Marion D Hanks taught that without unconditional love, youth could find no place in the church. In his talk entitled “Love Unconditional” from 1971, he says

Four, they have to learn somehow that they are more important than their mistakes; that they are worthwhile, valuable, useful; that they are loved unconditionally.

I knelt with my own family, at the conclusion of a great family home evening, the night before our lovely daughter was to be married in the temple. I think she wouldn’t mind my telling you that after we had laughed and wept and remembered, she was asked to pray. I don’t recall much of her prayer, the tears and the joy and the sweetness, but I remember one thought: she thanked God for the unconditional love she had received. This life doesn’t give one very many chances to feel exultant and a little successful, but I felt wonderful that night, and thank God that she really believes and understands what she said. We cannot, my dear brethren, condition our love by a beard or beads or habits or strange viewpoints. There have to be standards and they must be enforced, but our love must be unconditional.

Hanks, Oct 1971 GC

Contrast this to then Elder Nelson in 2003 who makes sure members understand that God loves us upon condition of obedience.

While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional.

Ensign, Feb 2003

There is no mistaken that Nelson believes God’s love is conditional. Next he implies that love for our children should be conditional upon their obedience to God.

Perhaps no love in mortality approaches the divine more than the love parents have for their children. As parents, we have the same obligation to teach obedience that our heavenly parents felt obliged to teach us. While we can teach the need for tolerance of others’ differences, we cannot tolerate their infractions of the laws of God. Our children are to be taught the doctrines of the kingdom, to trust in the Lord, and to know that they receive the blessings of His love by first obeying His commandments.

Divine love is perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal. The full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional—predicated upon our obedience to eternal law. I pray that we may qualify for those blessings and rejoice forever.

Ensign, Feb 2003

So which is it? Conditional or unconditional? But more important, how does one deal with conflicting ideas from our general authorities?

Both of these are just their own opinion, as nether carries the weight of “revelation” and therefore “doctrine”. But then what is this? Good advice? The philosophies of men mingled with scripture?

Maybe it doesn’t matter? The Hanks model could be seen as the more generous, more mercy with grace. The Nelson model more authoritarian, a better way to keep people obedient. Have you seen this harder line reflected in his teachings since he has become the Prophet [1], or has this calling moderated him (I call it the “Benson effect”).

What do you think?

[1] AKA “Global Faith Leader”