The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

July 17, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Maxwell

Comments Off on There are no instant Christians, but there are constant Christians

God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage, and our personal progress should be yet another way we witness to the wonder of it all!

True, there are no instant Christians, but there are constant Christians!

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, Nov 1976, 12

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July 15, 2017

General Authorities, Maxwell, Tests

Comments Off on Maxwell – Eight Traps of Mortality

I should like to suggest some traps into which we can fall, if we are not careful, as we try to meet the challenges that life delivers at our doorsteps. The first temptation that we must resist, brothers and sisters, is the Jonah response, in which we sometimes think we can escape the calls that come to us, that we can somehow run away from the realities that will press in upon us. Jonah, you recall, had been called to go to Nineveh. He didn’t want to go to that urban center that was so big. We are told it took the people hours to walk across that city. He tried to find a ship going to Tarshish. He “paid the fare thereof,” hoping to leave the presence of the Lord. You and I will one day know, if we do not know now, there is no way we can escape from God’s love, because it is infinite. However many times in our lives we might rather go to a Tarshish than a Nineveh, he will insist that we go to Nineveh, and we must pay “the fare thereof.” . . .

A second trap into which we can fall is the naïveté that grows out of our not realizing that the adversary will press particularly in the areas of our vulnerabilities. It ought not to surprise us that this will be so. The things that we would most like to avoid, therefore, will often be the things that confront us most directly and most sharply. Some of you may recall that the British military planners who built the fortress of Singapore, which was supposed to be invincible, fixed the guns of Singapore so that they would fire only seaward. The Japanese very cleverly came from behind on land. Churchill and others were stunned that this citadel and fortress had fallen so quietly and so simply. Some of us have guns that fire only in one direction. We are vulnerable, and our vulnerabilities will be probed by the vicissitudes of life. One of the great advantages of life in the Church (in which the gospel is at the center) is that we can overcome these vulnerabilities; otherwise, we shall be taken by surprise and swiftly.

A third trap into which we can fall, if we are not careful, is to fail to notice that at the center of many of our challenges is pride, is ego. In most emotional escalations with which I am familiar, if one goes to the very center of them, there is ego asserting itself relentlessly. The only cure for rampant ego is humility, and this is why circumstances often bring to us a kind of compelled or forced humility–so that we may recover our equilibrium. Humility can help us to dampen our pride. Ironically, for those of us who most need to serve to develop our capacity to love, our very egos often make us unapproachable so far as others are concerned. We, therefore, are underused and we wonder why. And this is typical of the trials that we impose upon ourselves.

A fourth trap into which we can fall is that we may at times assume that the plan of salvation requires merely that we endure and survive when, in fact, as is always the case with the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is required of us, not only that we endure, but also that we endure well, that we exhibit “grace under pressure.” This is necessary, not only so that our own passage through the trial can be a growth experience, but also because (more than we know) there are always people watching to see if we can cope, who therefore may resolve to venture forth and to cope themselves. Every time we navigate safely on the strait and narrow way, there are other ships that are lost which can find their way because of our steady light.

A fifth trap, and a major one, is the trap of self-pity. One man has said that “hell is being frozen in self-pity.” Indeed, at times when we think our lot is hard or when we feel our selves misunderstood, it will be so easy for us to indulge ourselves in feeling some self-pity. A contrasting episode comes to us out of ancient Greece: Several hundred Spartans were holding the pass at Thermopylae, that narrow pass, and the Persians came in overwhelming numbers and urged the Spartans to surrender. Hoping to intimidate them further, the Persians sent emissaries to the Spartans, saying they had so many archers in their army they could darken the sky with their arrows. The Spartans said, “So much the better. We shall fight in the shade.”

A sixth trap into which we can fall quite easily, brothers and sisters, is the trap in which we sense that something special is happening in our lives but are not able to sort it out with sufficient precision and clarity that we can articulate it to someone else. That is so often true of the gospel. Its truths are too powerful for us to manage on occasion. Let me give you this simple illustration of how we can know something and yet not be able to communicate it fully without the help of the Spirit. If I were to bring one of you into this hall and if, instead of all of you, it were filled with fifteen thousand mothers and if I were to say to you, “Somewhere in that audience is your mother; find her,” you could do it, and I suspect it wouldn’t take you very many minutes. But if I said to you, “Wait outside. There are fifteen thousand mothers in there and one of them is your mother. Now, you describe her to me with sufficient precision and clarity so that I can go find her,” you couldn’t do it. You would still know what she looked like, but tongue could not transmit what you knew. It is that way often with the gospel. That is why we are so in need of the Spirit–so that knowledge can arc like electricity from point to point, aided and impelled by the Spirit–aid without which we are simply not articulate enough to speak of all the things which we know.

A seventh trap, brothers and sisters, is that some of us neglect to develop multiple forces of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss or status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that. 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.

