“God Is Love”
1-2 John providing a launching point for a detailed discussion of love. How have we felt God’s love? How do we show love for God, for ourselves, for those close to us, and beyond?
Sheena and Jason join the class.
Class Member Reading: 1 John; 2 John; and 3 John
Additional Reading: Moroni 7:48; Doctrine and Covenants 45:3–5
Scripture Chain: 1 John 2:10–11; 1 John 3:16–19; 1 John 4:7–11; 1 John 4:20–21; John 21:15–17; Moroni 7:45–48
You can access the Annotated Reading here (or PDF).
You can access the Lesson Notes here (or PDF).
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The Love of God, President Uchtdorf
Look to God and Live, Elder Holland
Being Love; Lesson 44 on Our Cooperative Ministry: Mormon Women Project
Protect the Children, Elder Oaks
All the following commentaries are by active, faithful members:
- Consequences, Intended or Otherwise, Julie Smith
- Duty Bound to Reject It, Bill Reel
- KSL Story on the policy regarding children of same-sex parents
- Grant Hardy’s excellent balanced coverage on the Chicago Divinity School site
- Benjamin Knoll on how we can understand differing reactions to the policy changes, Huffington Post
- CNN Opinion article by Ben Hertzberg
Authorship of the Letters of John
Thanks to Trent Oliphant for editing the discussion and to Marshall McDonald for the bumper music!
A friend of mine suggested I check out your site as an example of an LDS podcast. This was the first podcast I listened to and it doesn’t sound very LDS to me. For someone who is self-described as a Bible scholar, you seem to not understand a lot of the basics. I think you may be missing the mark.
1) This life is not about getting what we want, including love and happiness here and now. All of God’s best promises are ultimately reserved for the afterlife, other than ‘peace’, meaning peace of conscience. Whatever trials we go through are necessarily hard. Our job, as children of God, is to find out what He wants us to do, and then do those things, whatever they cost us, however hard, however painful.
If God said tomorrow that we all needed to amputate our legs below the knees, or only hop on one foot to get around, or stop eating bacon (oh no!), or that men should wear dresses or whatever, and however ridiculous it may seem, however normal or abnormal the world views it, whatever science contradicts it, the Lord will have spoken and we must obey or be cast off.
2) Never has God sanctioned homosexual marriage. He just hasn’t. Yet you argue how loving it is and how kids these days think it’s no big deal and how the church harms people with its policies. The world doesn’t think a lot of sins are a big deal, so I’m not sure why you’d argue in favor of this one and not those others. Agreeing with anything coming out of the Great and Spacious building is never a good course of action.
The Catholic church, which means ‘universal’, wanted to appeal to all and in order to do so, absorbed countless false doctrines and heresies. So when you speak about the church making missteps in policy which will alienate people and relegate the church to obscurity, the scriptures tell us that is the point! The church will always be obscure, will always not appeal to the masses, and its people will be considered peculiar – which in this case would mean homophobic or hateful, I suppose. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
3) It is clear that apostasy is anything which actively rebels or goes against the church, as I think you agreed in all of the first 4 definitions from the handbook. When the church has come out numerous times over the past 20 years and stated that marriage is purely heterosexual, and then someone enters into a homosexual marriage – then they have just placed themselves at odds with the church in a major way. In fact, you could say that their marriage certificate is a certificate of rebellion. I fail to see how that isn’t apostasy.
For those who support gay marriage, Elder Christofferson’s interview really defined how good and faithful members should talk about gay marriage when he said, “The church, of course, doesn’t attempt to practice mind control and people have varying opinions. It’s only a problem if there’s advocacy and people lobby and advocate against the standard and very clear and expressed position of the church as it has been stated repeatedly and again now.” This is precisely what your podcast is doing – lobbying and advocating against the standard and position of the church. I don’t know you, obviously. But if I were you, I’d read or listen to his statement a few times and reevaluate your position.
4) You hold out as a proof that the new policy is flawed the fact that children of other types of sinners aren’t treated the same – those sinners aren’t also apostates by definition in the handbook, and there are no sanctions against the children. I believe you mentioned children which are abused as your example. Just because there aren’t stricter penalties for those sins doesn’t mean that the new policies aren’t right. However, what it might show is that new policies are needed to better address the sins of child abuse.
