Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on enduring challenges and disappointments

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Sometimes the most challenging form of endurance is found in trying to stay with our priorities, commitments, and assignments. How easy it is for some of us to lose our way when the unexpected, and seemingly undeserved, surface in our lives. Greatness is best measured by how well an individual responds to the happenings in life that appear to be totally unfair, unreasonable, and undeserved. Sometimes we are inclined to put up with a situation rather than endure. To endure is to bear up under, to stand firm against, to suffer without yielding, to continue to be, or to exhibit the state or power of lasting.
"Day by day we can make the effort to gain the power to last and to suffer without yielding. Inspiration and motivation are found in many places—from the cases I have cited and from many other examples to be seen on every hand. We can also receive strength from studying the scriptures and praying constantly.
"Friends and loved ones often offer strength and support when our own resolve is weak. In turn, our own strength and capacity will be doubled when we help others endure.
"I pray that God will help us to endure well, with purpose and power. When we so do, the meaningful declaration in 2 Tim. 4:7 will take on a new dimension:
"'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'
"When heartaches, tragedies, disappointments, injury, unusual attention, fame, or excessive prosperity become part of our lives, our challenges and responsibilities will be to endure them well. God will assist us in our quest to conquer, triumph, and continue if we humbly rededicate ourselves to the meaningful declaration 'We have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.' (A of F 1:13.)"
- Marvin J. Ashton, "If Thou Endure It Well," General Conference, October 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to "endure"? Elder Ashton points out that it's easy to maintain our course in life when things are going as planned or expected; but when something happens that seems "undeserved" and we face unexpected challenges, a new form of distraction arises. And that is the interesting context Elder Ashton sets for his definition of greatness:

So the challenge is to continue steady and faithful, come what may in our life. Elder Ashton lists some of the difficulties we might encounter:
  • heartaches
  • tragedies
  • disappointments
  • injury
  • unusual attention
  • fame
  • excessive prosperity

It's interesting to note the difference between the early items in his list, and the later ones. Challenges are not always the sad, painful, overwhelming things that happen; they can also be the unexpected successes and blessings that try us in different ways. Through all of those unexpected things, the disciple's challenge is to "[fight] the good fight" and endure faithfully. Strength to do that comes from building on our spiritual foundation and drawing from the good people we are blessed to find in our path.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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