Viewpoint: Persist in Righteousness

Contributed By From the Church News

  • 8 February 2014

The account of Noah is a timeless chronicle of persistence fueled by faith, prayer, and an unshakable desire to do God’s will.

Article Highlights

  • Despite living amongst such pervasive evil and darkness, Noah persisted in his devotion to God.
  • We can enjoy temporal and eternal rewards when we strive to do the right thing despite obstacles.
  • Our Savior’s unwavering persistence in doing the right thing can inspire us in our own day-to-day lives.

At its core, the story of Noah is not really the account of an ark or a menagerie of animals or even a cleansing flood. Rather, it’s a timeless chronicle of persistence—a persistence fueled by faith, prayer, and an unshakable desire to do God’s will.

Noah lived in a time that “was corrupt before God” and “filled with violence.”

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

But despite living amongst such pervasive evil and darkness, Noah persisted in his devotion to God. He found grace in the eyes of his Creator.

God told Noah He would destroy the earth and commanded him to build an ark of gopher wood. He gave Noah specific instructions on constructing the vessel. He then implored him to collect “two of every sort” of living thing “to keep them alive” (Genesis 6:19).

Such commandments placed a heavy burden on the aged Noah. He and his small family formed a pitifully small work force. And the peculiar task of building a massive ark and gathering animals surely invited the scorn and derision of their wicked neighbors.

But Noah persisted and “did according unto all that the Lord commanded him” (Genesis 7:5).

His persistence would be rewarded. The prophesied floods arrived and destroyed “every living substance.” But Noah and his followers—men, women, and beasts—survived. They were given a new opportunity to improve their world.

Noah was blessed because of his unshakable persistence. And so it can be with us. We too can enjoy temporal and eternal rewards when we strive, day in and day out, to do the right thing despite the obstacles that might impede our paths.

History is rich with tenacious men and women who found success only after a long and often painful season of persistence.

Helen Keller became a celebrated author, lecturer, and political activist despite being deaf and blind since childhood. Thomas Edison performed thousands of failed experiments before finally inventing the incandescent light bulb. And Abraham Lincoln lost several elections, failed in business, and endured a mental breakdown before becoming one of the greatest presidents in United States history.

Heber J. Grant also lived a life defined by personal persistence. In boxing parlance, the Church’s seventh President regularly punched above his weight. His persistence was fed by a belief that anyone “can improve from day to day, from year to year, and have greater capacity to do things as the years come and the years go” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant [2002], 33).

As a boy, he discovered a love for baseball. His affection for the sport was not always reciprocated. He was initially a scrub on his baseball club and relegated to the third string.

“One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to the other; another reason was that I lacked physical strength to run or bat well,” he wrote years later. “When I picked up a ball, the boys would generally shout, ‘Throw it here, sissy!’”

Despite the cruel taunts, young Heber persisted. He would not be swayed in his determination to be a quality ballplayer. “I solemnly vowed that I would play base ball in the nine that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.”

His lofty goals were realized only after daily toil. He shined boots to earn the money to buy a baseball and then spent hour after hour throwing the ball against the side of a neighbor’s barn. Often his arm would ache so much that he had trouble sleeping, but he persisted.

Finally he was promoted to his club’s second nine. “Subsequently I joined a better club, and eventually played in the nine that won the championship of the Territory.” (See Teachings: Heber J. Grant, 33-34.)

President Grant’s baseball success taught him a lesson that transcended the ball diamond: the satisfaction in fulfilling a promise made to himself. That “fulfilling,” he understood, was the fruit of his persistence.

President Grant enjoyed quoting the enlightening statement often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased” (Teachings: Heber J. Grant, 35).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also learned the value of persistence as a boy. At age 11, young Dieter was required to study English at his school in West Germany. It seemed an impossible task.

“I thought my mouth was not made for speaking English,” he recalled in his October 2006 general conference address. “My teachers struggled. My parents suffered. And I knew English was definitely not my language.”

Then something changed in his life. He discovered aviation. His greatest desire was to become a pilot. He imagined himself in the cockpit of an airliner or a fighter jet.

“Then I learned that to become a pilot I needed to speak English. Overnight, to the total surprise of everybody, it appeared as if my mouth had changed. I was able to learn English. It still took a lot of work, persistence, and patience, but I was able to learn English!”

“Why?” he asked. “Because of a righteous and strong motive!” (“The Power of a Personal Testimony”).

Jesus Christ could aptly be called the Great Persister. The Lord’s mortal life was guided, moment to moment, by a persistent, righteous, and strong motive: to follow the will of His Father and to fulfill His sacred and singular mission of salvation.

The Atonement remains our supreme example of divine persistence. Our Savior’s unwavering persistence in doing the right thing can inspire us in our own day-to-day lives.