LDS leader describes writing Elder Neal A. Maxwell's inspiring life story
Elder Hafen said he began his research thinking Elder Maxwell’s example as an educator would be central. “It soon became clear to me that the long-term central message of Neal Maxwell’s life and his teachings had a much broader, deeper focus, and that was how to become a true follower of Jesus Christ.”
His use of the word disciple changed over time, Elder Hafen said, from being essentially a synonym for Church member to being a Church member who has disengaged from the unclean, worldly distractions of the secular culture.
“And then, a few years later, after his call as a General Authority, his experience with two young fathers who had terminal cancer launched him on a quest to understand the connections between discipleship and adversity,” Elder Hafen said.
“In a book he dedicated to these two young fathers, he used a phrase that hauntingly anticipated the leukemia that wold strke him nearly two decades later.”
Elder Hafen quoted Elder Maxwell: “The very act of choosing to be a disciple can bring to us a certain special suffering. [A]ll who will can come to know [what Paul called] ‘the fellowship of his suffering.’”
Such suffering, when part of a divine tutorial, can be personally sanctifying, helping the disciple develop the skills and attitudes he needs to learn, Elder Hafen reflected.
For Elder Maxwell, it brought an increased measure of empathy both for sufferers and what he called “secondary sufferers,” loved ones who provide support to the stricken.
One day, during his cancer years, Elder Maxwell invited Elder Hafen to come with him on a lunchtime break to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City to give a priesthood blessing to someone. They had a half hour before they needed to be back for a meeting.
Walking down the hospital corridor, some people saw them coming and said, “Elder Maxwell, you came! How did you know? We’re so glad you came.”
Though unacquainted with the family, Elder Maxwell ascertained that the father needed a blessing, and the two General Authorities provided it. Then, Elder Maxwell said, “How about your mom? Does she need a blessing too?”
“We gave her a blessing, and we embraced the family, then hurried down to the other room, visited those we were going to see, and then rushed back to the meeting,” Elder Hafen said.
“The increased empathy that Elder Maxwell had found looked more and more to me like what the scriptures call charity,” he reflected. “He was coming to feel more fully the pure love of Christ for other people. Then came what was, for me, the most significant doctrinal link – the connection between charity and affliction.”
For more information on the Men and Women of Faith Lecture Series 2014, including a schedule for upcoming lectures, click here.