Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Time to Choose

A Few Choice Gospel Gems from Elder Neal A. Maxwell's Book A Time to Choose
  • "The paths of Christ and the world have always been divergent. Yet this divergence is more pronounced now than fifty or one hundred years ago when there was some kind of loose Christian consensus about man’s identity, immortality, the resurrection, the Lordship of Jesus, and the literalness of his second coming. So far as contemporary American and most western societies are concerned, it is difficult to conceive of any issues around which there could be such profound separation as now exists."
  • "Adults would do well to distinguish between our secular accomplishments and our spiritual commitments.  The former is subject to question- as a possibly atrophying 'arm of the flesh' while the latter is both what we most cherish and what gives us certitude.  A simultaneous defense of the American economic system and the reality of modern revelation is unwise even when we believe in both, because the one is changing and managed by frail mortals while the other is unchanging and managed by God."
  • "We are going to have to do a better job in helping the young to see that there is a connection between the Gospel and the problems of the real world, and that the Gospel does contain the solutions to human problems."
  • "LDS youth can, of course, do what some adults in the Church do, and that is to become modern Jonahs, to prophesy disasters for today's Ninevehs and then run up on the hill, build a shelter, and wait for the cataclysm.  The Lord chided Jonah, lovingly and yet firmly, for having too great an investment in disaster.  We must all work in the Ninevehs of our lives, doing all we can, even though we may have a sense of impending disaster.  We should not desert our post nor can we indulge ourselves in the luxury of wanting disaster, for our goal is salvation, not vindication!"
  • "The doctrines of Jesus Christ by themselves are dangerous, as G.K. Chesterton observed.  Any principle of the Gospel, isolated, spun off, and practiced in solitude, can go wild.  The incomplete insight is not insight at all!  Seeing the landscape of life illuminated briefly by lightning can be helpful, but we walk through a mortal minefield which requires the full steady light of the Gospel in order to survive.  Just as the people of the Church need each other 'that all may be edified together,' the doctrines of the Church need each other."
  • "It is important to understand that obedience is not simply a requirement of a capricious God who wants us to jump hurdles for the entertainment of a royal court.  It is really the pleading of a loving Father for you and me to discover, as quickly as we can, that there are key concepts and principles that will bring happiness in a planned but otherwise cold universe.  We simply have to rely on faith and obedience to carry us forward when our personal experience and knowledge are inadequate."
  • "We must remember that tomorrow exists prenatally in today; the fetus of tomorrow is being formed now, and this is true of nations and individuals."
  • "Although the sincerity of the prescriptions the world offers for mankind's problems are impressive, one can still question some of the secular diagnoses.  The world's approach sometimes fails to diagnose the problem and, therefore, to provide any real and lasting cure.  Wringing one's hands and looking for miracle medicines connotes anguish, but it is not the same as competency.  And being concerned does not necessarily produce insights.  The perceptions necessary for the ultimate diagnosis of human ills are, in my judgment, contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some secular prescriptions, ironically, would amount to giving mankind an aspirin when surgery is required.  What the world often prescribes falls short of real reform simply because the root causes of human misery are not examined."
  • "Discipleship in our day, as in all eras, has as a goal not our being different from other men, but our need to be more like God.  He does not seek to arbitrarily anoint a chosen few; rather, only a few men choose to walk in his path.  A saint is not given power until, among other things, he is full of love towards all men and his motives and thoughts are unceasingly virtuous.  It is then that the disciple receives 'an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth' and 'an everlasting dominion" ... 'without compulsory means.'  How we use our time on earth, therefore, makes all the difference in the world- and in worlds to come."
  • "We cannot help others towards salvation unless we ourselves are on the straight path."
  • "The Gospel is the counsel of a Super Intelligence as to how we can progress in a cold universe which responds only to law.  Man did not get to the moon with random trajectories and with each astronaut 'doing his own thing.'  The price for reaching the moon was obedience to universal law.  In many ways, God has paid man the supreme compliment by believing in him enough to change his behavior, slowly but lastingly, rather than holding man in condescending, cosmic contempt; the disciple can do no less."
  • "Imperfections in predecessors should be expected, but their faults should be seen as an opportunity for improvement- not as damaging evidence."
  • "It is a useful perception in the quietude of our own ponderings to remember that the straight and narrow is a heroic path to travel.  It challenges us to love, and to forgive, to be chaste, to render service, and to focus on basic things.  It isn't heavily populated because most people prefer the foothills; it is not crowded on the west side of Everest.  Many need assistance, and we can help them best by not abandoning our role as guides along the way."