An eighth trap to be avoided, brothers and sisters, is the tendency we have–rather humanly, rather understandably–to get ourselves caught in peering through the prism of the present and then distorting our perspective about things. Time is of this world; it is not of eternity. We can, if we are not careful, feel the pressures of time and see things in a distorted way. How important it is that we see things as much as possible through the lens of the gospel with its eternal perspectives. . . .

Now, brothers and sisters, may I prepare to close with these thoughts: The Church is fully Christ-centered. The Church is also Christ-powered, and it is also designed to help its members become more Christlike. Since the gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on the truths that deal with everlasting things and not on obsolescent realities, it is very important for us, brothers and sisters, to recognize that the truths in which we traffic as members of the kingdom pertain to eternity as well as to this life.

I am surprised (I would be amused if the cost were not so great) that people think they can remove the foundations of our social structure–things like work, chastity, and family and then wonder why other things crumble. You can’t remove the foundation of a building while standing inside and not be hit with falling plaster. We are now in the interesting position in the kingdom of trying to warn about what is happening in the world and, at the same time, of keeping ourselves personally secure. We must be Christ-centered individually. We must have his and God’s power to do our work, and we must take seriously the challenge of becoming more Christlike. You’re soon going to go out into a world full of marshmallow men. Like the act of putting a finger into a marshmallow, there is no core in these men, there is no center, and when one removes his finger, the marshmallow resumes its former shape. We are in a world of people who want to yield to everything–to every fad and to every fashion. It is incredibly important that we be committed to the core–committed to those things that matter, about which our Father in heaven has leveled with us through his Son, Jesus Christ, and his prophets.

Neal A. Maxwell

But for a Small Moment

Later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Maxwell was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 1 September 1974.

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July 15, 2017

Grace, Maxwell, Old Testament, Psalms

Comments Off on Grace – Part 2 – No Good Thing Will He Withhold

Sometimes, we may believe that Old Testament prophets somehow didn’t understand Grace and its inclusion in the Atonement.  Of course, almost all of the great Book of Mormon prophets taught and testified during Old Testament times and they taught powerfully of the Atonement.

A search of the Old Testament reveals that prophets in Israel comprehended the concept of Grace very well.

9 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.

10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
Psalms 84:9-12

A few quick notes:

Verse 10 – “look upon the face of thine anointed.”  Of course, kings were anointed during Old Testament times, but anointings were also performed for others as part of temple ceremonies.  (See Exodus 40:12-13, for example.)

Verse 11 – “the Lord God is a sun and shield” – The Savior’s Atonement protects us, “shields” us from the death of the body and the death of the spirit.  (See 2 Nephi 9:10) However, the Savior is also the “sun” and his Atonement brings light to our minds and bodies, sanctifying us and making us better people if we will allow Him to do so through our obedience to His commandments and repentance when we fall short of perfect obedience.

Verse 11 – “the Lord will give grace and glory” – Through the Atonement of Christ, we have an opportunity to receive the same glory that He and Heavenly Father have in the Celestial Kingdom.  The three kingdoms in which the resurrected live, the Telestial, the Terrestrial and and Celestial are each a kingdom of glory, but the greatest glory resides in the Celestial Kingdom.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-24)  However, any glory at all requires a resurrection and that resurrection only comes through Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Verse 12 – “blessed is the man that trusteth in thee” – As Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will trust Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and to be with Him . . . .”  See The More We Know of Jesus, the More We Will Love Him

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July 12, 2017

General Authorities, Hope, Maxwell

Comments Off on Maxwell – Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes. Instead, however, I speak of the crucial need for ultimate hope.

Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20).

Moroni confirmed: “What is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ” (Moroni 7:40–41; see also Alma 27:28). Real hope, therefore, is not associated with things mercurial, but rather with things immortal and eternal!

Unsurprisingly, hope is intertwined with other gospel doctrines, especially faith and patience.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Ensign, Nov 1998, 61

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July 11, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Humility, Maxwell, Meekness, Repentance

Comments Off on Pride prefers cheap repentance, paid for with shallow sorrow

In this rigorous process [of repentance], so much clearly depends upon meekness. Pride keeps repentance from even starting or continuing. Some fail because they are more concerned with the preservation of their public image than with having Christ’s image in their countenances! (Alma 5:14.) Pride prefers cheap repentance, paid for with shallow sorrow. Unsurprisingly, seekers after cheap repentance also search for superficial forgiveness instead of real reconciliation. Thus, real repentance goes far beyond simply saying, “I’m sorry.”

In the anguishing process of repentance, we may sometimes feel God has deserted us. The reality is that our behavior has isolated us from Him. Thus, while we are turning away from evil but have not yet turned fully to God, we are especially vulnerable. Yet we must not give up, but, instead, reach out to God’s awaiting arm of mercy, which is outstretched “all the day long.” (Jacob 5:47; Jacob 6:4; 2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 5:11.) Unlike us, God has no restrictive office hours.

