In 2003, Then Elder Nelson wrote in the Ensign
“While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be defined as UNCONDITIONAL— Divine Love, Russel M. Nelson, February 2003 Ensign
I did a search using the Corpus of LDS General Conference, and found that before Elder Nelson put the kybosh on Unconditional Love, it was used once in the 1970s, five times in the 1980s, six times in the 1990s, and then only once in the 2000s. Each of these uses referenced God or Jesus’s unconditional love for us. One of them was even from Elder Nelson himself!
Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration. Godliness characterizes each of you who truly loves the Lord. You are constantly mindful of the Savior’s atonement and rejoice in His unconditional love. Meanwhile you vanquish personal pride and vain ambition. Russell M. Nelson, GC, Oct 1991
You can look up all the other references if you like, I’ll share just a few
I testify that he assisted in the creation and management not only of this planet, but other worlds. His grasp is galactic, yet he noticed the widow casting in her mite. I am stunned at his perfect, unconditional love of all. Indeed, “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, May 1976
I bear my special witness of Him—that our lives can be everlasting because His love is everlasting. That we may share His eternal, unconditional love with our brothers and sisters everywhere, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen**.–Elder Robert D. Hales, GC, October 2008
I testify of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. The unconditional love the Father and the Son have for us is so real. The Savior continually invites us to “come unto him and partake of his goodness. Victor L. Brown, GC, October 1989
So what caused Elder Nelson’s change of heart? The clues can be found in his 2003 Ensign article. First he states that the word “unconditional” does not appear in the scripturas. Then he uses a page from Elder Oaks book and get legalistic with the exact words in the scriptures. He states the “conditional” aspects of Gods love using “If …then” and except…cannot” clauses.
Several forms of conditional expression may be found in the scriptures:
“If … [certain conditions exist], then … [certain consequences follow].” (The indicators if and then may be written or implied.)
“Inasmuch as … [certain conditions exist], … [certain consequences follow].”
“Except … cannot …”
“Prove … , if … ” For example, a verse pertaining to our creation reveals a prime purpose for our sojourn here in mortality: “We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Life here is a period of mortal probation. Our thoughts and actions determine whether our mortal probation can merit heavenly approbation.
I don’t quite see the tie into Love in the above examples. I think most have to to with blessing, which we can all agree have always been taught that they are conditional. God can disapprove of our actions, withhold blessing, but still love us.
So what is Pres Nelson afraid of? I think this is it from the same Ensign article:
Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly “unconditional” can defend us against common fallacies such as these: “Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …”; or “Since ‘God is love,’ He will love me unconditionally, regardless …”
We will sin if we think God will still love us. Elder Christofferson jumped on this same train of thought in 2016
There are many ways to describe and speak of divine love. One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love,” “perfect love,” “redeeming love,” and “everlasting love.” These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love. Elder D. Todd Christofferson GC April 2016
Has the Q15 perceived a real threat to the salvation of mankind by the thinking that God’s love is unconditional? Maybe this storm has blown over since we don’t hear about it anymore. Nelson’s 2003 article pretty much stopped any more mention of unconditional love in General Conference, so now we just need a reinforcement every so often (like Elder Christofferson)
What are your thoughts on this?