Love Comes First

In his book, “In Faith and In Doubt,” Dale McGowan emphasizes shared values over shared beliefs, and I understand his point. I share values with many people who have different beliefs, and I share beliefs with people who have different values. I also think people have more values in common than they realize. But, to me, values and beliefs are linked. My beliefs impact my daily life because I live them in my values. When I married, I wanted it to be with someone who shared beliefs and values so we could help each other live those values more fully and grow in our beliefs.

I always thought my spouse was supposed to be the person with whom I had the most in common. The one I could trust above everyone else because he understood me better than anyone else. This understanding, I thought, would come from commonality. 

After his faith crisis, my husband seemed so different and far away. I asked myself, what is the most basic and necessary thing we have to have in common and how much commonality is sufficient for us to continue in a marriage?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a unique doctrine concerning the Godhead which differs from the Trinity. The characteristics of God are the same. However, we believe in three separate beings, each with their own unique differences and roles, and yet completely united as to be One God. 

Their differences are necessary for the full and complete Plan of Salvation to be realized. Father, already Exalted and Supreme, had the knowledge and power to conceive and begin the plan. Christ, not yet exalted and universally loved, could show us how to complete the plan and become exalted as He now is. The Holy Ghost, electing to stay as Spirit, is divinely able to be a testifier and comforter by speaking Spirit to spirit with us and live with us as we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 

They each play their own part in their united plan to achieve their shared goal—the salvation and exaltation of God’s children.

I love the lessons of unity to be seen within the Godhead. Christ repeatedly asks that we be one with Him as He is one with the Father. He says if we are not one, we are not His. We cannot be one being when we are separate individuals. How are we to do this?  

We must be united in purpose and fulfill our roles in the Plan of Salvation. We are to embrace differences and use them to complete a whole that we could not do on our own. We are not all capable of performing the same roles. We all make up the body of the Church with our different talents, our different experiences and perspectives. The Godhead works together to complete the work of God. They have joined together on one common goal and have agreed upon the plan that will complete that goal.

What does this mean for finding unity with each other? Specifically, even though my husband and I had many values in common, were we still too different in our goals and our plans? Did we have a unifying purpose?

Growing up, I always felt too different and too alone. Being alone is one of my greatest fears. A bit ironic for someone who is as introverted as I am. I highly value time to myself but hate to be lonely. To lose my husband, my closest companion, made me feel severely lonely. 

I went to the temple by myself, and I felt even lonelier. There is a portion of the temple service that requires you to stand as couples, a man and woman together. Because I didn’t have my husband, I didn’t feel like participating, even though I wanted to. But here’s the thing, if you want to participate, you just stand up. Someone will come and stand with you. You don’t have to be married or even know each other. You just stand together. 

As the prayer was said, I felt the power of the faith of those present. We were all connected by it. Like a gold ribbon that pulsed and shone brighter as each person added their voice in a united prayer of faith, it ran through every person in the room, and then across temples and the world. I felt so connected to my Brothers and Sisters that all loneliness fled and was replaced by incredible love. I thought of the Brother that stood with me and wondered if that would happen in the next life too. If I had to go on alone, would one of my Brothers stand with me and help me when I needed it? Was I to leave my husband and know that doing so would not leave me alone because I would always have my Brothers and Sisters with me?

Suddenly, all the love I felt from all my Spiritual Family shifted and became focused on my husband. The Lord said, “I know it’s hard for you to love your husband right now, so, here, borrow some of my love for him and know that he is worthy.”

The only thing that could possibly be more amazing than feeling how much the Lord loves you is feeling how much the Lord loves someone else. 

I think of all the people who say they have similar goals—to improve our country, to help the poor—and yet, still can’t seem to work together. Sure, they can’t agree on the same plan to achieve those goals, but ultimately that’s because they do not love or respect those who could be their partners. 

When love and respect are present, common goals and an agreed upon plan can be found. These are the foundation for unity. It is hard work to carve away at your assumptions, fears, and pride. It takes a level of honesty that most of us run from. Love provides the fuel for that work. It is the most necessary component. 

My husband and I have many shared goals, though we might not phrase them or define them in the same way. We want our children to feel loved and happy, while learning responsibility, hard work, and generosity. Because we love and respect the other’s needs, we are able to find a plan of action that we both agree on and do our part in that plan. Love must come first. 

2 thoughts on “Love Comes First

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  1. Christen,

    I have read with great interest and love and some guilt as I feel as if I’ve broken into your journal. You are a gifted writer and are your mother’s daughter. I feel your heartache and wish I could help. Writing is your therapy and you seem to have worked things out in today’s entry. I agree with you that the gospel is true. Our Father in Heaven loves us and provided the plan of salvation to help us return to Him. Paramount is His sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Of these things I know and cling to them everyday. I know They are with me through my trials and help me through my trials. I am blessed with many tender mercies everyday. I love you and want you to know that I am here if you need anything. Love, Gwen

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    1. Thanks Gwen! These are all stories from several years ago and I’m doing very well now. I kept feeling drawn to write a book, but wasn’t sure how. I decided I would learn through writing it. Thanks for patiently reading through my blunders and supporting me. I just don’t want anyone else to feel alone.

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