Friday, March 20, 2009

Unconditional

While the romantic in me longs to be loved unconditionally by those in my life, both family and friends, I realize that it is almost impossible for humans to reach this ideal. They may aspire to love this way, but when their loved one lies to them, or hurts them, or when there are physical changes, or any one of a myriad of other circumstances occurs, love can weaken or vanish.


At times like this it would be nice to be able to cling to the promised unconditional love I am told that the Savior has for us. And it bothers me to hear quotes such as the following:

"Divine love is also conditional. While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us-and certain divine blessings stemming from that love-are conditional."

"Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly 'unconditional' can defend us against common fallacies such as these: 'Since God's love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …'; or 'Since 'God is love,' He will love me unconditionally, regardless …' These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception."

"The full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional-predicated upon our obedience to eternal law. I pray that we may qualify for those blessings and rejoice forever."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Divine Love," Ensign, Feb. 2003, page 20

It is true that we are taught in the Church that we must be obedient in order to merit Heavenly Father's blessings, especially that supreme goal of being able to return one day to his presence. This sends an emotional message that Christ's love could easily turn to rejection. Because of these teachings, I have tried to be very careful not to disappoint God, I've tried hard to become what I am supposed to be, and often I have pretended to be better than I actually am. These feelings and actions show that I am not so sure, after all, that my Savior loves me. Better than anyone, I see how unworthy I am of his love, and I am aware that I have NOT done my best at following his commandments, or even at repenting of the sins with which I struggle.

I have to admit it--I go through times of feeling ecstatic when I am doing well and seem to be succeeding. Yet soon I experience times of despair when I can't seem to stay in control of my sinful tendencies. I become frustrated, and above all, I fear he is not going to be there for me when I need Him the most. In the end, I suspect that he will write me off forever.

I understand that my angst is most likely due to flaws in the way I understand Divine Love. Neal A. Maxwell has addressed this issue as follows:
"It is because God loves us, however, that He seeks with such vigor and long-suffering to separate us from our sins, which He hates. He continues to care for us even when He cannot approve of us. Yet ultimately we cannot go where He is unless He fully approves of us. This outcome, however, reflects the consequences of divine justice, not His love for us, which persists."

"...the hard, cold fact is that how we use our moral agency does not result in a withdrawal of God's love but does determine the ways and the degrees to which a loving God can express His love of us. Only the most righteous will receive His praise, His approval, and enjoy His presence."
- Neal A. Maxwell, _If Thou Endure it Well_, p. 34


That DOES seem hard and cold to me, right now.

Last weekend a friend was telling me her vision of eternity--that after her death, a group of celestial beings would meet with her and review her life work and choices in an unconditionally loving atmosphere. They would smile over her successes AND her failures, ask questions about why she did what she did, and ask her what she had learned. This vision was sweet to me--no condemnation, no punishment, much love. That's also why the Christian born-again, "saved by grace alone" concept is so appealing. But in the end, not something I feel free to embrace. Not quite scriptural, is it? If this was all there was, why does God's Word even mention eternal fire, gnashing of teeth, punishment, separation?

I hope I can get some help with the conundrum I am facing over this issue. I am quite sure that I should be able to trust in my Savior's eternal love--in the times when I am struggling as well as when I am being obedient and worthy. Right now, though, it all seems so impossible. At times I wrestle with sin that I feel powerless to overcome. I do NOT "qualify" for those greater blessings Elder Nelson speaks of--I never can qualify--and I thirst for hope that is more reliable than my own will-power and endurance.

I want unconditional love.

41 comments:

Alisa said...

Me too. I am puzzled and saddened to know Elder Neilson believes that God or Jesus won't love him and reach out to him no matter how far down the path of sin he (or anyone) goes.

God's goodness and love of creation is one of the things that keeps me going.

MoHoHawaii said...

Isn't loving and being loved by your family and friends enough? The nature of God is unknowable, and what comes hereafter is speculation (witness the endless contradicting variations even in the LDS tradition). What's wrong with the here and now?

I know this isn't the most faith-promoting view, and I know it doesn't appeal to everyone. Somehow I find it a comfort. It keeps me focused in my most important relationships.

I find Elder Nelson's view consistent with a "macho" brand of Mormonism promoted by writers like Grant Von Harrison (Drawing on the Powers of Heaven). It's a heresy because it presumes that one can choose actions that bind God to specific responses. This has more in common with folk magic than worship.

A regular lurker said...

I remember how distressed I felt when I first read this article by Elder Nelson. I was beginning a 12-Step journey, struggling to reinvent the God of my understanding. I am sure I have never experienced unconditional love from anyone in my life. I need to find that loving, understanding, helping Higher Power...someone or something who doesn't say, "I'll love you IF..."

Every Sunday during sacrament I read hymn #197, second verse:
"No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace."

Now that gives me hope.

The Faithful Dissident said...