Regardless, the sanctions or restrictions on children in the new policy is, as stated, to not put children in the position of believing that their parents are actively engaged in sin on a daily basis, according to church teachings, while seeing it every day by parents who love them – thereby being taught the opposite. I’m not sure why you don’t see why this must be so. Those who abuse children publicly agree with church policy while still committing the sin. So at least the public views of the sinner are inline with the church. Gay people who are married do not publicly agree with church policy and have publicly taken a stand against it.
5) Ultimately, one either believes that God has prophets and apostles which speak for Him or one doesn’t. In this podcast, you talk about how you think these are good guys who think they’re doing what is best, but who are actually wrong and mistaken. You gave absolutely no indication that perhaps these new policies aren’t theirs – that they are actually those dictated to them by Jesus Christ (if not in word, then in substance). I feel like you are verbally stoning the modern prophets yet saying that you believe the church – meaning the dead, less modern prophets – like the Israelites did over and over. I’d be more careful if I were you.
If God has a living church, that means His appointed leaders get revelation from Him and guide and direct the church according to His will. If the church is not living, then we are a sectarian church like all of the others and the Truth is not found in the church, in which case none of the policies matter at all. If the church is living, and the leaders divinely guided, then the only choice a member has is to follow, or be cast aside as an apostate. It really is that simple.
Jared Anderson says:
Thank you for your response Ryan. You did not respond to my *Lesson* at all. Did that sound like an LDS podcast to you? I hope so. I realize that my thoughts on the policy were challenging, and that was a risk I took. I welcome hearing your thoughts on the lesson portion and other episodes you may choose to listen to. Again, thank you for taking the time to comment.
Jared Anderson says:
We disagree fundamentally on key points of the gospel, but I don’t know if this is the best place to get into those differences. For example, I agree with President Hinckley when he quoted Joseph F. Smith as saying “a religion which will not help a man in this life will not likely do much for him in the life to come” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/the-perpetual-education-fund?lang=eng). I believe that God wants us to have joy and well-being in this life *and* the next. One of my favorite parts of Mormonism is that it teaches this life is part of eternity.
As I said in my comments, I think “sin” and “apostasy” are different. The gospel and scriptures and human nature are all full of contradictions–we believe in supporting the law of the land, for example. My point was that even if you believe that same-sex marriage is a sin, it benefits society by increasing social stability and caring for children. Kind of like how science demonstrates that coffee has multiple health benefits. That doesn’t mean Mormons should drink coffee, but it is irresponsible to misrepresent the facts on the ground. Other sins are clearly damaging, such as smoking or abuse or infidelity. In those instances the commandments line up with broader understandings of morality
The Gospel Topics essays show that there are times when the leaders just get it wrong, such as was the case with the priesthood and temple ban of the blacks. I think this is another example; we just happen to be on the other side of it before the correction that will likely come in a few decades. I actually believe I am sustaining Mormonism and the Church and even the leaders by speaking up for what I feel is in the best interest of all of these. I believe we must worship God with both our mind and heart. I respect your devotion, and am glad we can both follow the gospel in ways that resonate with our relationship with God.
I honestly tried to listen to your lesson after your opening remarks, which were quite lengthy, but found it impossible to focus after that opening. So sorry about that.
I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts. We obviously don’t have everything in the Bible that happened. We have small snapshots that managed to make it to our day. It’s possible, then, that Moses made some kind of mistake that was well known in the Israelite camp, so that when the brass snake was lifted up, many said “that Moses guy is probably wrong again, just like that other time” and so lost their lives. Or maybe not. We don’t know, but surely, there have been those in the past who figured the prophet was wrong once, and so probably was again some later time, when they weren’t.
Add to that the words from our general authorities time and again that we must follow the prophet, and it’s clear that that is the only way. Elder Ballard said, “When we think of false prophets and false teachers … we often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. … in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed. … Beware of such.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/10/beware-of-false-prophets-and-false-teachers?lang=eng
It really doesn’t sound like you defend the apostles and prophet. You flat out say they are probably wrong.
