Elder Maxwell

July 22, 2004 | 51 comments
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maxwell.bmpLast General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s talk was a collection of friendly reminiscences.

Last night, the church’s wordsmith passed away. The leader who provided us with the wonderful imagery of straightening deck chairs on the Titanic, and who always seemed to spin off gems like “If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!”, is now smithing words with the smith of worlds. We’ll certainly miss him here on Earth.

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51 Responses to Elder Maxwell

  1. Jordan Fowles on July 22, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    What a nice, sweet, yet succinct tribute, Kaimi!

  2. Silus Grok on July 22, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    Very lovely, Kaimi.

    I imagine that there will be an announcement at October Conference of a new apostle… does anyone think it will happen sooner?

    And does anyone else have the nagging thought that because they have twelve apostles (albeit not in the quorum), that they may not announce at all? It doesn’t sound right, but I can’t shake the thought.

  3. Matt Evans on July 22, 2004 at 12:21 pm

    Elder Maxwell was my favorite Apostle, his messages stirred me and resonated with my understanding of the gospel. His death is a tragic loss for the church, the world, his family, and me.

    I wasn’t prepared for the news, not even knowing he was sick. I thought he had beaten the cancer.

  4. Steve Evans on July 22, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    Like Matt, I was surprised by the news about the cancer battle. Elder Maxwell was the favorite of many, and rightly so. Incidentally, BCC has its own tribute.

  5. Rob on July 22, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    After my grandfather died, I made a tape of myself reading Elder Maxwell’s “All These Things” book for my grandmother. She listened to it over and over for years. She died a couple years ago, and now that Elder Maxwell is gone, looks like the end of another connection to my grandparent’s generation. At least the book remains.

  6. Kingsley on July 22, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    One of my striking memories of Elder Maxwell comes from a priesthood leadership conference I attended with my father in the Provo Tabernacle. Elder Maxwell gave a great, long, rambling sort of talk, joking from the pulpit with Truman Madsen about different philosophical questions and sharing those delightful, very personal anecdotes about fellow Church leaders, past and present, that you never hear in more formal forums. Anyhow: all good things must end, and as we sang the closing hymn I glanced up at Elder Maxwell, who was sitting in a cluster of dark suited stake presidents high in the choir seats. I forget the name of the hymn, but I recall distinctly that it had to do with the Second Coming. Elder Maxwell’s face was raised, and he was weeping, and I swear there was a kind of very gentle, pale, seraphic light about him that allowed me to see into him, and I knew at that moment tremblingly that here was an Apostle of Christ and one of His special witnesses. I was much younger and rather bitter toward the Church at the time, and the experience left a mark of conviction on me that I’ve not been able to erase.

  7. Ryan Bell on July 22, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    Wow, thanks for that story, Kingsley.

    And thanks for the tribute, Kaimi. I will really, really miss Brother Maxwell. I’ve heard the biography’s great— anyone able to recommend it?

  8. danithew on July 22, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Nice post Kaimi. I was very grateful for Elder Maxwell’s testimony of the gospel and his emphasis on principles such as discipleship and consecration. I also appreciated the fact that every now and then his talks would send me to the dictionary.

  9. Kingsley on July 22, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    Ryan Bell: The bio’s better than most, but still has too much of an Ensigny feel for my taste. That said, there are a lot of wonderful things it, especially regarding Elder Maxwell’s experiences as a student, soldier, etc., so that it’s well worth a quick read.

  10. Bob Crockett on July 22, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    I met Elder Maxwell for the first time on legal business for the Church in early June 2004. He was warm, capable and vibrant. I could feel why he had been called to the apostolate. It warmed my soul to be there.

    My first experience with Elder Maxwell was the General Conference Sunday he was sustained as an apostle. I attended my one and only general conference session that day as a recently returned missionary in 1976. Although I had never subscibed to the notion that apostles were actually required to see the Savior, when I heard his talk I felt that he knew the Savior. As I re-read that talk many years later, I could not feel the same again as I felt in person listening to the Spirit.

