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The Lie of Love

The Lie of Love

We live in a world that doesn’t agree on much. From political candidates, to real or perceived crises, to the very meaning of words. We’ve arrived at a point where many people won’t even attempt to define certain words because they know they’ll offend one side or the other. (Check out this YouTube search for how many public officials won’t even define the word woman.)

One definition that people definitely don’t agree on is “love.” It’s hard to come to any sort of agreement on much of anything when we disagree on the very meaning of the words we use to communicate and debate.

What Love Is Not

By many today, love is sold as affirming, as gentle, as doing and saying nothing that is confrontational, emotionally painful, or that would make the receiver of “love” uncomfortable in any way. Love often means letting people do whatever they want. However, Russell M. Nelson said: “In former days, disciples of the Lord were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin. In latter days, devoted disciples of the Lord are just as firm. Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.”

Real love does not rejoice in iniquity. Yet many members of the Church do, in the name of their definition of love. This was brought to center stage recently as a highly influential Latter-day Saint announced his decision to marry his male partner. The amount of celebratory comments this man received from other Latter-day Saint influencers over his decision to break his temple covenants was surprising to some. 

I had various conversations with people on both sides of this public announcement, some who considered it not a big deal to celebrate this man’s actions and others who were befuddled that so many members of the Church would congratulate and celebrate this man’s decision to disregard God’s commandments and break his sacred temple covenants.

One person told me that they would congratulate someone whether they were sinning or not, because “I love people.” Herein, again, lies our problem. This person’s definition of love doesn’t align with the scriptures. 

In this article, I’ll share some excerpts of messages from prophets, seers, and revelators that will teach us to love and stand as the Savior would.

What is Love According to the Scriptures?

Moroni 7:45 reads: And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

What does charity, or love, rejoice in? It does not rejoice in iniquity (which covenant breaking and same-sex marriage is) but rather, it rejoices in the truth.

The love of Christ, the pure love of Christ, cares about you but always calls you to change. REPENT AND COME UNTO ME. As was exemplified with the woman caught in adultery:

And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. – John 8:11

woman in adultery jesus

Godly Love and Care

How would God love an individual that is breaking a covenant? His affection would remain constant but the greatest sign of His love was offering His Son as a sacrifice for our sins and allowing us the opportunity to repent. Inviting people to repent is one of the highest forms of God’s love. This doesn’t mean we call people outside of our stewardship to repent, but it does mean that we do what we can to help those we do have stewardship over to see and realize their potential.

real love

Can you genuinely and sincerely invite and encourage people to stay on the covenant path if you are simultaneously celebrating the fact that others remove themselves or deviate from it?

Preston Jenkins, a gay man and Latter-day Saint author, shared an interaction he had with one of his gay friends who came to him for some advice. He shared the following on a podcast:

A friend who was gay came to me and said, “I found a guy and I really want to date him. What do I do?”

I asked, “What covenants have you made?” He was an endowed member of the church and had served a mission. I wasn’t trying to be mean. I just wanted to know where he was at.

I then asked him, “What are other people telling you to do?” and he said, “They are telling me to ‘live my truth’ and they’ll love me either way.”

I said, “Well, what does that have to do with anything? Of course we’ll love you either way!”

But what shocked me is when he said that I was the first friend that had told him it probably wasn’t a good idea to date a man.

I said, “What do you mean? Why would I encourage you to break your covenants? You’ve made promises that you wouldn’t do certain things. Why would I encourage that?”

As I read the story of this interaction, it reminds me of the Book of Mormon verse that details Christ’s character. It is found in 2 Nephi 2:6 and reads, “Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.”

The world needs more people like Preston as friends. He was full of grace and truth. This friend knew Preston loved him and was not offended when he encouraged him to keep his covenants.

Here a few reactions Preston received when he posted this interaction online:

  • This is the kind of friend we should all be—the kind that encourages our friends to make and keep the very covenants that will strengthen and bless them for literally ever.
  • I loved that you answered with questions. A “tell me more approach” and that you specifically asked “what covenants have you made?” Sharing these tidbits are very helpful!
  • Too bad he didn’t also suggest this guy get “better friends.”
  • Thank you for helping me know what to say. Everyone can choose for themselves. If they already chose those covenants, not keeping them is another choice. What is more important to you. What your friends think or what God knows.

The wise words and counsel of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at Brigham Young University can aid us in our attempts to be more like Christ, who was full of grace and truth:

“…it will assist all of us—it will assist ­everyone—trying to provide help in this ­matter if things can be kept in some proportion and balance in the process. For example, we have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people. As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, “Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.” We are tasked with trying to strike that same sensitive, demanding balance in our lives.”


Love and Law

President Nelson said the following in a BYU address given in 2019 called, “The Love and Laws of God”:

“Sometimes we as leaders of the Church are criticized for holding firm to the laws of God, defending the Savior’s doctrine, and resisting the social pressures of our day. But our commission as ordained apostles is “to go into all the world to preach [His] gospel unto every creature.” That means we are commanded to teach truth.

