A guest post from Jeremiah (not that Jeremiah)

hippie love | a piece of a poster done for an hippie party ...

The other Sunday, as I was sitting in church, the Sunday School teacher asked the members of the class what their core principle was, and someone said “love”. And went on to offer up the phrase “God is love”, in support of their assertion. This seems to be part of a pattern within the church. I keep hearing more and more about the primacy of love, and frequently when people talk about the importance of love, they’re really talking about the importance of tolerance. That in terms of the gospel, love and tolerance are more important than everything else, but is that actually true doctrine, or is it something we’ve imported from the outside world?

To begin with “God is love” seems pretty clear, it’s not even something like God commands us to love, or God values love, it’s that God is love. And yet if it’s as important as all that why does this phrase only appear in one place in the Bible, 1 John chapter 4?

If we look beyond this, the next best piece of evidence for the importance of love is Matthew 22:36-40:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This is reasonably strong evidence, but note that loving other people comes after loving God. How often are the people pushing love and tolerance skipping over the first commandment?

What about if we move beyond the New Testament to the Book of Mormon? The idea for this post actually came to me quite a while go as I was reading Alma 29. Alma mentions that if he could have “the wish of his heart” he would want to be an angel. What would he do if he were an angel and could travel the world and speak with a “voice to shake the earth”? He would preach repentance, not love.

Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

Another place we might turn is the Articles of Faith. And while they don’t cover every nook and cranny of LDS theology, you would think that anything that’s really important should be included there. Turning to them the closest we get to the word love is “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” On the other hand, though it only appears once, repentance is on the list of “first principles”, right after faith.

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

None of this is to say that love isn’t important, or even very important, but when you prioritize it above everything else, then you risk losing losing other important principles, particularly if those principles clash with your expanded and prioritized vision of love’s meaning. If love takes on the meaning of infinite tolerance then what place does a principle like repentance have which has intolerance for sin baked right into the definition?

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