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The phrase “unconditional love” has become so common in our vocabulary and even in gospel discussions that many are shocked to discover the concept comes from social psychology and is foreign and devoid of scriptural support.

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L. Hannah Stoddard and James F. Stoddard III

President Russell M. Nelson confronted this nearly universal “gospel rumor” in an Ensign article entitled, “Divine Love.”

While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional.1

President Nelson’s treatise has been a helpful resource for those endeavoring to understand God’s love from a scriptural perspective. “Divine Love” has been referenced numerous times in General Conference by other general authorities. (See Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Abide in My Love”, Oct 2016; Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and Law”, Oct 2009; Linda S. Reeves, “Claim the Blessings of Your Covenants”, Oct 2013; Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Repentance: A Joyful Choice”, Nov 2016)

Is God’s love unconditional?

President Brigham Young taught that love should be merited. President Joseph F. Smith also clarified that God’s love is not unconditional.

This is how I look at the requirements which God has made upon his people collectively and individually, and I do believe that I have no claim upon God or upon my brethren for blessing, favor, confidence or love, unless, by my works, I prove that I am worthy thereof, and I never expect to receive blessings that I do not merit.2

Is “unconditional love” scriptural?

President Nelson and other inspired leaders have approached this question with an appeal to scripture.

. . . we note many verses that declare the conditional nature of divine love for us.

Examples include:

If ye keep my commandments, [then] ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10; emphasis added.)

If you keep not my commandments, [then] the love of the Father shall not continue with you.” (D&C 95:12; emphasis added.)

If a man love me, [then] he will keep my words: and my Father will love him.” (John 14:23; emphasis added.)

“I love them that love me; and those that seek me … shall find me.” (Prov. 8:17.)

“God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34–35.)

The Lord “loveth those who will have him to be their God.” (1 Ne. 17:40.)

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21.)3

While there is no support for unconditional love in the scriptures, the conditional love of the Father and the Son is taught repeatedly and plainly.

In discussing the true nature of God’s love, we believe that God does love us far more than we can comprehend. His love is perfect, long-suffering, kind and enduring. However, since His love is conditional, it follows that He loves us according to the degree that we follow His will. For example, He does not love us to the same degree that He loves His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Note the way the Father introduces His Son: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (JST, Matthew 3:46, Matthew 17:5, JS-History 1:17, 2 Peter 1:17,  see also D&C 93:15, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35)

When the Father speaks of any other person, even His chosen prophets and servants, He refers to them differently.

Note how Joseph Smith described God’s love.

“Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon)


Erich Fromm, Source: Arturo Espinosa

If the concept of “unconditional love” cannot be found in the scriptures, how has this nearly universal false tradition become so popular in the past few decades?

Pulling away the curtain, the origins of “unconditional love” reveal a murky history. Erich Fromm, a German social psychologist, has been credited with coining this popular term. In The Art of Loving, Fromm criticized merited love.

Unconditional love corresponds to one of the deepest longings, not only of the child, but of every human being; on the other hand, to be loved because of one’s merit, because one deserved it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that–there is always a fear that love could disappear. Furthermore, “deserved” love easily leaves a bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analysis, not loved at all but used.4

Fromm’s Ties to Marxism

Who was Erich Fromm? Fromm was an influential thinker during the 1900s. Interestingly, Fromm embraced Socialism and Marxism and has even been considered one of the founders of Socialist Humanism.

. . . Fromm joined the American Socialist party and penned their party platform for that election year [1960]. During the 1960s Fromm traveled in Eastern Europe and developed close ties with Yugoslav, Czech, and Polish Marxists, who evinced a keen appreciation of Fromm’s brand of Marxist humanism. 5

He became one of the founders of the Socialist Humanism, promoting the early Marx’s writings and his humanist messages to the United States and Western European publics. Thus, in the early 1960s, Fromm has published two books dealing with Marx’s thought (Marx’s Concept of Man and Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud). Working to stimulate the Western and Eastern cooperation between Marxist Humanists, Fromm published a collection of articles entitled Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium in 1965.6

One year following Fromm’s publication on Socialist Humanism, President David O. McKay presented the position of the Church on Socialism and Communism during the general priesthood session of the 136th Annual Conference of the Church:

The position of this Church on the subject of Communism has never changed. We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work among men that exists on the face of the earth. . . .