    Bob Crockett

  11. William Morris on July 22, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus praising Kaimi’s tribute. I’m esp. glad that you posted the Titanic quote — one of the best images ever.

    I have posted a Mormon letters-themed tribute on A Motley Vision.

  12. Bob Crockett on July 22, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Rogers Morton is credited as the originator of the Titanic quote ca. 1976.

  13. sid on July 22, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    I looked at teh obituary – th eofficial one from http://www.lds.org – however, I have a question. When I first joined the Church around ’96 or so, I remember reading an article either in the Ensign or some other Church publication, that said that Elder Maxwell had served in the United States marine Corps. The obit on LDs.org said he served in the US Army in Okinawa. Anyone know which is true? Was the late Elder Maxwell a US Marine or an US Army soldier in Okinawa?

  14. Josh Kim on July 22, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    Elder Sheldon F. Child of the First Quorum of the Seventy said “If God loves us enough to give us Prophets then we should love Him enough and follow them”

    It’s been almost ten years since the Church suffered the loss of an Apostle, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator (all synonymous I suppose) with the passing of President Howard W. Hunter.

    This is my first loss as an adult as I am 20 years old now.
    When I heard as an eleven year old that President Howard W. Hunter had been called home to heaven I just shrugged it off.
    Now my thoughts range from “Whom did the Lord choose to take Elder Maxwell’s place?” to “I hope his family will be alright” to “Let me live my life in accordance with the teachings of Apostles and Prophets who serve the Lord.”

    Brothers and Sisters we must truly than God for Prophets who guide us in these latter-days.

    Let’s not take them for granted.

  15. Josh Kim on July 22, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    Elder Sheldon F. Child of the First Quorum of the Seventy said “If God loves us enough to give us Prophets then we should love Him enough and follow them”

    It’s been almost ten years since the Church suffered the loss of an Apostle, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator (all synonymous I suppose) with the passing of President Howard W. Hunter.

    This is my first loss as an adult as I am 20 years old now.
    When I heard as an eleven year old that President Howard W. Hunter had been called home to heaven I just shrugged it off.
    Now my thoughts range from “Whom did the Lord choose to take Elder Maxwell’s place?” to “I hope his family will be alright” to “Let me live my life in accordance with the teachings of Apostles and Prophets who serve the Lord.”

    Brothers and Sisters we must truly thank God for Prophets who guide us in these latter-days.

    Let’s not take them for granted.

  16. cordeiro on July 22, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    Excellent post. God speed, Elder Maxwell. Welcome home.

  17. john fowles on July 22, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    My wife and I will greatly miss Elder Maxwell. He was by far our favorite apostle in the sense that we relished his sermons and teachings. His articulate, witty, wise, and poignant style was always like a feast at General Conference. We also feel a special tie to him since he sealed us in the Salt Lake Temple when we got married. After that and thinking of his words at that time, we will feel this loss for years to come, I am sure.

  18. danithew on July 22, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Brethren and sistren, if you get a chance (and haven’t already), follow that first link to the “pleasant reminiscences”. I just read that talk and it touched my heart so much. It’s so tender and sweet in its approach. WOW.

  19. Julie in Austin on July 22, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    I loved Elder Maxwell. He was the best turner-of-a-phrase the Church had. My personal favorite:

    “For some, their god “is their belly,” as are other forms of anatomical allegiance!”

    (Almost too risque to say in conference, but he got his point across!)

  20. Kristine on July 22, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    My great aunt Elizabeth edited some of Elder Maxwell’s books–I remember visiting her during the time she was working on one, and she was at wit’s end. Apparently, his penchant for alliteration was even more extreme than we know from his published remarks–she said she used to take out 75% of his, er, consummate consonances, and then she’d get the drafts back with even more added!

    She died last January, and I’d like to think she’s among the many who’ll be greeting him on the other side (probably with a red pencil, “now Neal, about p. 75…”)

  21. clarkgoble on July 22, 2004 at 7:00 pm

    Best Maxwell alliteration. “Nattering nabobs of negativism”

  22. Jim F. on July 22, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    Like most, I didn’t know Elder Maxwell personally, but I came to love him very much. One night, at a little after 10:00 p.m., I was sitting in my living room reading a book when the phone rang. Irritated, I answered, and the voice on the other line said “Jim?”

