Why we bridle

Posted by Matthew Watkins on April 9, 2017

The other day I read this verse from Alma the Younger to his son Shiblon:

Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions…

Alma 38:12

I think this is one of the most oft-quoted verses in all the Book of Mormon, usually in a lesson targeted to young men and young women (you know the one I’m talking about). But what stuck out to me this last time through is the rest of the verse:

See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.

Think about how counterintuitive that must seem to the rest of the world. In the books, commercials, and movies of today, love is just a 4-letter word that is code for “sex.” It’s something that slowly develops between two good-looking actors over one hour and finally culminates in that one steamy moment that ruins what would have been an otherwise good movie and has no bearing on the plot. It’s something that is all about the self. It’s something to be “made” in the bedroom. In the world’s “love,” passion is all that matters; for all intents and purposes, love and passion are just synonyms of the same thing. The only difference between them is what kind of rating you’re aiming for from the MPAA.

Thankfully Alma teaches us better. Passion is not love. In fact, passion prevents us from being filled with love. And that’s why we bridle it. I like this counsel given in a General Conference 36 years ago:

Bridling increases strength, increases power, increases love.

Paul H Dunn, 1981

This applies to far more than the weekly youth lesson on physical intimacy, though. Just as unbridled physical passions can (and always do) rob us of the opportunity to love an eternal spouse appropriately, our passions for other things sometimes get in the way of our ability to love others with the balanced charity of Christ.

Maybe we allow our passion for our job and the income it provides overcome our love for partaking of the Sacrament every week. Or maybe our youth let their passion for sleep (a passion of which I was blessed with a seemingly infinite supply) overcome their love of learning the Gospel in early morning seminary. Perhaps on Super Bowl Sunday or during March Madness, we may find that our passion for sports overcomes our love for the Sabbath day. Yes, the sports analogy may seem cliche, but I know a man who left activity in the Church because his passion for golf entirely overcame his love of the Gospel (side note: if you’re gong to jeopardize your salvation over a sport, at least choose a more exciting one).

In fact, the only times that passion seems to be mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in a negative light, like when we are told that Morianton “a man of much passion, … was angry with one of his maid servants, and he fell upon her and beat her much” (Alma 50:30).

But sometimes our passions are not even evil. Raise your hand if you have a “gospel hobby.” I know I do. We have to be careful that our passions for certain Gospel topics to not prevent us from teaching the entirety of the scriptures and robbing others of the opportunity to hear the full symphony of the Gospel:

That is not acceptable. A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified. Gospel teachers should also be scrupulous to avoid hobby topics.

Elder Oaks

Some members… pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fullness of the gospel.

Pres. Boyd K Packer

We have to be careful that our passion for anything, even that which by itself and in proper amount and context may be wholesome and edifying, prevent is from being “filled with love” for our fellow man, our God, and ourselves.

With that, I think I’ve spent enough time on the passion of my blog. Going to spend more time with my family now.

This post first appeared on Power in the Book