The Russian Commissar of Education wrote: “We must hate Christians and Christianity. Even the best of them must be considered our worst enemies. Christian love is an obstacle to the development of the revolution.”7

Note that the First Presidency statement specifically stresses the opposition and contradiction between Christian love and Socialist love.

Fromm was dedicated to undermining Christianity, the family & Western civilization.

Fromm was involved in the Frankfurt School, an organization of progressive intellectuals. These men were dedicated to undermining Christianity, the family and Western civilization. Many agendas can be traced to the Frankfurt School and the radical men who were determined to turn the world upside down. These schemes included:

  • the institution of state sex-education,
  • the disintegration of traditional marriage,
  • the spread of propaganda through media and education,
  • the increasing demoralization and illiteracy of America
  • and the goal to create complete dependency on the state.

Erich Fromm was a member of this world-transforming social movement.

Horkheimer and Adorno, influential leaders of the Frankfurt School.

Fromm targets Patriarchal Fatherhood

Fromm’s distaste for “conditional love”, as he called it, led him to attack the patriarchal father. He wrote:

Fatherly love is conditional love. Its principle is ‘I love you because you fulfill my expectations, because you do your duty, because you are like me.’ In conditional fatherly love we find . . a negative and a positive aspect. The negative aspect is the very fact that fatherly love has to be deserved, that it can be lost if one does not do what is expected. In the nature of fatherly love lies the fact that obedience becomes the main virtue, that disobedience is the main sin–and its punishment the withdrawal of fatherly love. The positive side is equally important. Since his love is conditioned, I can do something to acquire it, I can work for it; his love is not outside my control as motherly love is. 8

Erich Fromm’s disgust for a father’s “conditional love” was only a part of his overall hatred for the patriarchal family. Fromm saw the culture built on Judeo-Christian principles as oppressive and destructive. Geoff Botkin elaborates on the Frankfurt School and Erich Fromm’s mission to destroy the Christian family in a talk titled, Hollywood’s Most Despised Villain. Listen to the following excerpt:

Geoff Botkin and The Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences has produced many scriptural based resources to inspire, educate and encourage families. They have produced many valuable DVDs, audio talks, books and other resources on home education, patriarchal fatherhood, providential history, awakening young men and women, true masculinity, scriptural femininity, and more!

Receive your own copy of Hollywood’s Most Despised Villiain.


Fromm equated patriarchal fatherhood as “fascist[ic]”, tyrannical and callous towards humanity.

The purely patriarchal society cares nothing for love and equality; it is only concerned with man-made laws, the state, abstract principles, obedience. It is beautifully described in Sophocles’ Antigone in the person and system of Creon, the prototype of a fascist leader. 9

In the spirit of a worldview shaped by Darwinian Evolution, he described man “as the animal that can say I, that can be aware of himself as a separate entity.”

Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve, and from which he cannot escape. He cannot go back to the prehuman state of harmony with nature; he must proceed to develop his reason until he becomes the master of nature, and of himself.10

Erich Fromm diametrically opposed the principles of revealed Christianity.

One of the foundation stones of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, is the patriarchal family. Erich Fromm and other influential social reformers diametrically opposed the principles of revealed Christianity.

The ancient prophet Alma warned, “trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” (Mosiah 23:14)

Have we followed Alma’s counsel or have we followed Erich Fromm’s doctrine?

Should we teach Erich Fromm’s new social gospel?

Unconditional love = “anti-Christ” deception

President Nelson stressed the importance of understanding that God’s love is not unconditional. He warned that this teaching is used by “anti-Christs to woo people with deception”.

Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly “unconditional” can defend us against common fallacies such as these: “Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …”; or “Since ‘God is love,’ (1 John 4:8, 16.) He will love me unconditionally, regardless …”

These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception. Nehor, for example, promoted himself by teaching falsehoods: He “testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, … for the Lord had created all men, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.” (Alma 1:4) Sadly, some of the people believed Nehor’s fallacious and unconditional concepts.

In contrast to Nehor’s teachings, divine love warns us that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) Jesus explains, “Come unto me and be ye saved; … except ye shall keep my commandments, … ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Nephi 12:20)11

President Nelson’s statement is fully vindicated when one studies the history of “unconditional love” and its roots in our modern socially engineered culture.

On the other hand, inspired leaders have counseled us regarding the true nature of God’s love. President Nelson closed his talk with the following exhortation:

The more committed we become to patterning our lives after His, the purer and more divine our love becomes. . . . Divine love is perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal. The full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional—predicated upon our obedience to eternal law. I pray that we may qualify for those blessings and rejoice forever. 12

Read more statements on God’s divine love!

  1. Nelson, Russell M. “Divine Love”. Ensign, February 2003, 24; Liahona, February 2003, 16.
  2. Smith, Joseph F. Deseret News, November 12, 1873, 644.
  3. Nelson, Russell M. “Divine Love”. Ensign, February 2003, 24; Liahona, February 2003, 16.
  4. Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Harper & Brothers, 1956. 35
  5. Burston, Daniel. The Legacy of Erich Fromm. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1991. 27.
  6. “Erich Fromm.” New World Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 April 2017.
  7. “President David O. McKay, Statement on Position of the Church on Communism, 1966.” Joseph Smith Foundation. N.p., 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017. <>.
  8. Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Harper & Brothers, 1956. 36
  9. Fromm, Erich. The Crisis of Psychoanalysis. 1970. 106
  10. Fromm, Erich. Psychoanalysis and Religion. New Haven, CT: Yale UP., 23.
  11. Nelson, Russell M. “Divine Love”. Ensign, February 2003, 24; Liahona, February 2003, 16.
  12. Ibid.


  1. Ezra Taft Benson taught, “It is important that in our teaching we make use of the language of holy scriptures.

    Today, we hear so many random phrases such as “positive thinking”, “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, “self-esteem”, “positive affirmations” and “unconditional love”. But these phrases we have coined, where are any them used in the scriptures? When we vary from using the language of God’s word, the philosophies of men are introduced and even the elect are deceived.

    Alma said, “I … do command you in the language of him who hath commanded me”. The WORDS and the WAY they are used in the Book of Mormon by the Lord should become our SOURCE of understanding and should be USED by us in teaching gospel principles.” (General Conference April 1987, The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants)

    If we discover that we are using concepts, ideas or phrases that are not based in the word of God, perhaps it is time for a vocabulary purge! I know I have had too, and with this very word itself of “unconditional love.” As I search for the word love and its proper meaning, the definition of perfect love takes on a whole different meaning as the original definition. As a mother of a child who has left entirely the family, and trying to figure out what my role as his mother is, and how to continue to love, I knew unconditional was not right. I am so grateful for the scriptures and their teachings and how we can apply those holy writs to our own lives to receive correct answers. The Book of Mormon is truly THE source.

    • I find this confusing however, because some other terms that are not to be found in scripture are “eternal marriage” “temple marriage” “forever families” etc. In fact there is nothing to be found anywhere in the Book of Mormon about any of these concepts. Should our language really be limited to the exact words used in scripture?

