Latest from Mormon Land: Is God’s love ‘unconditional’? Let the debate continue.

Also: A defense is offered for BYU’s new employment policy.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson receives a copy of “The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon." Nelson has written that God's love is conditional, an assertion that remains hotly debated to this day.

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All you need is love — but which kind?

There has been a revived buzz of late in the so-called Mormon bloggernacle about whether God’s love is conditional or unconditional.

Much of the chatter dates back to apostle Russell M. Nelson’s pre-presidential piece titled “Divine Love” in 2003.

“While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional,” he states. “The word does not appear in the scriptures.”

But the crux of the misunderstanding, according to By Common Consent blogger Aaron B., may rest more with the “love” part of the equation.

Typically, when we refer to love — I love my job, I love baseball, I love my spouse, I love God — we mean an emotion.

“In ancient scripture that has been translated into English, however, the word ‘love’ doesn’t typically refer to an emotion,” Aaron B. notes. “When it talks about ‘love,’ especially ‘divine love,’ ancient scripture is usually talking about something else, something that would be better translated into modern English as ‘covenantal loyalty.’”

Nelson takes these scriptures, referring to this type of conditional loyalty, the blogger says, and tries to apply them to our more conventional modern usage of the word.

It doesn’t quite work.

“Because the problem President Nelson was trying to address — that too many modern believers think that God ‘loving’ them means he’s indifferent to their behavior — relates to confusion about the meaning of the noun/verb ‘love,’ President Nelson’s focus on the adjective ‘unconditional’ seems misplaced,” Aaron B. explains. “... President Nelson should have said: ‘Yes, God unconditionally loves you. But he doesn’t unconditionally approve of your behavior, or unconditionally bless you.’”

A defense for BYU’s new policy

Brigham Young University’s hotly disputed new employment policy — requiring wannabe hires to have temple recommends and asking existing staffers to opt in voluntarily — is drawing plenty of critics.

There are, however, lots of defenders.

Times and Seasons blogger Stephen Cranney, for one, makes an argument for “boundary maintenance” at the church’s schools to “fulfill its mission.”

“The whole idea of a religious institution of higher education is the belief that a synthesis of the faith’s framework and the traditional academic venture is synergistic in some way,” he writes. “Challenging the faith’s framework itself doesn’t fit into that; using that framework as a lens through which to view academic learning does.”

Like many others, Cranney, a data scientist and BYU alum, believes the new rules are driven, at least partly, by the debate over sexuality issues.

“If we assume that 1) religious universities have the moral as well as legal right to perform active boundary maintenance on their faculty, 2) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now emphasizing proclamation on the family principles because of their contemporary salience (among other things), and 3) there are in fact a not-insignificant number of faculty who have doctrinal disagreements with the brethren on sexuality issues (and, more importantly, students can sense said discordance),” he writes, “then it logically follows that the new initiatives, which I along with many on the left assume are geared towards these issues, make sense.”

And this flap may widen before it wanes.

“I get the sense,” Cranney states, “that recent changes are bellwethers for future shifts to come.”

From The Tribune

• Taylor Kerby, author of “Scrupulous: My Obsessive Compulsion for God,” talks about how his quest for righteousness became a crippling obsession on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Listen to the podcast.

• The church wants to keep “extremely sensitive” financial information under court seal in its legal tussle with James Huntsman, who maintains the public has a right to know how tax-exempt groups spend donations.

Read the story.

• Masks soon may no longer be a required part of temple attire. The governing First Presidency announced that temples worldwide will begin returning to normal operations — as local COVID-19 conditions allow.

Read the story.

• The church has donated $4 million to relief agencies to help Ukrainians — those in the war-scarred country and those fleeing it.

Read the story.

• After a two-year, pandemic hiatus, LoveLoud, the music festival benefiting LGBTQ youths that debuted in 2017 with the church’s blessing, returns this summer.

The brainchild of Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, himself a Latter-day Saint, the daylong concert will be May 14 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in downtown Salt Lake City.

Read the story.

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