27:27; Moroni 3:3; 8:3; and Doctrine and Covenants 63:20).
In other words, “enduring to the end” is “to continue in faith.” Enduring to the end isn’t just an exercise in patient suffering, it is a conscientious effort to be a committed, faithful, life-long disciple of Jesus Christ.
Three Hazards to Enduring in Faith
In order to do that, we need to be aware of the hazards that would prevent us from continuing as faithful disciples. To help us in this challenge, Jesus predicted three specific hazards we would face in the latter-days. Each of us have or will face these hazards to some degree or another.
The first hazard is persecution:
then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended (Matthew 24:9-10).
The second hazard is sin:
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12).
The third and final hazard Jesus mentioned is deception:
Take heed that no man deceive you; For many shall come in my name…and shall deceive many….[I]n those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they should deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant (JS-Matthew 1:5-6, 22).
Although we face all three of these hazards to one extent or another at various times, I believe the biggest hazard today is the hazard of deception. My purpose today is to share with you some observations about how we may become deceived and also what we can do to avoid deception.
Holy Ghost Can Help Us Avoid Deception
First and foremost, the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us avoid deception. The Lord has said,
that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do…that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men…. Wherefore, beware lest ye be deceived… (Doctrine and Covenants 46:7-8).
In modern revelation, the Lord interpreted the parable of the ten virgins:
And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide…[shall] not be deceived… ( Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-57).
“Tak[ing] the Holy Spirit for [our] guide” has never been more important than it is now. President Russell M. Nelson said in April 2018 that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost” (Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, General Conference, April 2018). He then gave us a formula for how we can “increase [our] spiritual capacity to receive revelation.” More recently he has reiterated the importance of learning to “Hear him!” (Opening Message, General Conference, April 2020). We should carefully review and heed his prophetic warning and teachings to help us avoid deception.
In addition to the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Lord gave us another helpful key for avoiding deception:
And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he (Joseph Smith) be taken…And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any [other] that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before… (Doctrine and Covenants 43:3, 5-7).
The apparent antecedent to the phrase “as I have told you before” is in the previous revelation:
[I]t shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up the church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church (Doctrine and Covenants 42:11).
If we are to avoid deception, we are commanded by God not to listen to anyone who purports to reveal his doctrine or his will other than the properly called, sustained, and ordained leadership of the church. Nobody talks for God but God and those properly called by Him, sustained by the membership of the church, and regularly ordained by those in authority. In this we should especially “give heed unto all [the prophet’s] words and commandments which he shall give unto [us]…as if from [God’s] own mouth” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5).
God doesn’t give commandments because we are already inclined to keep them. There is no commandment that says ‘thou shalt remember to eat food and take an occasional nap.’ No, God gives us commandments to help us do, or not do, things differently than may be natural to us (cf. Mosiah 3:19). God tells us what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear.
So, why did God command on two separate occasions that we shouldn’t follow the revelations of people who aren’t properly authorized by him? I suspect it is because of the insistence of many Latter-day Saints to continually and foolishly break this commandment.
In fulfillment of ancient prophecy, we live in a time when many seek out “teachers who will…[tell] them only what they are itching to hear” (Contemporary English Version of 2 Timothy 4:3). Some go even further by setting themselves up as authorities when God hasn’t appointed them to be such, taking the name of God in vain. In short, there will be “evil men [and women]…deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
We shouldn’t only listen to the prophetic voice when the prophet tells us what we want to hear.
Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church on that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘As he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me… as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith’ (D&C 21:4-5). There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6)” (Harold B. Lee, Improvement Era, December 1970, p. 126).
As we listen to the authorized servants of the Lord, we will not be deceived. Remember, divine revelation only comes to individuals in regards to their own lives, stewardships, and callings. “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). For example, the Lord will not reveal to the Sunday School president matters that pertain only to the bishop. Nor will He reveal to the bishop what pertains to the stake president, and so forth. We must listen to the right voices to avoid deception.
