Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religion

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Arthur Ruger
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Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religion

Post by Arthur Ruger » 25 Mar 2014, 17:13

I recently encountered an Ensign article by Elder Nelson published in 2003 entitled Divine Love (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/02/divine-love?lang=eng) in which the following is stated:
While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.
What follows is nothing more than a lengthy theological speculation about the many ways in which The Father and The Son have a conditional relationship with mortals in terms of divine love.

I had been out of the church for quite a long time when this opinion was published and was unaware of its existence. I'm wondering if any of you participated in discussions in a formal Church context such as priesthood/sunday school lessons regarding this concept. Or perhaps it became a subject of discussion and debate on the boards.

I have quite strong opinions regarding this notion as such does not reflect my experience of divinity and the love of God - regardless of whether or not LDS general authorities agree. In fact, I consider the Church's authoritative position on this subject as expressed by Elder Nelson to be on the same level of silliness as McConkie attempting to tell members that they should not have any sort of personal relationship or interaction with Christ.

I'd like to read discussion - whether rehashed from 2003 or otherwise - on this idea of conditional love of God. I do consider the notion reflective of performance-based religion, among which the LDS are among the greatest errant speculators.
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GBSmith
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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by GBSmith » 25 Mar 2014, 17:29

Arthur Ruger wrote: I'd like to read discussion - whether rehashed from 2003 or otherwise - on this idea of conditional love of God. I do consider the notion reflective of performance-based religion, among which the LDS are among the greatest errant speculators.
I remember when it came out and how much it bothered people but there was no open discussion in our ward about it. My feeling was that someone in CES or at FARMS asked Elder Nelson to do it. To me it was a lot of semantic hair splitting that was likely intended to draw a distinction between us and the saved by grace/faith set but just made people upset.

As far as God's love being conditional, I guess that depends on whether or not you think God loves you.
Last edited by GBSmith on 25 Mar 2014, 22:11, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by nibbler » 25 Mar 2014, 17:37

I think he really wanted to get at:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Meaning people shouldn't use god's love to justify sin. In short I think it was a very poor choice of words. If the real danger is in justifying sin say just that, don't try to place bounds on god's love just to get some other point across.

I feel like the statement may also be an attempt to instill obedience through fear.

Last thought... maybe he's confusing judgment with love? From the perspective of a TBM wouldn't god continue to love all his children regardless of which kingdom they ultimately inherited?

Christ went to the sinners, I wonder what that says about the conditions of his love. If god's love is conditional on obedience and we are to emulate divine qualities wouldn't that give everyone license to not love anyone? For all have sinned and come short of the glory of god. If we are meant to emulate Christ I think the scriptures give more than enough proof that he loved unconditionally.
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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Oneofmany » 25 Mar 2014, 18:25

I don't ever remember discussing it in a church setting. I do remember discussing it in a family setting. My parents said this, "know this, we will always love you, that doesn't mean we will support a drug habit." That pretty much ended the discussion. Of course, my parents were also the type that said, "this is our house, if you want to live here, you live by our rules."

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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Mar 2014, 19:05

1) I agree with the main points he made in the talk, but I think the wording of that one sentence got in the way of the message. I think it was a very poor choice of words, but I also think people made him an offender for a word and totally ignored or mis-stated what he actually said. I think he knew what he meant and didn't realize it would be taken the way it was taken.

When the whole talk is read, minus that sentence (and I mean eliminating that sentence completely), he meant that God doesn't bless everyone equally no matter what they do - that there is no foundation in the Church for the idea that we can confess the name of Christ, for example, and then do whatever we want to do and still receive the highest reward / result - that our actions have a real effect on what we can receive from God.

In other words, I think he believes that God loves us unconditionally but that he doesn't bless or reward unconditionally. I think all of us probably understand that distinction with regard to our own children. It was a talk addressing the idea that there is a difference between salvation and exaltation - again, with a very bad choice of wording and framing in that sentence.

2) The following statement is not accurate:
I consider the Church's authoritative position on this subject as expressed by Elder Nelson . . .


No individual apostle expresses authoritatively the LDS Church's official position, especially in one General Conference talk. Seriously, we hear conflicting interpretations regularly in General Conference. To latch on to one particular view as THE authoritative position of the Church, especially when there are other talks that present a very different view, simply isn't fair to the wide range of views held and expressed by the leadership.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Arthur Ruger
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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Arthur Ruger » 26 Mar 2014, 08:27

No individual apostle expresses authoritatively the LDS Church's official position, especially in one General Conference talk. Seriously, we hear conflicting interpretations regularly in General Conference. To latch on to one particular view as THE authoritative position of the Church, especially when there are other talks that present a very different view, simply isn't fair to the wide range of views held and expressed by the leadership.
Point taken. Thanks Ray.

I haven't perceived Elder Nelson as one who is more openly and aggressively authoritative as was McConkie and the public straightening out of George Pace in 1981 that I referred to.

I'm also aware that when Apostle Benson's 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet was first presented, President Kimball was bothered sufficiently to require its withdrawal. The interaction within the FP and the Twelve in fact left Benson momentarily concerned that he might be formally rebuked.