And Elder McConkie says about that: “No true Latter-day Saint will ever take a stand that is in opposition to what the Lord has revealed to those who direct the affairs of his earthly kingdom. No Latter-day Saint who is true and faithful in all things will ever pursue a course, or espouse a cause, or publish an article or book that weakens or destroys faith.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/the-caravan-moves-on?lang=eng)
That is pretty clear. It can’t be more clear. There are a ton more examples on LDS.org such as these, including Elder Christofferson’s that I quoted before. So when I come across articles, Facebook posts, videos and podcasts such as yours, and there are an increasing amount, what am I supposed to think? Are the prophets and apostles wrong in these pronouncements, or are the members who post against them and the policies and doctrines they have announced the ones who are wrong?
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
I’m sorry we disagree about that. The Lord’s servants have spoken. There are many people I know who share your thinking and really, I just fear for them, and you. There are so many people I love who first had a difference of opinion on some point of doctrine or policy and now they are outside of the church! That’s not what I want. Everyone should be in and faithful to the end!
I realize, that in print I may come across as haughty. I don’t mean to. But there is no loyal opposition. Opposition results in apostasy. Nearly every early Saint who apostatized in Joseph Smith’s time didn’t mean to. And most of them thought Joseph was wrong about one point or another, that he was a fallen prophet. I fail to see how such comments today are any different.
I’d prefer everyone to realize that the specific conditions in anyone’s life do not matter at all. We are here for such a short period of time. Most of the figures in the scriptures lived in really crappy circumstances. It’s not our job to try to order the world in some way that we think is fair. And if the World wants something, that should be a clue that it isn’t good, that Satan wants it for that is who the World listens to. While love may be the greatest commandment, obedience is still the principle which under girds that commandment and every other. Indeed, the only reason we are here, ultimately, is to prove our unwavering obedience, or as Jesus said, to do the Father’s will in all things. That’s it! That’s it.
I’m not your priesthood leader, so I can’t call you to repentance, but might I suggest that if someone has been vocal in opposing the voice of the prophets, then as repentance, one would need to remove all published material expressing those opposing views, and for restitution publish retractions.
I honestly hope you and I both ‘make it’ and one day laugh about this and the crazy world we had to live in.
Jared Anderson says:
Ryan, thank you for the additional comments. I think there is an “order of operations” when it comes to understanding spiritual things and religion. For example, I think we should seek to understand what exactly scripture is (which happens to be my area of training), before we try to understand exactly what happened with Moses and the Israelites. But even with that, I think the Spirit can help us navigate how to apply stories that are quite foreign to our own lives.
I too wish you every wellness and thriving in your life.
Since you have publicly asked for feedback to this podcast, I am going to hesitantly jump in here. My ward is a few weeks behind in the lesson, and I didn’t listen to this episode until recently. I must say that I wasn’t surprised by what I heard, but I was a little disappointed. I have listened to the podcast for just over a year and a half now, and while I don’t always agree with your perspective, I usually have an appreciation for your viewpoint.
I’ll start with your pointedly diplomatic response to the recent policy change. As with many others, I was surprised at the news, and I have many questions about the different implications of the policy. While I feel that it’s important for each member to be able to ask these questions and have their voice heard, I believe that it is the church’s job to establish the policies, by which we judge ourselves. However, much of the discord that I’m seeing is not conducive to spiritual growth, but simply egoic justification (on both sides of the fence). Finally, I flatly reject your notion that the opinion of the world should impact the doctrines or policies of the church (1 John 2:17).
All of that aside, the most important thing for us church members to decide is what we are going to do with the change and I feel that the burden falls to us members. Our charge is to love and see people as Christ does. That means that anyone personally impacted by this policy needs to see our love and support as much, if not more than any other member of our ward and community.
Because you scolded Ryan for only talking about your response, I’ll move on to the lesson. Like most of the recent lessons, you did a good job reiterating the scripture. The one point that I would have stressed and will stress in my lesson is your fourth and fifth questions. How do we love ourselves? By seeing ourselves as God sees us, not as the world sees us. How do we love everyone else? The same way. This means ceasing all judgement.
Finally, I want to address your comment in your response to Ryan. You said, “I believe that God wants us to have joy and well-being in this life *and* the next.” This is a concept that I have been pondering quite a bit lately, and while I haven’t come to any conclustions yet, I think that most of us don’t apply it broadly enough. Is the joy that we are talking about available to poverty stricken people living in India, Africa, or South America? If not, is it the joy that God intends for us?
