18 But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
(2 Nephi 9:18)
In this passage, Jacob identifies two characteristics of righteous people, whom he also calls “saints:”
- They believe in Jesus Christ (the Holy One of Israel).
- They endure “the crosses of the world” despising “the shame of it.”
Belief is an important first step, but the ultimate goal is to sustain that belief over time through the difficult experiences which accompany discipleship.
As Neal A. Maxwell explained, the risk we face when we bear the crosses of the world is that they may distract us from our focus on receiving the blessings of the gospel:
The poet-prophet Jacob speaks of the saints as having “endured the crosses of the world” (2 Nephi 9:18) and as having “despised the shame” of the world. Obviously, this involves more than coping with the mere passage of time. What are the “crosses of the world”? We cannot be sure, but the imagery suggests the bearing of a cross placed upon us by the world, as Jesus did; there may be persecutors and unhelpful onlookers, and the Church member is set apart (if not set upon), yet he does not flinch when accused and scoffed at by those who would make him ashamed, for he has no real reason to be ashamed.
It is best not to try to delineate too precisely between the crosses of the world and the cares of the world. The former may press us down, while the latter divert us. But the outcome is the same—the climb is stopped; instead of overcoming, we have been overcome (Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977, p.109).
What does it mean to “despise the shame of it?” I think it means to ignore any humiliation or embarrassment we might be subjected to. A similar passage in the King James Version of the New Testament says that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Other translations of that passage indicate that He “scorned” or “disregarded” the shame associated with being crucified (http://biblehub.com/hebrews/12-2.htm). Sometimes we compound our suffering with self-consciousness. If we can stop thinking about how we are perceived by others and instead maintain our focus on the ultimate goal—exaltation in the kingdom of God with a fulness of joy—then we will have the motivation to endure the trials along the path and to ignore any ridicule we might experience along the way. As Nephi said of his father’s vision, many people “did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not” (1 Nephi 8:33).
Today, I will endure whatever “crosses” I may experience gracefully and with dignity. In particular, if I am inappropriately criticized while pursuing honorable goals, I will not allow myself to be distracted or discouraged.