Elder Boyd K. Packer
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(Eternal Love, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973)
Legislation in the state of Utah makes it mandatory
for any teenager who wishes to purchase a hunting
license to first pass successfully a survival course. With
two of my sons I attended much of this training, given
under the direction of the Utah State Fish and Game
Department. It is an excellent course, and it was
instituted because hunting can not only be futile, but
dangerous, and even fatal.
Sensing that hunting for an eternal mate may also be
futile, or dangerous, or spiritually fatal, I thought that a
survival course of sorts would be in order for this pursuit
as well. If this hunting is to be happy, the participants
ought to know something of how to identify the quarry;
a little, at least, about the choice of weapons; something
of what to do when lost; and maybe just a little training
in first aid. So I venture, with some real hesitation, to
talk about love—not the platonic kind, not the "for
mankind" variety, not the parental or familiar kind, but
the young man-young woman, romantic, moonlight,
However much other kinds of love may satisfy—the
platonic, charitable, compassionate kinds of love—and
however much one must enjoy a measure of love from
his family, from his fellow men—a little love from
many—to be really happy, and to find true joy, it is
crucial that we have the complete, unshared, fully expressed
love of one.
The subject matter is so commonplace as to be everywhere in evidence. It is so prevalent that we must seek to find any music or art or literature that does not deal directly with it, and we must search diligently to find an example of them that does not deal at least indirectly with it. The subject of romantic love occupies more time on television, radio, the bookshelf, magazine rack, stage, more by a thousand times over, than any other subject we could name. It does not grow old. It is both popular and classic.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her Sonnets
From the Portuguese these lines, which express the hope
of all who love, that love may be eternal:
One surely must have known love to write like this,
or, I add, to understand it. I think I understand it.
It has always been my feeling that the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not vague, nor mysterious, nor elusive. Rather, the gospel is what we do in our everyday lives, or, perhaps I ought to say, the gospel is what we ought to do.
Marriage occupies a significant place in the
doctrines of the Church. In Genesis we read:
And from the Doctrine and Covenants:
Marriage is eternal; family life is sacred; the falling
in love of a young man and a young woman is the
prelude to love, and staying in love is the vitality, the
very breath and life of marriage.
Everyone hopes to experience romantic love.
Rightly, it is not only a part of life, but literally a
dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly
religious. There is no abundant life without it. Indeed,
the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom is
unobtainable in the absence of it. Truly, it is "not good
that man should be alone."
A boy ought to love a girl. He ought to desire with
all desire a life's companion. He ought to love fully and
completely and righteously. He ought to be preoccupied
with finding a sweetheart and, having found her, to love
her—permanently. This power, this yearning to love and
to be loved, is something so magnetic, so powerful, and
so compelling, and so important that it is not to be ignored.
Young people sometimes get the mistaken notion
that the religious attitude and spirituality interfere with
the experience of love. They assume that the
requirements of the Church are interferences and
aggravations which thwart the full expression of love.
Oh, youth if you could know, the requirements of the
Church are the highway to love, with guardrails securely
in place, with guide signs plainly marked, with help
along the way. How foolish is the youth who feels that
the Church is a fence around love to keep him out. How
unfortunate to resent counsel and restraints. How
fortunate is the young person who follows the standards
of the Church, even if just from sheer obedience or habit,
for he will find a rapture and a joy fulfilled.
There seems to be the silly notion around, also, that
if you are good you are going to miss out on a lot. The
preliminary exploration, which sometimes is occasioned
as men and women begin to mature, becomes so
appealing that one easily may be possessed by it. It
becomes consuming and grows, if you will, into a
passion, a power meant to create, but used to destroy.
You who are young adults are at an age when there
is a compelling urgency for you to be complete. You
want to find the fulfillment in life that you know you
cannot find alone. The powers awakened earlier in your
life have been growing. You have been responding to
them, probably very clumsily, but they now form
themselves into a restlessness that cannot be ignored.
You are old enough now to fall in love—not the puppy
love of elementary years, not the confused love of the
teens, but 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, with
all of the power and turbulence and frustration, the
yearning, the restraining, and all of the peace and beauty
and sublimity of love. No experience can be more
beautiful, now power more compelling, more exquisite. Or, if misused, no suffering is more excruciating than
that connected with love.
Since a part at least of your life concerns itself with
getting an education for economic independence, there
is an analogy that we might draw. In the family unit
children are provided for. All they need, or at least all
that is available materially, is bestowed upon them gratis,
without any contract for its return. Parents hardly keep
an account of the money spent on their children and then
expect, as they grow to maturity, that they should return
an equal amount. Food, clothing, shelter, all that is
necessary, are provided by the parents.
But they are under the obligation to teach their
youngsters in the early years how to be responsible for
the necessities of life—how to use them wisely. Young
people begin to earn money for themselves and gradually
become responsible for their own needs. Finally, when
they are of college age, they provide for themselves.
When children become economically independent,
parents ordinarily do not expect a return of, or even a
return on, the material things they have invested in them.
