Elder Neal A. Maxwell on Consecration, Scholarship, and the Defense of the Kingdom

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The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS, was organized by John W. Welch in California in 1979 and then moved to Provo when Professor Welch joined the law faculty at BYU the following year. In 1997, while I was serving as chairman of the FARMS Board of Directors, Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University (BYU), invited the Foundation to become a part of the University. “FARMS,” President Hinckley said at the time, “represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis. I wish to express my strong congratulations and appreciation for those who started this effort and who have shepherded it to this point.”1

In 2001, FARMS was rechristened as the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART), but then, mercifully, in 2006 we received permission to change its name to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Elder Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church since July 1981, had passed away in late July 2004.

[Page viii]On 27 September 1991—years before the Foundation’s affiliation with the University, a decade prior to the first of those name changes, and long before he became something of a patron saint to my Islamic Translation Series—Elder Maxwell addressed that year’s “FARMS Annual Recognition Banquet,” as it was then called, in the Wilkinson Student Center on the BYU campus.

I had joined BYU’s Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages in the fall of 1985, and then, in 1988, had been invited to launch and edit the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon—which eventually became the FARMS Review of Books and then, simply, the FARMS Review. Our first issue was published in 1989, and, for the first few years, the Review appeared only annually. In 1991, if I’m not mistaken, I was not yet a member of the FARMS board. I was very junior, and a very minor player.

Still, for what little it’s worth, I was present at that banquet, and, as it happens, I played a slightly embarrassing role, perhaps forgotten by the others who were there but still acutely memorable to me:

I had been invited to offer the invocation and the blessing on the meal. Immediately after I said “Amen,” Hugh Nibley called out “He didn’t bless the food!” A whispered but perceptible disagreement broke out among the audience about whether I had or hadn’t—I thought I had—and, after thirty seconds or so, a bit chagrined and determined to put the matter behind me, I took it upon myself to return to the lectern and offer a second prayer—an addendum, in which I most definitely did bless the food. For a still relatively new faculty member and associate of FARMS, the evening hadn’t begun altogether well. (At the conclusion of the program, though, Elder Maxwell sought me out and assured me that I had indeed blessed the food the first time. He was, among many other things, a remarkably gracious man, and I miss him very much.) But any embarrassment that [Page ix]I felt was soon forgotten in the sheer pleasure of being in the presence of, and hearing from, a living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have received permission from Elder Maxwell’s family to reproduce here the transcription of Elder Maxwell’s remarks at the banquet that was made from a recording by my friend and former Maxwell Institute colleague Matthew Roper on 5 October 1991, slightly more than a week after the event.2 While a more polished version of the speech eventually appeared in BYU Studies, it was considerably shortened and the references to its specific audience were largely eliminated. So far as I am aware, Elder Maxwell’s full banquet remarks have never before appeared publicly.3

I have, for clarity and exactness, modified some of the punctuation in the transcription and two or three cases of capitalization, but I have made absolutely no changes in its wording. I have also inserted a few footnoted references and explanations. (The scriptural references inserted into the text itself were supplied by Matthew Roper as he transcribed the talk.) In some cases, Elder Maxwell’s quotations (very likely made from memory) vary slightly from his sources; I have not corrected these variations. Elder Maxwell was a sophisticated wordsmith, but the version of the speech reproduced here retains its informal, slightly rough, oral, off-the-cuff style. I did not feel that I had the right to alter that, and neither did I think it important to do so. The prophetic voice of this modern apostle can still be plainly heard through these transcribed remarks. Indeed, as I read these words, I can hear Elder Maxwell’s literal [Page x]voice again in my mind, and I hope that others who knew and loved him will have the same experience.

I believe that they are important historically, but also because of the light they shed on the position that this very reflective special witness took toward the kind of work that FARMS was then doing and that The Interpreter Foundation now seeks to further.

