My struggle with Love Unfeigned

November 17, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 7:20 pm   Category: Life

‘Now Let Us Rejoice’ begins its second verse with the following words:

We’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), didn’t really make much sense. So I looked it up. To dissemble, if you are ignorant like me, means to “make believe with the intent to deceive”. So the song says we’ll love one another and we won’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 “love problems”, 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 “mental well being” 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, it’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 “Love in the gaps”).

And should I dismiss this sort of love as “dissembled” 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 doesn’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. “Hi Son, I love all other kids as much as I love you!” 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 “come eat steak fajitas with me” 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.



  1. What is Love?

    Depends on its usage.

    I think the scriptures, primarily, refer to a love that is not an emotion and that is not actually directed at any particular individual. It is altruism of the will.

    When Mormon identifies charity as the “pure love of Christ” I believe he means “purely altruistic love the way Christ’s love is purely altruistic.” Both biology and psychology believe that no such thing is possible, but I think it is. At least, theoretically it is. And I think its attainment is the ultimate goal.

    Comment by Eric Russell — November 17, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  2. I think true love is a behavior, not an emotion. It may be inspired or learned from emotion, but emotion, in the end, falls short of the behavior.

    Look at Christ: We love Him because He first loved us. How did He love us? He died for us. How do we love Him? By keeping His commandments.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 18, 2008 @ 4:44 am

  3. Eric:

    I think we try and put too much into the word love and so end up obfuscating what love is.

    While I can agree that the scriptures refer more to a chosen state of being as to what love is, the question is, what about my marriage? Did I get married for love, or do love and marriage only tangentially intersect? I mean, I know I love my wife, and she knows I love her, but is that relationship marriage really about love?

    I think it is, but not in the way most of us think it is.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 18, 2008 @ 6:14 am

  4. Silverrain: Can not the same behaviour sometimes be loving and other times be cruel?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 18, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  5. I think we focus too much on the passion and feeling of love, rather than the commandment. The world is focused on sex as its formal definition of love, simply because it “feels good.”

    However, Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle your passions that ye may be filled with love.” And Moroni begs us to pray for charity with all our heart that God may fill us with charity.

    IOW, perfect love is a gift of the Spirit, and is partially determined by our bridling all other emotions and passions/feelings.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 18, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  6. I tend to think of love more as a verb. Sort of along the lines of SilverRain above. This also reminds me of the five love languages.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 18, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  7. Ramie: My thoughts have been very much along these same lines, with our problem being that we confuse putting someone else’s needs and hopes and dreams up as equally important to ourselves with our own internal physical needs.

    Ayn Rand said that even when we are altruistic to others, we are doing it to fulfil some selfish need within ourselves. I think this is right, except that love is making others equal to self, and so the others needs become our needs and it is wholly appropriate to interdependently want that fulfillment within our now expanded self.

    Perhaps we do not expand ourselves far enough?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 18, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  8. Eric: But what does that verb really mean?

    The problem with the five languages, or the greek loves, or what have you, is that while English puts all those meanings into one little word, only one of those meanings is really Love unfeigned, and the rest are something else.

    When are we being really loving, and when is our body tricking us in order to meet its own selfish ends?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 18, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  9. When are we being really loving, and when is our body tricking us in order to meet its own selfish ends?

    You’ll know.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 18, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  10. Interesting points to ponder. Your line, “perhaps we do not choose who we fall in love with, but I do believe we do choose who we stay in love with” rings very true. But my favorite part of this post was making the connection about loving one another and “never dissembl[ing]” meaning “love unfeigned”. I guess I was ignorant, after all. Thanks for doing the homework for me: “So the song says we’ll love one another and we won’t fake it.” Great insight.

    Comment by Clean Cut — November 18, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  11. Yeah, love as a verb is problematic because it ignores motives. Love is a motive that brings about action, not action itself.

    Comment by Eric Russell — November 18, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  12. I want good things for my wife. (and I don’t really mean ‘things’, but goodness) Many of those good things I have a hand in finding, creating, and supplying. Often the price is my own selfish interests. That is what love is. I believe this also relates to our love of all people.

    Comment by Hal — November 19, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  13. I think we forget that we can choose both love and life some times.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 19, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  14. Stephen: That is a very interesting comment. Can I ask you to ellaborate?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 19, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  15. I love that you ended your post with a video of the Bouncing Souls. Beautiful.

    Comment by Taylor — November 19, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  16. I think that the use of the word “love” in the scriptures is another one of those instances where the prophets use a human word to describe an eternal concept which is entirely beyond our mortal understanding:

    Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. – 1 John 3:1

    Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – John 4:10

    Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. – John 4:11

    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. – St. John 13:34


    “This is true love – you think this happens every day?”
    “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
    “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world…except for a nice mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean, and the tomato is ripe.”
    (The Princess Bride, in case you didn’t know)


    “The difference between the feeling you get from the Holy Ghost and the feeling you get from being in love is, love is more pink, while the Holy Ghost is light blue.” – my wife (and I know exactly what she means)

    Comment by Matthew Chapman — November 22, 2008 @ 7:14 am