My dear young people, and those not so young, what a great pleasure it is to be with you. Seeing your faces is an inspiration. As we greeted some of you, I was reminded of young people we have met in different parts of the world. Sometimes the surnames are the same. I remember that while I was president of the Spain Bilbao Mission, there was a missionary whose last name was Bateman; but he pronounced it Batman because that was easier for the Spaniards to pronounce. He was a zone leader; and I don’t know why, but the mission president assigned him a companion named Robbins. It was very interesting for them, preaching the gospel on the streets of northern Spain, saying, “I am Batman and this is my companion, Robbins.”
What a beautiful place this is for those who have not yet found their eternal companions, having many young men and women here who are surely willing to start a family. Although, some of you may be of the opinion expressed by a great-grandfather who said to his great-grandson: “I came to this land (America) in search of freedom. It didn’t do me much good. Your great-grandmother arrived on the next boat.” In my case, I would respond to that comment with, “Long live slavery!” I am so grateful for my bondage to my wife.
On March 5, 2011, my wife and I, our son, Damian, and his wife, Gabriela, and a friend traveled from Salt Lake City to the Manti Utah Temple. One of Damian’s former missionary companions had asked me to perform his sealing. We had a map to show us how to get there. Because of carelessness we did not notice a small sign that indicated a detour on the way. After traveling for approximately an hour, we read the name of a city. Our son looked at the map and, very worried, he told us we had totally gone the wrong way.
Very discouraged, desperate, and ashamed, I told my wife to call the temple president to tell him what had happened and have him assign another sealer to perform the marriage. After my wife had given him my message, President Ed J. Pinegar said the following, “We love you. Don’t worry about the delay. We sustain you, we are with you, and we are going to wait for you.” We arrived at the beautiful, historic Manti Temple and, in spite of the delay we were all able to rejoice in that very special event.
Later, my wife made a very interesting comment. She said that hearing the words of President Pinegar, it was as if she had heard the voice of our Heavenly Father saying: “I love you, I sustain you, I am with you. Don’t give up. Repent and persevere on the path I have shown you. That way, I promise you that we will see each other again in our heavenly home.”
I felt so badly for arriving late, but I thank my Heavenly Father, who inspired President Pinegar to say the words he said to us, especially to me, which caused me to persevere in spite of the difficulties in order to finally reach our objective. Being able to do so not only benefitted our lives but also those of other people.
Some time ago I found a definition of the word persevere that I believe provides a better understanding than that provided by a dictionary. It goes like this: “To persevere means to maintain the ability to endure, to carry on, to continue in the same state without weakening or perishing. It is being able to go on in the face of pain, oppression, discouragement or suffering, without being defeated.”
What a beautiful and accurate definition! José Ingenieros, the Italian-Argentine philosopher and writer, said: “Strong men are like kites: they rise up when the opposing winds are strongest.” Remember that persevering in those things that matter usually requires constant effort. Over time, it will bear the fruits we long to obtain. If our path has no obstacles, our progress will be limited. Success has a price and there is no choice but to pay that price in order to obtain it.
Calvin Coolidge, former president of this country, said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
In the scriptures we have countless examples of perseverance. In the Old Testament we read of Joseph, the son of Jacob, also called Israel. This story is incomprehensible to me because of the attitude of his brothers. They hated him to the point of planning his death, although in the end they were kinder and sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt as a slave. He was purchased by Potifar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, “And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand” (Genesis 39: 6).
Later he was falsely accused of trying to abuse Potifar’s wife and for that he was put in prison for at least three years. He remained captive for thirteen years and did not see his family for 22 years. Joseph’s spiritual greatness was outstanding. After so many trials he would have been justified in giving up and saying, “What is the use of trying to serve God if my reward is only punishment?” But Joseph persevered in his faithfulness to God in spite of the great difficulties of his life. In the end, his perseverance bore wonderful fruits. His service blessed the lives of the Egyptians and the Hebrews and the progress and maturity he achieved were ample compensation for his suffering.
In the New Testament, we read of the Apostle Paul, one-time persecutor of the Christians and later a tireless disciple, he was brave and faithful in preaching the truth. He appeared before kings, bearing his testimony of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ. Sensing beforehand that his end was near, he wrote the following:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Finally, he was taken as a prisoner to Rome where he was executed, probably in the spring of the year 65 AD. What a great example of perseverance even though he knew he would inevitably suffer a martyr’s death. In The Book of Mormon, we are touched by the courage and perseverance of the prophet Abinadi as he testified of the truth even at the cost of his own life. “But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved” (Mosiah 13:9).
The Prophet Joseph Smith is another wonderful example of perseverance. He said: “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith–History 1:25). While in Liberty Jail, and after much suffering, one of his companions asked him: “Joseph, how do we persevere?” His answer was “We trust in God and go on.” He finally sealed his testimony with his own life, as did his brother Hyrum.
These were all imperfect human beings living in a world of realities similar to ours. They were not fictional characters. Their perseverance on the right path is worthy of admiration and gratitude for the great example they gave us. The difference with today’s demands is that we are not required to offer our lives as an example of perseverance. What is asked of us is that we be productive in the things that are pleasing to God—living to serve and persevering in things of eternal value.
We have a five-year-old grandson named Facundo Andres Zivic. He told us about something very interesting that his kindergarten teacher does. When he behaves badly, she gives him a red card. When he behaves “so-so,” she gives him a yellow card. If he behaves well, she gives him a green card. The child has to take these cards home so the parents know how he or she is behaving. When our grandson brings home a red card, he says it is because he plays a lot.