If God can't love His children uncondionally (as Elder Nelson seems to say), then how can we expect any parent to love their child unconditionally? And yet many do, through the most trying of circumstances where few who human beings would be able to maintain an unconditional love.

I disagree with Elder Nelson's statement. I agree that God will not be able to grant us all the same blessings unconditionally or have equally as close a relationship with all His children. We reap what we sow and some of us are good at shutting Him out of our lives. However, if God's love for me is conditional, then what's the point with the Atonement?

"Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly 'unconditional' can defend us against common fallacies such as these: 'Since God's love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …';

But why won't he? He doesn't need to give us blessings or an exaltation that we don't deserve simply to prove His love.

... or 'Since 'God is love,' He will love me unconditionally, regardless …'

Once again, blessings or exaltation do not equal love. In my opinion, Elder Nelson is saying something that's in contradiction to one of the most basic things that we learn in the Gospel: that God loves all of His children, even people like Adolf Hitler and Josef Fritzl. Of course I do not believe that God is pleased with such people or that he will let them go with a slap on the wrist. But yes, I believe that He loves -- even them -- "regardless, unconditionally."

The Faithful Dissident said...

Also, why would God "waste" the free blessings of the Atonement (immortality and resurrection) on children whom He doesn't love? Is He simply throwing them all a bone?

Elder Nelson has said some wonderful things, but sometimes I think he needs a lesson in tact. (Just my personal opinion.) His talk from last conference about "cheap" and inferior non-temple marriages, as well as his tough words for those who *foolishly* write in obituaries of being reunited with a beloved spouse, didn't exactly make for a warm and fuzzy spiritually uplifting experience for me.

J G-W said...

God loves at least as well as we do, and certainly better than those who seem mostly interested and judging and condemning others. I know, because I've experienced it...

m_and_m said...

I struggle with wondering if there is hope, too, friend. I think, though, the fact that you CARE about being obedient and about trying to be better is really where it's at.

I think Elder Nelson's point was simply that we can't do nothing and expect to enjoy the blessings of God's love in the eternal sense. Covenants, ordinances, and commandments are part of the plan. And He is bound by law; we cannot receive something for nothing.

But you aren't doing nothing.

And God has never said we have to live up to these perfectly to merit His love. He's there every step along the way.

I write that in hope, not because I always feel it. I had one of those days today when I felt what you describe. It's hard to try and fail and try and fail and fail again.

But I think He is always there. The key to tap into that grace and love is to keep trying!

I think the kind of love you crave is the kind of love God has...He's there to help us and forgive us and cover us where we simply fall short because of our mortality.

Whenever I go do initiatory ordinances I'm reminded of how amazing God's grace and love really are. It's about our hearts and desires, friend.

I'm sorry you are struggling. Hugs your way.

m_and_m said...

If God can't love His children uncondionally (as Elder Nelson seems to say), then how can we expect any parent to love their child unconditionally?

Actually, let's think about this for a minute.

I recently read this talk by Elder Nelson and was struck by how he talked about how we can develop divine love.

As parents, we don't love our children to the extent that we don't expect anything from them, or that we give them whatever they want whenever they want. We draw boundaries, we have rules, and we expect and teach and hope for obedience and maturity so that they can benefit from our trust and the privileges that can come from that trust.

Think of a teenager who wants to borrow the car. Certain rules are agreed upon (you'll follow the law, you won't drink and drive, you'll be home when you say you'll be home).

If the teen were to come home five hours late with a DUI, you would still love your child, but you probably wouldn't allow access to the car for a while. You wouldn't stop caring, listening, wanting to help, teaching, praying for your child, etc. You wouldn't stop doing all you could and being available to help that child work through the problems. You would want to do all you could to help that child to make the necessary changes to enjoy the blessings of car use again.

But you can't do that for the child and it would be wrong to just turn around and say, "I love you so you can use the car whenever you want and I don't care what you do when you do."

The same could be said for other relationships. Healthy, loving relationships need boundaries at some level or they aren't healthy. Love doesn't mean allowing any behavior without appropriate consequence.

I think this is the kind of thing Elder Nelson was talking about.

As a loving parent, He is always there, willing to help and support His children as they turn to Him. But if they reject Him and His rules, He cannot simply just, as it were, turn over the car keys and say, "Have a good time. I don't care what you do." In order to give us blessings and privileges of eternal progress and eventually eternal life, we have to do our part to 'follow the rules.' But that doesn't mean He rejects us when we goof, or somehow stops caring or being there as we seek to improve.

SilverRain said...

Just to put my own twist on it, remember that the word "love" is probably one of the most imprecise words in the English language.

"Love" is a verb as well as a noun. The noun of God's love—the emotion, the caring, the feeling—is unconditional. Nothing we do can make God stop caring about us.

The verb, however—the full fruits of God's love, or, as Elder Maxwell said, the "full flower" of love, the blessings are predicated on our behavior. God offers those blessings to all, but only those who go where the blessings are can experience them.

