Friday, August 28, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on the experiences of life

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"Since this is a gospel of growth and life is a school of experience, God, as a loving Father, will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string: it makes music only when it is stretched. (Eric Hoffer.) God will tutor us by trying us because He loves us, not because of indifference! ...
"Because our lives are foreseen by God, He is never surprised by developments within our lives. The sudden loss of health, wealth, self-esteem, status, or a loved one—developments that may stun us—are foreseen by God, though not necessarily caused by Him. It is clear, however, that this second estate is to be a learning and a testing experience. Once again, it is relevant to remind ourselves that when the Gods discussed us and our earth experience, their declaration was, 'And we will prove them herewith.' (D&C 98:12; Abraham 3:25.)
"Clearly, we had to be moved on from the first estate—where the truth that 'all these things shall give thee experience' no doubt seemed so very logical to us—moved on to this earth, where all these experiences are sometimes so inexplicable and even nearly intolerable.
"C. S. Lewis put it well when he gave us the analogy of remodeling the human soul and a living house: 'Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.' (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1960], p. 174.)"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience," pp. 28-29

Elder Maxwell often spoke of the challenges of life; he knew from personal experience in dealing with his own, including the cancer that eventually claimed his life. He often encouraged his listeners to look for the growth that comes through trials, as a natural part of mortality.

The focus of this message is God's awareness of our challenges, and his participation in our mortal experience. The beautiful quote from C. S. Lewis was one Elder Maxwell returned to a number of times in his teaching to help illustrate this message.

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