Does God reveal mysteries to exceptional individuals that are unknown to others and maybe not yet revealed to the entire church? Yes, He does (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:5-10 and Alma 26:22)! However, He only does so on the conditions stated in Alma 12:9:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men…
In other words, God may reveal deep mysteries to you or me, but only with the “strict command” that we keep them to ourselves for our own personal benefit. If he wants something revealed more widely, it will come through His authorized channels.
The point is this—any individual who proclaims that they have special, revealed insight into the mysteries or any individual who tries to supplant the direction given by church authorities are simply deceived or deceiving. At the very least they are violating the “strict command” of the Lord. And, frankly, I don’t think the Lord would reveal great mysteries to someone who would be so foolish as to then go out and try to sell books on the topic or seek subscribers on YouTube. Incidentally, one of the reasons we sometimes don’t get the revelation we seek is because the Lord cannot trust us to keep sacred things sacred.
If we are to continue in faith until the end, we need to learn to better detect spiritual snake-oil dealers, especially in our day when technology gives deceivers direct access to our homes day in and day out. These deceivers come in many varieties, but the most dangerous “come…in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). On one hand some voices loudly clamor that the brethren are old fashioned and out-of-touch. They insist that the church will eventually “get with the times” and embrace modern theories pertaining to sex, gender, or marriage. On the other hand there are some voices whispering that the brethren are becoming too beholden to political correctness and modern sensibilities, or that they are too progressive when it comes to certain policies or practices.
Don’t be fooled—in the end, it isn’t going to matter at all whether you or I have fallen off the covenant path to the left or to the right; the end result is the same; we “[fall] off into forbidden paths and [are] lost;” we have not endured faithfully to the end (1 Nephi 8:28).
Pride Leads to Deception
The particular symptoms of this spiritual disease may vary, but the underlying cause is always the same—personal pride. The one thing all deceivers have in common is that they arrogantly believe they are more enlightened than those whom God has called. They see themselves as always being right while believing their divinely appointed leaders are always liable to be wrong. In short, they don’t have faith in God or his Church—only in themselves.
“Beware of pride,” the Lord has declared (Doctrine and Covenants 38:39). Pride clouds our judgment and greatly diminishes our ability to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Ego and the Holy Ghost cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. We can’t be full of the Holy Ghost while we’re full of ourselves. We must remember the Lord’s command and promise: “Be thou humble, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand…” ( Doctrine and Covenants 112:10).
We know that the devil is a liar “from the beginning” and he, “as a roaring lion,” is out “seeking whom he may devour” (John 8:44 and 1 Peter 5:8). The difficulty for many is they are so proud that they are unwilling to accept that even they could be deceived by his lies. ‘Me? Deceived? The very elect perhaps, but me?’ Pride is the essential ingredient in the devil’s deception dish.
The proud are the most prone to be deceived because they trust in their own ability to detect truth from error instead of continually exercising faith in the sources God has given us. These sources include the living apostles and prophets, the scriptures, other church leaders, and the gift and influence of the Holy Ghost. We should let these sources hold higher sway in our minds and hearts than anything or anyone else, because “whoso treasureth up [Christ’s] word, shall not be deceived” (JS-Matthew 1:37) Incidentally, “feasting upon the word of Christ” is one of the essential actions taken by those who wish to “endure to the end” (2 Nephi 31:20).
Loyalty to Christ and his Servants
To endure in faith, our highest loyalty should be to the Lord Jesus Christ and the direction he gives through his servants. For, as he told his ancient and modern day servants, “He that heareth you heareth me,” “For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me” (Luke 10:16 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:26; cf. Matthew 10:40) Isn’t it curious that one definition of “endure” is “to sustain?”
