Vertically Connected Blog
I am often asked by young single adults, “How do I know if I’m really in love?”
Today’s discussion shares one way young people – and anyone really who is in a relationship – can with more surety know if they are really in love.
And it has to do with understanding the connection between the doctrine of the body, the law of chastity, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Let’s start with a question:
What would have become of us had Christ not atoned for our sins and granted us a redemption and resurrection?
The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob gave a pretty clear answer: “If the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself . . . “ (2 Nephi 9:8-9).
In the simplest terms, without Christ’s Atonement, we would have become devils: without a body, miserable, shut out, hopeless, and angels to the devil.
Now, as horrible as all of that may sound, that “no body” part is possibly the most important.
God sent us here to be tested in order to learn and progress. And we are able to be tested because we have bodies. Those bodies can bring joy and they can also bring pain. The Savior’s Atonement assured that we could keep these bodies and have them perfected in the next life on the conditions that we understand their purpose, take care of them, and use repentance when we sin, among other things.
Because Christ paid that ransom from death and hell and subjection to the devil, He became the owner of our bodies.
Paul reminds us: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Thus, our bodies are not our own. They are Christ’s.
That may seem logical on paper.
But how does that work in real life?
Let me give a quick analogy.
The computer that I am typing on is my computer.
Why? Because I paid for it.
If I decide to loan it to someone, then as the owner I have the right to set parameters on how this computer can be used and for what purposes. I can say I don’t want a certain program on it. I can say I don’t want it lent to someone else. I can also ask for an accounting of how it is being taken care of by the person I lent it to. Those are all realistic expectations if it is my computer.
One insight that I think that is really important in this analogy is that the borrower of the computer has an accountability to the owner of the computer. And the way that computer is treated often reflects, at least to some degree, how he feels about the owner. If the computer is misused, lent out without permission, or even broken, the relationship between the lender and the borrower can become damaged.
And that’s not necessarily because the owner has done anything wrong.
It is usually because of how the borrower misused the computer. Maybe he feels bad that something happened to it, or guilty he didn’t take better care of it. She might avoid the owner or begin to dislike him because of how she feels about herself when thinking about the damaged computer. Some even become angry with the owner for having such ridiculous expectations about his computer.
Again, notice the owner has not done anything but loan out his computer with some requirements.
Can you see how this analogy can be applied to what we have been talking about?
Because our bodies are not our own, because they have been bought with a heavy price by the Savior, we are not only given expectations of how we should care for them, but we also need permission from Him on what can be done with them.
In this context, the law of chastity is directly connected to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The most precious blood was sacrificed so that can have a body and have it perfected like our Father's.
And we don’t own it. He does.
And He must be the one that gives divine sanction for its use. This divine sanction not only applies to how we personally care for our own bodies, but also to what we allow others to do to our bodies and to what we do to other’s bodies.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
“We declare that one who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life. . . . In exploiting the body of another—which means exploiting his or her soul—one desecrates the Atonement of Christ, which saved that soul and which makes possible the gift of eternal life. And when one mocks the Son of Righteousness, one steps into a realm of heat hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned.” (“Personal Purity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998)
This leads us to the initial question about love.
Love has much more to do with respect for our bodies – and Whose they are – than we may realize.
The Savior taught through His prophet Alma: “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12).
Notice the verb used in this sentence. It doesn’t say ignore all your passions. It doesn’t say remove them, nor does it say extinguish them. It says bridle them.
These passions are good. They have a divine source, for they were placed inside of us by our Heavenly Father. He even commanded Adam and Eve to become one flesh; He gave divine sanction for them to become one. When divine sanction or command is given then the fullness of the blessings can also be received.
These passions just need to be contained.
They need parameters.
They need permission.
Elder David A. Bednar says it this way. “Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence.” (“We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign, April 2013)
I am 100% convinced this is true.
The way we can tell if we are really in love is to contain or set parameters around our passions. Love increases through restraint borne of respect, understanding, gratitude, and obedience.
Let me share a real-life example.