One account of this incident is in Edward Kimball's biography of his father, Lengthen Your Stride and historian Michael Quinn has published another.

I also just learned that Elder Oaks in 2009 gave the following, entitled Love and Law, which essentially accords with Elder Nelson.
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... w?lang=eng
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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Forgotten_Charity » 26 Mar 2014, 10:32

Well a part of the reason we screw this up in LDS or in many religions is because we screw up the basis on what it means to love and be loved. We make a connection where none exist with love and obedience. Obedience isn't a part of love, it isn't connected to it. Rather a manifestation of a child's seeking approval and love from their parent or authority figure. And as such a mistake in connection is made. I read the talks. The entire talk speaks about love (mercy) and justice in a very natural man manor of legalistic lens perspective.

In point so much that he gives examples of children leaving out of wed lock as an example of some dorm of justice.
To wit that point and using that same logic one could not help but come to the same conclusion about what would happen to someone if they did something much worse then that, like say teach the Adam god theory or force or manipulate marriage Polygamy. Especially since they died in their "sins".

One would have no choice by that logic but to come to the same or worse conclusion about others in ones own institution(in this case LDS). That the same or worse fate had to befall them. This teaching that the examples they used which were of less offense to justice then some of what we do and have done in the institution.

Long story short by their own misguided but well intentioned legalistic logic of love and obedience, we have squarely put our own apostle and prophets down that same logic road with the same conclusion.

Something we do not actually teach. So their must be dual logic at play here.
A double standard which violates the laws of justice In every conceivable way.

That standard would condemn and limit or own leaders from a fellow leader.

A very odd stance to take unless you some how think you don't rob justice by a double standard.

Anyways the logic I find isn't logical at all with regards to the double stances and relationship between grace and mercy and justice. It takes on a very long held natural human view that existed before religion itself.

Do we espouse that natural man view of this to be inherently godly?

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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Roy » 26 Mar 2014, 10:38

Just last october TSM and Elder Holland said the following:
Sheldon wrote:The original Monson talk at the 15:15 mark
God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve love

The original Holland talk at the 5:45 mark
God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve it

The “transcript” from the Monson talk
God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love
The transcript from the Holland talk
God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]

.
So we have at least two recent examples that seem to say the opposite. Unfortunately - I agree that the main undercurrent in LDS culture is quid-pro-quo. The book "Believing Christ" does a good job of detailing scriptures from our own BoM detailing how the Atonement not only makes up for our failings but also credits us with Christ's perfection as long as we are on the right team in the end. The books author, Bro. Robinson, described his BYU college students as being "soft in the middle" and generally without a basic understanding of the atonement as our core doctrine. I was so overjoyed to have found this more loving - less transaction based depiction. I was then crestfallen when I looked these same BoM scriptures up in my institute and seminary manuals and found attempts to qualify and downplay the verses.

Maybe young 20 somethings can skate through the various church programs without such understanding, maybe they were passing notes in class or taking a nap when this subject was taught - but surely the people that speak in GC and those that put together the manuals would have a fair grasp on our core doctrine.

Instead I hear the atonement repeatedly reduced to an enabling power - like agency or air. I'm so glad I have air today that enables me to go to work and keep my job. I'm so glad that I have agency today that enables me to choose to go to work and keep my job. :evil: [just in case you missed it, there was some sarcasm in my examples but I think you get the point]
Ray DeGraw wrote:When the whole talk is read, minus that sentence (and I mean eliminating that sentence completely), he meant that God doesn't bless everyone equally no matter what they do - that there is no foundation in the Church for the idea that we can confess the name of Christ, for example, and then do whatever we want to do and still receive the highest reward / result - that our actions have a real effect on what we can receive from God.

In other words, I think he believes that God loves us unconditionally but that he doesn't bless or reward unconditionally.
I agree. Our actions do not seem to be irrelevant. OTOH in this life God's supposed blessings seem to be all over the map. Bad things happen to good people etc. In the next life we get what we deserve, right? Except for the atonement again. It seems to me that the critical difference is in whether the power of the atonement is extended on our behalf or not. Are we justified by the perfection of Christ or are we left to our own performance. Where do we draw the line of demarcation to receive God's grace or is there a sliding scale? Is it possible that too much emphasis on personal performance actually becomes a rejection of God's grace, grieving the spirit of God, and leaving those individuals to their own devices. Is it possible that legalistic Mormons would go to the same kingdom that is inhabited by the Pharisees of old.

Interesting idea, but I don't take it too seriously. The God I believe in loves his children unconditionally and wouldn't eternally limit their progression just for being legalistic jerks. ;)
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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by Curt Sunshine » 26 Mar 2014, 11:09

Thanks, Roy. Very thought-provoking comment.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Unconditional Love of God in a performance-based religio

Post by On Own Now » 26 Mar 2014, 11:13

I think 'love' is an emotion that we cannot even define in our mortal realm. As described in the scriptures, God's love is incomprehensible. I would say that we will never be able to categorize something that we can't even comprehend. Asserting that God's love is either conditional or unconditional is unprovable and unprofitable.

I prefer to think that God, as represented in the scriptures, has "unconditional patience" for us.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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