****

Thank you very much, Jack.4

I’ve never made any secret of my appreciation for FARMS. As I see you grow larger and become more significant, I’ll never have any greater appreciation than I did a few years back when our enemies were lobbing all sorts of mortar shells into our Church encampment, and among the few guns that were blazing away were the guns of FARMS. That meant that Jack and Sister Welch and a few of you here were running mimeograph machines, pasting mailing labels on, yourself. I thank you and salute you for that kind of devotion. As big and wonderful as you will become—and I hope you do—my memories are always nurtured by those moments when so few stood up to respond, and among those who did were scholars who have taken the lead in FARMS. Really, that’s why I’ve come to pay thanks to all of you, individually and collectively. This organization, independent as it is, is nevertheless committed, as I see it, to protect and to build up the Kingdom of God and I thank all of you who have any part in it.

[Page xi]I want to thank, while I’m here, also so many of you in this room who have contributed to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Those like Jack and Dick Bushman and others not only wrote articles, but did yeoman service as editors. Of that project, people said it couldn’t be done or, if it got done, it would take ten years. It took three. They said it couldn’t be done. Ever so many things were issued in the way of jeremiads, but it’s been done and will be off the press in November. Again, that could not have been accomplished without the men and women in this room and so many others.

I hope you don’t underestimate the significance of what you do as articulators of the faith. In praising C. S. Lewis, Austin Farrer said the following (and, when I think of this quote, I think of FARMS), “Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief is possible.”5 An excellent quote.

One recent example of your being at the cutting edge, of course, is the discovery of certain passages in some papyri that bear a potentially significant relationship to the Book of Abraham and its facsimiles.6 So that you’ll get a sense of my response to that, I’ve been in a little correspondence with the ambassador of Egypt to the United States. Having met him a few months ago and talked with him about Abraham and Egypt, he’s quite fascinated by it, so off went one of your FARMS [Page xii]newsletters to that ambassador. There’s not been time for him to respond. And then an LDS man who works for a big bank in Saudi Arabia had presented me with a beautiful replication of the facsimile, framed and done in Cairo by an Egyptian artist. It’s hanging on the wall in my office. The artist in Cairo said, “What are you Mormons doing with these things about Abraham?” We’re in the middle of significant things, and at the cutting edge is FARMS, for which I express my appreciation.

What I see happening, brothers and sisters, is coming on the installment basis, in which there is vindication after vindication of the Prophet Joseph. And though he was not a perfect man, his bottom line about himself I read to you now: “I never told you that I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.”7 We will walk through a series of events, as we do now, in which, on issue after issue, he will be vindicated in terms of his prophetic mission. I remember, with many of you, years ago, having the Prophet criticized or at least disdained because he presumed to say that doctors had come to treat his leg when he was a boy. Doctors in rural New England? And then, as you remember, Dr. LeRoy Wirthlin researched the matter several years ago and discovered that the doctor who came to treat young Joseph was from Dartmouth and brought with him medical students. It turns out, as you recall, that this doctor was years ahead of the medical profession in his treatment of that particular ailment.8 So what the Prophet says is, for us, going to be incrementally vindicated, whether, in my judgment, it’s a facsimile or who treated him, we will find [Page xiii]this is a remarkable man and we will see this occurring again and again.

I mention also to you, in the spirit of appreciation, that I believe much of the vindication that will come to the Prophet and to this work of the Restoration will come by scholars who are committed to the Kingdom, who are unequivocally devoted to it. His vindication will often occur through your articulation, you and others like you. So thank you for providing the climate that Austin Farrer describes so well.

By the way, I think you’re helping another group. I don’t know the demographics of this group. They are a most interesting group and it isn’t your primary constituency, but George MacDonald, who was C. S. Lewis’s mentor in absentia, had a quote I share with you: “It is often the incapacity for defending the faith they love, which turns men into persecutors.”9 Defenders beget defenders and one of the significant side benefits of scholars who are devoted, such as the men and women who are represented here tonight, is that we will at least reduce the number of people who do not have the capacity to defend their faith and who otherwise might “grow weary and faint in their minds” (Hebrews 12:3).

