Saturday, December 31, 2016

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on stretching ourselves in personal progress

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.
"Our goals should stretch us bit by bit. So often when we think we have encountered a ceiling, it is really a psychological or experimental barrier that we have built ourselves. We built it and we can remove it.
"Just as correct principles, when applied, carry their own witness that they are true, so do correct personal improvement programs. But we must not expect personal improvement without pain or some 'remodeling.' We can't expect to have the thrills of revealed religion without the theology. We cannot expect to have the soul stretching without Christian service."
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple, pp. 33-34

We often neglect the fundamental premise of this excerpt: ongoing self-improvement. We tend to coast along in life, surviving the needs or demands as best we can, but not often focusing on improving our abilities, knowledge, habits, or personalities. Elder Maxwell encourages that we look for areas of gradual but consistent improvement ("bit by bit"), recognizing that our perceived limits in various areas are not really barriers at all. I like that challenge! But it should be remembered that change and improvement are not effortless, and sometimes are not painless:

It's also an interesting thought that "correct personal improvement programs" will "carry their own witness that they are true." We will sense, often quickly, if a course we are taking is leading in positive directions. But it requires that we embark on the course first in order to know!

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