Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Disciple's Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell

Goodreads Says:    The story behind the writing of this book really began in 1976, when Elder Maxwell invited me to take a leave from Brigham Young University and work for two years under his daily direction in the new Correlation Department at Church headquarters. In later years, when I was an administrator and a teacher at Ricks College and then at BYU, I saw him often in Church Educational System meetings, where he was a key figure on the Church Board of Education. In 1996 I was called to the Seventy and assigned to an Area Presidency in Australia, where I remained until returning to Utah in August of 2000. Like so many other Church members, my wife, Marie, and I were stunned by the news of Elder Maxwell's leukemia in late 1996, and we worried and prayed about his health. During October conference 1999, he invited me to come by his office. As we talked, he indicated he was not certain about his condition. He said he was receiving an experimental treatment but "one of these days" the leukemia just might fully return. That was the main reason, he said, why he'd finally yielded to prodding from others that he allow the writing of his biography. I thought a book on his life story would be wonderful until he asked if I would write it. As honored as I felt, I honestly thought my doing this was not a good idea. I believed that he, his family, and the Church deserved thorough research and writing, and the work needed to be done at once to maximize the possibility of being published during his lifetime. He shared those hopes. But given the frightening uncertainty about his health; given that acceptable biographies can take years to document and write; given that he hadn't kept a personal journal, which would necessitate additional months of original research; and given that I was half a world away on a Church assignment I replied that someone who could give this project immediate and full-time attention was needed. Nonetheless, after more visits with Elder Maxwell and with others, within a few days I had agreed to begin the project and to move as quickly as possible. In the weeks that followed, I worried about having committed myself to something as unreachable as this task seemed. As I would awaken to hear the colorful birds that rule those fresh Australian mornings, I would sometimes wonder if indeed, I would hope that I had agreed to write Elder Maxwell's biography only in a dream. Then the reality would hit me again. At times I would remember Nephi's words about the Lord preparing a way for people who have a work to do.

My Thoughts:

-    This was my third attempt to read this book, and I finished this time!! Woo!! Elder Maxwell was my favorite speaker as a teen, and it has always been a goal of mine to finish this book. I DID IT!

-    This book was part text book, part biography, part BYU history, part church history, and part uplifting. I wish it had been mostly biography and uplifting. I really didn't need the all the BYU history and church history. Those parts were tedious to read.

-    I was really moved by Elder Maxwell's obedience, especially during World War II.

-    I like that the author didn't sugarcoat the horrors of war. The chapters about World War II were some of my favorite. It was thrilling to read about, and I loved how Elder Maxwell's faith got him through.

-    I love how highly Elder Maxwell praises his wife. They supported and loved each other, and they were true companions and partners. It is nice to read about marriages like that.

-    A lot of Elder Maxwell's university days read like a textbook. It was very boring, and I didn't really understand much of it.

-    I liked finding similarities between Elder Maxwell and myself. I also get bored in church and start reading my scriptures, I am having to learn empathy, and I'm often impatient and in a hurry to get things done. 

-    I love how the author addressed the way Neal Maxwell spoke. It was very interesting to read how he developed his cadence of speech. His love for language and words was fun to read about, and I love the quotes from the other apostles about Elder Maxwell's speech. 

-    Elder Maxwell was an incredible man, and he accomplished so much in his life. Even though I struggled through some of the book, I'm really glad I read it. His story is inspiring. 


  1. Congrats on finally finishing it! The boring parts would have made me give up or at least skim.

    1. Thanks! I was very tempted to skim at times, but I hung in there!