For example, Ben & Jerry's offered free scoops of ice cream on the 29th of April last year. Only those who 1)knew of the promotion, and 2)went to Ben & Jerry's at the correct time were able to get that ice cream. It was offered free to all, but only those willing and able to do what they must to get the ice cream were able to actually enjoy the ice cream.

The offer of free ice cream was unconditional, but the attainment of it was conditional.

So it is with God's love. It is out there for all, and is offered unconditionally, but there are some conditions to actually feeling that love and enjoying the blessings of it.

J G-W said...

I've been thinking about this a bit more...

Love is never "unconditional" in that it binds us to one another with certain mutual obligations. Love is a kind of covenant, and as such, it is a two-way street.

One obligation of love is loyalty. Never giving up on each other.

In our relationship with God, we certainly often fail at love, and when we do, it can become difficult for us to "feel" the love of God -- which I believe is truly unfailing. There can even become a point where we've failed to the extent that we are "past feeling." In that state we can perceive God as hateful or uncaring... But that is merely a reflection of our own loveless state, not a reflection of God.

I do not believe that our Heavenly Parents ever fail in their love toward us, and that is usually what we mean to express when we describe God's love as "unconditional." God does not stop striving to reach us, but God cannot force us. So in that sense, there are terms and conditions. Elder Nelson is correct to point out that love never means "anything goes."

But to take his words to validate some hateful, judging, condemning image of God... Or as an excuse to lose faith in yourself... Well, that's not God talking, it's someone else.

I love that Muslim saying that for each step we take toward God, God takes three steps toward us. All we have to do is turn just a little bit, just make some effort, and God is there to sustain us all the way. So, as M and M says, you have no need to fear...

Anonymous said...

May I say that you haven't seemed very happy lately.

Could it have anything to do with Easter approaching? I know you've talked about how different your life and your Easters are now than when you were small and following a different path.

Bored in Vernal said...

Alisa, sometimes God seems so far away...

MoHo, I guess I'm feeling insecure about the love of my friends and family, it may even be what brought these musings on.

Lurker, that is a beautiful hymn. Oh, thank you for giving me those words.

Dissident, you know what, you are right, we can disagree, can't we?

MnM, I think you really do understand, I appreciate your words.

SR, you are probably right, it's just not that hopeful. To know that the ice cream was offered, and you missed out, all your own fault though, too bad. See what I mean?

John, I love your heart.

Anon, sigh. I don't know. But I am glad Easter is coming. Maybe the hope will be there again this year.

Thank you for reading me and putting up with my dark moodiness.

NonArab-Arab said...

I definitely empathize with the up and down feelings and longing for unconditional love. Geez, I've gone through and put people I love through enough pain and felt enough longing for understanding that never came that I really really get what you're say. But I've also gotta say I really really don't think you need to worry one bit about whether or note God's love for you is unconditional.

Words (in any language) are imprecise creatures that can morph and take on a host of meanings. When I read the scriptures or something non-canonized like General Authorities' comments, I always remember that (as several Book of Mormon prophets themselves lamented in talking about their poor writing abilities compared to what they could vocalize or feel) language and words are a tool that are meant to feed us the actual meaning(s) which only the Spirit can convey. That's why Bible bashing and niggling over literal meanings of words in verses and placement of commas is such an ultimately useless tack from a spiritual perspective. The whole meaning is lost when the shell (the words) are treated as the meat instead of the vessel holding the deeper meaning(s).

In that regard, when I know something to be true by the Spirit, I don't get so worried if something I see in print doesn't literally perfectly match. Now, I think (as others have pointed out in a few different ways) that Elder Nelson's words were actually pointing to something none of us would have a problem with: that the full blessings of any commandments ultimately require us to meet our end of the covenant. Fine. But we've got gobs and gobs of scriptures (hens gathering chicks anyone?) and GA statements, and most importantly the Spirit itself, to tell us that God loves us regardless.

Really, I wouldn't get too hung up on worrying about whether God's love for you or any of us is unconditional. The scriptures are full of apparently inconsistent statements (faith vs works catfight anyone?), but when you step back and look at the whole edifice, and you're enlightened by the Spirit, suddenly the circles either start to come square, or else you can at least gain enough light to understand the part you need to know and set aside for another time filling in the parts you don't. We've got an eternity ahead of us, let's eat that elephant one bite at a time. First bite: God loves each and every one of us. Unconditionally.

Bored in Vernal said...

Hey NAA!! Haven't seen you around in a while. Thanx for stopping by. I guess you can all tell this post is all coming from my recent insecurities! So I appreciate all of your reminders of the fulness of the love of God. It's just hard to feel loved, sometimes...

NonArab-Arab said...

