Romantic Love and the Temple
Thank you, brothers and sisters of the choir; that was beautiful. We are glad to be with you today, brothers and sisters. One of the first things I notice about this group of students at LDS Business College is what a high proportion of men we have here. I don’t know if you girls have noticed that or not. That’s kind of unusual. I asked the president; he said many of the sisters are serving missions and this will all get fixed within a few months. But seeing the high proportion of men reminded me of something that happened a few years ago at a young adult conference in Australia. There was some meeting where the kids had an opportunity to express themselves, and there was this interesting girl, a wonderful Church member, had flaming red hair and wore a colorful outfit, and she came to the podium during a time they were exchanging thoughts, and she said, “I have an announcement to make. I just want everyone to know that when I die, I will only have female pall bearers.”
That was an announcement they hadn’t heard before, so people kind of listened up—what’s this about? She said, “Do you wonder why? Why I’m having female pall bearers? I’ll tell you. You guys don’t take me out while I’m alive; you’re not taking me out when I’m dead.”
So I hope that’s of some help to you today.
Now, that actually fits right in with our talk. When we saw how close we were to Valentine’s for the day of this devotional, Sister Hafen and I decided we want to talk to you about romantic love and the temple. You wondered what those two had to do with each other. We’re going to tell you today. Is the temple romantic? Oh, yeah—one of the most romantic places in the universe.
Only a few months ago, I had the opportunity of performing a sealing—one of the great blessings of our service in the St. George Temple was to be able to do that once in a while, particularly with people we knew in some way. So as we were…as I was in our sacred sealing room, this beautiful bride was kneeling at the altar, looking at her fiancé about to become her husband, and as I was about to begin the sacred ordinance, just looking at the two of them kind of knocked me over. I sort of had to get hold of myself and get my composure, because it was such a moving sight. I found myself looking at her face, just as we were about to begin, and I saw as she began to smile—she knew I was about to perform the ordinance—as I started, I saw this radiant look on her face.
She was beautiful anyway, but there was a light in her countenance, a smile, I saw the tears beginning to fill her eyes, and I had a funny thought. Suddenly there came back to me the counsel I had received from another general authority before I did my first temple sealing, and I asked him, “Well, how do we do this?” And he was explaining how we do this.
One of the things he said was, “Now be sure to tell the couple to look at you and not at each other when they’re being married.” And I thought of that as I saw them looking at each other. And I replied to my dear friend who had given me that counsel, silently in my mind—I didn’t ever see him to tell him this—but my response was, “Are you kidding? Do you think I want them looking at me when they could be looking at each other?”
And I kept looking at them. I don’t want to miss this ever. As I looked at his face and saw them reciprocating those looks, I realized something of what they must be sensing—the price they had paid to be here, how long they had waited, how much they had restrained themselves, how they had sacrificed, how they had prepared. This was the day of days for their whole lives, and I knew it would be that for their families. That was just written all over their faces, and the light was sacred.
Was that a romantic moment in the temple? I can’t think of anything much more romantic than for them to seal that sacred love for the eternities. In order for you to be in that place, if you haven’t been there yet for your own sealing, I hope what we say today can just make some contribution to your preparation, because my experience is that, for all you can learn about the temple, there’s nothing more important than simply understanding some really fundamental things about love, and about what it means to feel love, to prepare for love.
Let me share with you something President Boyd K. Packer spoke in a fireside many years ago. Sister Hafen and I were students at BYU. We heard this together—maybe that’s one reason we always remembered it. And we were glad to have him give us permission to feel what we did. He said, “You are old enough now to fall in love—not the puppy love of elementary years, …the full-blown love of eligible men and women, newly matured, ready for life. I mean romantic love, with all the full intense meaning of the word…. No experience can be more beautiful, no power more compelling, more exquisite. Or if misused, no suffering is more excruciating than that connected with love.” (“Eternal Love,” BYU Fireside, 3 November 1963, quoted in Elder Bruce C. Hafen, “The Gospel and Romantic Love, BYU devotional, September 28, 1982, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=652.)
But precisely because love is so beautiful, it’s also a high-risk part of life. I recently ran across some words that I had heard before. Elder Holland quoted these in a conference talk a few years ago. Let me share it with you. The historian Will Durrant and his wife wrote this, looking back at history, the lessons of history, about this subject: “No man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can… safely… dismiss… the wisdom of [lessons learned] in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by customs, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he understands that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.” (The Lessons of History, (1968), pp. 35-36, quoted in “Personal Purity,” General Conference, Oct. 1998, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/personal-purity?lang=eng#2-)
Brothers and sisters, that’s a comment about the kind of world we live in now. It’s not so much a comment about you. It could be, but I’m concerned about the world we live in today. It’s really a confused place. Our Primary kids sing a song called, “Follow the Prophet.” One of the verses says:
Now we have a world where people are confused.
