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hanging on


I should like to spend the few minutes I stand before you today to salute a group of people who have developed what I believe to be a Christlike characteristic, and that is the ability to “hang on.” At this very moment, there is a man, a good member of the Church, who hovers between life and death in a nearby hospital. In the last few weeks he has withstood crisis after crisis; and yet to the amazement of all, he still hangs on. I know not whether the Lord will ordain that he should ultimately live or die at this time, but I do know there is something noble about his tenacious fight for life and the desire to hang on. In the lives of each of us come these trials—trials of all kinds which shake us to the very core and cause us to explore to the very depths our ability to hang on.
I think of the person who, in the quiet of night, could not be persuaded to compromise virtue and decides instead to hang on, though the temptation is great.
I think of those who have withstood the test of many years, some of whom are confined and bedridden and who, in spite of the infirmities that age brings, will not give up. I see etched in the faces of these wonderful older people something of our pioneer heritage—lives so filled with determination and faith, lives so filled with the overcoming of adversity and trial that by their nature they simply can’t let go.
It reminds me of two trees that were close to my home when I was growing up. The one was a Russian olive and grew right in our yard. It was watered every time the lawn was watered, and in that kind of protected environment it grew to be a beautiful tree. Yet one night a tremendous wind came up. Trees all over town were blown down, and with them went our Russian olive. We had watered it so well that the roots did not have to reach down into the soil; and because they were so close to the surface, the tree toppled over.
The second tree withstood the gale. It was a tremendous cottonwood, which still stands in the lane just half a block from where I was born. This tree was in the fullness of its growth when I was a child. It has always stood by itself, completely exposed to the elements, with nothing but a ditch running by, which most of the time is dry. It is gnarled and tough, and its roots have had to sink deep in order to drink of the water of life; but because its roots were forced downward, it lives. I was out home the other day and noticed that most of the trees around this cottonwood are gone. But in all of its power and majesty, it still hangs on.
I see in many people this same kind of beauty. Adversity and trial have driven the roots of faith and testimony deep in order to tap the reservoir of spiritual strength that comes from such experiences. By nature they know how to stand and fight and hang on.
Elder Loren C. Dunn, April 1974 General Conference

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