Yeah, I'm random that way, go figure. I totally know what you're feeling though. I remember before I was married many years ago all these people who would draw up their ideal spouse, laying out body measurements and task lists their wife or husband would do for them and thinking how ridiculous that was. The only thing I wanted was someone who would always be there for me, unconditionally. Then I met my wife who I love deeply and eternally. But I found out quickly she's human, and when she gets angry or sad or has any of those human foibles all of a sudden I feel like "geez, I'm still alone, it's almost worse than when I was single, now it feels like something's been given and spitefully taken back." In retrospect, my supposed one little wish in a spouse was probably less realistic than all those other people I once derided. You can chisel a body and do stuff for someone comparatively easy. Asking someone to be perfect for you, now that's unrealistic. Which is what has slowly brought me back to what I should have known all along: God is the only one I can truly always rely on to be there whenever I need Him. Even when I'm stupid. Especially when I'm stupid. And easier said than done, but crucial. And that realization is really what makes me a Christian and grateful for the Gospel.

CoriAnton said...

Funny... I was just about to do a post on this (or almost this... it's number 3 on the list of topics in line)

This is a question I've struggled with for years. I see arguments from both sides, and honestly, they both seem to be right to me. In Psalms 8:17 we read "I love them that love me." Seems absolutely conditional. But there are so many verses that seem to indicate an unconditional love for all mankind (john 3:16 for instance).

I'm starting to think maybe both sides have to be right. I liked the comment that mentioned how poorly defined "love" is in English. It's just far too broad a word. Many other languages have multiple words for varying types/degrees of what we lump together as love. (it's kind of ridiculous that I use the same word to describe my feelings for a good friend, the people I met on my mission, God, my spouse and my siblings... how different those relationships are!)

I feel like there must be some form of "love" that God has for the whole world, and another, higher form that is reserved for those who love and serve Him.

For me, at least so far, this has resolved some inner turmoil. Yes, when I sin, God still loves me. But when I do right, and move closer to Him, become more like Him, & follow Him, His love for me increases, or progresses from the first to the second type.

Aerin said...

I think there is a big difference between love and action/response. I can love someone unconditionally - a child, a spouse, a friend, a parent. Yet just because I love someone unconditionally, doesn't mean I have to put up with bad/abusive behavior from that person. It's an important distinction to my mind. This way, anyone can say, there are lines you can't cross - to the close people in their lives. Stealing, for example. When a child, family member or other person steals from us, we can still love them. But not put up with that behavior or choose to be around that person.

To my mind, this protects an individual in very difficult places - particularly when one person is an addict, or may be dangerous in some way. There are no hard and fast lines with this however, and each person/relationship may handle these relationships/boundaries differently.

As far as God's love, that I can't say. I'm not sure that this model works the same way - but some may disagree. I would think that God or a higher power's love is unconditional period.

I think what God or a higher power might consider "bad behavior" is really in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I can't imagine why God or a higher power would consider drinking something like diet coke bad behavior where he/she wouldn't want to be around me anymore. Or as a woman, not covering my head with a veil (hijab) in public.

Many may disagree with this, and everyone (each religious faith) has a different take on this (what God or a higher power considers bad behavior). I believe being a good person, trying to do the right thing, trying to be honest - that's what's important. Of course, YMMV.

m_and_m said...

This is totally random, but I'm so happy! Reading that last comment, for whatever reason, it finally dawned on me what YMMV means. (For anyone else who didn't know, I think it's your mileage may vary.) :)

BiV, when are you gonna be in my neck of the woods again? I really wanna just be able to TALK with you....

Vajra said...

Julian of Norwich: all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

djinn said...

Gerard Manley Hopkins, talking about his own dark night of the soul, may your roots, dear BiV be sent rain.....

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"While the romantic in me longs to be loved unconditionally by those in my life, both family and friends, I realize that it is almost impossible for humans to reach this ideal."

I guess I'm just different from Bored. I don't want to be loved unconditionally. I want to be loved conditionally. What does unconditional love mean? Nothing. If you were to ask an unconditional lover why he or she loved you, they would have to say, "no reason."

OTOH, conditional love means that there is something good and worth loving in you. That's the kind of love I want.

Any love that does not take into account individual differences in the objects of that love would necessarily be a very impersonal type of love. It would be like sunlight, which just flies out into space and hits anything that gets in its way, good or bad. But love, by its very nature is very highly personal. It is nothing if not personal. Thus, to talk of unconditional love is a contradiction in terms.

Give me the kind of love that says, "I love you, not for no reason, but because you are essentially a good--not perfect--person, and there is much good and worth loving in you.

I took the time to look up the word "unconditional" in the dictionary, and I found that according to the dictionary, the word "unconditional" means "unlimited." So, the question is, is God's love literally "unlimited" or "limited"?

I see at least two different ways that God's love could be limited--one is in degree, meaning that the amount of His love is limited, and the other is in domain, meaning that He loves some but not others.

According to the scriptures, God's love is actually limited in both ways. First, Mormon 5:14 refers to Jesus as God's "most beloved" son, which implies that His love for the rest of us is limited by comparison.

And then Helaman 15:4 reads as follows:

"But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually."

