You'll recall this series, Stewards of Grace, is about economic disparity among believers and its impediment to Zion. So keep that in mind as we talk about a few concepts first.
Where I Rewrite Scripture
It seems like it would be easy to be "one" with our family, when in fact they are some of the most difficult people to love. Talk about "diamonds in the rough."
Isn't it easier to love from afar, at arms length, rather than cheek to cheek? Proximity reveals our imperfections as a jeweler's loupe.
For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall be take care of the church of God?
(1 Timothy 3:5)
You know my feelings about the word "rule". So if you don't mind I will change it. Do not worry about "wresting" the scriptures: I am simply going to look for a more accurate translation (remember, Article of Faith 8, and all).
English Standard Version (Formal Equivalence)
For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care for God's church?
New International Version (Dynamic Equivalence)
If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?
Hmm. "Manage" is a little better, but it still seems . . . businesslike. So I guess I'll have to take a stab at this after all. Here we go:
Tim's English Version (Formal Dunce Equivalence)
For if a man does not know how to preside in his family, how can he be a blessing to God's people?
Before you reach for pitchforks, I must admit I am indebted to Spencer W. Kimball (who will always be my spirit animal, or prophet, or whatever; I miss him) for helping me with my translation.
When referring to God giving Adam the right to "rule" over Eve, President Kimball said:
I would prefer to use the word preside because that's what he does. A righteous husband presides over his wife and family.
(Ensign, March 1976, p. 72)
(Spencer and Camilla Kimball, courtesy of Church Archives)
Preside or Patricide?
What does "presiding" really mean?
Let's use God as our example. "Presiding" entitles a person to:
1. Love and cherish their children; 2. Nurture and care for their needs; 3. Teach them correct principles; 4. Provide tender correction; 5. Sacrifice for their good; 6. Honor their agency and desires; 7. Inspire them with faith and hope; 8. Fight the devil for their souls; 9. Lead by righteous example; 10. Provide them opportunities to grow; 11. Introduce them to new experiences; 12. Help them thrive and live their best lives; 13. Listen -- really listen with all our heart; 14. Stand with them in sorrow and heartbreak; 15. Comfort and calm their fears; 16. Glory in their successes; 17. See the very best in them; 18. Make intercession on their behalf.
Since when did "presiding" mean "being in charge"? Because isn't the Lord already in charge? Earthly fathers and priests are merely in loco parentis. (Usually more "loco" than "parentis".)
Remember what I said about bishops in a previous post, Teach Us Thy Statutes, Thy Law: Part II? Now I am going to change "bishop" to "husband or father":
If I expect you to do something and obey my counsel because I am your [husband or father], rather than because my counsel is light, and truth, and spirit, even the spirit of Jesus Christ, then I am practicing [unrighteous dominion].
But it gets worse: if I expect you to do something and obey my counsel because I am your [husband or father], and in fact my counsel is notlight, and nottruth, and notspirit, even the spirit of Jesus Christ, then I am acting in the spirit of Anti-Christ.
What's good for the Goose is good for the Gander. Love does not morph into different shapes or mean different things based on where we are, or with whom.
A Word About "Equivocation"
In philosophy, the concept of "equivocation" means we use the same name to describe different things. This is a problem because the speaker intends a certain meaning while his listener interprets it to mean something else. It causes a lot of confusion, and has led to many debates in Sunday School.
I can't think of a word in the English language more susceptible to equivocation than "love." How so?
1. I love you. 2. I love the weekend. 3. I love chocolate cake. 4. I love it when she makes me laugh. 5. I love how the sun warms my skin. 6. Love means never having to say you're sorry. 7. Charity is the pure love of Christ.
Well, we're using the same word, but do we really love our children the same as we love chocolate cake? (Don't answer that.)
This is why the Greek philosophers created special words to distinguish the different kinds of "love."
The Four Loves
First, there's romantic love, or Eros -- the "love" that makes Madison Avenue marketers into millionaires.
Second, there's brotherly love, or Philia.
Third, there's the love we have for our family, or Storge. Think of a mother's love for her children.
Finally, there's charity, or Agape, which is God's love, which is a universal love.
What Love is Love, But God's?
When I say "love," I usually mean charity, or agape. This is the highest form of love because it is unconditional . . . OH NO. I said it. Now I've stepped in it.
Is God's Love Unconditional?
As I Was Saying . . .
In order to "preside" we need to have charity, or agape, because . . . what was that? You think there's no such thing as unconditional love?
God's Love Is Not Unconditional
*sigh* Do we really have to do this?
Fine. I hope everyone is feeling Philia. I am going to grab a Coke, and then this is happening.
I'm back. I love Coke Orange Vanilla.
Charity is Covenantal Love, or in other words, Some Reflections on the Holy Spirit of Promise
When a couple gets married, they make certain covenants, or promises, to each other. Covenants and love are mutually self-reinforcing. I mean by that we enter into covenants with those we love, and those covenants operate to magnify our love -- both our love and our partner's.
Think of it as taking my love (oxygen) and your love (hydrogen) and bonding them into one molecule, H2O.
See how my love takes on a new aspect when it is combined with yours? Our love, together, becomes something that neither of us "has" on our own. (I do not take credit for this analogy; I am indebted to the brilliance of Blake Ostler).
But just because we have mixed two different loves together, like green and blue, doesn't mean we're going to get a something better. Often taking two impure loves creates a toxic sludge. (For now, just consider how needy and selfish our "love" can be).
But I want to focus on the creative faculty of love: creating something new and unique.
What we need to understand is that love is dynamic: it grows and evolves as those in the covenant grow and evolve, until they obtain "pure love", which in turn purifies them.
Just as Oxygen and Hydrogen combine into something more (Water), so are we transformed when we enter into a covenant with Christ. We witness it everywhere. An egg needs a sperm; chromosomes require two base pairs. Love is literally written into our DNA.