If you don’t believe [me], go and watch the news.
(Children’s Songbook, p. 110)
Can I give you just a few little samples? During our lifetime, in the years since we’ve been married, we have watched in this American society and we’ve seen it around the world, a revolution of many kinds, that included a sexual revolution that’s really changed the way people think and feel and assume what they do about this subject. In the media, sexual things are so accepted that people who produce the media don’t share the values you and I care about. For them to show people making love on the screen is just like showing people having dinner on the screen. And that affects our perceptions. It’s wrong, but that’s the kind of world we live in. The plague of internet and other forms of pornography—there are some really significant reasons why the Brethren talk so often about this subject, and why we have to take it to heart.
Divorce is so common. Children being born out of wedlock. When we were married the percentage of kids born out of wedlock in this country was five percent; it’s now forty percent. Elder Oaks quoted something in conference recently where many young people in America—I think there were fifty percent of young people that think out-of-wedlock child bearing is a “worthwhile lifestyle.” (See “No Other Gods,” General Conference, Oct. 2013, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/11/sunday-morning-session/no-other-gods?lang=eng.) They tragically don’t understand the devastation that’s caused to children in those circumstances. I could go on and on about that, about how serious it is. I think you have some idea about it.
And then one other thing—we’re living in the day of the campaign to make homosexuality publicly acceptable. Gay marriage was recognized in the State of Utah in a federal court case that is now on appeal. You probably know about that. The Church’s position about this is very clear. The First Presidency and Twelve issued a statement on January 10th that you can see if you haven’t. Our doctrine is there can’t be exaltation without a man and a woman in marriage. (See “Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage,” Newsroom, 10 January 2014, http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-instructs-leaders-on-same-sex-marriage. ) You can’t fulfill the great plan of happiness. There can’t be forever families. So this is a hard subject for us. At the same time, one reason it’s hard is that the Brethren teach us that the Lord expects us to show love and compassion and understanding for those who struggle with same-sex attraction or who have a commitment to gay marriage. We accept their freedom to believe those things. Living in this kind of world, we wonder what this tolerance means. It is one thing to tolerate it; it’s another to endorse it, promote it.
I won’t take a lot of time on this subject. Let me just say, for those who would like to know more about it, I gave a talk to a group in 2009 to a group called Evergreen International. It was at that time a kind of support group, Church-sponsored, for those struggling with same-sex attraction. I tried to offer in that talk some thoughts about why gay marriage is a problem. That talk is available on the web if you put in my name and Evergreen International. It’s posted on the Church newsroom site. (See article at https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/blog/elder-bruce-c.-hafen-speaks-on-same-sex-attraction.) There’s also a chapter on how same-gender marriage weakens what marriage means in my book Covenant Hearts. I won’t take the time to pursue that further. I would just say that one of the challenges of this dimension of the confusion in our age is, if any of you or your friends are struggling with these kinds of feelings, pay attention to them. And you would especially want to read something like what I have just referred to.
A summary of all this is we live in a decadent culture. President Hinckley said he didn’t think Sodom and Gomorrah were worse than this. He said, “The family is falling apart all over the world,” and then he said, “[I think this is my] greatest concern.” (See Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69) So what do we do about that?
One positive perspective—we really want to take a positive approach now—given these sobering realities, we want to offer a positive, beautifully fulfilling, rewarding message about this subject, because that’s the kind of subject it is. Let me offer these words as a way to introduce that perspective. Marie and I ran across these some years ago in the writings of an English writer, David Lawrence, describing married love as one of mankind’s most exquisite blessings. He wrote: “[There is a] profound instinct of fidelity in a man, which is… deeper and more powerful than the instinct of faithless… promiscuity…. Where there is real sex there is… [a] passion for fidelity. …The prostitute knows this, because she… can only keep men who [want the counterfeit: and] she despises [these men].
“[Those who don’t understand reality think that] all sex is infidelity and [that] only infidelity is sex. [They think that] marriage is sexless , null…. Sex is a thing you don’t have except to be naughty with…. [But in fact, God] created marriage by making it a sacrament, a sacrament of man and woman united in… communion, …and never to be parted.” This by a man who didn’t really know what it meant to say “never to be parted.” You and I know. That’s what romantic love and the temple have to do with each other.