Even the title of your organization seems to be important along with what you’ve done. I myself would be reluctant if you ever moved away from what had become your traditional role. Enterprises of scholarship may be like some businesses who fail at enlargement or lose the essence of what they have been successful at doing. I appreciate what Jack and Steve delineated tonight, that shows a faithfulness at doing what you do best—and I would hope that you would always do this.10

[Page xiv]Now, I’m going to talk to you tonight because something has been on my mind, and it’s not any more relevant to this audience than it would be to any other audience, but I speak, more than to you, rather to another audience, an audience of one. I’m talking to myself now, and I speak because it’s on my mind.

It strikes me that one of the sobering dimensions of the gospel is the democracy of its demands as it seeks to build an aristocracy of saints. Certain standards and requirements are laid upon us all. They are uniform. We don’t have an indoor-outdoor set of ten commandments. We don’t have one set of commandments for bricklayers and another for college professors. There is a democracy about the demands of discipleship, which, interestingly enough, is aimed at producing an aristocracy of saints. The Church member who is an automobile mechanic doesn’t have your scholarly skills and I’ll wager you don’t have his. But both of you, indeed all of us, have the same spiritual obligation, the same commandments and the same covenants to keep. The mechanic is under the same obligation to develop the attributes of patience and meekness as are you and as am I. What’s different about this is that the world doesn’t hold to such a view. Frankly the world would say, if one is a political leader or a scholar and is successful in politics or superb in his scholarship, that’s enough, and no further demands are made. Thus one who is so gifted or so well regarded can then be as bohemian in behavior as he likes and it’s excusable. But it’s not so in the Kingdom, is it? Of course, we all enjoy the fruits of our secular geniuses and our world leaders, even when they are visibly flawed in some respect, and we would not diminish from [Page xv]the significance of their contributions. A just God will surely credit them. However, God excuses no one, including us, from keeping his commandments, and, I think, most significantly no one is excused by him or his Son in the requirement they’ve laid upon us to become like them.

Recently, my wife took a friend to hear a presentation by a talented Latter-day Saint. The friend, who has had considerable grief and disappointment in her life, truly appreciated the presentation. When it was over, she said to Colleen, “I hope he’s as good a person as he seems.”11 It’s a shame, isn’t it, that such reserve needs even to be expressed, but many have learned by sad experience that spiritual applause is sometimes given to the undeserving. (I hasten to add, from all I know in the case just cited, the applause was fully justified.)

Whatever our fields, including scholarship, the real test is discipleship. But how special, as in the case of so many of you here, when scholarship and discipleship can company together, blending meekness with brightness and articulateness with righteousness. But these desired outcomes happen only when there is commitment bordering on consecration.

I want to say, in closing, a few words about consecration.

You’ll recall the episode in the fifth chapter of the book of Acts about how Ananias and his wife “kept back part” of the monetary proceeds from their possessions (Acts 5:1-11). We tend to think of consecration in terms of property and money. Indeed, such was clearly involved in the foregoing episode, but there are various ways of “keeping back part,” and these ways are worthy of your and my pondering. There are a lot of things we can hold back besides property. There are a lot of things we can refuse to put on the altar. This refusal may occur even after one has given a great deal, as was the case with Ananias. We may mistakenly think, for instance, having done so much, [Page xvi]that surely it is all right to hold back the remaining part of something. Obviously there can be no complete submissiveness when this occurs.

Lately, as I have thought about consecration, it has seemed to me that, unsurprisingly, it’s related to the Atonement in a way that is quite profound. I read to you three lines from that marvelous Book of Mormon which we rightly celebrate here tonight: “Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7). Marvelous imagery, and perhaps the ultimate demand made by discipleship. Willingness to have our selves and our wills “swallowed up” in the will of our Father. When pondering this concept and reading quite a bit from Brigham Young this summer, I was unsurprised to encounter this quote: “When the will, passions, and feelings of a person are perfectly submissive to God and his requirements, that person is sanctified. It is for my will to be swallowed up in the will of God that will lead me to all good and crown me ultimately with immortality and eternal lives.”12

