Professor talks Christ’s example of agency-based love

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Dr. Jason Carroll talks about improving relationships through Christlike love during an April 2 devotional in the Marriott Center. (Arianna Davidson)

Marriage and Family Studies professor Dr. Jason S. Carroll spoke to BYU students about agency-based love in dating and marriage relationships at an April 2 devotional.

First, Carroll addressed the question of, “How important is love?” He said in modern culture, many would say love is the only true reason for a couple to come together and stay together.

“Part of the complexity of understanding love comes from the fact that we use the
term in very diverse and inconsistent ways,” Carroll said. “We may use the term ‘love’ to describe our relationship to our fiancée or spouse, but we also say that we ‘love’
double fudge ice-cream.”

Carroll said different conceptions of love are often at the root of the different trajectories seen in couple relationships.

“Reflecting the individualistic, consumer-driven, soulmate-searching trends of our day, the dominant story of marriage in our wider culture is the story of falling in love and finding personal fulfillment in a love relationship,” he said.

According to Carroll, the problem with that view of society and love causes individuals to fear commitment even when the relationship is promising.

“Loving and lasting marriages are true partnerships in which spouses are devoted to creating a shared life together that is larger than the emotional payoff of the marriage,” Carroll said. “And this truth deepens even further when spouses form a covenant relationship dedicated to shared discipleship and the formation of an eternal family.”

Next, Carroll addressed the question, “What is the true nature of love?” He combined that question with another, “How can we assure ourselves of having the deeper, fuller foundations of love in our relationships?”

He said the answer can be found in emulating the Savior, Jesus Christ, and gave the example when Christ instructed his disciples to “love one another; as I have loved you” in John 13:34. Carroll connected that sentiment with a devotional given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland almost 20 years ago where a similar topic was discussed.

Elder Holland said, “Christlike staying power in romance and marriage requires more than any of us really have. It requires something more, an endowment from heaven.”

Carroll said that meant that no one individually has enough feelings of love to keep relationships going strong through all the ups and downs.

“We will need to become more than we naturally are,” Carroll said.

The final question Carroll discussed explored how listeners can actively create loving relationships. Carroll offered the following principles to producing love: thoughtful service, commitment, equal partnership, practicing virtues and sincere discipleship.

He quoted Elder Holland who said, “You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does.”

Carroll concluded by citing Elder Holland once more, who said Jesus Christ is the only lamp by which disciples can successfully see the path of love and happiness for them and their spouse.

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