This implies that God's love has a limited domain--i.e., that He loves some but not others. Thus, God's love is limited in both degree and domain.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said:

"This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to me by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more." (TPJS, p. 355)

So, I'd like to ask Bored a question: suppose you are standing at the sink, doing the dishes, and your husband walks in and walks up behind you, and slips his arms around you, and whispers in your ear, "Honey, I love you so much! I love you just as much as I love every other woman in the world, because my love is unconditional--a woman doesn't have to be married to me in order for me to love her." How does the doctrine of unconditional love taste now? Not so good? If not, then it is not a doctrine of eternal life.

When I think that God loves Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, and Jeffery Dahmer as much as me, that doesn't taste good. It must not be true doctrine.

Of course, that also implies that He loves Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and Thomas Monson more than me. Does that bother me? No, not in the least--they deserve it. It's only fair that He should love them more than me. But at the same time, it's only fair that He should love me more than He loves Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, and Jeffery Dahmer. If He doesn't, then I would have to say that He is not a just God.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"While the romantic in me longs to be loved unconditionally by those in my life, both family and friends, I realize that it is almost impossible for humans to reach this ideal."

Not "almost" but "impossible." Speaking of what he called "renegade Mormons," the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

"Such characters God hates. We cannot love them, the world hates them, and we sometimes think that the devil ought to be ashamed of them." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 127)

Thus, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "we cannot love them." Try as we might, we just can't do it. It's just not possible.

And, just in case we missed it, the Prophet Joseph repeats on page 129, "Such characters God hates."
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"At times like this it would be nice to be able to cling to the promised unconditional love I am told that the Savior has for us."

Told by whom? Certainly not the scriptures. The scriptures invariably teach that God's love is conditional:

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
"Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:21-23)

An "if" clause, in the English language, is known as a conditional clause because it always, always, always, without any exception whatsoever, states a condition. Jesus, Himself, tells us that His love is conditional upon our loving Him and keeping His commandments. And just in case we missed it the first time, He reiterates the message in slightly different words. Once again, the Father's love is conditional upon our loving the Son.

So, again, where are we told that the love that the Savior has for us is unconditional? Certainly not anywhere in the scriptures.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"It is true that we are taught in the Church that we must be obedient in order to merit Heavenly Father's blessings, especially that supreme goal of being able to return one day to his presence. This sends an emotional message that Christ's love could easily turn to rejection. Because of these teachings, I have tried to be very careful not to disappoint God, I've tried hard to become what I am supposed to be, and often I have pretended to be better than I actually am. These feelings and actions show that I am not so sure, after all, that my Savior loves me. Better than anyone, I see how unworthy I am of his love, and I am aware that I have NOT done my best at following his commandments, or even at repenting of the sins with which I struggle."

God's love is not an either/or issue--it is not a question of either He loves me or else He doesn't. If we start from the assumption that God's love is conditional upon our righteousness, then we see that none of (except for the Savior, Himself) is perfectly righteous, and none of us (except for Satan and the sons of perdition) is perfectly wicked. We all fall somewhere along a spectrum between perfectly righteous and perfectly wicked (which sounds like an oxymoron). Thus, if God's love is understood to be conditional upon righteousness, then His love for us would vary according to our righteousness, and the only ones whom He would not love at all would be Satan and the sons of perdition. Anyone who has not committed the unpardonable sin He loves at least to some extent.

If you wonder whether or not God loves you, just ask yourself, have you committed the unpardonable sin? If not, then God loves you for the good that is in you, and not for no reason at all.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Elder Neal A. Maxwell is quoted as saying:

""...the hard, cold fact is that how we use our moral agency does not result in a withdrawal of God's love but does determine the ways and the degrees to which a loving God can express His love of us." - Neal A. Maxwell, _If Thou Endure it Well_, p. 34

Unfortunately, "the hard, cold fact is that" Elder Maxwell just contradicted the scriptures:

"But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually." (Helaman 15:4)

From this it is clear that, contrary to whatever Elder Maxwell may have believed, our actions can, indeed, result in a withdrawal of God's love. Not a politically correct doctrine, I agree, but the truth nevertheless.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"Last weekend a friend was telling me her vision of eternity--that after her death, a group of celestial beings would meet with her and review her life work and choices in an unconditionally loving atmosphere. They would smile over her successes AND her failures, ask questions about why she did what she did, and ask her what she had learned. This vision was sweet to me--no condemnation, no punishment, much love. That's also why the Christian born-again, "saved by grace alone" concept is so appealing. But in the end, not something I feel free to embrace. Not quite scriptural, is it? If this was all there was, why does God's Word even mention eternal fire, gnashing of teeth, punishment, separation?"

Exactly. In your friends vision of the spirit world, she is met by a group of celestial beings in an "unconditionally loving atmosphere." But what about those beings that go to hell? Are they also received into an "unconditionally loving atmosphere"? If not, then it is not really "unconditional" is it?
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Bored said:

"I hope I can get some help with the conundrum I am facing over this issue. I am quite sure that I should be able to trust in my Savior's eternal love--in the times when I am struggling as well as when I am being obedient and worthy."

