ఎండ్ టు ఎండ్
By Terry Patience
Included in the tall tales of America is the story of Paul Bunyan, a big man with some unusual abilities. It was said that he could chop down an entire forest with one swing of his giant axe. Another such tall tale was an incident in Arizona when he accidently made a ditch in the ground by dragging that same axe behind him. We now call that ditch the Grand Canyon. If only we could conquer our life tasks in such an easy and quick manner.
Life seems to be constantly presenting us with new challenges, old repeated challenges, new and old habits, life messages, and a bunch of surprises. Our task is to work through them as best we can and come out closer to God than before. For some people in the world, these situations can cause them to lose sight of the true goal in life. For some, what we would call the true goal in life is never considered. As long as life is good, they continue on a self-projected path.
For those of us in the Church who have accepted a call to follow Christ, who have been baptized, and who have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have been given the challenge to continue on a God-projected path. It is hoped that we can see the vision of the end goal, or at least that we can see the example of Christ, and thus see what we are to become. The Scriptures ask that we endure to the end before we can be presented with the eternal life we seek, or that God seeks for us.
III Nephi 7:10 – “Behold, I am the law, and the light; look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live, for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.”
Mark 13:13 – “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.”
I Nephi 3:87-188 – “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; And if they endure unto the end, they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.”
Doctrine and Covenants 17:6a-e – “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 can not be saved in the kingdom of God…that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength; but there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God. Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptations…”
The teachings found in the above Scriptures indicate that we need to stay the course started at the time of our baptism in order to be a part of God’s Kingdom. They also indicate that we have the potential to not endure to the end and thusly loose our ability to be a part of God’s Kingdom, even if we have been active in the Church, accepted the Atonement of Christ, and participated in the redeeming ordinances provided for us. It should be clarified here that the Kingdom we are referring to is the Eternal Kingdom of God which we call the Celestial Kingdom (1 Corinthians 15: 40-41). A good meditation for us all would be to read over Doctrine and Covenants 76:5d and g where it discusses the qualifications for the Celestial Kingdom and those “who have overcome by faith” the life situations given them and thus they have “received of his fullness, and of his glory.”
If we are asked to endure to the end, what does this mean? What are we to endure? When is the end? How are we to accomplish this? In II Nephi 15:10, we find an answer to how and when: “But, behold, for none of these can I hope, except they shall be reconciled to Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the straight path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.” We are to be reconciled and to endure until the end of our mortal life.
In Hebrew, the idea of “end” means to be complete, full, or perfect. We could then rephrase the thought to mean that we should continue on the path until we are as complete as God would have us to be. So, let us consider that a life that is enduring to the end is a life that is hunting for holiness.
What are we to endure (continue through)? The list might include such things as afflictions, iniquities toward you, deceptions, prosperity, poverty, unrighteous social and political voices, Satan’s persuasions, peer pressure, over-activity in the world’s pleasures, or anything that would be a deterrent from God’s desires for us. Each one of us might be more influenced by one of the above, or all of the above. Some of us might find that some of the above would affect us more than other things on the list, or be affected by something that is not on the list at all. The Scriptures do indicate that we will have trials and that they are a test we are to go through. It should also be said that enduring to the end is more than just going with the flow until life is over. Enduring is not so much a matter of stamina, but of loyalty, growth, and integrity. Repentance and baptism are the gate into which we enter. Enduring is the way we continue on that path.
We can all recall the vision of the straight and narrow path along side of the rod of iron. I Nephi 2:67 reads: “And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” Verses 68 and 69 read: “And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron…until they came forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.”
Those who catch hold to the iron rod and stay on the path will keep their focus upon the tree of life. And not only will they keep hold, but they will continue to grow in faith, knowledge, talents, and much more. They will continue to accept and trust in the Atonement of Christ. They will continue to live a life as modeled by Christ. They will not wax cold. They will continue to listen to the Spirit. They will have charity towards others. They will relinquish the self-will we all have and turn their life over to Christ’s values and plan for us. They will not conform to the world’s standards. They will not put their own agendas ahead of God’s agendas. They will reach the end without breaking.
Because we can’t take a giant swing and get rid of all of the trees that come our way like Paul Bunyan did with his axe, most of us will have to keep chopping away at life’s situations and keep working at the goal we have in sight, the Kingdom. Sometimes our axe will be able to make some big cuts, and sometimes the hardness of the wood will slow our progression down. In either case, we need to keep going. The Kingdom is a worthy goal. We have little idea how wonderful this life could be if we walked closer to our Master. We have little idea of what the full potential of life will be in the Kingdom of God. Stay strong. Keep your grip on the iron rod. Keep your focus on the tree of life. Let us all be careful to not be the person who “walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god…which waxeth old and shall perish…” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:3e) because we do not endure through the hardships and weed out the deterrents that cause us to fall.