â€˜Now Let Us Rejoiceâ€™ begins its second verse with the following words:
Weâ€™ll love one another and never dissemble.
For some reason this caught my attention at church the other day, and I realized my long held assumption that dissemble was a shortened form of disassemble (think Johnny 5), didnâ€™t really make much sense. So I looked it up. To dissemble, if you are ignorant like me, means to â€œmake believe with the intent to deceiveâ€. So the song says weâ€™ll love one another and we wonâ€™t fake it.
But what is real and what is make believe? And are we deceiving ourselves?
What is Love?
Biology informs us that love is a feeling we generate within ourselves to increase our chances of survival and reproduction, as well as the survival of our extended selves, i.e., what we have reproduced. This feeling, generated by a combination of Oxytocin with Pheromones and other chemicals, creates instinctive reactions that push for reproduction and later for attachment, so as to ensure the survival of the species. Science has shown that changes in these chemicals can lead to all sorts of â€œlove problemsâ€, from stalking celebrities to sociopathy, to gender confusion, to certain attributes of Autism (interestingly two studies have shown that oxytocin shots were very effective in countering emotional detachment in Autistic patients. However, no clinical tests have yet been done on children that I am aware of).
Psychology puts love in two different categories, passionate love (i.e. when the feelings you have generate symptoms such as a change in heart rhythm or a change in breathing) and companionate love (no symptoms as such). This is provided mainly to show that biologists have much cooler explanations than psychologists. In any case, these two types of love are still focused on making a connection with someone other than ourselves, save that instead of survival being at stake, it is â€œmental well beingâ€ that is the end sought after. (Which is basically acting in accordance to the programming that your biology tells you is correct, right?)
But what of free will? In a totally determined system, the above factors may in fact define love, but in a system where we believe in any sort of independent free will (which LDS theology seems to require) then do we note that these feelings and chemical reactions are causes to our behavior, or are they effects of our behavior? As far as I can tell, the Jury is still out on this or it is situational at best, as in some situations behavior definitely comes after feelings and in others, itâ€™s the other way around (Dictator game theory is an interesting example as tests in this area do not yet detect any chemical cause for the altruism displayed, but some argue this is just â€œLove in the gapsâ€).
And should I dismiss this sort of love as â€œdissembledâ€ because it is emotions that my body creates within me in order to aid my survival and ability to reproduce? It is apparently not eternal love, nor God-like love, in that an eternal being would not need chemically generated attachment to increase their chances of survival, nor, from an LDS point of view, would they need instinctive sexual activity to extend their species (as their species is a species of eternal beings). So this love is not godly love, but is it ok to say this love is make believe; our bodies tricking ourselves as a means to the end of survival? After all, could we not argue these instincts are means toward fulfilling the measure of our creation? But it still doesnâ€™t sound very loving, does it?
The scriptures tell us that God is love and that love is patient, long suffering, etc etc. The scriptures tell us that greater love hath no man than to lay down his life (the opposite of survival) for others. The love described in the scriptures is not eros or storge. The love in the scriptures is philia and agape. This love is as eternal as we are, not merely a mortal response. It is treating others cares and lives as equally important to our own, even to the point that we make them our own burden to carry.
Toward the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni records a letter from his father where his father notes he is full of charity and that his charity has made all children alike unto him. He says this to his own son in a letter. â€œHi Son, I love all other kids as much as I love you!â€ My mother is like that. Recently, as we were enjoying the fine cuisine of the local Taco Cabana, a little girl was playing with my daughter in the restaurant, so my mother invited her and her father to come sit with us, and we all chatted like we actually knew each other. I was mortified at first, that my mother was loving this child as much as she was loving my daughter, her granddaughter, but then this scripture came to me, and I was humbled, even ashamed. Charity is opening ourselves up to love all around us, not just in the passive since, but the â€œcome eat steak fajitas with meâ€ way. Love is not to be hoarded, as though it is in scarce supply, but to be proliferated as an item of abundance.
But is there nothing special of the love I have for my wife and children? Is that all chemical, while the greater love would have me have the same interpersonal love with everyone? What about temple covenants? What about the family as the central unit of the church? What about the day-to-day practicality of life, in which I simply cannot have an interpersonal relationship with everyone?
Love is enhanced, as I see it, by covenants, promises we give one another to increase trust, attachment, and duty one to another. These verbal pledges are one to another, open and connected, with specific stewardships in mind. Thus marriage is more to do with stewardship than love, as we ought love everyone, but we practically cannot, so we set up our little circle of influence, and we love most who love us the most, in that our relationship with them is able to progress the farthest and the love we have is able to be interpersonal, trusting, mutual beautiful love.
But I struggle, because how do we choose whom to love? Must it all come back to that Molotov cocktail of chemical determinism? What about intellectual attraction or commonality of goals and life experience? In our committed relationships, when are we being truly loving and when are we just faking it so that we can satisfy our own selfish needs? Is lust really more important than trust?
Perhaps we do not choose who we fall in love with, but I do believe we do choose who we stay in love with. I can only hope I am not dissembling.
So let’s discuss love.