      • Good question and thought provoking, and the answer as you implied, would be no. However, the article leaves no room for confusion, neither in the source of the term and its application. As for saying all words we ever need to use (or aspire to) are in the scriptures is like saying God has no more to reveal. Obviously receiving personal and certainly prophetic revelation is the premise of this whole discussion, and not what was Julie meant – except to be careful we aren’t trying to start our own religion.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how my role as a parent perfectly mirrors the way God parents me. Always, by learning His laws and His ways…I am guided in how to establish my laws and my ways in our home and family. The idea of “unconditional love” has seeped into the family culture of our society and it has wreaked havoc. Satan’s deceptions are so often painted to look even better than their true counterparts. This is where President Monson’s recent plea with us to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong, becomes so vital. It is easier to believe in unconditional love from the Father and to minimize our expectations of our children. I think this article revealed a very, very important deception in this quote from the article.

    “to be loved because of one’s merit, because one deserved it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that–there is always a fear that love could disappear. Furthermore, “deserved” love easily leaves a bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analysis, not loved at all but used.”

    This quote from President Nelson teaches us that God’s way is harder, but true and right and has infinitely greater power to bless us.

    “God’s greater blessings are conditioned on obedience. President Russell M. Nelson explained: “The resplendent bouquet of God’s love–including eternal life–includes blessings for which we must qualify, not entitlements to be expected unworthily. Sinners cannot bend His will to theirs and require Him to bless them in sin [see Alma 11:37]. If they desire to enjoy every bloom in His beautiful bouquet, they must repent.”

  3. Wow! Great article. It’s interesting to note that each one of President Benson’s 5 Anti-Christs were involved or influenced in one way or another in the Frankfurt school. Much (if not most) of our society is deeply rooted and deliberately influenced by the school and it’s philosophies. I love how this articles exposes the lies and deceitful doctrines that are the “norm” all around us now. We have to know the truth in order to guard ourselves and our families against the falsehoods that we are constantly bombarded with from the world.

  4. Elder Christofferson addressed this topic in the Oct 2016 General Conference. “There are many ways to describe and speak of divine love. One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love,”3 “perfect love,”4 “redeeming love,”5 and “everlasting love.”6 These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love.”

    The word love has become so corrupted. I don’t like to use the word in my writing, and I often cringe when I hear it spoken of in Church or other forums because today it connotes never saying anything a person says or does is wrong. It’s about not offending the continually offended. It means accepting your children and everyone else for “who they [think or feel] they are” rather than teaching them true principles.

    In our family we have a saying, “We don’t hate love.” Love is a true principle. We must learn the true definition of love.

    From a study of the standard works, one can see that those closest to God often set aside their personal safety to teach true principles. Was it not love of God and love of man that prompted Alma the Younger to rescind his own safety to preach to the people in Ammonihah?

    Today’s version of love would say that it was hateful of Alma the Younger to suggest that the people in Ammoniah were doing wrong things. He should have just accepted them the way they were, and invited them back to Church. I think we can believe the scriptures and pattern our love after the prophets in the scriptures instead of the psychiatrists of today.

    • I found the same talk really summed things up for me. Aren’t we grateful we have living prophets who speak divine doctrine in our day!

  5. Great article! Many of those who buy into or perpetuate the idea of ‘unconditional’ love are those who deny the reality or seriousness of sin. They use the idea to excuse their tolerance of serious sins in themselves or others.

    As Dallin H. Oaks said:

    “Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. In contrast, those who understand God’s plan for His children know that God’s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy are “they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment” (D&C 54:6).” (Dallin H. Oaks, Love and Law, October 2009)

    Pres. Packer said:

    “Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded [today] by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law.” (Boyd K. Packer, These Things I Know, April 2013)

    We must be careful that in emphasizing God’s perfect love we do not forget his perfect justice. But because of God’s perfect love he gives us law and upholds justice. Because of his love we can access mercy through Christ.

  6. Thank you for this well written and thoughtful piece on God’s love. It never fails to amaze me that we cannot clearly see these deceptions.