Scholars might hold back in ways different from those of a businessman or a politician. There’s an almost infinite variety in the number of ways you and I can hold back a portion. One, for instance, might be very giving as to money, or in even serving as to time, and yet hold back a portion of himself or herself. One might share many talents, but hold back, for instance, a pet grievance, keeping himself from surrendering that grievance where resolution might occur. A few may hold back a portion of themselves so as to please a particular gallery of peers. Some might hold back a spiritual insight through which many could profit, simply because they wish to have their ownership established. Some may even hold back by not [Page xvii]allowing themselves to appear totally and fully committed to the Kingdom, lest they incur the disapproval of a particular group wherein their consecration might be disdained. So it is in the Church that some give of themselves significantly, but not fully and unreservedly.

While withholding is obviously a function of selfishness, I’m rather inclined to think, brothers and sisters, that some of the holding back I see here and there in the Church, somehow gets mistakenly regarded as having to do with our individuality. Some presume that we will lose our individuality if we are totally swallowed up, when actually our individuality is enhanced by submissiveness and by righteousness and by being swallowed up in the will of the Father. It’s sin that grinds us down to a single plane, down to sameness and to monotony. There is no lasting place in the Kingdom, the ultimate ranges of that Kingdom, for one who is unsubmissive, or for unanchored brilliance. It too must be swallowed up. And our obvious model is always Jesus himself, who allowed his will to be swallowed up in the will of the Father.

Those of you I know here tonight, I am so happy to say, seem to me to be both committed and contributive in an unusual degree. In any case, ready or not, you serve as mentors to a rising generation of Latter-day Saint scholars and students. Among the many things you will teach them and write for them, let them see the eloquence of your examples of submissiveness, and being swallowed up in the will of the Father. Just today, I was with someone who wanted me to know that he felt quite in tune with consecration and the concept of being swallowed up, “but,” he said, “that doesn’t apply to such and such,” and then described to me what he had chosen to hold back. It’s interesting how that happens so often.

May I close by citing to you what has become to me a focus for this summer’s reading. In an attribute—cited again, unsurprisingly, in the Book of Mormon, as also Isaiah and [Page xviii]the one-hundred and thirty-third section of the Doctrine and Covenants—is the attribute of Deity which is laid upon us as something we are to develop, and it is described in the word loving kindness. Coverdale first used that, I think, in 1535, in time for it to make its way into our biblical literature. When Nephi describes why Jesus did what he did for us, he said it was “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9). When David made his great plea for forgiveness, he appealed to God’s loving kindness (Psalm 51:1). When Jesus comes again (and in the one-hundred and thirty-third section, it details how he will descend from regions not known, in red apparel, obviously to remind us of his having shed his blood for our sins), we are told that there will be dramatic solar displays, that stars will be hurled from their places, and we will witness that, for he has told us that all flesh shall see him together, and those living then indeed will. What’s striking about that is, in verse fifty-two of the one-hundred and thirty-third section, the thing that we will remember, or at least which we will speak of, is not the dramatic solar display, but we will speak of his loving kindness. How long? “Forever and ever” (D&C 133:52). The more you and I know of him and his glorious atonement, the more marvelous it will become, and we will never tire of declaring how we feel about his loving kindness and we will do it forever and ever.

And I salute him as I do you for his great sacrifice for us, and the marvelous Prophet Joseph who was processing words and concepts and doctrines which were, bright as he was, beyond his capacity to immediately and fully comprehend. Indeed, there is no error in the revelations which he has taught to us. Thank you for what you do to articulate these precious things of the Kingdom to help us all, including those who are not able to defend the Kingdom and who might thereby turn against it, some of whom you will deflect and keep them, in the words of the Book of Mormon, “in the right way” (Moroni 6:4). [Page xix]My salutation, my appreciation, to you all for what you do. May God continue to bless you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


  1. “FARMS Becomes Part of BYU,” Ensign (January 1998), 80; online at https://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/01/news-of-the-church/farms-becomes-part-of-byu?lang=eng&query=hinckley,+%22FARMS+represents%22

  2. I also sought and received Matthew Roper’s permission to reproduce his transcription in this introduction. Unfortunately, as far as we have been able to discover, the recording is no longer extant. 