I think that you should remember that you are basically a good person with righteous desires and good intentions. The fact that you are not perfect does not nullify the fact that there is much good and much worth loving in you, and that is why the Lord continues to love you, even though you are not perfect. Neither was the Prophet Joseph Smith--neither is Thomas S. Monson. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ was the only perfect man who ever lived. Does that mean that God does not love the rest of us because we are not perfect? Of course not. He still sees and knows that, even though we are not perfect, we are essentially good at heart and have righteous desires, and that is why He continues to love us even though none of us is perfect.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Alisa said:

"Me too. I am puzzled and saddened to know Elder Neilson believes that God or Jesus won't love him and reach out to him no matter how far down the path of sin he (or anyone) goes."

Personally, I am puzzled and saddened to know that there are people don't believe the scriptures but prefer to believe their own preconceived notions to either the scriptures or the teachings of the Brethren. According to Joseph Fielding McConkie, Elder Nelson was assigned by the First Presidency to write that article. To me it is sad that it has met with so much disbelief by the members of the Church.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

MoHoHawaii said:

"I find Elder Nelson's view consistent with a "macho" brand of Mormonism promoted by writers like Grant Von Harrison (Drawing on the Powers of Heaven). It's a heresy because it presumes that one can choose actions that bind God to specific responses. This has more in common with folk magic than worship."

I guess to some people calling someone "macho" is derogatory. Some of us take it as a compliment.

God, Himself, is the one who has said that we can bind Him to a specific response:

"I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10)

Please forgive us for believing the word of the Lord, but if this appears to have something in common with folk magic, perhaps it is because there is some truth in all religions--even folk magic.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

MoHoHawaii said:

"A regular lurker said...

"I remember how distressed I felt when I first read this article by Elder Nelson. I was beginning a 12-Step journey, struggling to reinvent the God of my understanding."

Well, that's the problem, right there--people inventing a God of their own imagination instead of getting the know the true God who actually exists.

Lurker continues:

"I am sure I have never experienced unconditional love from anyone in my life."

Here we can agree. I know I have never experienced unconditional love either. I hear a lot of people talk about it, but I have yet to find anyone who actually practices it. What do we call people who don't practice what they preach? Hypocrites?

People talk about the unconditional love of a mother for her children, but does she love everyone in the world as much as she loves her children? No? Then it is not really unconditional-- i.e., unlimited--is it?

Lurker continues:

"I need to find that loving, understanding, helping Higher Power...someone or something who doesn't say, "I'll love you IF..."

If that's what you're looking for, then why do you even need a twelve-step program? Forget it. God will love you anyway.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

MoHoHawaii said:

"Every Sunday during sacrament I read hymn #197, second verse:

"No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved."

Are sop's saved? Obviously not. They suffer the second death, which means separation from God. How can they feel His presence holy if they are cast out of His presence and separated from Him? How can they feel His presence holy in outer darkness? It doesn't make any sense. Then the song is wrong, isn't it?

The hymn continues:

"Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;"

Not as much as they would if they had not betrayed Him.

The hymn continues:

"The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace."

Murderers do have access to His grace in that they will eventually inherit the telestial kingdom, which is better than what they would have inherited without the grace of God--i.e., outer darkness. But where God and Christ are they cannot come, worlds without end.

Either MoHoHawaii or Lurker continues:

"Now that gives me hope."

If that's your only hope, then you are in trouble.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

The Faithful Dissident said:

"If God can't love His children uncondionally (as Elder Nelson seems to say), then how can we expect any parent to love their child unconditionally?"

We don't. Brigham Young wrote an article in which he basically said that any parent would love a righteous son more than a wicked one. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that it was one of the sweetest pieces ever written in the last dispensation and thought so much of it that he had the whole thing copied into his history entire.

As I said before, if your "unconditional" love is limited to your children, then it is not really unconditional because the dictionary definition of unconditional is "unlimited," and if it is limited to your children, then it is not "unlimited" is it?

Furthermore, show me the parent of a child who commits the unpardonable sin, and I will show you a parent who does not love that child, and that includes God, Himself.

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"And yet many do."

I disagree. Love them? Maybe. But love them as much as they would have if they were better persons? No.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

A Faithful Dissident said:

"I disagree with Elder Nelson's statement. I agree that God will not be able to grant us all the same blessings unconditionally. . . "

And what are those blessings?

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
"Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:21-23)

Please note that, in these verses, the promised blessing is God's love, and it is conditional upon our loving Him and keeping His commandments.

Also:

"Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love."
(D&C 6:20)

Once again, the promised blessing is the love of God. And what will happen if we are not faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God? Will He continue to love us just as much anyway? If so, then it was superfluous, if not down-right deceitful for Him to imply that He would not.