Although it is true, as taught by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, that “there have been times when…leaders in the church have simply made mistakes,” it is also true that the Lord hasn’t called you or me to sit in judgment of his servants (Come Join With Us, General Conference, October 2013). “God has chosen these men… [He] does not give the authority to judge and condemn to man, only in the regularly constituted councils of the Church; and those who lift their voices and their heels against the authority of the Holy Priesthood, I tell you today, as a servant of God…will go down to hell, unless they repent…” (Quoted by George Q. Cannon biographer Davis Bitton in “George Q. Cannon and the Apostates,” https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2005/george-q-cannon-and-the-apostates)
President Nelson has given us a wonderfully simple and useful example in how to heed prophetic counsel. In 1982, then serving as a regional representative, he taught:
The Lord said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same,”… My experience is that once you stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead, and do it, the blessings just pour.
I never ask myself, “When does the prophet speak as a prophet and when does he not?” My interest has been, “How can I be more like him?” (“Russell M. Nelson: A Study in Obedience,” Ensign, August 1982)
The prophet and president of the church at that time was Spencer W. Kimball, who had this to say on the subject of obedience to the direction the Lord gives through his leaders:
To obey! To hearken! What a difficult requirement! Often we hear: “Nobody can tell me what clothes to wear, what I shall eat or drink. No one can outline my Sabbaths…nor in any way limit my personal freedoms! I do as I please! I give no blind obedience!”
Blind obedience! How little they understand! The Lord said through Joseph Smith: “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire.” When men obey commands of a Creator, it is not blind obedience.
How different is the cowering of a subject to his totalitarian monarch and the dignified, willing obedience one gives to his God. The dictator is ambitious, selfish, and has ulterior motives. God’s every command is righteous, every directive purposeful, and all for the good of the governed. The first may be blind obedience, but the latter is certainly faith obedience.
The patriarch Abraham, sorely tried, obeyed faithfully when commanded by the Lord to offer his son Isaac upon the altar. Blind obedience? No. He knew that God would require nothing of him which was not for his ultimate good. How that good could be accomplished he did not understand….
Is it blind obedience when one regards the sign “High Voltage—Keep Away,” or is it the obedience of faith in the judgment of experts who know the hazard? Is it blind obedience when the air traveler fastens his seat belt as that sign flashes, or is it confidence in the experience and wisdom of those who know more of hazards and dangers?….
Is it then blind obedience when we with our limited vision, elementary knowledge, selfish desires, ulterior motives, and carnal urges, accept and follow the guidance and obey the commands of our loving Father who begot us…?
Blind obedience it might be when no agency exists…but in all of the commands of the Lord given through his servants, there is total agency free of compulsion.
Some remonstrate that agency is lacking where penalties are imposed and condemnations threatened—to be damned for rejecting the gospel seems harsh to some and to take away free agency. This is not true, for the decision is ours—we may accept or reject, comply or ignore…[However,] we cannot avoid the penalties of disobedience to law… (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 59–61).
We are led by revelation. The brethren are not out of touch nor asleep. They’re not too much this or too little that. We can sustain them with all our hearts! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. It isn’t true, but; It isn’t true, except; it isn’t true, if; it’s just true. As we sustain and follow those the Lord has called, we can avoid the alluring deceptive voices that would lead us astray from our desire to endure in faith to the end.
Although we face unusually difficult circumstances with a global pandemic, civil unrest, and divisive politics, the Lord would have us to “be one; [for] if ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27). All of us must stay united, hand-in-hand, on the covenant path following the counsel of our divinely appointed leaders. In the words of President George Q. Cannon:
The devil does not want the will of the Lord done. He does not want the people united. He seeks for division, for contention and for strife. He hates the Latter-day Saints because they act together…. If we would split up and divide, refuse to listen to the counsel of the man of God, then the devil and his followers would rejoice. He tries to persuade the people that it is true independence to divide up and every man go for himself and to refuse to do as the servants of God say. But remember, this is a step towards apostasy. Whenever you see a man disobeying the counsel of the Lord through the Holy Priesthood, you may know that unless he repents he will apostatize. It is a sure sign of apostasy…. [I]f he tries to divide the people and persuades them to disobey the Prophet of God, he will surely fall, unless he repents with all his heart. The Lord asks us to obey Him. He tells us how to do so. He does not ask for blind obedience, because He gives His Holy Spirit to all who ask for it to show them that it is right to obey (Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, pp. 210–11).