  3. See Neal A. Maxwell, “Discipleship and Scholarship”, BYU Studies 32, no. 3 (1992), 5-9. 

  4. Jack, here, refers to John W. Welch, the founder of FARMS. Immediately prior to Elder Maxwell’s remarks, he had discussed where the Foundation was headed during the coming year. He is, at the present time, the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at Brigham Young University and the editor of BYU Studies. Professor Welch recently contributed an article entitled “Toward a Mormon Jurisprudence” to Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 6 (2013): 49-84, online at: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/toward-a-mormon-jurisprudence/

  5. Austin Farrer, “Grete Clerk,” in Light On C. S. Lewis, ed. Jocelyn Gibb (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1965), 26. 

  6. See “References to Abraham Found in Two Ancient Egyptian Texts,” Insights: An Ancient Window 11/5 (September 1991) ; online at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/insights/11/5/S00013-Insights_An_Ancient_Window.html. At the time, Insights was the regular newsletter, aimed at a broad general audience of FARMS and of its successor organizations, ISPART and the Maxwell Institute. 

  7. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 368. 

  8. LeRoy S. Wirthlin, “Nathan Smith (1762-1828): Surgical Consultant to Joseph Smith”, BYU Studies 17, no. 3 (Spring 1977): 319-37; LeRoy S. Wirthlin, “Joseph Smith’s Surgeon,” Ensign, March 1978, 59-60. ; LeRoy S. Wirthlin, “Joseph Smith’s Boyhood Operation: An 1813 Surgical Success”, BYU Studies 21, no. 2 (1981): 131-54. 

  9. C.S. Lewis, ed., George Macdonald: An Anthology (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 108. 

  10. Steve refers, here, to Stephen D. Ricks, who was serving in 1991 as the president of FARMS. Earlier in the evening, he had reviewed the activities of the Foundation over the past year and presented awards to Lois Richardson, Michael Lyon, and John Gee for their outstanding service to the organization. Dr. Ricks is Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Learning at Brigham Young University and is a member of the board of The Interpreter Foundation and a contributor to this journal. See http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/author/stephen/. Dr. Gee has become a significant contributor to Interpreter, as well: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/author/johng/

  11. The reference is to Colleen Maxwell, Elder Maxwell’s wife. 

  12. B. Young, Journal of Discourses, April 17, 1853, 2:123. 

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About Daniel C. Peterson

Daniel C. Peterson (Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles) is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and is the founder of the University’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, for which he served as editor-in-chief until mid-August 2013. He has published and spoken extensively on both Islamic and Mormon subjects. Formerly chairman of the board of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and an officer, editor, and author for its successor organization, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, his professional work as an Arabist focuses on the Qur’an and on Islamic philosophical theology. He is the author, among other things, of a biography entitled Muhammad: Prophet of God (Eerdmans, 2007).

16 thoughts on “Elder Neal A. Maxwell on Consecration, Scholarship, and the Defense of the Kingdom

  1. What a wonderful piece. This, in particular, stood out to me. “I myself would be reluctant if you [scholars associated with ‘classic FARMS’] ever moved away from what had become your traditional role. Enterprises of scholarship may be like some businesses who fail at enlargement or lose the essence of what they have been successful at doing.”

    • I agree. It is like the inevitable creep from being small, agile, entrepreneurial, and innovative to large, corporate, bureaucratic, slow, and stifled in the business world. Large corporations often lose their original vision, and fail to keep up with the disruptive startups.

    • I had had the pleasure of reading an earlier version of this remakable address by Elder Maxwell. Reading it again was rewarding. One can almost again hear him speaking. Among the many things in this address that impressed me was his caution about what is sometimes called “mission creep” that often seems to afflict organizations.