He continued: “Marriage, making one complete body out of two incomplete ones, … [develops] the man’s soul and the woman’s soul in unison, throughout a lifetime…. This oneness gradually accomplished through a life-time in twoness, is [one of ] the highest achievement[s] of time or eternity.” From it springs the greatest of human creations—children. It is “the will of God [for this] oneness, to take place, fulfilled over a lifetime….
“The oneness of … man and woman in marriage completes the universe, as far as humanity is concerned, [it] completes the streaming of the sun and the flowing of the stars.” (D.H. Lawrence, Essays on Sex, Literature and Censorship (New York: Twayne, 1953), pp. 96-111, quoted in “The Gospel and Romantic Love,” BYU Devotional, Sept. 28, 1982, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=652.)
In other words, the problem is not that sex as the world understands it is too satisfying. The problem is that the way they understand it isn’t satisfying enough. The prophet Jacob said, in II Nephi 9, don’t “labor for that which cannot satisfy.” (v. 51) And Alma said to his son, “Bridle… your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” (Alma 38:12)
Well, you know about the Ten Commandments. Today we’re just going to offer nine suggestions that encourage this kind of attitude about this sacred subject. I’ll introduce this and Sister Hafen will continue.
First of all, reverence your body and its life-giving powers. It really is a temple. You must treat it with that kind of sacredness.
Second, be emotionally honest in expressing affection. Save your kisses; you might need them someday. A kiss of love is different from a kiss of self-centered passion. So when you are looking where to draw the line between love and lust, draw it in favor of love and wait. And then you will find love in its fullest, greatest sense. Let me invite Sister Hafen to continue.
We are really happy to be with you today.
So number three, after those first two, is be friends first and romantic second. So a healthy friendship-based relationship is sort of shaped like a pyramid, with friendship on the bottom and then other layers—self-restraint, time, common interests—a lot of things that then build in the pyramid until this glittering diamond at the top, which we would call romance. It’s kind of a mystery, but a something real nevertheless. And what would happen if you turned that pyramid upside-down and tried to stand it on that point? It’s not going to be very stable.
Let me tell you just a little bit about our relationship. The president mentioned that we met in a class at BYU. It was a religion class. It was called “Your Religious Problems.” We solved probably the most important religious problem that we had through taking that class, since we met each other in that class, but our relationship was based on a friendship. We would present our own religious problems to each other in the class, directed by our teacher, and then we would leave the class and talk about those problems. And then our friendship developed from there, until I can remember the time—you see, this is ancient history to you—but I can remember that the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, both of us were looking for each other. And we found each other toward the end of the day, and we realized that there was a connection between us that was unusual for us. And I also remember the night we were dancing at a BYU dance, and looked into each other’s eyes, and yes—there was that little glittering mystery, that point on our pyramid, that was shining very brightly.
So for us, the pyramid based on friendship and based on restraint and respect and understanding and time, really has built something that has lasted over the years. We still don’t have enough time to talk about everything that we would like to talk about.
So fourth, develop the discipline of self-restraint. The woman who took her little son to a wise old man and said, “What’s the most important thing I can teach my little son?”
The wise old man said, “Teach him to deny himself.” Or in other words, teach him to say no to himself. Scriptural stories that we all know well—the difference between Joseph in the Old Testament and David—Joseph, when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, fled. He “got him[self] out,” (Genesis 39:12) while David tragically flirted with evil, and it destroyed him.
It is a false idea to think that anything is okay, as far as sex is concerned, as long as you don’t go all the way. Do you mind if I be really blunt and direct about that? It is a false idea to think that anything short of going all the way is okay. One step overpoweringly leads to another. So when you wonder where to draw the line between love and lust, draw it on the love side. Nobody ever fell off a cliff who never went near one.
Fifth, live to have the Holy Ghost as your constant guide. You have been invited to receive that gift, yours if you actively receive it. And one little tip—we’ve seen some of our kids go through this: don’t get emotionally involved with someone you already know you should not marry. Strong romantic emotion, once you’re into it, kind of jams up your receiver. It’s hard to get those messages from the Spirit if you’re emotionally already jammed up.
So a key to spiritual guidance—because what’s more important in your life than knowing what the Lord wants you to do next in your relationship with someone?—is worthiness.
