Brigham Young on loving your enemies

In the “Discourses of Brigham Young,” page 272 it says the following:

Do I say, Love your enemies? Yes, upon certain principles. But you are not required to love their wickedness; you are only required to love them so far as concerns a desire and effort to turn them from their evil ways, that they may be saved through obedience to the Gospel (DBY, 272).


HERE is the source and some more quotations from the prophet to consider.


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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

13 thoughts on “Brigham Young on loving your enemies

  1. This is another way of saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” That is fine, as long as we are careful not to judge them according to OUR understandings of sin, the accountability of which will vary according to the light and knowledge each of us has been given.

    Elsewhere Brigham Young said: “There is one principle I wish to urge upon the Saints —that is, to understand men and women as they are, and not understand them as you are…When you know the intention of the act performed, you will then know how to judge the act.”

    Jesus understood this well, and said of His enemies: “They that kill you think they are doing God a service.” Because He understood their intentions, He was able to correctly judge the act, and His judgement was: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

  2. I think part of the problem is that there is an asymmetry to the expression of love and the hearing of love. Most people want to be loved more than they want to love others, but because being needy in this way is decidedly unlovable (especially the part about wanting to be loved without giving real love in return), most people put up extreme measures to hide this basic flaw. They will go around being ‘loving’ only for the purpose of being loved. But being ‘loving’ in this way is vanity, as in ineffective, because it amounts to mere flattery, and flattery cannot produce in others the love that is sought.

    That’s probably confusing. The point is that most people have no concept of (actively) loving others that is bound to reality because of their fear of not being (passively) loved. We fear acting out of true love, because we fear being acted upon by non-love.

  3. I should clarify that I don’t think it’s a terrible motivation to want to be truly loved. Acting out of active hate, or a desire not to be hated are much more malignant motivations.

    Still, I think it’s better to strive to be satisfied with God’s loving us, and strive to love like He does, with truth and sometimes chastisement, never forcing others to love in return. Simply trying to be loved without reference to truth such as eternal consequences just doesn’t work.

    Whether we love God doesn’t affect whether He loves us, but He does love us and He knows it will make us happier to love Him, and it seems all Creation is designed to help us discover that.

  4. It seems a lot of people today do not understand at all the “loving people to turn them from their evil ways” part. It should be obvious that looking at other peoples’ “evil ways” is problematic, because we all have evil ways of our own. But does this mean we give it up entirely? I don’t think so.

  5. Realizing that we all have to be saved by obedience to the gospel will lead us to hate the sins that have tripped people up (including ourselves) or ensnared them. Then we can help point them to a better way, to salvation through Christ.
    There are a few things in the Sermon on the Mount that, while I think we have to take them seriously and they are the real teachings of Jesus, need to be not applied ‘glibly’ (if that’s a word). Such as- ‘resist not evil’ and ‘if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out’. What I mean is, I think we each need to ponder what Jesus really meant, and apply it– not to say that discussion isn’t okay as well.

  6. Here are some stories about Brigham Young that I think illustrate what he may have meant in the statement you quoted. (Even though the stories aren’t about “enemies.”)

    I love Ardis’s comment at the end: “Brigham Young could preach the gospel in unmistakable terms and call sin what it was … but if you were one of his people, if you wanted to come home – even if you had not yet returned to the church, as none of these three young people had – he wanted you home.”

  7. Geoff, I see what you are getting at. I think it’s the worry that we’re hypocrites if we call people on sins because we are in the same boat.

    I watched a video where they had some kids approach smokers. At first the kids would tell the smokers it was bad for them, and the smokers always got offended and walked away. Then they had the kids go up and ask for a cigarette, and the smokers always ended up lecturing the kids about how bad it was for them (even though they were themselves smoking.) I think there’s something sweet about that, wanting to save a kid from something that’s bad, even when you yourself are guilty.

    When you’ve tasted redemption, you want to share that. But it’s a hard thing to communicate when people don’t want to accept that they are guilty too. People these days think “love” means making you feel good about yourself, but there’s much more to it than that.

  8. I love everyone, including folks who have beaten me and committed adultery against me, threatened to shoot me and my loved ones, etc.

    I was talking with my mother during a visit a couple of weeks ago, and she indicated that it really irritates her when I talk about loving all mankind. Now, she also happens to love all mankind and wishes all to return to God. But for some reason the way I say it bothers her.

    I honestly believe that each of us in the next life will find ourselves filled with love for each individual we knew in eternity, no matter what our interactions have been in mortality. I believe we will honestly yearn for the fallen to repent and will act accordingly. Based on my hope that this love is true of that future heaven, I choose to extend that love in this life as well.

    That doesn’t prevent me from opining that people are wrong (or stupid or idiots or evil). It just means that I love them and use the kind of words and actions I would use towards any loved one when they are being wrong or stupid or idiots or evil. Think of the last time you saw a child lighting curtains on fire (or similar action) and I think you’ll get what I’m talking about.

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