The Book of Mormon has been fully translated into 90 languages, and sections of it have been translated into 26 more. Translations include major languages such as German, Spanish, French, and Chinese. But others venture into the obscure such as Papiamento, spoken almost nowhere else but on the Southern Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao; and Chamorro, spoken by only about 47,000 people on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
I’ve chosen Spanish. Mostly because we’re moving to Mexico after the mission and I want to get a jump start on learning the language of my new adopted country. But also because it draws me closer to Maria, a young Hispanic Navy wife I’ve come to love as a daughter.
Maria and I started this ambitious reading project last September. With the press of life’s distractions, family duties, and the potential for waning enthusiasm I didn’t dare hope we’d make it out of First Nephi (the first of fifteen books that make up The Book of Mormon, like the books of the Bible). But here we are in July, nearly finished with the entire volume of scripture.
Five days a week I am greeted at her door and invited in to read El Libro de Mormon with her. She patiently corrects my halting gringo pronunciation. I try not to mentally translate every word in my head as I read but instead let the words full of ripe, delicious consonants and plump vowels flow into my consciousness, like nectar pouring over my head. I get the gist of most of it and my vocabulary is getting stronger. Repetition helps, too. The Book of Mormon lexicon consists of scores of words and phrases that appear in many of the individual chapters, and even many versus within each chapter: Y aconteció (And it came to pass), las palabras de Dios (the words of God), sobre la faz de la tierra (upon the face of the earth), guarder los mandamientos de Dios (to keep the commandments of God). To help prepare I read our daily selection that morning at home in both English and Spanish. Then, when we read together just in Spanish the words seem to take on a life of their own and need no translation. I can feel their meaning.
Occasionally I run across a word in Spanish that conveys a different nuance compared to its English cousin. The imagery in Spanish is often richer, fuller, more exact. For example,
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. (3 Nephi 15:9)The same sentence in Spanish,
Mirad hacia mí, y perseverad hasta el fin, y viveréis; porque al que persevere hasta el fin, le daré vida eterna.Notice the Spanish word in the last sentence, perseverad, corresponds to the English word endure. I think the Spanish word conveys the Savior’s intent for us in this sentence better than the English word. It looks and feels a lot like our English word persevere, and indeed enduring and persevering are similar, but differ in an important way.
When I think of enduring something, I imagine hunkering down and waiting it out until the storm is over. One dictionary definition of endure suggests just that: “to bear without resistance or with patience; tolerate; hold out against; to continue to exist; suffer patiently”. This white-knuckling, holding-your-breath, keeping-your-head-down through adversity, or even just the daily grind, is a passive way of dealing with life. We merely emotionally and spiritually hole up somewhere and ride out our existence until the dust finally settles and “the end” shows up. It implies no more courage or action from us than crawling into a bomb shelter and waiting for the “all clear”.
Another definition of endure, to “sustain without impairment or yielding”, conjures up an image of a man leaning against a boulder to keep it from rolling over him and crashing on down the mountain. He can’t hope to make any forward progress pushing the boulder up the slope. It’s all he can do just to keep from being squashed by his burden. But he’s enduring. Sweating and straining, he’s not yielding to the force of gravity that wants to turn him into a human pancake.
To persevere, on the other hand, means to put one foot in front of the other every day no matter how far away the horizon, how high the mountain, or how scary the path through the dark forest. It takes a certain amount of courage and fortitude to “persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly”. It implies accomplishment at the end, something won, a character enhanced, a life enriched. Persevering is a brave and active behavior. There is nothing passive about persisting, continuing steadfastly, or purposefully moving forward past obstacles.
The meaning in Spanish conveys what I believe God really intends for His children. It took a fair amount of courage for us in the pre-Earth life to perseverad in standing up for Jehovah’s plan and against Lucifer’s massive effort to win souls to his side. All of us did persevere so faithfully that in the end “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) when we learned we’d earned the privilege of gaining a body and coming to Earth. Now we’re here trying to summon an even greater courage to face a mortal lifetime of challenges both great and small. This requires we continue to perseverad, not merely endure.
We are surrounded by examples of and opportunities to perseverad hasta el fin: finishing and excelling at our education, serving with dedication a full-time mission, cultivating a lasting and loving marriage, raising responsible children, thriving through the long Navy deployments, and even reading El Libro de Mormon. One verse at a time. Patiently. Persistently. Until we’ve finished all 642 pages.