I think that we all know what is meant by the word passions, so I want to concentrate on the word bridle. Bridle is the name given to a piece of headgear that is used to control a horse. An important part of the bridle is the bridle bit, which is a steel rod that is placed in the horse’s mouth and held there by the rest of the bridle. Besides the bridle bit, the bridle consists of leather straps. There is usually a chin strap – a leather strap that goes under the chin to hold the bit in the horse’s mouth – and a long strap that goes up one side of the horse’s face, behind the ears, and down the other side to the bit and chin strap. The two long straps are connected across the face by two straps that go across the nose and across the forehead above the eyes. There is also a strap that goes around the neck of the horse to hold keep the bridle on the horse. All the straps are connected by buckles. The reins are long strips of leather that connect to each side of the bit and are used by the rider to control the horse. The bridle is a piece of equipment that keeps the horse under control of the rider.
This brings us to the topic of how to “bridle” our passions. Alma was a great high priest and prophet in ancient America, and he had three sons – Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. Alma loved his sons, and he took his fathering responsibilities seriously by teaching his sons what they should do. When Alma became older, he took each son separately and gave them a specific lesson. Helaman, the oldest son, was taught how to be a great Church leader. Corinanton, the youngest son, was taught the importance of chastity, repentance, and living a good moral life. Shiblon, the middle son, was praised for being steady, faithful, and diligent in keeping the commandments of God. As one part of the counsel given by his father, Shiblon was admonished to “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12).
What does controlling our passions have to do with love? Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Marie explained that a bridle was meant to direct desires and passions but not to destroy them.
Is self-denial wise because something is wrong with our passions, or because something is right with our passions? Alma taught his son: “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” (Alma 38:12; emphasis added.) He did not say eliminate or even suppress your passions, but bridle them – harness, channel, and focus them. Why? Because discipline makes possible a richer, deeper love (The Belonging Heart , 302).
We bridle our passions to have “richer, deeper love.” President Boyd K. Packer, then-President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, frequently taught this principle: “The end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity.” To have this happiness at home and to be sealed for time and all eternity, a couple must be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, understand its principles and doctrines, and make and keep sacred covenants.
The scriptures teach that the Gods organized this earth and created man in their own image as male and female. God then commanded the man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Abraham 4:27-28). This commandment has not been rescinded but is still in force. To ensure that His sons and daughters would multiply and replenish the earth, God planted in each of them the desire to mate. He was certain to make this desire constant and strong to encourage mating.
President Packer taught that “Our happiness in mortal life, our joy and exaltation are dependent upon how we respond to these persistent, compelling physical desires.” He said that “very personal feelings occur, in a natural way, unlike any other physical experience” when the procreative power is mature. He taught that it is ideal if “mating begins with romance” and all that romance brings – “feelings of excitement and anticipation, … holding hands, and other expressions of affection between a young man and a young woman.” However, “Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds” if passions are bridled and kept under control.
True love requires reserving until after marriage the sharing of that affection which unlocks those sacred powers in that fountain of life. It means avoiding situations where physical desire might take control. Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple are those procreative powers released in God’s eye for the full expression of love. It is to be shared solely and only with that one who is your companion forever.
When entered into worthily, this process combines the most exquisite and exalted physical, emotional, and spiritual feelings associated with the word love. That part of life has no equal, no counterpart, in all human experience. It will, when covenants are made and kept, last eternally….
This is what Elder and Sister Hafen meant by “richer, deeper love.” It usually includes romantic love, but romantic love is not enough. This kind of love takes time, sacrifice, and endurance to develop. It takes repentance and forgiveness. It takes service and understanding. It is worth every effort because it can last forever. When we want our love to last forever, we protect it and treat it with great care. When we “bridle” all our passions, we are protecting our love and helping it to grow even richer and deeper.