    Me: “Yes,” grumpily.
    He: “This is Neal.”
    Me: “Neal who?” even more grumpily.
    He: “Neal Maxwell.”
    Me: Dumbstruck.

    I suppose Truman Madsen and David Paulsen were unavailable, so he called me to ask a question about philosophy. I was deeply embarrassed and he was incredibly kind. That experience cemented my feeling that he was a loving, kind person.

  23. Greg on July 22, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Clark:

    “Nattering nabobs of negativism” was first uttered by the less-than-inspirational Spiro Agnew, though William Safire credibly claims to have coined the phrase.

  24. danithew on July 22, 2004 at 7:26 pm

    I was going to bring up alliteration and its evils in an earlier comment but thought better of it. Now that the jack-in-the-box is out I’ll just say that it appears Neal A. Maxwell had his share of alliteration disciples. I attended a church meeting once where a talk was given by a young BYU student (who was attending BYU Jerusalem at the time). I think he spoke for about 25 minutes but every sentence he spoke was chock-full of alliteration. It was so overdone and it was so obvious who he was imitating. All I can remember is that one of the sentences had something like: “in the hallowed heavenly halls of …”

    It was just too much.

    I was a bit relieved to see a much more streamlined use of alliteration in Elder Maxwell’s talks that came later.

  25. Adam Greenwood on July 22, 2004 at 7:41 pm

    Brother Maxwell’s language flew very high. It was not without infelicities, but de mortuus nil nisi and all that. Let it suffice to say that Kaimi, writing in his style, has managed to create a remarkably moving and beautiful tribute.

  26. john fowles on July 22, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Inefficiencies (or as Adam put it, infelicities) aside, I found his language very entertaining while at the same time intellectually stimulating. His unique and carefully crafted clauses were one reason that I practically parsed through his Conference talks.

    The great thing about form in the hands of someone who is conscious of its possibilities is that it fuses with meaning to the point that the form itself conveys an element of the meaning that would be missing from the words alone. It can also serve as a window into the speaker, possibly revealing things about the way they think or what it important to them. I wonder what Elder Maxwell’s love of pithy alliteration alluded to in his intellectual acumen.

  27. Melissa on July 22, 2004 at 10:58 pm

    Elder Maxwell spoke at my father’s funeral sixteen years ago. I will never forget that during his talk he looked at the six of us kids on the front row pew and wept as he told us of the love my Dad had expressed for each of us to him many times. Everyone thinks of Elder Maxwell as a master of word play but Elder Maxwell’s passing this morning reminded me of the gentle and tender man of great compassion I grew to love many years ago.

    Jim—can you tell us what Elder Maxwell’s philosophy question was?

  28. Jim F. on July 23, 2004 at 1:29 am

    I wish I could remember. I remember that it was a question about the history of philosophy, but that is all.

  29. Gordon Smith on July 23, 2004 at 2:37 am

    Thank you, Kaimi, for offering this tribute. Since everyone else is sharing, this is my Elder Maxwell remembrance. While I was serving in the mission office, I found notes of a talk that Elder Maxwell had delivered to missionaries in Vienna about a decade before. The title of the talk was “Sweet Boldness.” At the time, still early in my mission, I was struggling to find my own style of missionary work, and this concept appealed to me. (It was easy to become either hostile or reserved in a country where rejection of the message was so overwhelming.) Indeed, it became something of a personal mantra, which I shared with the mission president and several of the missionaries. As fate would have it, Elder Maxwell returned to Vienna toward the end of my mission. The mission president mentioned this talk to him and asked if he could say a few words about acting with sweet boldness. Elder Maxwell obliged, without too much alliteration, if memory serves. By the way, I thought his best talks were delivered after his initial run-in with cancer. The annoying alliteration was almost absent, and that allowed his conviction to take center stage.