One of the responsibilities of parenthood is to prepare
against the day when they are unable to provide for their
children. They must insure that their son or their
daughter will know how to provide when the parents no
The love we are speaking of is necessary to life.
Love, too, is bestowed upon us gratis by our parents. We
are loved and cared for without any actual demand for
reciprocation. But the day comes, as in economics, when
that source is no longer available. A young person must
develop the ability to provide for himself this vital
necessity of living. Not only will that source of love be
gone, but a new kind of love becomes necessary. In our
youth we learn how to relate to other people, earning
little amounts of love and affection and friendship by
bestowing them on others. When we have reached
college age, it is assumed that we are prepared to find
love for ourselves in order that our lives may be normal
and full and rewarding.
You are on your own, and you ought to seriously ponder your qualifications.
There are some signs evident when these powers
begin to awaken. It is said that they do not awaken, they
do not begin to murmur when a boy notices a girl, but
when a boy notices that a girl notices that he notices her.
Something is said in the lyrics of a song about falling
in love with love. This is very commonplace. “Falling in
love with love is falling for make believe. Falling in love
with love is playing the fool.” Then I think the lyrics also
say something about a juvenile fancy. Almost everyone
goes through that courtship, and it is a courtship that
ought to be broken up as soon as possible—this falling
in love with love. There are some very intense dangers
There is a phenomenon involved in courtship that is
as strange as anything in human behavior. When a boy
and a girl start to relate to one another, if the boy feels a
heavy attraction for a girl and pursues her too strongly,
surely he will be repulsed. And if a girl is too forward
with a boy to whom she is attracted, he will reject her
immediately. About all she has to do is telephone him
twice and that ends that. While it is absolutely necessary
that this deep attraction take place, if one or the other of
the partners makes an expression of it too soon, the
relationship is destroyed. In the early stages of courtship, if that happens, we say something like this: “I can't stand
anybody who really wants me.” It reminds me of
Groucho Marx, who received an invitation to join a
prominent San Francisco club. He sent the invitation
back with a notation, “Any club that would have people
like me in it isn't fit to join.”
This strange phenomenon of human behavior I think
maybe has a purpose, and I have wondered if the Lord
did not structure it that way, to prevent us from getting
together prematurely or too easily, too early. Fortunately
there comes a time when they both feel the attraction in
about the same intensity and love has blossomed.
Righteous love comes so naturally and so beautifully
that it is apparent that there is a special providence about
it. “They were meant for each other,” we say. While I am
sure some young couples have some special guidance in
getting together, I do not believe in predestined love. If
you desire the inspiration of the Lord in this crucial
decision, you must live the standards of the Church, and
you must pray constantly for the wisdom to recognize
those qualities upon which a successful union may be
based. You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for
some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you
by someone else and waiting for you. You are to do the
choosing. You must be wise beyond your years and
humbly prayerful unless you choose amiss.
Romance must blossom in a garden, as it were, with
music and dancing and all of the deception that makes a
girl more ornamental than useful, and all of the acting
that makes a man a gentleman. But you, young man, will
do well to consider if she is useful. It is not whether she
is pretty or witty, or whether she dances well; it is not
vital that she wear her clothes in fashion-model style.
Some of these things may add a little to the interest, but
they are essentially unessential. The question is, do you
want her as the mother of your children? How wise is the
man who does not expect perfection, but looks for
potential. How wise the youth who looks for a mother
for his children, not for an ornament to be admired by his
friends, but a girl who wants to be a
woman—domesticated, feminine, motherly woman. How
wise is the girl who looks for a man who will honor his
priesthood, and who will not only be willing to take her
to the temple, but indeed insists upon it. Many of the things about a youthful boy so
appealing to a girl may fade soon after marriage. She
would do well to look deeply at his qualities and ponder
these lines from John Masefield:
The power of love between man and woman is not
completely defined but like electricity it can be used and
controlled and directed, even though we do not know
exactly what it is. We know that love has the power to
create. Think of that! Just think of that! Love has the
power to create life. When a young husband and young
wife live together in love, the product of the most exalted
and most sacred expression of love is life itself. Children
are born out of love.
Love is to be controlled. Much is said in our day
about learning to control one's passions. There are
different kinds of control—the kind we use on
infestations of grasshoppers or crickets, for instance. We
eradicate or stop them completely—literally kill them.
But there is another definition of control that more
closely relates to these powers of love. It is the type of
control used on electricity. When it is directed through
proper channels for worthwhile purposes, when properly
controlled or directed, we can accomplish not only good,
but miraculous things.
Young people often misunderstand the efforts of
their seniors to teach them control of their passions.
They mistakenly assume that we mean to eradicate these impulses. This is not so. These powers are to be
channeled and directed safely, for righteous purposes.
Not only are they approved, but they are blessed of the
Lord. I quote from Section 132 of the Doctrine and
Covenants, verse 19:
The greatest deception foisted upon the human race
in our day is that overemphasis of physical gratification
as it is related to romantic love. It is merely a repetition
of the same delusion that has been impressed on every
generation in ages past. When we learn that physical
gratification is only incident to, and not the compelling
force of love itself, we have made a supreme discovery.
