The first question I had for BYU legend and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young wasn’t the most obvious, but sent our conversation off in the right direction:

“Steve, you were quarterback of the 49ers and were the most eligible bachelor in the Bay Area. How did your teammate Charles Haley not know you were single?”

Young was at the time struggling to replace the great Joe Montana in San Francisco as quarterback of the 49ers. Haley was one of the greatest defensive players in the NFL, a career that would earn him five Super Bowl rings from his time on the two premier teams in the league — the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.

But even as a teammate, he had become one of Young’s greatest critics in the locker room and as Young writes, the anger and vitriol reached a boiling point in 1991 following a 12-6 loss to the Raiders.

“After the game Charles was furious and distraught, ranting about Steve Young being terrible and why it was all so awful. He was on a tirade and just wouldn’t quit,” Young wrote in his description of the incident. So angry was Haley that Ronnie Lott, then with the Raiders and formerly a 49er great, was called from his own locker room to calm Haley and let all live for another day.

Young has told this story many times before. But now it is only a prelude to the real story — the deeper story — that has been forming in the mind of Young from decades of experience and reflection, and is revealed in his new book with the striking title, “The Law of Love.”  

Young is adamant; this isn’t a book about him. It’s built from his experiences. From his interactions with friend, foe and family. It unlocks who he has become, or is trying to become, and more importantly, who each of us can become. But this is no how-to book. It’s about accessing an abundant life by letting go of self-interest.

As Young puts it: “The law of love says that in your relationships with others, including deity or other humans, you seek no transaction. In those relationships, you seek only the good of others and their glory and their goodness and their healing, with no thought of what you could get back.”

So why begin a book about love with an angry Charles Haley and the 49ers?

Young said that weeks later the team was headed to play the Seattle Seahawks. He got on the team bus only to find that there was one seat available, right next to Haley, his nemesis. Haley motioned for Young to sit down.

“I sat down in silence. I thought I was going to get an earful for the 20-minute bus ride ... but Charles didn’t say anything,” Young writes.

“I’m sorry to hear about your wife. I hope she is doing better,” Young said, breaking the silence. That simple expression — asking about Haley’s wife and subsequently his life, led to understanding and a relationship. And yes, Charles Haley didn’t even know Steve Young was single, living alone in San Francisco, but discovered it in the short bus ride.

“That just goes to show that if you don’t actually have common, shared experiences, you don’t see people,” said Young, as we conversed over a Zoom call, he from his home in California on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon.

Young, a husband, father of four and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taps into his 15 years of teaching Sunday School classes, his search of scripture, his interactions with players and coaches, and the world of high-stakes business to bring “The Law of Love” forward in a crisp, 200-page book (Deseret Book).

We talked about his journey, saving the X’s and O’s of football for another day (mostly) and focusing on personal relationships that go far beyond transaction into the world of selfless caring. He shares the stories that led him to the compelling insights that can allow each of us to be healers of others and subsequently, ourselves.

Steve Young's new book 'QB' is 'what I wanted my kids to know'

The following is a portion of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Doug Wilks: This book is certainly different from your previous book (“QB: My Life behind the Spiral”). You really open yourself up, including scriptural references and difficult experiences to explore the topic. Who did you write it for?

Steve Young: For me it’s been a journey to kind of find what matters most. Because a lot of things matter in the world. A lot of things are important. But what matters most? And then trying to filter through what’s the way forward, because we’re all challenged. ... What is everlasting? What’s the headwaters? (In other words) what is undefeated? The law of love is undefeated. ... And in that effort to find what would resonate in my own home, (because) what matters in the home is what matter most. So it’s how I feel about the most important things in life.

Who is it written for? Anyone who it resonates to. You know, I didn’t necessarily have a person in mind. I had a feeling that a lot of people were chewing on the things I was chewing on. ... And I see it a lot out when I listen to podcasts and in conversation, and even in my teaching over 15 years ... that effort to bring forward the gospel in the most productive, wholesome way kept coming back.

DW: Can you elaborate?

SY: You hear a lot about love and what Christ said to the lawyer and trying to parse those words, and I don’t think they’re meant to be parsed. It’s fundamentally right in front of us. And for me I started to get the answers to the most vexing things in my life when I started to lay these qualities on. Instead of something to do — there are all these things that we’ve got to do to make it to heaven or to be righteous or be good or whatever there is, there is a lot to do — and this is not something to do, this is something to be. And I think that’s when I found the greatest heaven-opening revelation for me on the vexing issues was when I started to be these qualities that seemed so far away from me when I was a kid. I remember reading about meekness, love unfeigned, gentle persuasion, long-suffering. As an 18-year-old kid it’s like, “What’s that?” So I started to try and in my mind, act like, what do I think long-suffering would be like? How would you be long-suffering? What do you do?

