Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Church Commissioner of Education, was sustained as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve during the solemn assembly.
His call to serve in this position had come to him at his home less than 48 hours before he was sustained. Remembering the occasion vividly, Elder Maxwell says, “I returned home Thursday evening from a Regional Representatives’ seminar where we had listened to the First Presidency in a testimony meeting, and because I had been involved a little in the planning of the seminar, I was quite exhausted and lay down to rest. About seven o’clock there was a knock at our door; it was President Kimball. He invited my wife to join us in our front room, and there I received my call.”
Elder Maxwell will continue as Church Commissioner of Education, an appointment he has held since mid-1970. In this position he supervises all elementary and secondary schools, seminaries, institutes, colleges, and institutions of higher learning of the Church, including Brigham Young University, Ricks College, and the Church College of Hawaii. The Church Educational System extends to 50 countries and involves a third of a million students.
Prior to his assignment as Church Commissioner of Education, Elder Maxwell was executive vice-president of the University of Utah where he joined the administrative staff in 1955 as Assistant Director of Public Relations. He has also served extensively in civic, business, and governmental capacities.
Elder Maxwell began his church service with a mission to Canada. Later he was a bishop’s counselor and a bishop of the University Sixth Ward in Salt Lake City. He was also a member of the General Board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association and a member of the Adult Correlation Committee of the Church. In 1967 he became one of the first 69 Regional Representatives of the Council of the Twelve.
Born in Salt Lake City July 6, 1926, Elder Maxwell graduated from Granite High School in 1944. He graduated from the University of Utah with high honors and with a political science major in 1952. In 1961 he received his master’s degree in political science. In addition, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Utah in 1969 and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Westminster College in 1971.
Elder Maxwell married Colleen Hinckley in the Salt Lake Temple on November 22, 1950. They are the parents of four children: Mrs. Becky (Michael) Ahlander, who attends Brigham Young University with her husband; Cory, a missionary in the Germany Central Mission; and daughters Nancy and Jane, who attend high school in Salt Lake City.
Elder Maxwell senses deeply his role as a patriarch to his family and says that “by no means least in my life is my need to succeed as the father of my children and to be an effective husband—these are callings as great as any that one could have.”
He says that he has enjoyed the privilege of proximity to the First Presidency and the Twelve for several years and it has only deepened his trust in, and respect for, these men. He concluded by saying, “I … rejoice in the opportunity to assist the First Presidency and the Twelve in any way that I can, and hopefully, my experiences that have taken me to about 40 countries around the world will give me some preparation for what lies ahead.”