Let me give you a little comparison, and I hope you’ll listen. I notice how many of you were lifting your books and taking a couple of notes. Maybe make a note about this: compare Doctrine and Covenants section 63, and you’ll find the verses, with Doctrine and Covenants 121, toward the end of that section. We’re a little more familiar with that. That’s the one that says, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, the Spirit will be your constant companion, your confidence will wax strong in His presence, and the doctrine will distil like dew.” Now, that’s [section] 121. Notice the contrast with section 63. It talks about if you have lustful hearts, you won’t have the Spirit. You will fear, and you will deny the faith. It’s a fascinating minute study there to notice contrasting lustful hearts with virtue garnishing your thoughts unceasingly. You won’t have the Spirit, compared to the Spirit as a constant companion. You will fear, compared with confidence in His presence, and you will deny the faith, compared to having the doctrine of the priesthood distill.
It’s like your chorus sang just a few minutes ago—come now and serve the Lord, and if we believe in Him, He will make us stronger. I just want to bear witness of that, in terms of your spiritual worthiness
Okay, number six of these nine suggestions: create a vision of your future family. Now I know that a number of you have come from families that are not perfect. All of us come from families that are not perfect. Many of you may come from broken families, but that does not mean that you cannot create your own eternal family. So how are you going to do that?
Here’s one very practical way that we have heard and talked about recently. Get to know your own family stories—and that means your own parents’ stories, your grandparents’ stories, other ancestors of yours. For example, do you know the story of your own birth? Your mother knows it; ask her sometime. Do you know the story of how your parents and your grandparents met? Do you know stories of how specific ancestors of yours overcame things that were hard or difficult? Because they have found that the research—if you know your own stories, your own family stories, you are better able to face hard things in your own life. Because if they can do it, you can do it. It gives you a sense of control over your own life.
I can remember Bruce’s mother, when she lived very close to us, next door, she asked our teenage daughter, the baby of the family, “Do you know how to do hard things?” She had seen this daughter kind of slipping out of some of the hard things. And then she’d ask her after that, “Have you done your hard thing today?” And I heard her say that enough, and I have taken that on recently, because we have challenges in our life with our children, with our grandchildren—we can do hard things. I know that a lot of you brethren are returned missionaries. You know that. Keep knowing that. It’s why the Lord gave us the scriptures. They’re a collection of stories of generations.
Seventh, have you noticed that your young adult culture, generally—and I hope you’re not offended—is ever texting and never coming to a knowledge of stable friendship-based relationships? The research shows that there are a lot of young people your age who don’t know how to build a relationship that leads to a good marriage. So it’s common to send a text—it’s 11:30 at night—“Hey, what’s up? Do you want to do something?” So the current young adult culture, especially for you young women, there’s a temptation. Don’t give in to those “what’s up” calls at midnight. A non-LDS researcher—this was really interesting to me—found that women who expect a guy to pick her up for a real date planned in advance, initiated by the guy, is more likely to spend their time with people mature enough, who want to get married, rather than immature enough that they mostly just want intimacy.
That’s not saying that you have to spend money. There are lots of dates, lots of really good things to do without spending a lot of money. You could play games with your friends. I can remember a first date that we had was charades with some of his friends. I got to know him in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So it’s ways to get to know each other—serve together, work together, join activities for the College. There are ways without spending a lot of money you can get to know people in a very constructive way.
Eighth, don’t fall for the temptation—and this is one that we have seen over and over again—don’t fall for the temptation to sin or just step over the line just a little, while at the same time planning to repent. Does that make sense? In other words, don’t be sinning while you’re planning to repent. Some people knowingly transgress while thinking, “Well, I can repent before the deadline”—an interview for the temple, and interview for the temple, or applying for a Church school—“I’ll repent.”
A couple of our sons thought this was a good idea—of course, they were seven and nine at the time. The seven-year-old had found a quarter he had stolen, and looked guilty—“guilty, guilty, guilty” was flashing on his forehead. His dad said, “Dave, that’s not like you. What happened?”
He said, “Well, it’s John. He told me it’s okay to steal stuff until you’re eight.” Okay, young theologian.
So Bruce said, “What are you teaching your younger brother?”
He said, “Well, I go to Primary. They teach you you get baptized and all your sins are washed away. So I say, it’s okay until you’re eight. I say, live it up.”
Not exactly good advice—especially when you are 15, 20 years older. Planning to repent and go to the temple later is such a mistake—not one that you can’t turn around from, but it’s a whole lot harder. We’ve also seen that. And don’t forget the entanglements of sin, that there are consequences that sometimes you can’t turn around. And sometimes those are unplanned children, and sometimes those are addictions, sometimes there are lost opportunities, fences to mend. You might discover very late, you can’t wash away every stain on your clothes. It’s like Lady Macbeth; it turns. The consequences are there.