One day I was substituting for one of my colleagues, and I decided to teach this lesson about the connection between the law of chastity and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
We talked about our bodies not being our own and that we do not have the right to share them nor use other’s bodies without divine sanction and permission.
We then talked about kissing. I shared with my students that the real purpose of a kiss – and I think what it’s divine purpose has always been - is to express love or affection for another person. The purpose of a kiss is not to be selfish; it’s not meant to only satisfy the one initiating the kiss.
I then challenged any students who were currently in a relationship or dating someone exclusively to take a two week break from kissing and see how they feel about each other during this time.
Well, about a week after the class, I was sitting in my office and I looked over and there was a note sliding under my door. I jumped up and opened the door and there was a young man standing up to walk away. I invited him in and asked what I could do for him.
He said, “Do you remember subbing for my class the other day?” I said yes.
He then shared, “I sat there and listened to the things that you taught and I wondered if I really love my girlfriend. We have been dating for about 5 months and I know that I like to kiss her, but I wondered, ‘Do I love her?’ I decided that I was not going to kiss her for a while and if I really felt I should, that it would only be a peck on the cheek or on the forehead. Well, I had to come and share with you what has happened. I have felt more love for her in the last week than I have in the last five months combined. I can't believe it. It works! This really is how it works.”
I was so grateful he had "experimented upon the word" (Alma 32:27) for himself.
And I was so grateful he came and shared it with me. It was such a powerful example of how true love is borne from something more than physical pleasure. And so, the next week, I decided to share his experience in my own marriage preparation classes.
A few days later, a young lady came to talk to me. She sat down and proceeded to tell me that the story I had shared in class was about her boyfriend.
I had no idea! And I immediately thought, “Oh no, maybe I shouldn’t have shared it.”
But then she said, “My boyfriend didn’t tell me about the lesson you taught in his class. He just stopped kissing me. And so I thought for sure that he didn’t love me anymore and that he was going to break up with me.”
She then shared this powerful thought: “Part way through the week, he walked me to the door and gave me a simple peck on the forehead. I felt so loved at that moment. In fact, I have felt more loved in the last couple of weeks then in all the months we've been dating!” She had no idea that her boyfriend had said almost exactly the same words to me a few days before.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “even if timely courtship justifies a kiss, it should be a clean, decent, sexless one like the kiss between mother and son, or father and daughter.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 281).
Now, as you read this, that may seem kind of weird or even gross. Or maybe you are thinking, "Well, none of us will ever get married if we kiss like that!"
But consider this: I have six daughters and I love each one of them with all of my soul. They mean everything to me. I would do whatever I could to make sure they are safe, loved, and taken care of. All throughout their lives, before they went to bed or left the house, I would give them a kiss on the head. It has even become such a routine that when I come over to give them a kiss, they just automatically put they head towards me.
Why do I give them a kiss?
Because I want them to know that I love them with all of my heart and soul.
Because I want them to know I would do anything for them.
I wonder if that may have been what President Kimball was talking about: that when a kiss is given, it should be out of this kind of love, a true love not just to satisfy one’s own desire, but to express these kinds of genuine, tender feelings.
To know if you are really in love – and not what the world calls love but the kind of love that has divine sanction – is an important thing to know.
And you are more likely to really know if you are in love when you understand the gift your body really is, the price that was paid for it, the love your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ not only have for you but want you to experience for yourself, and the power that will come into your life when you keep passion within the divine parameters established for it.
Sister Wendy Watson Nelson testified: “Personal purity is the key to true love. The more pure your thoughts and feelings, your words and actions, the greater your capacity to give and receive true love. . . . Do whatever it takes to keep your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions pure. Invite the Spirit to guide you. . . . As you work to become more pure, you will have the Holy Ghost with you more and more. Your ability to receive personal revelation will increase, which means you’ll have clearer direction for your life. You’ll feel more peace and more joy, less lonely, and more hopeful about your future. . . “ (“Love and Marriage”, Jan. 8th 2017, Devotional for Young Adults)
Indeed, the purer your relationships are, the more peace you will feel, the more revelation you will receive, and the more true love you will experience.
To read more about this and other issues facing LDS Young Single Adults, click here.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.