  7. Great Article! I never knew that the real Origin of “unconditional love” actually came from an antichrist.

  8. Great work on this article!
    I sure feel like a child in comparison to the brethren. It seems that anything I write or would want to say, they have already said better. I suppose that comes along with being prophets, seers, and revelators. Anyway, I love the way that Elder Christofferson nails this subject of unconditional love right on the head.

    “There are many ways to describe and speak of divine love. One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love,” “perfect love,” “redeeming love,” and “everlasting love.” These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love.” Elder Christofferson in General Conference 2016 (

  9. Does the word not being in the scriptures or its source make it wrong. Will you be “an offender for a word? I will unfold this mystery to you from the scriptures and show that President Nelson and Elder Christofferson and the writer of this article are in error and understand not the scriptures.

    Who comprehend God’s unconditional love for all His children? His love is the truth that sets us free. Line upon line we can know His love. From grace to grace from wherever we are.

    As part of the great intersessory prayer in John 17, Jesus reveals how perfect and complete God’s love for each of us is.

    vs. 23 … and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    We are loved by God with the same love as He has for His only begotten Son. Repeat: you are loved with as much love as the Father has for Jesus. Perhaps unimaginable but true.

    This love is unconditional and unchanging. He loves us as much as when we are doing our best as when we are committing our worst sins.

    His love is not earned or lost. Blessings are earned or lost but not love, love is never lost.

    But make no mistake what we sow we also reap. God can still be displeased by our choices and you and I can still go to hell and suffer for our sins but His love remains from eternity to eternity for you. There is nothing to fear about God’s perfect love it never fails. His arms are always stretched out towards us no matter what we do. Forgiveness is conditional but love is not. You have to obtain forgiveness but not love. This love was there before you discovered how perfect and unconditional it is.

    Because of God’s perfect, unconditional love for you your worth never changes.

    He loves you no less than He loves His only begotten Son. Can you imagine a God greater than this? There is none.

    “He first loved us.”
    “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
    “For God so loved the world.”
    “I do not know the meaning of all things but I know God loves his children.”
    “All are alike unto God.”
    “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends”

    Is there any more essential truth to know than this? If I could know this without any doubt it would be a sure foundation. Christ is the way to this love.

    Just ask yourself if your love for your children is unconditional. Is this wrong? Is conditional love greater? Is love based on compliance or any other condition? I will not love my child if they do or become ________. Fill that in for with what judgment you judge you will also be judged.

    • This is from Joseph Fielding McConkie in his book, “Defending the Sanctity of Marriage” pgs 71-73
      “In recent years we have witnessed the popularizing of the idea that God’s love is unconditional with the appending idea that what we do really does not matter. This notion has found its way into sacrament meeting talks, testimony meetings, and our auxiliary classes. Consider for a moment what is involved here. All things that are right, good, and proper, require the existence of certain conditions for them to exist. Love is no exception. What father Lehi was telling us when he said that ‘it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things,’ is that everything has conditions. To illustrate his point he said that if there were no such thing as ‘bad’ there could be no such thing as ‘good’. If there were no such thing as ‘sin’ there could be no such thing as ‘righteousness’. Without opposites, or we might say conditions, all things would remain, as Lehi stated it, ‘a compound in one’.”
      “That is to say that if God loves everyone exactly the same then love has no identifying characteristics or distinguishing effect. It would be the same as a man saying that the love that he shares with his wife he shares in like manner with all women.”
      “While there is a form of love that a man properly ought to have that is universal and thus embraces all men, women, and children, there must also be a love that is unique and special that he shares with his wife alone. This love exists and is protected by a sacred vow or covenant that we cleave unto each other ‘and none else’. Conditions are the life blood of this love and without those conditions it can neither live nor continue to grow.”
      “If we lived in a world in which everything was the same color, there would be no such thing as color. So it is that if we say there is no sin we have said there is no righteousness. If the temperature is the same every where all the time then there can be no such thing as hot or cold. Thus it is that Lehi tells us that for something to exist it must have its conditions or its opposite.(2Ne 2:11-13) Repetitiously scripture tells us that Christ is God’s ‘Beloved Son’. (Mormon 5:14) If there is not some form of love that God has for His Firstborn Son, the Only Begotten in the Flesh, that exceeds the love he has for the rest of His children, these statements are both meaningless and misleading.”
      “Scripture clearly declares that God’s love, like that shared by a husband and wife, is conditioned on our behavior. On this matter there cannot be any room for disagreement:
      John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
      D&C 95:12 If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.
      John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
      Proverbs 8:17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
      D&C 88:63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you;
      John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
      D&C 124:15 15 And again, verily I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.
      “The great concern of those who have resisted the idea that God’s love has both bounds and conditions is that they know and love someone who is not living according to gospel standards. Somehow they want the love of God to excuse the consequences of their loved one’s transgressions and even in some places prefer to find fault with the Church rather than the behavior of their loved one. Thus love gets turned into a weapon to defend harmful behavior or it becomes a bully that chases all other gospel principles out of the Church.”
      “When you hear the refrain ‘How can this possibly be wrong, we love each other?” you can pretty well set it down that whatever is being talked about is wrong and those involved know it. Love is not an excuse for unbecoming behavior. What love does is lift behavior to a higher level. It is most commonly found in company with the principles of sacrifice, hard work, and self-denial.It is a friend and companion to all attributes of godliness. What it does not do is go around with a chip on its shoulder picking fights with everything that does not satiate an unbridled appetite.”