So the easiest thing is, don’t plan to repent when you are in the midst of transgressing. It’s very hard to turn around and go upstream—possible, but very difficult, because repentance is real and the Atonement is real. I just want to bear witness to that, that the real thing is worth planning for, living for, waiting for. I don’t want anything more than to be with my husband, with my children, with our eternal friends when this life is over. I just bear witness to the Savior and what He has done for us so that we can repent—that very positive word—turn our lives toward Him, and become enough like Him that together we can stay with Him forever. I bear witness to that, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Our ninth suggestion is let yourself belong to the natural order of the universe. Do you know that’s what we do in the temple? The temple is built to orient us to what is true and right and natural in the whole universe. It’s the link between heaven and earth. So just as the ancient mariner looked to the stars to get his bearings, we go to the temple, and in the temple, because of that natural order, being in the temple allows God to write His natural order about romance and love and marriage and eternal love in our hearts.
Brothers and sisters, we don’t keep the commandments because our leaders ask us to and our parents want us to and we’re just trying to please them. That helps, and of course we care about that. But we keep the commandments because they are God’s way of teaching us how to find peace and purpose and joy for our lives. Things as they really are—the universe is designed to produce happiness and joy, and that’s why Alma said “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) It’s an illusion to think that it is.
I remember a line from Elder Maxwell, who once said, “The laughter of the world is [just] loneliness… trying to reassure itself.” (“Cleanse Us From All Unrighteousness,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/02/cleanse-us-from-all-unrighteousness?lang=eng. ) So the wicked have gone contrary to the nature of God, and therefore they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.
Can I offer you just one little final glimpse of nature in this sense? I don’t know why this has stayed with me over all these years. When we were living in Idaho—I guess I had been through a strenuous few days, and it was that time of the year when the leaves were just starting to turn. It was early fall, and I just needed to get out of town. I needed to go fishing. So I took our son, Mark, who was then seven—“You want to go fishing, Mark?”—and he jumped in the car. He was always so good to do that—true with all his brothers and sisters. But at that time, just Mark and I went out to a little place I hadn’t tried before. We found a little stream out in the hills of Idaho, a beautiful, beautiful day. The sun was shining—quiet. I remember seeing just a little bit of early snow on the tops of the mountains nearby.
As we walked through the water, looking for a place to throw in my fly, Mark was hanging onto the back of my shoulders, had his arms wrapped around my neck. He would giggle and laugh when I slipped on the rocks. He kept saying he hoped we would fall in the water. Well, I remember finding a place and I let him off on a sandbar in the stream, and I walked up a little bit where I could cast my fly. As the afternoon wore on, at one moment it was so peaceful. And I glanced over my shoulder and saw this blonde-haired little guy throwing rocks and skipping them on the water. And he was just so agile, so healthy in body and mind and spirit, and I had a kind of rush come over me. I realized, “That’s my child! He’s the fruit of the love I feel for his mom. And because of the kind of mother he has and because of the influence of the gospel in his life, he’s growing up to be so healthy, so good. He’ll contribute to the world. And it’s my privilege to be his father!”
I guess you kind of have to be a father to know what the feeling is. I felt in harmony with nature that day. I felt in harmony with God. I felt in harmony with the natural order of the universe, what the temple tries to teach us over and over. God will write the laws of that natural order in your heart in the temple. It’s in your scriptures. It’s in your prayers. You know it when you feel it. It is the way to find happiness and a joy fulfilled.
Don’t ever feel that the talk about commandments and restraints and all the “don’ts” in the gospel are some kind of fence around love to keep you out. They are, as President Packer once said, they are "the highway to love.” (BYU Fireside, Nov. 3, 1963, quoted in “The Gospel and Romantic Love,” BYU Devotional)
May the Lord bless you to know that. May He bless you with restraint, patience, and friendship, with His companionship, until you are that day, in the temple, yourself, kneeling at that altar with that look on your face and that light in your countenances, because your love will burn within your soul forever. And it’s only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that that is possible. Have you thought of that before? So when Sister Hafen and I take our place together and pass through that veil, we will kneel at His feet and thank Him that He made it possible, among all of the other blessings He has given us, that we could be together and that our children could belong to us forever. We will thank Him for that. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Now one note on Sister Hafen: At the J. Reuben Clark event, she read—is it a poem, officially?—“Lamentations” by Arta Romney Baliff. It is staggering. I went home and looked it up on the internet and sent it to all my married mothers and friends who are mothers. If she doesn’t do it today, you should go home and look it up. “Lamentations” by Arta Romney Baliff.
Brothers and sisters, we are grateful to have this couple speak to us today who have given so much to the Church, so much to the principles of education. We are thankful for their willingness.