This is one of my favorite symbols of Baptism: it is the the gate we pass through to become a New Creature. This is not some hocus-pocus, metaphysical thing.
Love: Things As They Truly Are
Think of love as being an element, like nickel or phosphorus, but spiritually refined. A pure element that is woven into the fabric of reality.
1. Einstein showed that matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. 2. Energy, or matter, cannot be destroyed; it can only be altered or transformed. 4. Molecules "stick" together through a force of attraction we call "cohesion." 5. Cohesion is an intrinsic property of matter and refers to the attraction of molecules for other molecules of the same kind.
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence;
wisdom receiveth wisdom;
truth embraceth truth;
virtue loveth virtue;
light cleaveth unto light;
mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own;
justice continueth its course and claimeth its own.
If we pretend love is a kind of energy, where does it come from? Most energy is created by heat, light, motion, electricity, chemical reactions and gravity. Energy can take the form of (1) potential energy or (2) kinetic energy.
The electrostatic force, for example, binds atoms together. That's useful.
Coulomb's law was formulated by an 18th Century French physicist, who discovered F ∝ q1q2/r2. I have no idea what that means, but according to Wikipedia it describes the force between a positively charged atomic nucleus and each of the negatively charged electrons in an atom. This is the force that binds atoms together to form molecules.
Now imagine you want to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of your children. Philosophers describe a phenomenon called "emergence" which is when something has properties that its parts do not have on their own. These properties or behaviors emerge only when the parts interact with something else.
What energy, or force, could create cohesion between us and Christ, making us "stick", or be sealed, together?
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
Since we're having fun today with alternative translations:
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Christ's love causes "emergence." This power is the essence of the new and everlasting covenant, which spans our baptism (or rebirth) all the way to resurrection (or rebirth).
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son [this means: those who truly love his Son], Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.
If we want to become one with Them, we have to love as They do. The scriptures refer to all of this as "sanctification."
What does all this have to do with the question, "Is love unconditional?"
I think of it like this: love is the initiation and the covenant is the sealing; but thereafter love transforms the parties to it and thereby the nature of the covenant; and thus the covenant becomes the initiation and love becomes the sealing. I view the culmination of the latter process as "the Holy Spirit of Promise."
Because of the laws of agency and consent, God cannot force two people to remain together forever: it remains their choice.
The Holy Spirit of Promise seals the bond between a man and a woman by virtue of their love, which was, and is, and always will be the very Spirit of Christ, who is pure love ("God is Love"), and is the way we become connected to the True Vine.
He loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made.
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one.
(1 Nephi 17:40, 35)
Can a party to a covenant break their promise?
Can God break His promise?
Even if God cannot break his word on his end, we can choose to place many, many conditions on our love, can't we?
Thus the covenant is conditional, but only because we are free to either honor it or not honor it.
God (love) x (promise) x (unconditional) ÷ Our (love) x (promise) x (conditional) = covenant (conditional)
So when people say God's love is not unconditional, I think what they really mean is, "God does not have to honor the covenant if we break it."
Or we could say: when we are not faithful to a covenant, God is not bound to grant us the blessings associated therewith ("blessings are conditional").
Bringing Out the Big Guns
Here is the scripture most commonly used to show that God's love is conditional:
If ye keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.
So many interesting things going on in this revelation. First, the Lord says that the absence of love results in darkness. It is almost like he is using "light" and "love" interchangeably. But notice what it does not say: it does not say "my love shall not continue with you" but "the love of the Father shall not continue with you." Is that significant?
Let's put this in context. Section 95 was given in 1833 and involved the commandment to build the temple.
We're not talking about "commandments" in a general sense. The Lord is referring to one specific commandment: "the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house" (D&C 95:3).
I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high.
Recall that love, like light, exhibits both particle and wave properties. I want to point out a logical inference. This revelation is saying that the Father's love requires a House to be fully manifested on earth. To be "endowed" with power requires, or is a consequence of, the Father's love continuing with us.
Shocker. This revelation is not talking about whether God loves the sinner (we already knew he does). Instead, it is making an explicit connection between love, the Father, light, and a House.
They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day.
Oh, so now we see what's going on. The "very grievous sin" ischoosing to walk "in darkness at noon-day."
What does it mean to choose to walk in darkness?
Getting Dark Early
If the sun sitting at the center of our solar system is always there, constantly shining, why would we not see its light at noon-day?
Simple: we go down to the basement, close the shutters, turn off the lights, take off our shirt, sit in the abject darkness, open a kilo of dark chocolates, and eat them until we feel sick.
Imagine the way that sticky melted chocolate drips from your mouth onto your chest, and after you try wiping it off with your hands, you spread the chocolate through your hair as you grip your head, reveling in self-loathing, hating your weakness, this pathetic life you're living filled with misery, and you scream into the void, "Curse you!" not sure who you're even cursing, but knowing God could never love you, not like this, not here . . . maybe not ever.
Okay, that was a bit dark. But imagine a light growing next to you, faintly at first, but as you turn towards it the light warms you, and there you sense a presence, and it is Christ. You weep, but this time the tears are not bitter because they are filled with hope: hope you can change, that you can climb those stairs and face whatever is at the top.
Hope that you can endure. All. Things.
What I want to point out is that Christ does not want us to "clean ourselves up" before we come unto Him. He wants us now, this minute, as we are, warts and all.
Because it is his job (his!) to clean us up. We cannot cleanse ourselves. But Christ takes a bowl filled with our tears, and I mean His and ours, and uses them to wash us from head to toe.
After Christ washes us, he presents us clean before the Father. The only reason we have strength to make it there at all is because of Christ's perfect, pure, and unfailing love.