If only physical gratification should interest you, you
need not be selective at all. This power is possessed by
almost everyone. Alone, without attendant love, this
relationship becomes nothing—indeed, less and worse
The adversary would draw down and make cheap
and common and vulgar the sacred, sublime experience
of love in its total expression, and in nothing is his
villainy more loathsome, so tragic, as the invitation to
man to look upon love with eyes and hearts and minds
which are filthy.
Expressions of love are not ugly unless they are used in an ugly way. The prostitution or misuse of these powers becomes all the more lamentable because the power itself and the righteous expression of it are pure and beautiful and sanctified.
Touch not the functions and powers of life within
your body, and do not tamper with or explore these
powers with any living soul. To seek some satisfaction
by yourself is but to experience guilt, morbidity, and
degradation. This exploration was never meant to be. I
know there are those who say that things like this are to
be excused. Some even say they are necessary. This is a
lie. Such indulgence is neither necessary nor desirable.
It is part of our religion to be properly mated. It is
important to be in love. It is part of our religion to enter
into a courtship that is beautiful and righteous and leads
to temple marriage. All that is important to the children
of God and to the gospel of Jesus Christ is related
thereto. All of the devices and tempting power,
debauchery, and cunningness of Satan are directed
The advisability of Latter-day Saint young men
marrying Latter-day Saint young women is so obvious
and the alternative so dangerous as to hardly be the
object of any lengthy attention here. You all understand
that, surely. You are young adults.
Now a word to those who want to love and to be
loved who are slipping past the usual age for marriage.
I am thinking of many of these lovely, worthy sisters
who feel that life is passing them by. Unfortunately, you
sometimes feel that way when you are nineteen. These
suggestions: Do not give up. Hold to your standards. It
may well come to you as a September song and be twice
more precious for the waiting. Stay attractive—and I do
not mean the cover-girl appeal—but attractive in
disposition and in attitude and in service. Stay available.
Do not be so content with what you do that you cease to
care. To some it may not come, but surely there is a
compensation that the Lord has in store for the righteous
who have held to His standards, but who remain
unmarried through no choice of their own.
Now to those who may have unwittingly, or in a
moment of supreme temptation, made themselves
unworthy or less worthy to love. Instructions are simple.
See your bishop, He will tell you what to do. Now, do
not delay. Get it settled now, because mischief grows. It
is hard to keep locked up. But the bishop has the keys,
and he can lock it up for good.
There is forgiveness—complete forgiveness. It is
based on repentance—complete repentance.
To those who are married and not in love—and in
our society this is not an infrequent circumstance—the
remedy for your dilemma was prescribed in these words
by President Stephen L Richards:
You can stumble out of love. I say “stumble”
because the process of falling in love is so beautiful and
so desirable that we ought to use a different designation
for its opposite. If there is trouble, you stay
married—both of you. You repent—both of you. You be
worthy—both of you. You be prayerful—both of you. You be forgiving—both of you. Love can grow again
from the same root stalk and bloom again with blossoms
It is my conviction that men are basically good. It is my conviction that young people are basically good. It is my feeling that young people want to do that which is right. I am firmly convinced that you want and desire to find a marriage partner in the righteous way, and that you want to have a successful marriage. Preliminary to that, you want and desire to have a courtship that is clean and worthy. All I am trying to say to you is that with all the “don'ts” that we heap upon you all of your growingup years, there is a positive and a beautiful and desirable aspect to this subject that is so supernally sacred.
It is my conviction that if you do not achieve these things you want, you must be seduced from or drawn from that path of righteousness. In other words, rather
than being basically evil, men are basically good and
must be persuaded to unrighteousness. (Although the
opposite is taught by much of Christianity, the doctrine
is false!) I say again that this philosophy that holds that
men are basically evil is not true.
In conclusion, I picture you coming to the temple to
be sealed for time and for all eternity. I yearn to talk to
you about the sacred sealing ordinance, but this we do
not do outside those sacred walls. The transcendent
nature of all that is conferred upon us at the marriage
altar is so marvelous it is worth all the waiting and all the
resisting. I picture you, as I have seen you often. The
young man, masculine, clear of vision, stalwart of frame,
firm to accept the responsibilities as a husband and as a
father. And, the bride, unassuming, beautifully feminine,
an inspiration to her sweetheart, and dependent upon
But this is not the fulfillment of the story of love. In
the book, or the play, on the stage, the curtain comes
down here. But it is not so in real love. This is not the
conclusion—only the beginning. I quote a few lines from
a young man deeply in love with his bride:
This picture, then, I see, and were I an artist, had I
the power, I would paint this picture over and over
again—not with oil or canvas or brush—but with
counsel and admonition and encouragement and
blessing, with forgiveness and reassurance, with the
I bear witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints is divinely inspired and that the exalted
concept of marriage and of courtship and of romantic
love are ordained or God. I know as surely as it is my
right to know that God lives, and I bear witness that
Jesus is the Christ. Love is a promise, and there is a Holy
Spirit of Promise.
I cannot frame this picture—I would not if I could—for it has no bounds. Love like this may have a beginning, but never through all eternity need it have an end. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.