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"or have equally as close a relationship with all His children."

Well, that is the very nature of love, is it not? If He does not have an equally close relationship with all of His children, then He does not love us all equally. But here's another point: we are not all children of God.

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"However, if God's love for me is conditional, then what's the point with the Atonement?"

Well, the atonement is also conditional, is it not? If we don't repent, we don't get forgiven. Thus, the effect of the atonement is conditional upon repentance. So, why can't God's love be as conditional as the atonement?
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

A Faithful Dissident quotes Elder Nelson as follows:

"Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly 'unconditional' can defend us against common fallacies such as these: 'Since God's love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …';"

Then A Faithful Dissident asks:

"But why won't he?"

Because such love is worthless. If God loves Cain, Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, and Jeffery Dahmer as much as He loves me, then He can keep that love. I don't need it. It is meaningless. It is worthless. I would sooner have a handful of dirt than unconditional love that is passed out to everyone and everything equally, regardless of who or what they are.

Give me the kind of love that says, "I love you because you are essentially a good--though not perfect--person, and there is much in you that is both good and worth loving."
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

A Faithful Dissident said:

"Once again, blessings or exaltation do not equal love."

No, but they do go together. Whom God loves, He blesses. Whom He does not love--i.e., sons of perdition--He does not bless.

What was the whole point of Lehi's dream? Remember, only those who held fast to the iron rod and continued in the strait and narrow path were finally able to get to the tree of life and partake of its fruit. And what did the fruit of the tree of life represent? According to President Ezra Taft Benson, when speaking in General Conference, as President of the Church, it represented the love of God. Thus, only those who held fast to the iron rod and continued in the strait and narrow path were able to partake of the love of God. After all these years, we still don't get the message of Lehi's dream, do we? Remarkable!

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"In my opinion, Elder Nelson is saying something that's in contradiction to one of the most basic things that we learn in the Gospel: that God loves all of His children, even people like Adolf Hitler and Josef Fritzl."

If that's so basic to the gospel, then where can we find that doctrine in the scriptures? We can't. It's not there. What do we find in the scriptures?

"But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually." (Helaman 15:4)

Does that sound like unconditional love to anyone? If so, then I must really not know what love is. Elder McConkie said that hate was the opposite of love. Was he wrong?

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"Of course I do not believe that God is pleased with such people or that he will let them go with a slap on the wrist. But yes, I believe that He loves -- even them -- "regardless, unconditionally."

Believe what you want, but where does it ever say that in the scriptures? Can you quote even one, single scripture or modern prophet? I have quoted both, but who will believe them? People prefer to believe their own, preconceived notions rather than to believe the scriptures and the modern prophets.

And, as I said before, not everyone is a child of God.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

A Faithful Dissident said:

"Also, why would God "waste" the free blessings of the Atonement (immortality and resurrection) on children whom He doesn't love?"

Because He is a just God, and death was a result of Adam's sin--not theirs. Therefore, in order to be just, He must give them a resurrection.

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"Elder Nelson has said some wonderful things, but sometimes I think he needs a lesson in tact."

Tact? You want tact? How about Jesus Christ calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and a generation of vipers? Was that tactful? It got Him crucified. Maybe Jesus Christ, who was perfect, needed a lesson in tact. Or maybe the truth is more important than tact.

A Faithful Dissident continues:

"(Just my personal opinion.) His talk from last conference about "cheap" and inferior non-temple marriages, as well as his tough words for those who *foolishly* write in obituaries of being reunited with a beloved spouse, didn't exactly make for a warm and fuzzy spiritually uplifting experience for me."

Warm fuzzies? That's what you're looking for? This is the wrong Church. This Church is all about the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts.

It sounds like you would be happier in the Lutheran Church, which is actually where the doctrine of unconditional love actually originated, as far as I have been able to discover. It was a corollary to Luther's doctrine of unconditional election to grace and salvation.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

SilverRain said:

""Love" is a verb as well as a noun. The noun of God's love—the emotion, the caring, the feeling—is unconditional."

Actually, there is absolutely no scriptural support for that statement whatsoever. That reminds me of something that Joseph McConkie once told me. He said that when he asked his fahter, Bruce, about unconditional love, his father replied that "There is absolutely no scriptural support for that doctrine whatsoever, and it is false."

SilverRain continues:

"Nothing we do can make God stop caring about us."

Actually, there is one thing that you can do--just try committing the unpardonable sin, and watch how quickly He stops caring about you. Such people He no longer even acknowledges as His children. He calls the Perditions children and wants nothing more to do with them.

SilverRain continues:

"For example, Ben & Jerry's offered free scoops of ice cream on the 29th of April last year. Only those who 1)knew of the promotion, and 2)went to Ben & Jerry's at the correct time were able to get that ice cream. It was offered free to all, but only those willing and able to do what they must to get the ice cream were able to actually enjoy the ice cream.

