BYU Easter Conference: “The Savior’s Love”
Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
- The scriptures connect the fulness of love not with casual emotions, affection, or even passion, but with God.
- Obedience to God will draw us closer to Him and His love.
“When we understand John’s teaching of love correctly, romantic love, brotherly love, and benevolence can be appropriate under God’s divine guidance. The Savior’s love will, however, exclude feelings, actions, and emotions that are contrary to His law. That filters out the misconceptions of love, leaving only a ‘pure’ love.” —Matthew O. Richardson
A 1967 popular song titled “All You Need Is Love” was meant to convey a message that could not be misinterpreted, yet people persist in misunderstanding love, Matthew O. Richardson observed in his address at the 2015 Easter Symposium at Brigham Young University on March 27.
“Such misunderstanding shouldn’t be that surprising,” said Brother Richardson, BYU advancement vice president and professor of Church history and doctrine. “After all, the very language we use to create clarity is dependent on our ability to accurately decipher words, understand context, and combine words and meanings appropriately.”
He added, “Our language allows for misunderstandings and misinterpretation, making it our responsibility to decipher, contextualize, and apply expressions accurately. We cannot take a word at face value—especially when it comes to the word love.”
He quoted a 1969 statement from President Gordon B. Hinckley, who cautioned that there are those who “clamor for love as the solution to the world’s problems” and then warned, “Their expression may sound genuine, but their coin is counterfeit. Too often, the love of which they speak is at best only hollow mummery.”
Brother Richardson added, “Most uses of the word love focus on traits or parts of love but fail to speak about the real thing—the total package.”
He observed that the scriptures connect the fulness of love not with casual emotions, affection, or even passion, but with God. “To ensure that he was not misunderstood, John taught in the simplest of terms that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16). This means that if one desires true love, one must understand God.”
Lest some think that definition too restrictive or unrealistic, Brother Richardson said, “When we understand John’s teaching of love correctly, romantic love, brotherly love, and benevolence can be appropriate under God’s divine guidance. The Savior’s love will, however, exclude feelings, actions, and emotions that are contrary to His law. That filters out the misconceptions of love, leaving only a ‘pure’ love” (Moroni 7:47).
Another important consideration in understanding the Savior’s love, he said, is the statement that “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10).
“Although love is intended to eventually become a reciprocal relationship, we must understand that the love of God is not contingent upon our love for Him; love begins with God, not with us.”
To obtain the fulness of God’s love, one must receive it through the propitiation of Jesus Christ, Brother Richardson said. “To receive and exercise God’s love requires us to be ‘born of God.’”
That involves more than just recognition of one’s beginnings with God the Father and of Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior, he said. Whoever is born of God “must begin a renovation,” he explained. “We can no longer remain the same people we once were. Those who embrace the gospel of Christ become new creatures, born into new situations, new circumstances, new expectations, a new way to approach daily experiences, and a new way to love.”
Obedience to God, Brother Richardson said, maintains one’s covenant relationship with Christ, “which facilitates the manifestation of God’s love. We can feel the fulness of the Father only when our covenants with Christ are in effect. As we become more proficient in maintaining our covenant of keeping the commandments, not only do we draw ever closer to the Savior, but He becomes a constant figure in our lives.”