STERLING PARK WARD
WARRENTON, VA STAKE
One Mother's day I was teaching the lesson in the Deacon's Quorum. I asked each Deacon to list the reason or reasons that they loved their mothers. I would like each of you to now write down one or two reasons why you love your mother.
I also asked the Deacons to write down why they thought their mothers loved them. Please turn your paper over and write down one or two reasons why your mother loves you.
II. TYPE "A" LOVE
Look at your first list--why you love your mother. Let me give you some of the reasons the Deacons gave why they love their mothers. I suspect that their reasons are not very different from the ones you wrote down. "I love my mother because. . .
Now let us examine these reasons to see if we can discover some common elements which might help us identify the nature of Love. All of these reasons take the form:
By implication we would then say:
One way to better understand the definition of a word is to learn the word's
opposites. Let us consider the absence of love for a moment. If I asked you
to write down the reasons you love Adolf Hitler, everyone of you would likely
have a blank piece of paper. A blank piece of paper combined with our earlier
definition of love translates to the following statement.
Please make a mental list of people you love, you sort of love, and people
you don't love. Put your mothers and others you love at the top; the people
you sort of love in the middle; and put Adolf Hitler and others you don't
love at the bottom. We then can say the following about this list:
From this definition we can derive the following general definition about
how love operates in our lives.
Please remember this definition of love because we will come back to it.
Let me say it again so you can remember.
Please note that this definition follows logically from the reasons you gave
why you love your mother.
III. "TYPE B" LOVE
Now look at the reasons you wrote down about why your mother loves you. The Deacons gave the following "My mother loves me because. . .
I suspect some of these answers are similar to the one you wrote down. But
two thing should have leaped out at you when you heard this list. First,
several reasons were exactly the same as the first list! Second, only some
of them abide by the definition we just identified. Consider the following
and compare that to the earlier statement
How is it that the action on only the mother's part inspires love in both
directions? The simple answer is that they are two very different kinds of
love. Let us explore.
The statement that "my mother loves me because she gave birth to me," is a specific example of this more generic statement:
And by implication
IV. SUMMARY AND TRANSITION
As you can see, this new definition is the opposite of the one we developed earlier. What a contradiction! What a paradox! These two definitions cannot define the same principle. And yet we use one word--LOVE--to mean these two opposing principles. This is a source of great confusion--a confusion that has eternal consequences.
For the time being let us call the first definition of love "TYPE A" and the second definition of love "TYPE B." Remember TYPE A is:
TYPE B is:
Let us compare and contrast the attributes of these two types of Love.
V. SELFISH (CONDITIONAL) LOVE
TYPE A love depends on the actions of others--they must do something nice for me. I am the focus of their attention. Conversely, this means that if the people I now love begin to do fewer nice things for me, I will begin to love them less.
Type A love is REAL. It is also easy. It is easy because I don't have to do anything to have it. All the effort is outside of me. Other people must make the effort to do nice things for me. I am the focus of their attention. And when their focused attention leaves, so does my love. Easy come, easy go!
Type A love is REAL. It is also temporary. It is temporary because I love people as long as they are doing nice things for me. When they stop, I stop loving.
Type A love is REAL. It is also transitory. I do not get to choose whom I love. They choose whether or not I will love them through their behavior toward me. If they choose for me to stop loving them, they will turn their attentions elsewhere, and I will start loving less.
We see many examples of type A of love. The most obvious is when teenagers fall in love. It is real. No doubt about it. The emotions are strong. Indeed they can be overwhelming. But as teenagers we fall out of love almost as quickly as we fall into love. The reason is that this love is based on attributes of the other person that are gratifying to us. For example,
Other examples are a master's love for a slave, or an employer's love for
a great employee, a fan's love for a sports team, or recipients love for
those who supply charitable aid, or in some regrettable circumstances, a
spouses's love for his/her partner or even a parent's love for his/her child.
In these cases--when the slave ceases to be loyal, when the employee does
not perform well, when the team loses, when the charitable aid is cut off,
when the dishes remain dirty, when the income falters, or the school grades
go down--the love dies.
Make no mistake about TYPE A love. These feelings are real. These people are in love. It is just easy, temporary, and transitory. This is because when that other person ceases to entertain me, or gratify me, my love will fade away. TYPE A love is beyond our control. I cannot make other people continue to be nice to me. Some people try to make others be nice to them, but this is what we call abuse.
I now want to rename TYPE A love, and call it "conditional love," or "selfish love," or "worldly love."
VI. SELFLESS (UNCONDITIONAL) LOVE
Let us turn our attention to TYPE B love. As you remember, this love is defined as,
Type B love is hard. Darn hard. It requires me to voluntarily and
cheerfully sacrifice my personal pleasures, goals, ambitions, and desires
for the benefit of someone else. And the harder the sacrifice the greater
Type B love is lasting. Type B love is a love I give myself. It is a love no one can take away from me. It lasts because once I do something nice for another person, it is fixed in the past. The behavior cannot be undone. The love of those selfless actions will last forever.