    • The “creeping shift” you are talking about is that Fatal Shift Nibley decries, from Leadership to Management. The fear of being labelled and apologist has done what fear always does. Fearing man more than God more than man didn’t help Martin Harris, did it? Why do we not learn that? Why do we care whether or not people who only applaud when Mormons apostatize think well of us? Why do we fear the labels of people who loathe us? And I do mean loathe. Why would anyone let anti-Mormons determine what we study or publish? For the love of Odin, why do we waste a single paragraph trying to get people who would not AT GUN POINT say out loud that we are Christians to concede that we are Christians? We should not preach to the choir, but we should also not pander to the critics. I miss FARMS!

  2. This was my first experience with Elder Maxwell’s address on that occasion, and I found his discussion of “loving kindness” particularly evocative. It made me reflect on a time long past when someone unexpectedly did an act of kindness toward me, and it brought tears to my eyes to quietly remember that instant and selfless generosity by a brother long ago and far away in a military barracks.
    Elder Maxwell still speaks to us, though from the dust. And he reminds us of what really matters.

  3. I was an avid subscriber to the Neal A Maxwell Institute for several years. I regret never having hear Elder Maxwell speak, but so much enjoyed reading his books. Thank you for bringing this talk to light. Elder Maxwell uses the term ‘loving kindness’ and I cannot think of a more appropriate term ( possibly tender mercies) that helps me to understand how much the Lord and Heavenly Father love His children. Thank you for being bold in your scholarship and adding to my knowledge and understanding. I comprehend the obligation that each member has to defend the Gospel, as we grow line upon line, precept upon precept. Scholarship is a lifetime challenge, and carries heavy responsibility. Thank you for all you do in defending the faith and enlightening the membership.

  4. Beautiful! Consecration, the all-encompassing law of the Celestial Kingdom.

    One of my most cherished documents is a personal letter I received from Elder Maxwell in response to my questioning him on a point of doctrine he mentioned in one of his books. I had the audacity to suggest to him an alternate understanding of the scripture on which he based his statement. His reply was that only the First Presidency of the Church had the authority to give a definitive answer to my suggestion and it was my prerogative to contact them if I wanted to pursue the matter. Then he lovingly added, “But, perhaps you might want to be like Mary and treasure it up in your heart.” I still treasure it in my heart.

  5. A beautiful talk. Thank you for sharing.

    It’s interesting. One would assume by knowing Elder Maxwell that he likely traveled much, if not the entirety, of the path towards having his will swallowed up by the father. Yet, his words – likely many of the words of the Savior, communicated as best as Elder Maxwell knew how – are so distinctive of him. Truly, we emphasize our individuality through consecration as we concurrently come to know the Individual who suffered for our sins.

    A beautiful, inspiring talk. It has rekindled yet again my gratitude for our living prophets and my desire to live a life like the Savior.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I was also struck with Elder Maxwell’s message regarding submitting ourselves to God’s will. There is something celestial and consecrational in becoming truly submissive to God’s will, something I am yet far off in realizing.

