| I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but I realize that I always had certain favorite church leaders I thought could never do wrong. Mind you, Boyd Packer always made me uncomfortable, like something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it. But then people like Neal Maxwell made up for it. Maxwell was my kind of church leader: educated, well-spoken, thoughtful, and committed to his faith. I used to hang on his every word, amazed at the poetic quality of his writing and speech.
Even after I realized the truth behind the facade of Mormonism, I still could not bring myself to see anything wrong in this man and his teachings. He must have been misguided, as he really believed in what he taught.
That may be true, but as I look back at Maxwell's teachings, a major theme is self-denial, of sacrificing one's individuality to the greater cause of the gospel. Here he is in his last address in 2004:
"Brethren, as you submit your wills to God, you are giving Him the only thing you can actually give Him that is really yours to give. Don’t wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it! No need to wait for a receipt; the Lord has His own special ways of acknowledging."
And again in 2002:
"We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions. But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God. Heart, soul, and mind were the encompassing words of Christ in describing the first commandment, which is constantly, not periodically, operative (see Matt. 22:37). If kept, then our performances will, in turn, be fully consecrated for the lasting welfare of our souls (see 2 Ne. 32:9).
"Such totality involves the submissive converging of feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds, the very opposite of estrangement: “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13)."
I have often thought that if Mormonism were true, then it would be worthy of my all, of sacrificing my life every day to serve God through His church. But if it isn't true (and it isn't), then what is the result of such "spiritual submissiveness"? Millions of people who toil in endless meetings, keeping statistics, making phone calls, keeping the church running, all for the sake of keeping things moving. Nothing more.
Thus, the self is sacrificed in the name of the corporation; I've heard so many former Mormons say that after leaving, they do not know who they are. They have lost the sense of self because their self was swallowed up in being a member of the church. They belonged to the church, which in turn took away much of their identity. And this is just what Maxwell was teaching.
So I look back on his alliterative phrases, and they don't seem so well turned anymore; I read "foolishness, fear, and fashion have flattened the theology of many" and see emptiness behind a poorly done literary device.
I still think he was probably a good man. I really don't know. I never met Neal Maxwell. I don't know anyone who knew him personally. All I can say is that I've purged the last of the hero-worship I once had.
That can't be a bad thing.