Type B love is focused. I am in complete control of TYPE B love. I decide whom I will love, by choosing for whom I will sacrifice. I choose them, they do not choose me. TYPE B love does not depend on what the other person does or does not do. It only depends on what I do. Thus you and I will be held personally accountable at the judgment bar for who we love and who we do not.
What person in this world loves me the most? It is probably a tie between my wife and my mother. And does this depend on what I do? No. It depends on what they have already sacrifice for me. If I started being a big jerk tomorrow, my mother would still love me. You know the old saying that Blair Christofferson has a face only a mother could love? IT'S TRUE! It is because mothers sacrifice so much for their kids, they can't help but love them regardless of what the kids look like or do with their lives.
What person out of this world loves me the most. Jesus Christ. He voluntarily suffered an infinite atonement for me and thus loves me infinitely. No matter what I do, what sins I commit, or how many Boy Scout ears I pull, he will love me the same--infinitely. He loves me the same as he loves you--infinitely. He loves me the same as the Prophet--infinitely. He loves me the same as Adolf Hitler--infinitely. His love only depends on his atoning sacrifice, which is fixed in the past and cannot be undone. His love for me, or you, cannot be undone. It is eternal.
Let us call this love "unconditional love," or "selfless love," or "Celestial love."
So now that we can distinguish between conditional love and unconditional love, let us examine some examples.
Do you love your mother more than she loves you, or does your mother love you more than you love her? Clearly your mother loves you more--well into adulthood. This is because the child has no other kind of love available to him/her than selfish love. It is not until we are adults that we can begin to sacrifice our lives for our mothers the way they have sacrificed for us. So when the Deacons say they love their mothers because of everything their mothers do for them, they are being honest and accurate. And this is OK, because this is all they have to go on--until they become adults.
When young people get married, they are in the process of converting selfish teenage-type love into selfless adult-type love. Selfish love will sustain them for a while--but not through mid-life crises, wrinkled faces, bald heads, spare tires, or the family tragedies of death and sin. A marriage will only succeed in the medium term if there is a good mixture of both types of love. Over the long run a marriage will succeed only if an ever expanding cake of selfless love is covered by an ever thinning patina of selfish love frosting--until that happy day when the cake is so good we won't miss the frosting!
When the Savior said, "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31) what did he mean? Conditional Love or Unconditional Love? Can you imagine me at the judgment bar saying, "Well, I wanted to love my neighbors, but they just didn't do anything for me?" I don't think that will cut it. What the Savior is commanding us to do is to voluntarily, cheerfully, (and anonymously) sacrifice some part of our life for the benefit of others. Does the phrase, "he who shall lose his life shall save it" come to mind?
If I were to ask you why you love the Savior, what would you say? If you say "the atonement" then you are giving a childish, selfish-love answer. You are saying you love him because of what he did for you. That means you will love him only to the extent you take advantage of the atonement and repent of your sins. While this love is real, it is not unconditional, selfless love. The Atonement is the reason Jesus has selfless love for us. It was his selfless act, not ours. Our selfless love for him depends on what we do, not what he did.
How then can we fulfill the first great commandment to ". . . love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30)? The answer is found in a paraphrase, "If ye want to love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Also, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:10). By willingly and cheerfully sacrificing our personal will to obey the commandments we will develop selfless love for Him. He perfectly obeyed His Father's commandments and developed a perfect love for His Father. The degree to which we obey the commandments determines the degree to which we will love the Father. It is our choice.
Moreover, to acquire a selfless love for the Savior we must follow the same principle he did: we must sacrifice for him, like he sacrificed for us.
So then what can we sacrifice that will benefit the Savior personally? Nothing. He already has everything his Father has. But what did he say. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt 25:40). To develop unconditional love for the Savior we must cheerfully and voluntarily sacrifice our lives in the service of other people. The more service we give, the more unconditional love we develop.
What else did he say? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). I submit to you that every day we have a chance to lay down a day for our friends. Accumulate the days and you get months. Accumulate the months and you get years. Accumulate the years and you get a life. So GET A LIFE! Let me say it in a way the Deacons can understand: "do a good turn daily" and "help other people at all times." Unless we find ways to sacrifice our life for the benefit of others--every day--we likely will not be able to acquire the depth and breadth of Celestial love required to gain admittance into the Celestial Kingdom.
My mission president, Marvin Brown, used to tell us missionaries to have the "pure of love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47). By this, I thought he meant that I should love Christ purely. Later, I realized that my mission president was probably telling me that I should love other people with the same pure love with which Christ loves them. While preparing this talk I have come to believe that they mean the same thing. To love Christ is to love other people. To love other people is to love Christ. Pure Love is selfless love. Christ-like love is the love I get when I do nice things for other people. Unconditional love is celestial love. This is the love I hope to develop in my own life. ". . . and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him" (Moroni 7:47).
In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.