Thursday, July 22, 2004

Elder Maxwell...

I'm sure that most of you in Utah are aware of Brother Maxwell's passing, but for those who aren't, here's the Church's press release:
"Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died last night after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 78 years of age. " (For the full thing, here's the link:,15503,3881-1-19712,00.html).

My words won't do justice to who he was, mostly because I only know him through his sermons; but from what I understand of his personal life Elder Maxwell was a true Christian.  He lived his own words masterfully, but more important, he honestly tried to live by the word of the Lord.  His deep love for the gospel together with a love for knowledge in general has been influential on both my spiritual and intellectual development.  He taught that we shouldn't compartmentalize, that the spiritual and intellectual are bound.  Along those lines, Elder Maxwell, as an astute political observer and one-time Political Science professor, taught that the world's problems will never be solved with the world's solutions--only the gospel can give lasting responses to the policy issues we debate. 

Well, that's my modest tribute to a great (shouldn't there be a better word) man.  If any of you have remembrances, comments, or tributes,  please write them.


At 7/22/2004 03:25:00 PM,

Thanks for your comments, Chris. He was a great man. This last year I heard him speak in two semi-intimate settings: first a BYU Law School "Founder's Day" dinner at a hotel in Salt Lake, and then at a special Q&A fireside for my stake at BYU (my stake president at the time was his son-in-law, Michael Ahlander). Because I had just had an interview with my stake president a few weeks earlier, when I saw him sitting at Elder Maxwell's table at the dinner, I approached him and said hi. He pretty much knew what me and my date were up to, so he asked "Have you two met Elder Maxwell?" "Nope" he stepped over to the Apostle and said "Neal, these two young people are in my stake at BYU." Elder Maxwell shook our hands, and asked if I was a law student. I said yes and he told me that was great. He was all smiles, and was so sincere. If there was ever the inkling to ask him about a doctrinal enigma or some other gnosis in this rare moment of face-to-face apostolic contact without a long reception line behind me, his gentleness and the sincere love I felt made that fade. It was just good to be there.

Then later, for the Q&A fireside, I was one of the few stake members invited to submit questions. All my childish/cocky-missionary instincts swelled...then I could think of what I really needed answered by Elder Maxwell. I was doing pretty well at the time. I thought about the members of my elders quorum, and a question for him came to me, which I wrote, and to which Elder Maxwell provided a sensible answer. It was no miraculous revelation (for me), but his openness to and his understanding of curiosity about the doctrines of the gospel let him respond where he could have ignored the question (he received probably 100 and answered 8) or rebuked the line of questioning. All the questions he answered that day dealt with the needs of our stake members.

More meaningful for me than these generally insignificant moments is what I read in his bio by Bruce Hafen about his youth. His visit to see Harold B. Lee and complain that the church's lesson plans were banal and didn't portray the gospel well and his impatience with local church meetings and imperfections in the members resonated with me. If Neal A. Maxwell grew to constant and Christian discipleship from a tendency to pride and being a "punk" (as he describes it), then there is a true and relevant hope for me.




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