Cultural decline: facilitated by the indifferent or the indulgent

Cultural decline is accelerated when single-interest segments of society become indifferent to general values once widely shared. This drift is facilitated by the indifferent or the indulgent as society is led carefully down to hell (see 2 Ne. 28:21). Some may not join in this drift, but instead they step aside, whereas once they might have constrained, as is their representative right. Of such circumstances Yeats lamented, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” (W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”).

Today, in place of some traditionally shared values is a demanding conformity pushed, ironically, by those who eventually will not tolerate those who once tolerated them.

Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Repent of [Our] Selfishness’ (D&C 56:8),” April 1999 General Conference

Doing the duty least enjoyed may be the one most needed

“. . .  the duty least enjoyed by us, like the doctrine least understood, may be the one we need the most.  Furthermore, our reminders to do these specific duties are often a call to an unkept rendezvous, to an experience we would not want to miss. The true believer understands this; he does his duties even though they are seemingly repetitious, but he is never surprised if duty develops into a new adventure.” 

Neal A. Maxwell, “True Believers In Christ,” BYU Devotional, 7 October 1980.

I won’t be there unless I am fully worthy to be there

I like this story about being worthy to enter the temple. It communicates lessons about integrity, and about the  joy that comes from real spiritual growth.

One of the great blessings the gospel gives us is the lens through which we can see with proportion. Special perspective comes from the marvelous and overarching principles of the gospel.

For some reason, the last month or so, my mind has turned to a colleague of many years ago at the University of Utah. Dr. Reed Merrill was a distinguished educational psychologist. He had, for instance, done pioneering work in establishing the process of licensure associated with clinical psychology, as well as important work in educational psychology. However, he had been inactive in the Church and inattentive to spiritual things, though a good person. Then, in the early 1980s he was stirred spiritually by the Lord. I could see it when he came to visit me twice. He wrote two powerful letters regarding the comparative emptiness of his secular discipline with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These observations meant a lot because they came from a man of unquestioned intellect and integrity. Other catalytic things were happening, unbeknownst to me, including his daughter’s service on a mission, to say nothing of a wonderful wife.

Reed called me sometime before his daughter’s sealing, asking if I would perform her sealing. I said, “I would be delighted.” I think I had an intervening trip overseas, but asked, “Reed, will you be there?”

With his typical integrity, he said, “Neal, you know me well enough to know I won’t be there unless I am fully worthy to be there.” When the morning came for the sealing in the Salt Lake Temple, I waited with particular anticipation. Then Reed came down the corridor of the temple. We embraced, and he said, “Neal, I made it!” He had come home! Subsequently, he taught in his high priests group and in various classes. It was a spiritual renaissance in his life, a marvelous thing to see. How wonderful it is when anybody comes home!

Yesterday, when I reviewed my handwritten notes used ten years ago at Reed’s funeral, they included words of gratitude for what I called, even back then, “the intersections of our lives”—Reed’s and mine. The most important thing to be said about Reed Merrill when he departed from this life was that he exited “in spiritual crescendo.” Such things bring joy!

Neal A. Maxwell, “Brim with Joy,” BYU Devotional, January 23, 1996

God is making of our lives a mosaic

If God chooses to teach us the things we most need to learn because he loves us, and if he seeks to tame our souls and gentle us in the way we most need to be tamed and most need to be gentled, it follows that he will customize the challenges he gives us and individualize them so that we will be prepared for life in a better world by his refusal to take us out of this world, even though we are not of it. In the eternal ecology of things we must pray, therefore, not that things be taken from us, but that God’s will be accomplished through us. What, therefore, may seem now to be mere unconnected pieces of tile will someday, when we look back, take form and pattern, and we will realize that God was making a mosaic. For there is in each of our lives this kind of divine design, this pattern, this purpose that is in the process of becoming, which is continually before the Lord but which for us, looking forward, is sometimes perplexing.
Neal A . Maxwell, “But for a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974

Pull together

There will always be a need for civility and trust throughout the large BYU family, harnessed as we are together. John Taylor observed,

Many of us are tried and tempted, and we get harsh and hard feelings against one another. And it reminds me of your teams when going down hill with a heavy load. When the load begins to crowd on to the horses, you will frequently see one snap at his mate, and the other will prick up his ears and snap back again. And why? A little while before, perhaps, and they were playing with each other. Because the load crowds on them. Well, when the load begins to crowd, do not snap at your brethren, but let them feel that you are their friends, and pull together. [John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:214-15]

Lead horses are especially snapped and nipped at, even though they are pulling more than their share of the load.

Neal A. Maxwell, “Out of the Best Faculty,” BYU Annual University Conference, August 26, 1993

Incarcerated within the prison of one principle

How important it is to the symmetry of our souls that we interact with all the gospel principles and with all the Church programs, so that we do not become so highly specialized that, if we are deprived of one source of satisfaction, indeed we are in difficulty. It is possible to be incarcerated within the prison of one principle. We are less vulnerable if our involvements with the kingdom are across the board. We are less vulnerable if we care deeply about many principles–not simply a few.

Neal  A. Maxwell, “But for a Small Moment,” BYU Devotional, 1 September 1974.

God is there also when true but hard words break open the chained door of a mind taken over by a single obsession. Sometimes, brothers and sisters, instead of the mind’s wrapping itself around an idea, an idea wraps itself tightly around the mind—another way in which “pride compasseth … about as [with] a chain” (Ps. 73:6).

Neal A. Maxwell, “Yet Thou Art There,” Ensign, November 1987

Subjection to God is really emancipation

It is so easy to be halfhearted, but this only produces half the growth, half the blessings, and just half a life, really, with more bud than blossom….

Sometimes, our holding back occurs because we lack faith or we are too entangled with the cares of the world. Other times, there is in us an understandable tremulousness which slows our yielding, because we sense what further yielding might bring.

Yet we need to break free of our old selves—the provincial, constraining, and complaining selves—and become susceptible to the shaping of the Lord. But the old self goes neither gladly nor quickly. Even so, this subjection to God is really emancipation.

How can we truly acknowledge the Fatherhood of God and refuse His tutorials? Especially in view of the fact, the Lord even chastens those whom He loves.

Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1995