Prescience of Neal A. Maxwell

maxwell 1997

I’m looking forward to our Priesthood class today. We will be reviewing a landmark talk given by Neal A. Maxwell in 1998 at BYU on January 4, 1998. This talk, The Pathway of Discipleship, a little over a year after he had been diagnosed with leukemia.

I was struck by the prescience of one of his remarks near the conclusion of the talk, and how well it resonates with the challenges we face today:

Do not, my young friends, expect the world to esteem the seventh commandment—chastity before marriage and fidelity after. Some people in the world will fret genuinely over the consequences of its violation, such as staggering and unprecedented illegitimacy and marital breakdowns. However, sexual immorality per se will still not be condemned by the secular world as long as the violators have any commendable qualities at all or as long as they are, in some respect, politically correct. We will have to keep the seventh commandment because it is spiritually correct, not because we will get much support from society’s other institutions.

It is almost haunting to read his warning that scriptural and spiritual memory can fade in just one generation. He cited Judges 2:10, which says “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (see also Mosiah 26:1-2).

His remedy is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lifelong discipleship for us. Without it there is little hope. Even with it, there will be some rough patches.

Without gospel perspective in our lives, we just won’t “get it” either. Special moments will come and go unused and unnoticed. How we manage those moments in daily life ends up either developing character or disintegrating character.

I am the first to acknowledge that we, as Church members, have a tremendous challenge being equal to our theology and our opportunity. We fall short. If we stumble, let us arise and continue the climb. The Lord will bless us because we are possessed of truths about “things as they really are, and . . . things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13). These truths beckon us, even in our imperfections, to be better.

This guy is awesome. I’m so grateful he was so prolific in his writing and speaking before he died in 2004.  As a result,  we have a roadmap that will come in quite handy on our own journey down the pathway of discipleship.

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