As I was preparing this devotional, my grandson’s experience came to my mind. I asked myself: What card do we deserve in our struggle to persevere in that which is and will be beneficial for us, for our family and for our fellowmen? A red card, a yellow card, or a green card? It would be worthwhile, for each of us, to conduct a self-analysis to find out which card we deserve right now. As we conduct this analysis, remember what Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist, said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
There are many scriptures about perseverance. We can gain very beneficial conclusions from each one of them. I will quote some. For example: “All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:29). What great blessings we will be able to receive if we endure valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ! It does not only mean receiving material possessions, spaces in the universe. We are talking about spiritual possessions, having eternal families, eternal increase, eternal happiness.
In our book of remembrance, we have a photograph that was taken when my wife and I were in Primary. We were all there celebrating Christmas. This photo is very interesting because I am not looking to the front but to the side, right there towards that girl who in the future would be my wife. Even at a young age it would seem that I was interested in her. Looking at that photograph, some thoughts came to my mind. There were children who later left the Church, following paths that were very wrong. Today, one can clearly see the difference between those who persevered in the right path and those who went astray. One can testify of the beautiful fruits that can be obtained by living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is no need to wait until after death to receive the rewards. We can enjoy them as we go through this earthly life, persevering on the right path.
“And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world. And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father” (3 Nephi 27:16-17).
The Lord will hold us guiltless if we persevere in the process of repentance. The sinner who persists in sin, is sinking lower and lower in filthiness until Satan takes him for himself, causing irreparable and irreversible spiritual harm and also physical harm. If any of you have not confessed some serious sin, this is the time to do it. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear…” (2 Timothy 1:7). Face the situation and resolve it in the Lord’s way. King Benjamin explained the marvelous blessings we will receive if we continue faithful to the end. He said the following:
“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41).
Doctrine and Covenants 50:24: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
We have the responsibility of perfecting ourselves day by day. As we do so, our understanding increases, we feel more secure in facing responsibility. Sometimes we think that this progress will never come, but it will come. All that you are studying is of God. He wants us to “teach one another words of wisdom . . . out of the best books . . . seek[ing] learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
I remember the day I began studying in the university. When I would hear students talking about the last courses they had to take in order to become certified public accountants, I looked at them with great reverence and respect. It seemed like a dream that I might be able to achieve that someday: to become a CPA.
Several years before I graduated, I began working as an assistant to the controller of an important shoe company in Argentina. As I saw what the controller had to do, resolving all the accounting issues of the company, preparing the quarterly and general statements to present to the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, I said, “Of course I will keep studying, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to take over the controller’s job.”
At that time it seemed impossible that I would ever be able to take on that responsibility. What did happen was that when I graduated at age 25, they made me controller of the company and, at age 27, I was the administrative manager. I had that job for 11 years, until I retired to start my own accounting practice. The light of God enlightened me until I came to have the necessary capacity to take on those responsibilities. The same exact thing will happen with you. The preparation you are receiving will prepare you to take on challenges that are unthinkable right now.
Throughout your lives, especially when you have to make major decisions, remember the following words from President Kimball:
“… greatness is not always a matter of the scale of one’s life, but of the quality of one’s life. True greatness is not always tied to the scope of our tasks, but to the quality of how we carry out our tasks whatever they are. In that attitude, let us give our time, ourselves, and our talents to the things that really matter now, things which will still matter a thousand years from now” (“A Gift of Gratitude,” Liahona, Dec.1977, 2).
President Boyd K. Packer said: “We want our children and their children to know that the choice of life is not between fame and obscurity, nor is the choice between wealth and poverty. The choice is between good and evil, and that is a very different matter indeed” (“The Choice,” Ensign, Nov. 1980).
Be very careful in your professional lives. Do not have false gods before the Lord. Be wise. Do not let yourselves be carried away by the current of the world. Seek the Lord’s inspiration and guidance to make wise decisions. Let the material things you earn be a blessing and not a curse in your lives and those of your families. How grateful I am that our Savior Jesus Christ endured to the end, fulfilling His mission of atoning for our sins. If He had not done so, our hope of returning to live with our Heavenly Father would be in vain.
He suffered for our sins, pains, depressions, anguish, infirmities, and fears so He knows how to help us, encourage us, comfort us, and give us strength to be able to persevere and obtain that crown that is reserved for those who are not defeated. Today we live our realities. Everyone has his time of trials, of happiness, decisions to make, obstacles to overcome, opportunities to capture. Remember that, as someone said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Generally the Olympic gold medals contain three words in Latin: Citius: faster, Altius: higher, Fortius: stronger. May we be the fastest, the highest, the strongest in order to continually break our own records in our quest to endure to the end. Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. This conviction goes beyond my feelings and human reasoning. It comes from the divine in a special way. The Prophet Joseph Smith was called by God to restore the gospel that Jesus Christ taught. President Thomas S. Monson is the prophet for all mankind.
I leave you a blessing, as Alma said, “…may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon …[your families] according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever” (Alma 7:27). I testify that, as I mentioned in the beginning, our Heavenly Father is constantly telling us, “I love you, I sustain you, I am with you. Do not give up. Repent and persevere in the path I have shown you. That way I promise you that we will see each other again in our heavenly home.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.