    • Reading Curt’s main verse in context revealed that verse 23 in John 17 was not talking about all of God’s children at all, as Curt asserts. The entire chapter and prayer was geared toward those that had heard, accepted, and tried to keep the gospel and were no longer part of the world. The applicable cliff notes version of that chapter is below so you can read for yourself. Better yet read the whole chapter.

      6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: … and they have kept thy word.
      8…I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them…
      9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me…
      14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
      20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
      23 …that they may be made perfect in one, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
      26 …that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

      So in summary Elder Nelson, Elder Christophersen, and the author got it spot on. It is wrong to interject words into Gods mouth like “unconditional love”, while simultaneously rejecting the words he actually spoke through his prophets.

    • Part of the confusion about whether or not love is conditional stems from the fact that there are different types of love, each of which is represented in English by the same word. However, in many languages, including the Greek and Hebrew that the Bible was originally written in, each of love’s synsets is represented by a different word. Note that Russell M. Nelson taught that the “higher levels of love” are conditional, not that all types of love are conditional. The Greek word used to describe the highest level of love is ‘agape’. Agape is the word used for love in the New Testament verses quoted at the top of this article about unconditional love (John 15:10, John 14:23, John 14:21). In Early Christianity, the word agape was closely tied to the Christian ordinances (look up the term “Agape Feast” to learn more about this) and was thought of as a covenant-based love. Catholics continued the use of the Biblical term ‘agape’ as a love acquired through merits. However, Protestantism did not continue with this viewpoint and began to teach that agape is actually unconditional love. To quote from the Encyclopedia Britticana’s entry on Christian charity, “Although the controversies of the Reformation dealt more with the definition of faith than with either hope or charity, the Reformers identified the uniqueness of God’s agāpe for man as unmerited love; therefore, they required that charity, as man’s love for man, be based not upon the desirability of its object but upon the transformation of its subject through the power of divine agāpe.”
      Curt, the scriptures you referenced (John 3:16, John 15:13, John 17:23, 1 John 4:19) also use the word agape. Thus, each of the scriptures you used are in reference to covenant-based love. In regards to John 17:23, I would ask, “If agape is unconditional love, then why was the Savior petitioning God for it in prayer?” If it’s something you ask for, that doesn’t sound very “unconditional” to me. In regards to 1 John 4:19, I would like to quote the entire verse: “We love Him because He first loved us.” Both instances of love in that verse are ‘agape’. The word ‘because’ definitely implies the conditionality of agape. For John 3:16 and John 15:13, I would like to point out that Christ’s Atonement for mankind actually is a conditional, covenant-based love. Christ’s Atonement is our reward for our premortal faithfulness and the promise associated with our premortal covenant to follow Him.

