"We are immortal individuals whose constant challenge is to apply immortal principles to life's constantly changing situations," said Elder Neal A. Maxwell Jan. 4.
"Seen in this way, life's varied situations are more sharply defined," said Elder Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, speaking at a Church Educational System fireside. "With this perspective we can improve our daily performances because we have fixed our gaze on eternity and on one of eternity's great realities."More than 15,000 students attended the fireside, held in the BYU Marriott Center. Thousands more watched the proceedings telecast live via the Church satellite system throughout North America and the Caribbean.
Elder Maxwell was accompanied to the fireside by his wife, Colleen. Also in attendance were Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and commissioner of Church education, and Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy and BYU president.
During his address, Elder Maxwell said every person on earth shares immortality - and therefore has immense possibilities as they strive for discipleship.
He said he recognizes that young people today are living in an increasingly secularized society.
"Given these disbelieving views, it is no wonder that the ways of the natural man quickly prevail," he commented. ". . . Nevertheless, as striving disciples your and my strategic focus must fall on the interaction of immortal individuals and immortal principles applied to life's changing tactical situations."
Elder Maxwell said the road to discipleship is not easy. "It requires sturdy all-weather souls, who are constant in every season of life and who are not easily stalled or thrown off course."
Church members, he said, will not always be able to explain everything that happens to them or around them. "But knowing that God loves us is absolutely crucial. Then as immortals, possessed of immortal principles, we overcome the mortal trials. And we can put the pressing things of the day in precious perspective."
When Church members see things through the lens of the gospel, they can see things clearly and navigate the road to discipleship. They will also become more aware of the possibilities for doing good in life's daily situations, he said.
Elder Maxwell asked the young adults to ponder what they will do to make their presence count. He explained that Church members are given "thou shalt not" commandments to avoid misery. But it is the keeping of the "thou shalt" commandments which brings pure happiness.
"True, as the scriptures say, wickedness, never was happiness," he said, "but neither is luke warmness full happiness. Failing to be valiant in Christian discipleship still leaves us without significant happiness. Therefore, our active avoidance of wickedness must be followed by our active engagement in righteousness in order to come to know pure joy."
Elder Maxwell told the young adults that it is the things they do - not solely the things they need to stop doing - that will make them whole.
"Wickedness is not the only mortal failure," he noted. "Yes, the avoidance of wickedness is ever important, but the sins of omission also represent a haunting failure."
It takes faith, said Elder Maxwell, to persist in doing good - particularly quiet good for which there is no recognition. Some situations, he continued, may call for service that "somehow seems to be beneath us."
"The `thou shalts' are so convenient to put off. Who will notice the procrastination anyway? After all we are not robbing a bank. Or are there forms of such withholding which constitute stealing?
". . . In each of life's situations, large or small, therefore, if you and I will bring fixed principles, and strive to be more like Jesus, including His generosity, then we will be living abundantly and not just existing."
Elder Maxwell told his listeners that although they are not free to choose how life's interactions will occur, they are free to choose their responses to them.
"In fact, I would go so far as to say to you tonight, my brothers and sisters, if we are truly attached to immortal principles, some decisions need to be made only once, really, and then righteous reflexes can do the rest."
One way to develop immortal principles is to study the scriptures, he continued. "That feasting on the scriptures, combined with Holy Ghost, will show you all things which you should do. . . . The scriptures give us nourishment for every season of life."
Elder Maxwell told the congregation that how they manage the moments in daily life will either develop or disintegrate their character.
He counseled the young adults to repent of their mistakes and then use the experience as a "spiritual spur" to remake themselves. "We need not let yesterday hold tomorrow hostage. It is for each of us as immortals to make of these moments in daily life what eternal principles would have us do."
Elder Maxwell then spoke briefly on the seventh commandment - chastity before marriage and fidelity afterward. "We will have to keep the seventh commandment because it is correct, not because we will get much support from society's other institutions," he said.
He also counseled the young adults to be grateful for the gospel's emphasis on meekness. "So often the hearts and even the moral agency of others can be crushed in the search for self-glorification."
Elder Maxwell, who has been afflicted with cancer, concluded by expressing his appreciation for God granting him "a delay en route."
"However long, I know that it has not been given merely for sight-seeing or loitering along the path of discipleship," he testified. "Perhaps it includes moments like tonight, when I can express my love for you and my confidence in you and my testimony of Jesus, whose work this is and who has counseled us on the meaning of the mortal experience by the eloquence of His example."