The BYU’s versus University of Utah’s: Elder Maxwell on different forums

Not long after I became Commissioner of Church Education, way back in 1970, I asked if I might briefly teach an honors class at BYU. I had been teaching an honors class at the University of Utah on American political ideas and wanted to see how the “U” and the “Y” students compared. I found what I expected–that the BYU students were every bit as bright and enjoyable as were the students at the University of Utah. There was only one difference: at a state university, and quite properly, I could not inject gospel concepts into my teaching, such as pertained to the nature of man and therefore to what kind of government is best for man, and so forth. This may seem a small point, but in fact the opportunity for the infusion of gospel concepts confers a major advantage associated with being a disciple-scholar.

-Neal A. Maxwell, “The Disciple Scholar,” in On Becoming a Disciple–Scholar, edited by Henry B. Eying (Bookcraft, Salt Lake, 1995), 1-2.

How ironic it is when those who could introduce gospel concepts or perspectives into their declarations decline to do so.[1]

This is sometimes because they feel such perspectives are irrelevant, or have nothing to offer. But, such choices usually arise out of a fear that there will be mockery or dismissal (the worst kind of mockery, sometimes) from the secular galleries to which they play.

And, the risk from those galleries is very real, in some domains. People who want a secular career in such matters are perhaps well-advised not to rock the boat, not to stand out, and certainly not to threaten the prevailing orthodoxies. And so, their personal reluctance is understandable. We cannot, after all, expect to speak out only when doing so is popular and comfortable. We are told, rather, to expect the reverse.

Sadly, though, those who decline to discuss matters of particular interest to the Saints are not content with their own silence.

Instead, they often turn to attack and marginalize those who have chosen differently–often handing out the same disparagement and mockery which they have feared in their turn, lest their silence be seen by the Big Brother gallery as consent.

And thus, fear of mockery or marginalization leads to marginalization and mockery of another. But, such things are not new, and have long been predicted:

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost….And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not….For as many as heeded them, had fallen away. (1 Nephi 8:28, 33-34)

This was an image to which Elder Maxwell returned frequently. I suspect he saw its fulfillment throughout his career in government, politics, and education. After all, those are all domains in which such tendencies are magnified, not lessened.

Brothers and sisters, we dare not hold back the restored gospel’s declaratives! We dare not hold back the reassuring revelations and truth-telling translations about “things as they really are, and … things as they really will be.” These are so needed by those whose weary hands hang down because they suffer from doctrinal anemia, which can best be treated by the red blood cells of the Restoration (see Jacob 4:13). To hold back would be to restrain repentance and to obscure the beckoning spiritual alternative, which will become “fair as the sun, and clear as the moon” (see D&C 105:31).

Meanwhile, let us expect that many will regard us indifferently. Others will see us as quaint or misled. Let us bear the pointing fingers which, ironically, belong to those finally who, being bored, find the “great and spacious building” to be a stale and cramped third-class hotel (see 1 Ne. 8:31–33). Let us revile not the revilers and heed them not (see D&C 31:9). Instead, let us use our energy to hold up the shield of faith to quench the incoming fiery darts—aided perhaps by a touch of spiritual Teflon (see 1 Ne. 15:24).

– Neal A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer,” general conference, October 2003.

Happily, there are still some who seek to fulfill that vision and duty.

But, it is chilling when those who can in places they could decide they won’t–and neither will anyone else.

Who better to shout down the believers than fellow believers?


[1] Speaking of such things is, as Elder Maxwell noted, clearly inappropriate in (say) a publicly funded school system, or a government office serving the entire community. I—like Elder Maxwell—am here referring to venues and circumstances for which there is no ethical or moral impediment to so speaking. This refers to the BYUs of our lives, not the University of Utah’s–the public square of demonstrative discourse, not the public school of the captive audience.

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