    • Thank you Curt. Beautifully stated.

      My own thoughts:

      #1 A Buddhist once spoke of a time when he and two other Buddhists were conversing and they saw a child digging through a garbage heap looking for food. One said to the others, “Should we not do something for this poor child?” The others responded by saying that “clearly the boy did something wrong in his previous life to be reincarnated to his current lot. Therefore, this is not our problem.”

      #2 The parable of the Good Samaritan plainly has the priest and the Levite be the ones who skip over the poor man in the story. These were the men who viewed themselves as favored of God. (Not surprisingly, so do most Mormons)

      #3 Once upon a time there was a pair of Mormon missionaries teaching an African American family about the gospel. They spoke about the sealing power that allows families to be sealed forever. When the father asked them about when they could be sealed as a family the missionaries informed them that because of (fill in the blank with any reason) they are black and God did not allow that blessing for their family, per prophets.

      If we’re going to talk so boldly about how Satan deceives let’s consider other instances when people decided that they knew better than everyone else around them and were more deserving of their fortunes. For example, Caste systems in India, Monarchies in medieval Europe, Dynasties in ancient China, caucasians in 1800’s America, Japanese in the early 20th century, ancient Israelites, Hutus in Rwanda, the Roman empire, Germans in Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970’s, etc. etc. etc. What do they all have in common? They believed they were more important than other people. In most cases they believed that God/the universe favored them over His other, less important, creations.
      My point is that when we speak of God as a divider of men we are reflecting man’s own tendencies through our image of God. LDS are not an exception to this rule. Is it possible that a leader in the church already has confidence of their importance to God and that these teachings might serve to increase their sense of self-importance, thus increasing temptation towards pride?
      You can cherry-pick scriptures all day to try and make just about whatever point you want to. Anyone who experienced any ‘Bible-bashing’ as a missionary is fully aware of this. Let’s be careful that we aren’t the Zoramites up on our own Rameumptom.

  10. I love this topic and I think it’s worthy of our time, attention and debate!

    Christ taught (long before Erich Fromm) a new commandment that stretched our ability to love. I think he was inviting us to love unconditionally:

    “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
    John 13:34­–35

    This challenge was not just to love other disciples…

    “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
    Matthew 5:44

    What type of love did Christ demonstrate for us and invite us to live? It is true that he does not say the word “unconditional”. But is Christ really teaching and demonstrating Conditional Love?

    Even in the depths of his separation from God (on the cross), Christ demonstrated what he was teaching in a powerful way: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.

    I think the core message of Christ’s mortal ministry was: Love everyone, no matter what, just like I do.

    I do NOT think he was teaching Conditional Love:
    – Love people if they love Me and the Father
    – Love people when and if they are obeying My commandments
    – Hold back your Love for people who aren’t living the commandments
    (as a form of manipulation to get them to change their mind)
    – Hold back your Love so you don’t inadvertently condone sin

    To take such a strong stance against Unconditional Love, we may need to rewrite a few scriptural invitations:
    “A friend loveth at all times, [unless the other person is sinning].” Proverbs 17:17

    “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently, [but be ye careful to not love fervently if someone is off the covenant path].” 1 Peter 1:22

    “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [But see that the neighbours you love are not like the Samaritans, who revile against God] ” Mark 12:30–31

    “But love ye your enemies [who are obeying the commandments], and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great.” Luke 6:35

    “Husbands, love your wives, [unless they have doubts or concerns about the church].” Ephesians 5:25

    “Teach the young women … to love their husbands, to love their children [unless one of their children is LGBT and decides to live in a monogamous, gay relationship].” Titus 2:4

    Where do we draw the line if we take a Conditional Love stance?

