One of the most beloved apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Known for his compassion and his intelligence, Elder Maxwell passed away in 2004 after an eight year battle with leukemia.
At the time of his passing I was in the middle of a self-imposed “hiatus” from Church activity and, although I feel it was something that I, personally, needed to go through in order to shape who I am today, I do not recommend it. It was, in retrospect, both a waste of time and time wasted (not the same thing.) There are so many things I do not know but want to know and so many things I want to learn that I could’ve pursued years ago.
One of those things about which I’ve felt a recent desire to become better acquainted with the lives and teachings of Church leaders, past and present. Elder Maxwell has always been in my peripheral vision but it wasn’t until recently, while in the midst of several exhausting weeks of different trials and challenges, that I decided to read this particular book. It had been sitting for years, unopened, in my Deseret Bookshelf app. I read about two thirds of it and listened to the last third, read by Elder Maxwell himself in that fatherly voice of his, one that exudes both care and concern.
My immediate impression was that Neal A. Maxwell crafts his thoughts with the same quality as Mozart writing a symphony or da Vinci creating the Mona Lisa. This is not an exaggeration. He is one of the most masterful, exquisite writers I’ve ever encountered. But, like any masterful work, appreciating it requires focus and study. This is not a book you can skim or listen to in the background. While I did do some multi-tasking while listening, those tasks had to be fairly mindless in order to pay attention and ponder the messages.
If I had to choose 3 favorite chapters it would be these:
- The Omniscience of an Omnipotent and Omniloving God
- Prayer and Growth
- Follow the Brethren
All of these chapters resonated with me for different reasons. Going into great detail about God’s omniscience helps us to understand that challenges help to shape us to become like Him one day, which should be our ultimate goal. Learning how to pray in a way God can answer has been a recent personal pursuit, so I was happy to learn more on the subject. Following the brethren (leaders) is a strong pep talk of a chapter, but sometimes tough love is the best course, especially when the only agenda behind that pep talk is to help the reader self-reflect and improve.
I learned a lot of things that I need to consider in my own life, especially when things are difficult. I also understand, more than ever, why Neal A. Maxwell was so revered. He KNOWS people, how they tick, how they function, how they act and react. I was amazed at his perception. This book is a treasure.