One of the disadvantages we have with the English language, with any language really, is that when we only work in one language, some of our terms limit our thinking. “Love” is one of those terms, when it comes to English.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us several variations on the definition for love, but they could basically be boiled down to a simplified version of:
· to feel great affection for (someone);· to feel love for (someone or something)· to feel sexual or romantic love for (someone)· to like or desire (something) very much : to take great pleasure in (something) [i]
Some popular slogans gay-marriage supporters adopted during the recent Supreme Court case included statements such as “Love = Love” and “Love Wins”.
But I found myself pondering the question “Does their perception of love really equal mine? Are all forms of love really the same? Are all definitions of love truly equal?
If all forms of love are equally acceptable, should they be given equal value and consideration?”
In English we only have the one word to use, yet I saw the greater Christian community’s vehement distaste for these same slogans, and my own LDS ethnic perspective straining at them as well. For me, the concept of only one kind of love for every situation seemed to make reason stare.
Could a temporal or secular perspective on the term ‘love’ be the same or even be compatible with an eternal perspective of love?
I took a closer look, in the hope of finding a clearer definition of what love is, to understand better if there are forms of love that are detrimental to life instead of fulfilling, and perhaps know better what would constitute an eternal perspective judgment call on different aspects of love.
I came upon some of the research of Canadian sociologist John A. Lee.[ii] He conducted his investigations in the 1970s. From more than four thousand statements about love from multiple cultures, including the Greek, Lee analyzed and constructed a theory around six basic styles of loving.
Those six styles were later expanded by others to eight, two of which are very similar in nature. These categories for the English term ‘love’ include philautia (phil-LAUW-te-ah), ludus (LOO-dus), eros (AIR-ahs), mania (MAY-nee-ah), philia (FIL-ee-ah), storge (STORE-gay), pragma (PRAHG-mah), and agape (ah-GAH-pay).
We are not exempt from these kinds of love as members of the Church. They are all part of our development as human beings, and eventually eternal beings. So how does the world perceive each form of love, and how does the Lord look upon these forms of love, especially when it comes to love and sex with our spouses? How can we utilize each of these forms of love in our complete development as children of God?
We’ll be discussing each of these different kinds of love in articles to come.
[ii] Benokraitis, Nijole V, Marriages and Families Fifth Ed., 2005, Pearson Prentice Hall (149-151)