    It’s hard enough to fathom the difficulty of the challenge Christ is giving us. I don’t see how trying to prove that God’s love is Conditional is helpful at all, because it fills us with righteous justification in the moments when what we need most is to soften our hearts so we can love as Christ does.

    Instead, what if we focused on how God’s love is unconditional AND His plan requires the authentic choice of his children to follow his commandments?

    The two co-exist easily in my mind.

  11. You quoted the happiness letter….look it up….
    I don’t trust a single thing any “modern prophet” has said.
    Gods love is unmerited, not based on anything good about us, but all about his goodness.
    Did the Israelites earn Gods love and faithfulness?
    Only he is capable of keeping his covenant with us.
    We are sheep, we have all gone astray.
    He leaves the 99 to come after us.
    We don’t deserve anything.
    Yet- HIS goodness and glory is displayed when we are obedient.
    Any reference to obedience in the “premarital existence”should be carefully dumped in the trash can, as that is purely a Joseph Smith fantasy.
    Don’t believe the first lie in the garden. We are not Gods in embryo. The only way to enter a relationship with god is with a broken heart, and he only showed mercy to sinners.

  12. “unconditional love” as I’ve always defined it, is a love that will forgive any sin so long as we repent. The love stands ready, open and willing to forgive all sinners. And the unoardonal win isn’t unpardonable because Christ or God is angry, it is unpardonable simply because the person who has denied the holy ghost has gone past the point of no return. This choice does not erase unconditional love.

    Also the love is not conditioned on repentance, forgiveness is conditioned on repentance. To me this is not a nuance, but an absolutely clear and huge difference.

    Fromm had had no bearing on my definition of unconditional love. Zero. Didn’t even know he existed. And it sounds like he should be ignored. My definition has always been accurate.

    I’m not going to lie, I don’t like that some guy who died decades ago is ruining something that made and still makes perfect sense to me.

    Maybe there is value in honoring the socialist’s definition over mine (high I think is the correct definition) simply because a socialist apparently coined the term. But I don’t think we should. Unconditional love just naturally fits the definition of unchanging and infinite love. And there is no question that God’s love is not conditional. Natural and eternal laws are conditional and we nor God can disobey those laws.

    I know what President Nelson is saying and why he is saying it, but we should not have yielded a really great term. He will love us no matter what, but the natural eternal consequences will not. He is a loving father that is trying to warn us, and guide us, not manipulate us by witholding his love.

    I will continue to use the term for my children because I will love them no matter what. That is what a Father’s love does! If I think about the absolute most grotesque and wicked ain being committed by one of my children, perhaps against t another one of my children, for me to forgive that ain would take an immense amount of change and repentance and likely years of proof of change, but my heart would be utterly broken and my love would remain unconditionally deep and eternal for them. Unconditional… Love them no matter what. That love would nevwr disappear, nor wane.

    As I went through every scripture used above to support the case that God’s love is conditional love, not one of them convinced me this was true. Just because God says he loves those who keeps his commandments, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love those who don’t keep his commandments.

    Just like I, And I don’t think any member of the church ever became fully settled with never using the word “proud” in a positive manner just because Ezra Taft Benson’s said that the Book of Mormon never used the word positively, I will never grow comfortable with the idea of ignoring the modern meaning of unconditional love in favor of an old outdated definition. I don’t think anybody else will either.

    This doesn’t take away at all from the power of the messagea that Ezra Taft Benson and Russel M Nelson both gave. We have all come to accept that words in the dictionary can have multiple meanings, so why should unconditional love and pride be any different?

    They simply emphasized one of the definitions of each of those words. I’m grateful for and can appreciate all four definitions.

  13. Everyone defending the “unconditional love” idea.. Do you believe that God still loves Satan/Lucifer/ The Adversary too? He was unmistakably one of God’s favored sons and loved him THEN. Do you honestly think he still does?