married couple holding hands across table

Charity in Marriage: An LDS Guide to the Pure Love of Christ

“If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul.”

That’s an excerpt from author C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. And he’s not the only one with rats in the cellar.

Recently, when we discussed scorekeeping in marriage on our podcast Helpmeets, my husband Adam suggested charity as an antidote to perpetual tallying and subsequent resentment. But what is charity? And how can it improve your marriage?

In this article, we define charity in marriage, including the difference between charity and love, and discuss how you can develop this Christlike attribute.

man reading scriptures with woman holding mug

What does it mean to have charity?

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), charity is “the pure love of Christ” that manifests in selfless compassion (Moroni 7:45-47).

If you’ve ever asked: “What’s the difference between love and charity in LDS theology?” it comes down to time, focus, and depth.

“Charity is more than love, far more; it is everlasting love, perfect love, the pure love of Christ which endureth forever. It is love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine.

For Elder Marvin J. Ashton, that desire for the welfare of others manifests in sweeping forgiveness and respect.

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped,” said Elder Ashton in a 1992 Conference address. “Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”

As with all desirable characteristics, Jesus is our exemplar. The ultimate act of charity was his atoning sacrifice, in which He suffered for our sins with only our best interest in mind and without expecting anything in return.

Based on the LDS charity quotes above, here’s a chart summarizing the differences between love and charity:



















Slow to Anger


Thinks Positive

Thinks Ill of Others


Disbelieving or Disobedient




man holding mug and offering muffin

What is an example of charity in marriage?

It’s one thing to understand charity philosophically. But what does charity look like in practice?

I love this example from Charity Kern of Third Hour:

I once heard a story about a husband and a wife who were both having difficult days.
The wife had been busy all day with kids running around and ward members asking for help. By the time her husband came home, dinner was partially done, the house was a mess, and the kids still needed help on their homework.
The husband had been at work all day. Business deals had fallen through, extra paperwork was assigned him, and traffic was horrible. He simply wanted to come home, eat dinner, and relax.
He was expecting dinner and relaxation; she needed help in the kitchen.
When he walked through the door and saw the house in disarray and dinner undone, he had a choice to make. This wonderful husband put aside his needs and focused on his wife and family. He knew caring for her would result in greater happiness and a deeper love for his spouse.


As in the example above, charity is giving each other a bit of grace. It’s choosing to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and put their needs first, much like Christ did for us when He atoned for our sins and shortcomings.

Also in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said that charity “is a state not of feeling but of will.” Charity in marriage is choosing to be loving in our daily thoughts and our actions/

married couple clasping hands on table

How can I become more charitable?

While having charity is a monumental undertaking, what you need to do to develop charity is relatively straightforward. In fact, the scriptures flat-out tell us how to be charitable:

“Wherefore, . . . pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; . . . that we may be purified even as he is pure.” (Moroni 7:47-48)

Pray for it. That’s it. And what a promise if we do! If we have faith to act and earnestly ask for charity, Heavenly Father will help us to develop it. But we need to ask often.

Ask yourself:

  • When’s the last time I prayed for charity?
  • Do I consider praying for charity as important as daily scripture study?
  • How could praying for charity more fervently and often improve me and my marriage?

Not sure how you’re doing in your quest to be more charitable? Consider taking the charity assessment at the end of Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel to determine areas you can focus on.

Charity never faileth a marriage

As you strive to become more charitable, know that you have a scriptural promise that “charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:46). Having the pure love of Christ can give you and your spouse the safety you need to grow together in the gospel and find joy in the journey. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated in a BYU Devotional:

“Love is a fragile thing, and some elements in life can try to break it. Much damage can be done if we are not in tender hands, caring hands. To give ourselves totally to another person, as we do in marriage, is the most trusting step we take in any human relationship. It is a real act of faith—faith all of us must be willing to exercise. If we do it right, we end up sharing everything—all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys—with another person.”

So let’s commit to doing it right. Let’s pray for charity.


Art can serve as a reminder of your values and goals. For a piece that represents the pure love you strive to have for your spouse, consider Lisa DeLong’s geometric watercolor “Embrace.”

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