No part of walking by faith is more difficult than walking the road of repentance. However, with “faith unto repentance,” we can push roadblocks out of the way, moving forward to beg God for mercy. (Alma 34:16.) True contrition brings full capitulation. One simply surrenders, caring only about what God thinks, not what “they” think, while meekly offering, “O God, … make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee.” (Alma 22:18.) Giving away all our sins is the only way we can come to know God.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Repentance, General Conference, October, 1991

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July 1, 2017

Faith, General Authorities, Maxwell

Comments Off on Maxwell – His Astonishing Atonement

Not understanding who Jesus really is by title and role inevitably sets up a lack of gratitude for His astonishing atonement. If we do not regard Him highly enough to pay heed to His words about who He is, we will pay less heed to what He says and requires of us. The resulting diminution of regard and comprehension will result in little faith. What “think [we] of Christ” inevitably determines His operative relevancy for our lives.

Contrariwise, a positive and interactive multiplier effect flows from having faith in Christ as the anointed Messiah, the King and Deliverer. This facet of faith complements faith in His Father, who chose and anointed Jesus as the Redeemer of mankind; and this in turn begets faith in the Father’s plan of salvation.

Therefore, defining Jesus, as some do, as a great moral teacher-and He was clearly the greatest-just won’t suffice. Without full faith in Jesus as mankind’s rescuing Messiah, we also will lack faith in His capacity to rescue us individually and to help us daily. Besides, how can one consistently regard Jesus as a great moral teacher, and therefore truthful and honorable, if one does not accept Jesus’ statements about His true identity?

As it was anciently, so it is in our skeptical day. The “great question” remains-“Is there really a redeeming Christ?” (See Alma 34:5.)

There is!

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Lord Increase Our Faith (Bookcraft, 1994)

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April 11, 2017

Adversity, General Authorities, General Conference, Hope, Maxwell

Comments Off on Though We Live in a Failing World, We Have Not Been Sent Here to Fail

Regarding trials, including of our faith and patience, there are no exemptions—only variations (see Mosiah 23:21). These calisthenics are designed to increase our capacity for happiness and service. Yet the faithful will not be totally immune from the events on this planet. Thus the courageous attitudes of imperiled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are worthy of emulation. They knew that God could rescue them. “But if not,” they vowed, they would still serve God anyway (see Daniel 3:16–18). Similarly, keeping the unfashionable but imperative first and seventh commandments can reflect the courage which three young women displayed anciently; they said no with their lives (see Abraham 1:11).

Therefore, we can be troubled on every side, but nothing can really separate us from the love of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:8; Romans 8:35–39); worldly anxieties are not part of being “anxiously engaged” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). Even so, as Peter urged, we can and should cast our cares upon the Lord, because He surely cares for us! (see 1 Peter 5:7). Oh, brothers and sisters, the awaiting emancipation of such trusting surrender!

As to remedying our personal mistakes, we face no hindering traffic jams on the road of repentance. It is a toll road, not a freeway, and applying Christ’s Atonement will speed us along.

There may need to be plain-speaking Jethros in our lives to stretch us (see Exodus 18:14–24) or moments of stark realization, as with the original Twelve, who rightly concluded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Besides, unless we are filled with resolve, what will we say to the heroes and heroines of Martin’s Cove and the Sweetwater? That “we admire you, but we are reluctant to wade through our own rivers of chilling adversity”?

Brothers and sisters, by divine appointment, “these are [our] days” (Helaman 7:9), since “all things must come to pass in their time” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:32). Moreover, though we live in a failing world, we have not been sent here to fail.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Encircled in the Arms of His Love,” Ensign, Nov 2002, 16

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April 6, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Gratitude, Humility, Maxwell

Comments Off on Content with the Things Allotted to Us

Ponder how Jesus was and is the Lord of the universe (see D&C 45:1; D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33; Moses 2:1). Yet His ministry, as we all know, was accomplished in a very tiny geographical space. His ministerial travels were very limited. Yet therein the Savior accomplished the Atonement for all of mankind! There were certainly much more prominent hills than Golgotha and much more resplendent gardens than Gethsemane. No matter; these were sufficient to host the central act of all human history !

We can draw upon that glorious Atonement by repenting. We can learn to serve and to forgive within our sample of humanity, including settings no larger than the family or friendships.

The justice and mercy of God will have been so demonstrably perfect that at the Final Judgment there will be no complaints, including from those who once questioned what God had allotted in the mortal framework (see 2 Nephi 9:14–15; Alma 5:15–19; Alma 12:3–14; Alma 42:23–26, 30).

