Saturday, April 2, 2016

Neal A. Maxwell on the importance of following the prophet with faith

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.
"Now we are entering times wherein there will be for all of us as Church members, in my judgment, some special challenges which will require of us that we follow the Brethren. All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it's high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways....
"Let us consider also the episode recorded in 2 Kings, chapter 6. The young man who serves Elisha wakes up and sees that Israel is surrounded, and he goes to Elisha in fear and says, 'Alas, my master! how shall we do?' And Elisha answers, 'Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.' (Vss. 15–16.) In 2 Kings 6:17, we read, 'And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.' The prophet will often see where we do not see. We may on occasion be privileged to see what he sees, but, in either event, we are to follow the prophet. And these powerful Old Testament stories provide a great way to illustrate that vital principle.
"The episode in which Elijah, in a time of famine and drought, wakes up and says that he hears the sound of abundant rain is also relevant. Nobody else hears it, and it is some hours before his servant reports that he sees a little black cloud the size of a man's hand. Then the skies darken and it rains in torrents. The prophet heard the sound of abundant rain in the middle of a clear sky! (See 1 Kings 18:41-46.) We know that prophets are seers, and we sustain them as such. These are great episodes to teach those essential points."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity," in CES Symposium on the Old Testament, BYU, 16 August 1979, p. 12
Click here to read the full address

Prophetic insights are so fascinating. Elder Maxwell's words were spoken almost 37 years ago. He felt that there was a transition occurring; "we are now entering times" when challenges would increase and the need for prophetic leadership would be dramatically changed. The word "followership" is not commonly used, but its meaning can be inferred as a parallel to "leadership." It describes the role that all of us have, to some extent, in these crucial times.

I love how Elder Maxwell expresses this: "All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done." That's an astonishing claim, considering some of the challenges the Church went through in its first 150 years of existence. There must be some pretty interesting things to come. "From now on, it's high adventure" says Elder Maxwell. And the tests will determine our willingness to follow prophetic vision and counsel.

The examples he then gives from the Old Testament record are illustrative of this principle. Elijah was a great example of one who could see, with his prophetic mantle and gift, things that those around him could not. Elder Maxwell's assertion is that today's prophets also have that gift; and the great call to all of us will be to listen and heed, trusting with faith in God that they have the blessings of God to provide guidance in the "special challenges" we are now facing. I love the deep faith implied in this declaration: "The prophet will often see where we do not see. We may on occasion be privileged to see what he sees, but, in either event, we are to follow the prophet."

1 comment:

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