Alan Marchant's Reviews > A Disciple's Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell

A Disciple's Life by Bruce C. Hafen
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Dec 17, 2011

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Read in December, 2011

About the best thing that can be said of this biography of Apostle Neal Maxwell is that Bruce Hafen hints broadly at the important aspects of Maxwell's personality and career. Elder Maxwell's church career was important because of 1) his assignment to reform the CES organization and unobtrusively clean up the mess left by Ernie Wilkensen, 2) his effective outreach to intellectuals and professionals across the church, and 3) his example of how professionalism and intellectual honestly can augment spirituality in Church leadership. His most lasting legacy will be as a mentor to the impressive new class of intellectual General Authority, including Dallin Oaks, Jeffrey Holland, Henry Eyring, David Bednar, D. Todd Christiansen - the hits just keep coming.

The book's weakness is the emphasis on Maxwell's bout's with leukemia, and the author's repeated emphasis that suffering gave Maxwell his spiritual polish. The fact is that Maxwell's life, except for an early battlefield trial and his final illness, was remarkably untroubled: a broad set of talents with no significant disabilities, no career or employment difficulties, no intellectual struggles, no marital or family disappointments - just a good life pursued with balance, grace, and faith. His later emphasis on Christology is best understood as a professional approach to his calling as an Apostle. The leukemia and chemotherapy is nothing that many people you know haven't or won't endure in spades. Consequently, the emphasis on suffering in this biography is somewhat embarrassing.
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