  30. Josh Kim on July 23, 2004 at 3:30 am

    Is it just me or is Elder Maxwell the empitome of the phrases “endure to the end” and “if thou endure it well.”

    I thank God for Prophets who are so good and the least self righteous of people we know. They taste of the bitter fruit at times without at all becoming bitter. They show love towards everyone regardless of station in life. How great are they.

    Perhaps the light we see shining in these great men is due to that fact that they stand so close to the Savior Jesus Christ. And now Neal A. Maxwell is at rest. But I’m sure that he won’t rest for long because the Lord has work for him to do beyond the veil.

  31. Fred Astaire on July 23, 2004 at 10:00 am

    Since no one else has brought up the succession question…

    Any nominations for the open slot in the Quorum?

    I suggest Maxwell’s biographer, Bruce Hafen.

  32. Josh Kim on July 23, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Fred, the Lord chooses his Apostles. It can be ANYONE. The Lord will make it known to President Hinckley when the time is right.

    Sincerely,
    Josh Kim

  33. john fowles on July 23, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Gordon wrote:

    The annoying alliteration was almost absent, and that allowed his conviction to take center stage.

    I’m sorry that his alliteration didn’t please you. I thought that his alliteration contributed to his sincere expression of his conviction. When I consider that his alliteration was planned, not just sloppy writing, then I have to think about why it is there and what the form adds to the substance of the message. In an age where formalism in literary analysis has taken a huge beating from the postmodern camp, it was refreshing to observe form as an integral part of the message.

  34. john fowles on July 23, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    Gordon wrote:

    The annoying alliteration was almost absent, and that allowed his conviction to take center stage.

    I’m sorry that his alliteration didn’t please you. I thought that his alliteration contributed to his sincere expression of his conviction. When I consider that his alliteration was planned, not just sloppy writing, then I have to think about why it is there and what the form adds to the substance of the message. In an age where formalism in literary analysis has taken a huge beating from the postmodern camp, it was refreshing to observe form as an integral part of the message.

  35. Steve Evans on July 23, 2004 at 1:00 pm

    “It can be ANYONE”

    It can be anyone, of course, but it won’t be just anyone. Betcha $5 that the next Apostle is already a G.A., either Presiding Bishopric or 1st Quorum of the Seventy. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Apostle in recent memory that wasn’t already a made man.

  36. Randy on July 23, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Looks like Elder Oaks was the last to be called straight directly as an Apostle–from the Utah Supreme Court no less–without having to make a stop at the Presiding Bishopric or QoS.

    http://www.lds.org/newsroom/biography/0,15609,3959-1—-44,00.html

  37. Chris Grant on July 23, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Steve Evans wrote:

    “Betcha $5 that the next Apostle is already a G.A., either Presiding Bishopric or 1st Quorum of the Seventy.”

    What kind of odds are you giving? (Joking. I don’t gamble.) We had 2 non-G.A.s sustained as apostles on the same day in 1984.

  38. Rob on July 23, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    “You’d be hard-pressed to find an Apostle in recent memory that wasn’t already a made man.”

    Elder Oaks, as the former BYU president, was probably a “made” man, but not a GA before being called as an apostle.

    Elder Nelson had been a regional rep, but not a GA before his call.

    Elder Monson was a mission president before being called.

  39. Steve Evans on July 23, 2004 at 1:28 pm

    Well, I guess we’re not that hard-pressed after all!!

    Are we sure that none of those mentioned hadn’t been in the Seventy prior to being Apostles? I could’ve sworn they had been involved somehow. Pres. Monson in particular was a mission pres. before being called but he’s got other connections going on, doesn’t he?

    Not that I’m trying to completely demystify the process or anything, I just don’t think it’s as random as Josh made it sound.

  40. danithew on July 23, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Steve Evans wrote:
    Betcha $5 that the next Apostle is already a G.A., either Presiding Bishopric or 1st Quorum of the Seventy. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Apostle in recent memory that wasn’t already a made man.

    Hasn’t there been a thing for those who were formerly university presidents as well as general authorities? Or is that with just one apostle? I can’t even remember who in the Quorum of the 12 has been a university president but I somehow got the impression that this post was beginning to carry some kind of special weight.

