“And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them…”(Doctrine and Covenants, 45:26).
Our hearts are failing us
It’s happening, wouldn’t you agree? We see it everywhere; the wars, the rumors, the commotion. I used to think that “hearts failing” meant only discouragement in the Last Days. But now when I think of our “hearts failing” us, I’m seeing it another way. What I’m seeing now is that with a cultural emphasis of making decisions solely based on our emotions, we may be in danger of making bad choices. Perhaps there’s more to be considered than just the way we feel about things.
What do you mean by ‘love’?
Within our common English language, we love pizza, a new pair of shoes, and the latest Netflix series. We love a rainy day, and fluffy sweaters. We love Diet Coke, chocolate and the color orange. We also love our children, our siblings and our parents. We love our friends and the gift of life. We love our eternal companion. We love the truths of the gospel and our Savior.
One word for such a broad range of emotion—from pizza to our Maker? This one word can often fail to describe what we truly mean.
I enjoy pizza, I’m excited about my new shoes, the latest Netflix series intrigues me. Rainy days are cozy, Diet Coke and chocolate are yummy treats. The color orange makes me feel happy and brave. So many other choices, yet we usually default to use the word ‘love’ in both trivial and monumental matters.
The word ‘love’ can cover it all, but sometimes leaves us wanting; when used for everything, it waters down a powerful word . No wonder we’re confused.
How does God use the word love?
In the book of John, God teaches “[He] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ himself taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” In these instances:
Love = sacrifice and obedience. As Paul taught the Corinthians, Moroni also defined “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” From this we learn: love = charity and eternity.
When God, and His prophets speak of love, the word is associated with sacrifice, eternal truths and charity.
Love in today’s world
Those are very different definitions than what we see in the social and cultural messages of our day, which more often use the word as a pseudonym for lust, selfishness and temporary counterfeits.
Not long ago, when scrolling through social media, a photo caught my eye. I followed links and hash tags that led to pictures of a wedding. Photo after photo of the wedding and festivities, included guests holding signs with messages like “love is love,” “same love,” and “love wins.” The wedding was between two men. The images they shared with the world looked happy. It showed a spectacular occasion. From other posts it was evident that these men were both returned missionaries. They had entered temples at one point in their lives and made covenants. One of them had attended and graduated from BYU, and from what I could tell, many in the photos holding signs appeared to share associations, even membership in the Church.
To me, the photos showed people who are trying to follow the admonition to love everyone, be open, and accepting of other’s choices. Surely, an affection for one, or both of the men, were in their hearts. Along with a genuine desire for the well-being and happiness of their friend, brother, nephew, cousin, or son. While many appeared jubilant, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were others that felt conflicted. Confused. Were some of them reluctant to hold up a “love” sign?
This word ‘love’, tied to the emotion of our hearts, tied to those things that matter most, is in danger of being completely hijacked by philosophies that are contrary to how God defines love. Does that matter?
Why words matter
In the pre-mortal realm, when we battled for mortality, agency and salvation, what were our weapons? Do you imagine we had weapons of war, bows and arrows, that were made of spiritual material? Or, is it more likely we battled philosophies and doctrines with words?
Choice. Marriage. Family. Love. Sacrifice. These are words that must have come up often in the war in heaven. Is it any wonder that they would trigger strong reactions in mortality? They are words Heaven and Hell battle over. The war started in heaven. But, it continues today and associated with it are words worth fighting for.
Randall Wallace, who wrote and produced the film Braveheart, when asked why he makes war stories, replied, “I don’t. I make love stories. I want to know what you love enough to fight for.” Do we love “LOVE” enough to fight for it? “LOVE” as it relates to our Heavenly Father’s plan?
How do we show unconditional love without our heart “failing” us?
When I check myself before impulsively acting on my emotions, I make better decisions. There is no one answer that fits every circumstance, so in difficult situations, I ask myself these three questions:
1. What am I afraid of? “As disciples of Christ, we stand apart from the world. There may be times we feel uncomfortable as the fingers of scorn mock and dismiss what is sacred to us. … Paul admonished, ‘God hath not given us the spirit of fear; … Be not … ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.’ We never leave Him.” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Never Leave Him“).
2. What am I promoting? If conflicted, I’ve found that I need to ask myself this question and then use the Savior’s example to answer it:
Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others.
Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once). (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland”The Costs and Blessings of Discipleship“).
3. Am I using both my heart and my mind? In the scriptures, we’re taught:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” (D&C 8:2)
Some people are too logical about things, while others can be too impulsive. The Lord expects us to use our hearts and minds—together. In other words, to exercise our intelligence. Intelligence, which is different from knowledge, is light and truth. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). It is what our spirits are made of, literally. It has been with us all along.
“Light… allows us to see things as they really are. It allows us to discern between truth and error, between the vital and the trivial… we can make righteous choices based on true principles… we can see our mortal trials from an eternal perspective.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Bearers of Heavenly Light“).
When we are true to our intelligence and light, we are more careful with what we promote, recognize our fears, and as others’ hearts fail, ours will take courage. We’ll be better equipped to use both our heart and mind in making courageous moral decisions, and be able to truly understand how love is defined—in God’s eyes.
Author Carol Rice is the Director of Communications and Outreach for a an NGO who works to defend faith, family and religious liberty at the United Nations. Her career in sales and marketing has specialized in training and using the power of story. She has helped thousands of organizations and individuals share their stories. For over ten years she ran her own, successful on-line publishing company and has worked with prestigious storytelling organizations in the country, Carol and her husband, Scott, have five children and two grandchildren.