  7. Thanks for sharing Elder Maxwell’s talk with us. I was impressed by the concept that he presented of consecration; that we should not “hold back” from contributing what we have received; this may include time, talents (both money and skills), or knowledge that the Lord has given us or may give us. As a result I feel that I should share some of my thoughts and understanding of the phrase he talked about, i.e. loving kindness (in the KJV it is lovingkindness as one word), which is a descriptive attribute of the Savior and particularly associated with, as Elder Maxwell says, “his glorious atonement.” In Hebrew the word is ḥeseḏ and is variously translated as “kindness” (Gen. 24:12), “goodness” (Ps 52:1), “mercy” (Ex 20:6), and “lovingkindness” (Ps 103:4). “Lovingkindness” [ḥeseḏ] is coupled with “truth” in many scriptures (Ps 26:3; 40:10-11; 138:2); likewise “mercy” [ḥeseḏ] and “truth” form a couplet (Gen. 24:27; Ps. 25:10; 57:3, 10; 61:7). Some examples are: “But thou, O LORD, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy [ḥeseḏ] and truth” (Ps 86:15). Moses describes the Lord: “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness [ḥeseḏ] and truth” (Ex. 34:6). This is similar to David’s plea: “I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness [ḥeseḏ] and thy truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness [ḥeseḏ] and thy truth continually preserve me” (Ps 40:10-11). Many times there is an adjective that precedes ḥeseḏ and it is raḇ, meaning “much, many, great, abundance.” This phrase, raḇ-ḥeseḏ, is variously translated as “plenteous in mercy” (Ps 86:5,15; 103:8), “abundant in goodness” (Ex 34:6), “of great kindness” (Neh 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2), “great of mercy” (Num 14:18), and also “according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses” (Is 63:7). This phrase is used when describing the attributes and qualities of the Lord, e.g. Nehemiah taught “thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not” (Neh. 9:17). Moses described the Lord in these words: “The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). David’s prayer was: “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. …But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Ps 86:5,15). Compare this to Alma’s teachings: “And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and longsuffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers” (Alma 9:26). Nephi bears witness of the suffering of the Savior: “Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9). Lehi taught his son Jacob: “Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth” (2 Nephi 2:6).

    I believe that the Hebrew phrase raḇ-ḥeseḏ can also be translated as “full of grace” as it likely is in the Book of Mormon. It is couched in the same kind of phraseology that describes the Lord in both the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon. In the Doctrine and Covenants the triumphant Lord is described in song: “Glory, and honor, and power, and might, Be ascribed to our God; for he is full of mercy, Justice, grace and truth, and peace, Forever and ever. Amen” (D&C 84:102). We also learn how Jesus progressed: ‘And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. And I, John say that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (D&C 93:11-13).

    James E. Talmage in Jesus the Christ p.111-2 comments on the development of Jesus: “The child grew, and with growth there came to Him expansion of mind, development of faculties, and progression in power and understanding. His advancement was from one grace to another, not from gracelessness to grace; [but] from good to greater good, not from evil to good; [but] from favor with God to greater favor….”
    We must also grow in grace until we are full of grace and truth. “Behold, ye are little children and he cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth” (D&C 50:40). “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:20). This is the same teaching that Peter gave to the early Saints: “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The prophet Mormon also taught: “And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works” (Hel. 12:24).
    Jacob the son of Lehi taught: “and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24) and Nephi adds “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Now if the word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew word ḥeseḏ then it becomes apparent that it is this quality (“mercy, goodness, kindness and lovingkindness”) that the Lord possessed that gave him the power to accomplish the atonement. And we must also grow is grace [ḥeseḏ], or in other words, we must grow and develop in mercy, goodness, kindness and lovingkindness; then the Lord can bless us with a fullness of grace (ḥeseḏ) and truth, and we will be like him (1 John 3:2; Moroni 7:48) for he is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; 2 Nephi 2:6; Alma 5:48; 9:26; 13:9; D&C 66:12; 84:102; 93:11; Moses 1:6,32; 5:7; 6:52; 7:11).

  8. As a young man in the Spring of 1977 I was pleased to spend a small portion of an evening in the home of Neal and his wife, Colleen, and thrilled to have him inscribe my copies of “A More Excellent Way,” “The Smallest Part” and “Of One Heart.”

    Up until I left Christianity and Mormonism ten years later, along with Truman Madsen and Paul Dunn, Neal remained my favorite Mormon person and author.

    When I finally cleared my shelves of my Mormon books it was with a bit of a twinge and fond remembrance that I donated theirs and Madsen’s to the DI.

    The passing of Neal Maxwell and Truman Madsen came with some warm-fuzzy nostaligia, more so than any other prominent Mormon death of the last 25 years.

    I can still conjure their voices and reach back and touch the things of value that I enjoyed when I was a Mormon. Along with the laughter of children and a few of the hymns on those few occasions when I visit a Mormon chapel, the memories of Neal Maxwell are among the few things Mormon that still warm me.

    I left Mormonism with no regrets but remain grateful for what it added to my life of that period. Neal Maxwell is high on the list.

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