Hence, we can and “ought to be content with the things allotted to us,” being circumstantially content but without being self-satisfied and behaviorally content with ourselves (see 3 Nephi 12:48; 3 Nephi 27:27; Matthew 5:48).

Such contentment is more than shoulder-shrugging passivity. It reflects our participative assent rather than uncaring resignation.

The Lord knows our circumstances and the intents of our hearts, and surely the talents and gifts He has given us. He is able to gauge perfectly how we have performed within what is allotted to us, including by lifting up some of the many surrounding hands that hang down. Thus, yearning for expanded opportunities while failing to use those at hand is bad form spiritually.

What we could and have done within our allotted acreage, therefore, is known perfectly by the Master of the vineyard.

Their meekness and larger capacity for spiritual contentment may be one reason why God uses the weak of the world to accomplish His work (see D&C 1:19, 23; D&C 35:13; D&C 133:58–59; 1 Corinthians 1:27). The worldly are usually not very interested in doing what they regard as the Lord’s lowly work anyway.

Significantly, too, the Lord refuses to intimidate by sending legions of angels in order to ensure that individuals do His will (see Matthew 26:47–53). His will is to be done “because of the word,” not because we are compelled (Alma 36:26). The rule has been, is, and will remain “Nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself” (Moses 3:17). The Lord wants conversion without intimidation.

Let us remember in our age of spin, the only spin God desires is our freely turning away from sin and turning to Him. Therefore, the Lord does not seek to overwhelm us but instead to help us overcome the world! (see D&C 64:2; Revelations 3:21).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Content with the Things Allotted unto Us,” Ensign, May 2000, 72

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March 31, 2017

Adversity, Enabling Power, Faith, General Authorities, General Conference, Maxwell

Comments Off on He Waits with Open Arms to Receive the Repentant

The sustaining and enabling power of the Atonement is much needed when we are being instructed with the sometimes difficult experiences that come to all from time to time.

From Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” (Heb. 12:5–8.)

One’s life, therefore, cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. President Wilford Woodruff counseled us all about the mercy that is inherent in some adversity: “The chastisements we have had from time to time have been for our good, and are essential to learn wisdom, and carry us through a school of experience we never could have passed through without.” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:198.)

Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, “Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!”

. . . .

. . . do we naively expect Christ to come to us—instead of our going to Him? Truly He waits “all the day long” with open arms to receive the repentant. (2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 6:17.) There are no restrictive “office hours.” But it is we who must arise and go to Him! (See Luke 15:18.)

. . . .

. . . in process of time, our personal inconsistencies may be made inconveniently clear. How else shall we see what we lack? Spiritual refinement is not only to make the gross more pure but to further refine the already fine! Hence, said Peter, we should not think a “fiery trial” to be “some strange thing.” (1 Pet. 4:12.)

Real faith, however, is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process. As things unfold, sometimes in full view, let us be merciful with each other. We certainly do not criticize hospital patients amid intensive care for looking pale and preoccupied. Why then those recovering from surgery on their souls? No need for us to stare; those stitches will finally come out. And in this hospital, too, it is important for everyone to remember that the hospital chart is not the patient. Extending our mercy to someone need not wait upon our full understanding of their challenges! Empathy may not be appreciated or reciprocated, but empathy is never wasted.

When you and I make unwise decisions, if we have frail faith, we not only demand to be rescued but we want to be rescued privately, painlessly, quickly—or at least to be beaten only “with a few stripes.” (2 Ne. 28:8.) Brothers and sisters, how can we really feel forgiven until we first feel responsible? How can we learn from our own experiences unless these lessons are owned up to?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“‘Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds’,” Ensign, May 1991, 88

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March 15, 2017

Discipleship, General Authorities, Maxwell

Comments Off on The more we become like Jesus, the more we come to know Him

He who bore the atoning yoke has asked us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Matt. 11:29). So the taking of Jesus’ yoke upon us constitutes serious discipleship. There is no greater calling, no greater challenge, and no greater source of joy—both proximate joy and ultimate joy—than that which is found in the process of discipleship. This process brings its own joys and reassurances. We must not, however, expect the world to understand or to value our discipleship; they will not. In a way, they may admire us from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from our devotion.

Shouldering the yoke of discipleship greatly enhances both our adoration and knowledge of Jesus, because then we experience, firsthand, through our parallel but smaller-scaled experiences, a small but instructive portion of what the Savior experienced. In this precious process, the more we do what Jesus did—allow our wills to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father”—the more we will learn of Jesus (Mosiah 15:7). This emulation directly enhances our adoration of Jesus.

Simultaneously, in this same process, the more we become like Jesus, the more we come to know Him. There may even be, more than we now know, some literalness in His assertion, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). We lack deep understanding of the implications of that remark of Jesus. As with so many things, He is telling us more than we are now prepared to receive.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, Jun 1996, 12

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