When President James E. Faust spoke in the Priesthood Session of April General Conference in 2005, he prepared a special message to counsel the men and boys of the church. And while there was a long list of things he could have spoken about, the topic he chose to discuss that day was perseverance.
Some might say it was an unusual subject for a general conference address. But as we read the scriptures and study the lives of the prophets, we find that perseverance is a common theme among those who are closest to the Lord. It is an eternal principle – one which is vital to our temporal and physical success.
“Perseverance is demonstrated by those who keep going when the going gets tough, who don’t give up even when others say, ‘It can’t be done,’” said President Faust. (See https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/04/perseverance)
There are few examples in the scriptures that illustrate perseverance more vividly than that of Nephi, son of Lehi. We see his willingness to return to Jerusalem not once, not twice but three times in order to secure the brass plates, braving the scepticism of Laman and Lemuel, his older siblings, and the life-threating wrath of Laban, who was the keeper of the records. We see his willingness to persevere in the wilderness as his struggling family grows tired and despondent, and even his faithful father begins to complain. We see him carry out the seemingly impossible task of building a ship, with no instruction manual other than the whisperings of the Spirit. And we see the fruits of his labour: that he became “highly favoured of the Lord”, and a mighty leader and prophet in his community.
Following in Nephi’s example, “perseverance” has also been identified by the church as one of the 12 principles of self-reliance.
Realeboha Lesia, a young single adult from Bloemfontein, South Africa, has recently implemented this principle in her own life. While working a full-time job to support herself, she also started her own business or “side hustle” as she refers to it, in which she hopes to one day replace her income by following her creative interests and passions.
“Coming back home after work, I would be so tired, having worked all day in my job and then working after hours to get my business going,” she said. It meant pushing through fatigue and fighting the desire just to take one night off. It also meant sacrificing some things she enjoyed: “It often meant not going out and doing fun things,” said Rea. “I was staying at home, doing research and meeting people to find out how they started their business and how they made things work.”
For Rea, part of perseverance has meant being flexible and realising that plans and reality often don’t coincide. It’s “seeing that with time, plans change,” she said. But contrary to what we might expect, this change is often for the better. And with every effort, she finds that the process itself helps her progress. “You learn things, you make contacts, you meet mentors, and learn better ways of doing things,” said Rea.
It’s an example of a ‘growth mindset’, something which lds.orghighlights as a critical factor for developing perseverance: “When we think of ourselves as lifelong learners and accept that our abilities will grow with our consistent efforts, we are in the proper frame of mind to take on challenges,” says the website, citing a study called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance, conducted by the US Department of Education. (See https://www.lds.org/topics/pef-self-reliance/live/persevere)
Rea has found that positive self-talk is extremely important too. “How you speak to yourself is vital,” she said. “You must be careful what you say to yourself, because you are always listening. Tell yourself if you’re positive, it will happen.”
In order to stay motivated and keep going, Rea has identified unofficial mentors. “I chose people who are in the creative sector, I told them this is what I want to do and asked them for their insights.” On a tough day or when things don’t go as planned, she calls a friend and shares her frustrations. Afterwards she finds renewed energy and focus. She also relies on the example of others, such as someone who also started his own business and battled through a tough period before experiencing some success.
“When things were going badly, I saw him keeping on going, he didn’t give up and say let me quit and start on a 9 to 5 job or start another project,” said Rea. “I have these people that can advise me and listen to me.”
But most importantly, she’s seeking direction and support from God. “Besides talking to these mentors, I’m also talking to my Heavenly Father,” she said. “Always remembering that I’m not alone, and it would be far better to let Heavenly Father be my partner in my goals.”