In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?

It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!”

Elder Vaughn J Featherstone shared the following words in a 1979 BYU Speech called “Charity Never Faileth.” [Before sharing, I’ll clarify that as he uses the word homosexual, and homosexuality, the implication is that he is speaking of someone who is actively pursuing the homosexual lifestyle.)

To condone homosexuality is not an act of charity. Perversion is perversion. All the reasoning of the greatest minds in the world cannot change the seriousness of the transgression. Worlds without end, the homosexual cannot be exalted. That is it—as plainly, simply, and clearly as one can state. It matters not whether it be the adultery, the homosexual, the fornicator, or the felon—no man ever has or ever will, worlds without end, be saved in his sins. There can be no compromise; the truth is absolute. Other churches who have adjusted their standards and compromised their principles can do so because they are not the true church of Jesus Christ. The Savior’s standard of morality will everlastingly be the same. It is not charity to give hope where no hope exists. Man cannot be saved in his sins.

“Unlike our love, Jesus’ love consists of active restraint as well as pressing encouragement. His perfect love of each and all spares Him the need to accept us as we now are, for He knows perfectly what we have the possibility to become.” – Neal A. Maxwell

The First Commandment First

As humans, we tend to lean towards pleasing others and looking for the praise of the world, instead of first making sure our actions align with God’s counsel. Another amazing talk was given by D. Todd Christofferson on BYU Campus in 2022. He shared three reasons why the first commandment should be first. 

To support “the law and the prophets”—that body of truth and commandments established by God and taught by the prophets—both the first and second commandments are needed, working in tandem. But why is the first commandment the overarching priority? At least three reasons come to mind.

First is the foundational nature of this first commandment. Wonderful and essential as the second commandment is, it does not provide the necessary foundation for our lives, nor is it intended to. Obeying the second commandment makes us nice people, but to what end? What is the point of our existence? For purpose, direction, and meaning, we must look to the first and great commandment.

Putting the first commandment first does not diminish or limit our ability to keep the second commandment. To the contrary, it amplifies and strengthens it. It means that we enhance our love by anchoring it in divine purpose and power. It means that we have the Holy Ghost to inspire us in ways to reach out that we would never have seen on our own. Our love of God elevates our ability to love others more fully and perfectly because we in essence partner with God in the care of His children.

Second, ignoring the first commandment, or reversing the order of the first and second commandments, risks a loss of balance in life and destructive deviations from the path of happiness and truth. Love of God and submission to Him provide checks against our tendency to corrupt virtues by pushing them to the extreme. Compassion for our neighbor’s distress, for example, even when the suffering is brought about by his or her own transgression, is noble and good. But an unbridled compassion could lead us, like Alma’s son Corianton, to question God’s justice and misunderstand His mercy.

There are those, for example, who believe that loving others means we must twist or ignore God’s laws in a way or ways that advocate or condone sin. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland addressed this misperception when he taught:

So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it. . . . Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).

As Alma explained to Corianton, we need both justice and mercy, and it is only through God’s love in the gift of His Son and in His Son’s gift of repentance that we can have both.

Third, the first commandment must be first because attempts at love that are not grounded in God’s truths risk harming the person or persons we are trying to help. Speaking to students here at BYU, President Russell M. Nelson taught:

Because the Father and the Son love us with infinite, perfect love and because They know we cannot see everything They see, They have given us laws that will guide and protect us.

There is a strong connection between God’s love and His laws.

Advocacy for Change of Doctrine

As Elder Scott D. Whiting said in a December 2020 devotional given on the campus of Brigham Young University, “…your efforts to love your fellow men and women will be the hallmark of your efforts to deepen your discipleship.” 

Elder Whiting continued with a warning:

“However, I feel it important to caution you not to invert the two great commandments: the first being to “love the Lord thy God” and the second to “love thy neighbour as thyself.”

This seems to be an increasing area of confusion and misunderstanding—surely clouded by the adversary. The adversary knows that if he can invert these two great laws in our minds, then he can entice disciples from the path and dissuade others from stepping onto that path. We must be careful that in our efforts to love our neighbor we don’t begin advocating against the Lord.

Some, in their efforts to love others, feel it necessary to abandon the teachings and commandments of God or to advocate for a change of His doctrine. But to love God is to accept His teachings, commandments, and doctrine. Remember that Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

A true disciple does not try to change the Teacher, His teachings, or His laws of discipleship. Jesus warned of this when He taught, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Romans 13:10

Divine Love

Divine love is celestial love. It is love that helps people to be everything that they can be. Could it be that our versions and variations of love are really terrestrial, or telestial levels of love? “Love” that is easy to give because all we have to do is cheer everyone on and say everything is ok? 

Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk in April 2022 called, interestingly enough “Divine Love in the Father’s Plan.” President Oaks talked about the importance of understanding God’s plan in order to understand why the doctrines we uphold are so important.

