Veronica and Richard were spending what was intended to be some precious time together. Precious because, with a young family, they struggled to find time together. They had nothing specifically planned — just running a few errands.
But Richard was a bit distant — even, perhaps, just a bit ornery.
And Veronica, in a kind way, had asked if there was anything bothering him.
Richard bristled — asserting that he was neither ornery nor was there anything wrong.
At the checkout stand at the grocery store, Richard stood silently, but not sullenly, while Veronica paid the clerk. Surely, he thought, Veronica had misjudged his mood.
But then the clerk spoke, looking directly at Richard. "So, you've had a rough day, huh?"
Richard hadn't spoken a word. He was sure he was behaving just fine. But even a stranger could tell that Richard was, well, ornery.
When Veronica and Richard were married, they were deeply in love. But they were, perhaps, also naive enough to not fully understand that their love could become even greater.
But they learned. Each day — through being kind, considerate and appreciative; caring, giving and serving; being attentive, having respect and giving of oneself — their love grew.
But sometimes things got in the way.
On the day described above — when Richard had to be brought to his senses by an unknowing store clerk — his ego was clearly unchecked. His orneriness was a manifestation of his lack of humility.
Alma, when teaching about faith to the Zoramites, noted that a lack of humility was a great stumbling block to the acquisition of faith. It is similarly a great stumbling block to the development of greater love.
Beyond humility, all that Alma taught about developing greater faith has direct application to developing greater love. (See Alma 32.)
With one's humility firmly in check, Alma taught, we must desire to believe or, in this case — to love — more fully. That desire can be compared to a seed.
"Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me" (Alma 32:28).
Would such an experience — or, better yet, such an ongoing process — increase your love? Of course it would. And, because of that greater love, would you now be willing to try even harder to increase your love? Of course you would.
And as you continue that process — building your love line upon line, kindness upon kindness — your love will continue to grow.
So after, say, 10 years of happy marriage, is your love perfect?
Your love is good, your love may be great. But it is not yet perfect. Your love — your relationship with each other — still needs continual thoughtful attention.
"Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
"But if ye … take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, …."
"Now, this is not because the [love] was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof."
But, if you nourish your love "by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof,… it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
"And … by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit…" (Alma 32:37, 38, 39, 4, 42).
Like the faith taught by Alma, the love of a spouse is most precious — and worth every effort we can righteously make.