In the modern church, we posit that deep and romantic love for one’s spouse is most Holy. It is this love that is the beatific pinacle and is bound by the sealing power…Except that our history demeans romantic love. The 19th century saints taught that romantic love was not transcendent, but to be transcended.
The recent McKay lesson on Temples is a fascinating bridge between these quarters. He focuses on the eternal nature of love, framing our modern message of eternal romantic love as the fruit of the Gospel:
I love my children. I can have sympathy; I can have a desire to help all mankind, but I love her by whose side I have sat and watched a loved one in illness, or, perhaps, pass away…Why should death separate you when love will continue after death? It should not, and it need not…
Yet, in the next lesson his words echo back to our utilitarian heritage. “And I repeat that the very purpose of marriage is to rear a family and not for the mere gratification of man or woman.” In other words, not for love.
Contrasted against our modern romantics, Zina Young was interviewed by the New York World in 1869 and reinforced the convention of the time, stating that a woman “must regard her husband with indifference, and wits no other feeling than that of reverence, for we regard love as a false sentiment…” Such feelings were in exigency; but, let us not forget that this was the wife of the Prophet. She was the example.
This is a difficult concept, precisely because I love my wife so profoundly. I don’t want to conceive of a framework in which my love is superfluous. However, I can’t help but question our modern individualism when faced with the utilitarian variance of our progenitors.