Fundamental to us is God’s revelation that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman. That divine doctrine is why we teach that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

That is also why the Lord has required His restored Church to oppose social and legal pressures to retreat from His doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, to oppose changes that homogenize the differences between men and women or confuse or alter gender.

The restored Church’s positions on these fundamentals frequently provoke opposition. We understand that. Our Heavenly Father’s plan allows for “opposition in all things,” and Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to that plan. Consequently, he seeks to oppose progress toward exaltation by distorting marriage, discouraging childbearing, or confusing gender. However, we know that in the long run, the divine purpose and plan of our loving Heavenly Father will not be changed. Personal circumstances may change, and God’s plan assures that in the long run, the faithful who keep their covenants will have the opportunity to qualify for every promised blessing.

A uniquely valuable teaching to help us prepare for eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God,” is the 1995 proclamation on the family. Its declarations are, of course, different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy, such as cohabitation and same-sex marriage. Those who do not fully understand the Father’s loving plan for His children may consider this family proclamation no more than a changeable statement of policy. In contrast, we affirm that the family proclamation, founded on irrevocable doctrine, defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.

The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance. Danger rises when those divine limits are disobeyed. Just as parents teach little children not to run and play in the street, the Savior taught us that we need not tolerate evil. “Jesus went into the temple of God, and … and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.” Though He loved the sinner, the Lord said that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” His Apostle Paul specified some of those sins in a letter to the Galatians. The list included “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, … wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” – Russell M. Nelson

Living the Two Great Commandments is Divine Love

Recently, I read the following tweet that someone shared online. It said, “Men tend toward justice, and the gospel calls them to increased compassion and mercy. Women tend toward compassion and mercy, and the gospel calls them to uphold standards and law.” 

Obviously this is a generalization and isn’t true in every situation, but it seems to have some merit. On a higher level, perhaps we find it easier to exhibit compassion and mercy to our fellow man (love your neighbor) and harder to uphold standards and law (love of God), or vice versa.

The one thing we cannot do is pick one of the great commandments to focus on and act as if we are higher and holier and are truly showing love while others aren’t. Exhibiting the love of Christ is hard. If it is easy for us, then we probably aren’t in that battle of finding that “sensitive, demanding balance” that Elder Holland spoke of.

Dallin H. Oaks spoke to this point in a 2013 talk, “Balancing Truth and Tolerance,” which is a must read. He said:

…greater exposure to diversity both enriches our lives and complicates them. We are enriched by associations with different peoples, which remind us of the wonderful diversity of the children of God. But diversity in cultures and values also challenges us to identify what can be embraced as consistent with our gospel culture and values and what cannot be. In this way, diversity increases the potential for conflict and requires us to be more thoughtful about the nature of tolerance. What is tolerance, when does it apply, and when does it not apply?

These are harder questions for those who affirm the existence of God and absolute truth than for those who believe in moral relativism. The weaker one’s belief in God and the fewer one’s moral absolutes, the fewer the occasions when the ideas or practices of others will confront one with the challenge to be tolerant. For example, an atheist has no need to decide what kinds and occasions of profanity or blasphemy can be tolerated and what kinds should be confronted. Persons who don’t believe in God or in absolute truth in moral matters can see themselves as the most tolerant of persons. For them, almost anything goes. This belief system can tolerate almost any behavior and almost any person. Unfortunately, some who believe in moral relativism seem to have difficulty tolerating those who insist that there is a God who should be respected and that there are certain moral absolutes that should be observed.

The first and great commandment is to love God. And if we love Him, we will keep His commandments and love His commandments. If we love His commandments, we will not rejoice when others break them, rather, we would mourn when they do so because we realize that individuals are forfeiting incredible blessings that only come from obedience to His laws.

Love is kind, but love also holds up the truth. May we love as the Savior did, not because it is the easy way, but because it is incredible hard and it lifts all those around us to a higher sphere.

Let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with the points in this article? As we learn from each other, I think we can arrive at the truest form of that love we all desire.

Eric Cluff

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

We’ll written. I marvel at members of the Church who fail to apply the truths of the Gospel correctly and fully and end up compromising themselves with worldly ideals in order to accommodate friends or family who embrace evil and call it good. How many times have the Brethren counseled the Saints to not be Of The World?


Wednesday 28th of June 2023

A million thanks for this articulate and well researched article!

Edwadean Geddes

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

I totally agree with this article! Yet...I have been counseled to only love, and to pray for them. But I feel like I'm just letting them feel that I am "OK" with their way of life. {children} Some are very serious sins, and I feel that I need to TRY to get them to realize that it is vital to repent while in this life. I get really mixed signals. I know I am certainly not alone if those feelings.

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

I appreciate the clarity. Love the individual, but don’t support them in the behavior or forget that the laws of the Gospel are Eternal and don’t change with public opinion.

wariboko melville

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

I agree with the view expressed in the above article