  41. Fred Astaire on July 23, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    which of course relates nicely back to my nomination…

  42. Rob on July 23, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Oaks (BYU), Holland (BYU), and Eyering (Ricks) were university presidents. Since these are now GA spots as well, we might consider them as “made” as well. Just as many of our 12 were assistants to the 12 before the 70s quorums took on their current function, these three university presidents were functioning in a quasi-GA state before GA ordination was formally instituted for church university spots.

  43. jeremobi on July 23, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Rob, shouldn’t you qualify your statement? “To the exent that BYU and Ricks are/were REAL universities, Oaks, Holland, and Eyering were not officially GAs…” ;>)

  44. Kristine on July 23, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    Guys, I know it seems weird for *me* to be the one suggesting a bit more reverence for the GAs, but the speculation about succession seems premature and, well, tacky. Could we wait a week or two?

  45. Frank McIntyre on July 23, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    I admit that I am curious as well about who the next Apostle will be. They can become such an influence that we are all anxious to see another one ordained.

    On the other hand, I agree with Kristine that public speculation is unseemly. Such idle speculation seems particularly gossipy.

    I appreciate all the anecdotes about how kind Elder Maxwell was. It is a good reminder of what really matters in being a true disciple.

  46. Josh Kim on July 23, 2004 at 6:59 pm

    I remember an Apostle who said that its up to the man to make the Apostleship, not the Apostleship to make the man.

    Apostles of this dispensation have strayed before…it’s not because he wasn’t ordained of the Lord. It’s because he let his pride become his fall…like Thomas Marsh or William Smith.

    What I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter if the next Apostle comes from the ranks of the General Authorities or if he’s an Elders Quorum President in South America…the Lord will have adequately prepared him in either case before entrusting him with such a great responsiblilty.

    Men whom to my memory and knowledge did not come to the Apostleship from GA:

    Gordon B. Hinckley
    Thomas S. Monson
    David B. Haight
    James E. Faust ??
    Russell M. Nelson
    Dallin H. Oaks

    and also

    Howard W. Hunter
    Ezra Taft Benson
    Spencer W. Kimball

    Presidents Kimball and Benson were ordained Apostles on the same day just hours apart.

    Just food for thought.

  47. Josh Kim on July 23, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    Joseph Smith was just a farmboy but he was chosen to be the Prophet…

    The next Apostle might not be from such humble origins as Joseph Smith but who knows?

    The Lord can choose anyone he wants. They’re HIS witnesses.

    My personal opinion is that the Savior taught his Apostles before they came to this earth.

  48. Gabriel Marquez on July 26, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Hi everyone. I became a member in october 1992. The fact the this church has a prophet and a quorum of twelve apostles of the Lord JesusChrist was very relevant for my conversion to the church. I used to believe in apostolic succesion but when I heard about the restoration of the church and of course after I prayed to receive confirmation about it. I had no doubt about the thruthness of this church and I started to read a lot about these modern apostles. I even had dreams about Elder Richard Scott and President Monson. I was touched every time I heard a speech from Elder Maxwell and I was shocked when I heard of his death. It’s been 8 years I’ve been non-active and very far from the church and the Lord’s teachings and I received these news through internet through the church’s official site. I couldn’t avoid being touched by this fact.
    I’m very far from the lord, but there haven’t been a day without struggling inside of me about my situation with God.

  49. Gabriel Marquez on July 26, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Hi, it’s me again!
    I know I’m very wrong to keep being a non-active member, I haven’t lost my testimony of the church but that’s even worse because I don’t testify of its thruthness.

    I’m very sorry!

  50. Gabriel Marquez on July 26, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Hi, it’s me again!
    I know I’m very wrong to keep being a non-active member, I haven’t lost my testimony of the church but that’s even worse because I don’t testify of its thruthness.

    I’m very sorry!
    gabrimarks@yahoo.com

  51. Life According to Jordan on July 22, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Tribute to Elder Maxwell
    Times and Seasons does a nice, yet succint tribute to Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who passed away last night.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.