"The offer of free ice cream was unconditional, but the attainment of it was conditional."

Actually, another way to look at it is that the offer was conditional upon actually going in and claiming the ice cream.

SilverRain continues:

"So it is with God's love. It is out there for all, and is offered unconditionally."

Actually, that's not true. It is offered conditionally (see John 14:21-23 and D&C 6:20).
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

J G-W said:

"I do not believe that our Heavenly Parents ever fail in their love toward us, and that is usually what we mean to express when we describe God's love as "unconditional."

I have noticed that there is an abundance of opinion on this site with very little reference to scripture. Does anyone here read the scriptures?

Helaman 13:4 clearly says that the Lord hated the Lamanites. I would say that His love for them did, indeed, fail. Then, too, there is D&C 95:12, which reads as follows:

"If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness."

That definitely sounds like the love of the Father will fail if we keep not the commandments, but logically, only to the extent that we fail to keep the commandments, since not matter how much we fail, there is almost always at least some commandments that we are keeping--e.g., most of us are not murders. So that is at least one commandment that we are keeping, and there are probably others, as well.

J G-W continues:

"God does not stop striving to reach us."

Actually, He does. Gen. 6:3, 1 Ne. 7:14, 2 Ne. 26:11, Morm. 5:16, Eth. 2:15 & 15:19, Moro. 9:4, D&C 1:33, and Moses 8:17 all clearly say that the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with a man.

J G-W continues:

"But to take his words to validate some hateful, judging, condemning image of God... Or as an excuse to lose faith in yourself... Well, that's not God talking, it's someone else."

While I would not call God "hateful," nevertheless, there are people that He does hate (see Hel. 15:4), and He most definitely will judge us and condemn many.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Non Arab-Arab said:

"But we've got gobs and gobs of scriptures (hens gathering chicks anyone?) and GA statements, and most importantly the Spirit itself, to tell us that God loves us regardless."

Could someone please just quote one scripture? I have already quoted several that say the opposite.

NonArab-Arab continues:

"We've got an eternity ahead of us, let's eat that elephant one bite at a time. First bite: God loves each and every one of us. Unconditionally."

Again, there is not one, single scripture that ever says that. In fact, the word "unconditional" never appears anywhere in any of the four standard works of the Church.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

CoriAnton said:

"But there are so many verses that seem to indicate an unconditional love for all mankind (john 3:16 for instance)."

How does that indicate love for all mankind? It clearly says that God gave His Son so that those that "believe on him might not perish but have everlasting life." That clearly refers only to those who believe on Him. That is clearly conditional.

CoriAnton continues:

"(it's kind of ridiculous that I use the same word to describe my feelings for a good friend, the people I met on my mission, God, my spouse and my siblings... how different those relationships are!)"

It doesn't seem ridiculous to me. My own, personal definition of love is: love is the natural affinity or attraction that light, truth and intelligence have for light, truth, and intelligence wherever found. This same attraction would be felt for good friends, spouse, siblings or anyone else. Although that love would obviously be colored by different sorts of relationships, nevertheless, the love or attraction, itself, would be the same, only varying in degree depending upon the amount of light, truth, and intelligence in any given person. But, that's just my own definition.

CoriAnton continues:

"I feel like there must be some form of "love" that God has for the whole world, and another, higher form that is reserved for those who love and serve Him."

Perhaps the difference is only one of degree, as indicated by Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation vol. 1, p. 313, where he says that the Lord loves the righteous more than He loves the wicked--not that He doesn't love the wicked at all, but just that He loves the righteous more. That clearly makes love conditional, but that was before the whole idea of unconditional love became popular.

CoriAnton continues:

"Yes, when I sin, God still loves me. But when I do right, and move closer to Him, become more like Him, & follow Him, His love for me increases, or progresses from the first to the second type."

"Increases" would be the proper word.

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
"And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (D&C 130:20-21)

If the love of God is a blessing (and I believe that it is), then we can only receive it by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. Understanding that the love of God is predicated upon our obedience to the commandments, we now know what we must do in order to enjoy even more of that love than we do now--repent and obey the commandments better than we are doing now.
--Tragula

Anonymous said...

Aerin said:

"I can love someone unconditionally - a child, a spouse, a friend, a parent."

I disagree. The dictionary defines the word "unconditional" as "unlimited." If your "unconditional" love is limited to "a child, a spouse, a friend, a parent," then, it is conditional by definition. For your love to be truly unconditional, you must love everyone and everything the same.

Aerin continues:

"I would think that God or a higher power's love is unconditional period."

Of course, you are free to think whatever you like, but there is not one, single passage of scripture in any of the four standard works of the Church to support the idea that God loves everyone equally. All the scriptural evidence contradicts that idea.

"I think what God or a higher power might consider "bad behavior" is really in the eye of the beholder."

Well, many Muslims apparently believe that suicide bombers killing innocent men, women, and children is good behavior. I doubt that the Lord considers it that way at all.
--Tragula