Jared, thanks for what you do. Listening to your podcast helps me be a better gospel doctrine teacher.
Jared Anderson says:
Jeremy, thank you so much for this caring, clear, and loving response. It means a great deal to me that you spoke up and engaged. I’ll read it during the next episode.
Mark Crego says:
This podcast segment about love was completely awesome and necessary. Thank you Jared.
As an active LDS I observe that often, in our zeal to defend against what we feel are the ills of the world, we start appearing more like Zoramites than Saints. Whatever our LDS leaders choose to adopt as their policies, we members commit the greater sin when we judge, condemn, and exclude others who sin differently than we do. Love ought to be our first priority, but instead, we declare with self-righteous pride that “obedience is the first law of heaven,” then justifying our rejection of those who don’t visibly comply with our “standards”.
I often wonder what it will take for the God of Love to help our Mormon culture embrace love as the first and second commandments. When Jesus said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments,” he wasn’t speaking of rituals and regulations of the church. In fact, Jesus strongest and *only* condemnations in his words were reserved for the self righteous who harshly judged, condemned, and excluded others (see Matthew 23). Instead, Jesus taught, “a new commandment I give you, that you love one another.”
As a Mormon, my baptismal covenant is explicitly defined by the Book of Mormon: to lift one another’s burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and yes, to witness of God and keep his commandments. If God is Love according to the scriptures in this podcast, if the love is the basis of all God wants us to do, and if Jesus’ new commandment is to love one another, then we who call ourselves “Saints” have serious repenting to do.
Given the statistics of attempted and completed suicides among LBGT LDS, the profound difficulties encountered in trying to reconcile the God-given individual need for love and the preponderance of documented evidence that sexual/gender identity is unalterable, no one among us has greater burdens, mourning, and the need for comfort than our LBGT Latter-day Saints. Recent policies revealed by the Church explicitly deny communion to those who have had to make the choice between a suicidal existence of celibacy in the Church and committed love.
Whatever the Church chooses to do, for whatever reasons it has, I am under covenant to love. In fact, I see this “policy” as a unique test of obedience to the commandment to love one another: it forces me as a member to choose between complacent justification of my personal bigotry versus witnessing to my baptismal covenants in love.
We sing the primary song, “As I have loved you, love one another… By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Thank you, Jared, for your call to repentance
Rob Van Dam says:
Mark’s comment got me thinking about earthly tests. In particular, I started listing off in my head instances in scripture of two conflicting mandates. I’m not convinced that the recent policy change came from God but if it did, might we consider it to be like the conflict that Adam and Eve were presented with? On the one hand, a simple command to avoid a particular tree. On the other hand a more complex and life altering command to multiply and replenish. It certainly would have been simpler for them to stay in the garden and do nothing, thereby fulfilling a strict commandment. But the greater good was served by disobeying one command in favor of loving each other more fully.
When faced with this kind of dilemma, we as Mormons believe that Eve made the “right” choice with at least some level of intention. But she had to be shown the true consequences of her choices by a clever devil before she had enough understanding to make that right choice. Perhaps from now on when people I know complain that I’m murmuring against Gods chosen prophets I will simply say that I am doing what has been done in other worlds. I doubt they will appreciate my cleverness but perhaps my (civil) disobedience will help others to bring about some greater good.
First, I’d like to thank you for this episode. You touched on so many important topics, which are discussions we all need to be having.
I just wanted to put in my two cents about two of the questions you discussed: How do we love God? and How do we love humanity and the world? You also asked a question (I don’t remember how you phrased it) about loving in an informed and educated way. I think, at least in my response, they all correlate to each other.
One thing that confuses me about Christians is that there is great deal of importance placed on the creation, and yet we don’t care for the earth and ALL of God’s creations. The way I show my love for God is to take care of this planet that he created for us. And that goes beyond just not littering. The world is in a pretty bad state, and there is so much each of us can be doing to help (literally) save the planet. But to do that, we need to be involved and informed about what is going on.
In the same way, we can only care for the greater community, or for humanity as a whole if we stay informed and educated about what is going on. Like you said, there may not me much that I can do, or you can do, to change the world, but there is great power in the one. I think that the more we try to see the world outside of our framework, the more we will be motivated to create change, or to contribute to the wellbeing of our communities, our country and the world.