  • "Quiet Christianity is a necessary counterpoint to the rumble of the kettle drums and the crash of cymbals of those Christian acts which are, by their very nature, visible and hard to ignore.  We also need the behavioral equivalent of the flute and the violin in order to have the kind of symphony that can make a difference in mortality."
  • "The barbed questions of the faithless do not deserve answers any more than the taunts which Christ himself suffered while on the cross.  The inquiring probes of some nonbelievers are not really questions at all, but simply a reconnaissance aimed at discovering any breeches in the defenses of the believer who holds the fortress of faith."
  • "The true disciple is described as 'good ground' and as being 'fruitful.'  One cannot help but wonder if the key to this member's success is that he gives himself so fully in service to the Lord that his beliefs are reinforced simply as a function of how he lives and by repeatedly witnessing the gospel at work in the lives of others."
  • "Dr. Gregory Zilboorg pointed out that a society which is too absorbed in scientism can develop severe narcissism and an unjustified worship of the human mind.  Worshiping even the idol of the intellect inevitably  will lead to the fall of that idol simply because our finite reason and experience are not adequate to help us function in an infinite universe."
  • "Suffering is the sweat of salvation."
  • "Khalil Gibran observed that the cavity carved out of our soul by suffering will also be the receptacle of our joy.  In this sense, those who have suffered most, and for the right reasons, will have stretched their capacity for joy and happiness."
  • Jesus Christ was "the least appreciated but most beneficial individual in human history."
  • "If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do, just as Jesus challenged the wealthy young man to 'sell all that thou hast and give it to the poor.'  Christ focuses his challenges because he loves us and because real growth is no more random than it is easy."
  • "God is a loving Father who wants us to have the happiness that results from proven righteousness, not from mere innocence.  At times, he will not deflect life's harsh learning experiences that may come to each of us, even though he will help us cope with them.  God is neither a silent, indifferent monarch in the sky, nor is he an indulgent grandfather figure who will give his children the incomplete therapy of partial truth."
  • "The Gospel also permits us to bring knowledge and love together. Gandhi worried about what he called the coldness of some intellectuals- their lack of heart, lack of warmth, and lack of love for the people whom they wanted to help. Commitment to the principle of love would mean, in effect, that our knowledge- as we seek to transmit it and share our insights- is encapsulated in love. This love underlies a kind of brotherhood that can transcend not only nationalism but also the problems of differential economic status. Knowledge is power, but it is a dangerous kind of power without love. We should not seek knowledge to control, to manipulate, or merely to exhibit."
  • "The doctrines which excite us least may be the very ones we most need to incorporate into our lives!"
  • "The repetition of a truth may make it harder to bear, but never makes it false."
  • "We often see those who no longer find pleasure in sin, but who cannot sorrow unto full repentance.  As Thomas Merton observed, it is not enough just to leave Egypt; one must also travel to the promised land.  Too many of us simply leave our 'Egypts,' thinking that is enough, only to find ourselves in a vast uncharted wilderness."
  • "The effectiveness of our communications can be increased by a lifestyle which reflects and openly acknowledges God's goodness to us, rather than resignation or resentment about the injustices of life."
  • "The harsh realities that attach themselves to growth include a willingness to stretch our souls in new adventures which are consistent with the principles of the Gospel.  It is a mistake to assume that the disciple must merely be filled with anxiety for mankind or with holy- but abstract- compassion.  He must increase his competency as well as his concern."
  • "Our best opportunity to develop discipleship is in the home, including the skills needed for communication.  The family is the institution about which few people talk, and about which little is done in America.  Yet we continue to use compensatory educational, economic, governmental, and political programs to solve or treat problems that are actually rooted in the home.  Even though these efforts are sincere and needed, they will never deal fully with the problem of an unloved child who has not learned discipline or work, and the resulting tragedy which so often occurs."
  • "Failure in the home clearly calls for compensatory institutions, but the home lies at the headwaters of the stream of civilization, and we must keep it happy and pure.  When the home fails or is polluted, we must, of course, support 'treatment' efforts downstream.  But we must not become so fascinated with the filtering operation that we ignore prevention and desert our post at the headwaters.  Building a happy home may not seem to have the immediate human impact of counseling in a juvenile detention center.  Both are necessary, but the emphasis should fall on the home if we wish to prevent massive misery."
  • "What the Gospel does is to refuse the luxury of escaping from each other.  It insists that we really see if we have the capacity to grow and to develop; to see if we can do it under the real pressures of life and home, in a family and among friends.  Then, perhaps, we can do more elsewhere."
  • "In the spirit of leveling, we must also learn that while the Lord's teachings are transferable to other individuals and cultures, the testimony which transforms these truths into action is not.  Gospel principles are portable, but the passion that underwrites them must be developed in each new host."

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