DW: You’ve had turning points in your life. You’ve talked about when you wanted to leave BYU your freshman year and your father said you could leave but not come home. You talk about flying home after a difficult stretch and sitting next to Stephen R. Covey, who opened your eyes to becoming the best you can be. Was there a turning point that led to this realization that these qualities are not something to do, but are something to be?

SY: This is a journey, I don’t think there is a moment in time. It’s a collection of constant efforts to return to the well of revelation to my relationship with heaven. It’s an iterative process. I don’t think there’s a moment, and I think the book reflects that. I even say in the book, I’m there along with you. If it resonates with you, it’s my way forward and I think it’s the truth. I’m on that road, and I’ll see you on the road. I’ll see you there, my fellow traveler. I’m no finished product. There’s not a moment where I thought, “Oh, I’ve got this figured out.” But I do know, that ... love is the thing that is perpetual.

DW: In that experience with the 12-6 loss to the Raiders, you said following the game you crouched down by your car and said you didn’t know what to do. ... How often have you had the feeling in your life — that I don’t know what to do?

SY. I don’t want to be too dramatic, but I think (Young pauses here) A LOT. ... I would go look for counsel, you know, tell me what to do. If you just tell me what to do, I’ll do it. And I think that’s part of the revelation here for me is that’s kind of how I lived was, look if you’ll tell me what to do, I’ll do it. That’s the transactional part that I think was super useful for some time, but how many times have I asked myself I don’t know what my next move is, enough to get good at it.

DW: I think one of the strengths of the book is that you share how you are trying to embrace these values in “becoming” rather than in “doing.” Your journey arrives at a succinct definition: “The law of love is loving as God loves, seeking another’s healing, expecting nothing in return.” You then write about the spirit of abundance. Can you describe that?

SY: People always say, “OK, what can I do, how can we best exude the law of love.” ... We are the great can-do people, if you think about what we’re best at, it’s we’re the can-do people. I think the spirit of abundance is a way to look out every day, in every relationship, as if I can selflessly seek the abundance in this relationship or in this moment, you’ll find it. It’s there. And it might seem far off or it might seem impossible, but I think ... people say, “Well what do I do?” But it’s how you engage in every relationship, whether it’s someone you run into on the street or someone you’re married to.

So the spirit of abundance is to seek this ideal, this truth, in selflessly seeing others. And you have to really work at this, like what am I really here for, what do I really want out of this, do I want something? And how do you train yourself to not want anything, to not seek any of it. Just who’s in front of you, how can I love you, or how can I heal you, or how can I say hello to you in a way that makes you feel a spirit of abundance. How do I do that, and how do I do that over and over again is the idea of the simple statement that Christ made that if you lose yourself you find yourself.

DW: You used the example of (49er head coach) Bill Walsh recording his meetings and giving his notes and the learnings of his years in coaching to his assistants to help them progress. It was an example of abundant living, of helping others. Yet he also released players from the team — even all-pro players — while they still had good years left to play. Can you reconcile that in terms of abundant living and transactional living?

SY: It’s important to recognize that there is nothing lost in this effort. You can be safe. You can make hard decisions. You can deal in the transactional world. This is a way of being. So much of our life is transactional. You’ve got to get things done. Decisions need to be made in business. And that’s my point. I wanted to show on the football field, or in business, it doesn’t matter where you go. It doesn’t matter what the environment is. It could be an intense, adrenaline-filled competitive environment, which is completely transactional (where) the whole thing is winners and losers, and a zero-sum game, and you get nothing and I get something. ... But in that environment you can infuse, if you want to, a spirit of abundance, and in that spirit, it’s how the ultimate transactional moment gets done more profitably.

Bill Walsh used to talk about it all the time, the more common, shared experiences the players have with each other, the more we see each other, the more likely it is that in the biggest moment of the game, with Green Bay, down by 7 with a minute left, I want you to have an element of love for each other. ... You have to see it and see that it’s pure, and it can’t be encumbered. You can’t say we have these other things that we want to have come with it. It has to be selfless.

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Steve and I concluded our conversation talking about the practical, yet subtle applications of the law of love. Steve pointed to his closing thoughts in the book, which includes an invitation for readers to embrace these principles.

He writes: “The worst thing you could do is read this book and put it away and say, ‘Thumbs up, Steve, good job.’ The law of love is not just some nice idea. It is THE way to your deepest desires, the most righteous yearnings of your heart — that place of perpetuity where nothing rots or decays, that Zion, that place of celestial peace where Christ the Healer has alchemized all pain into beauty.”

Note: “The Law of Love” is now available through Deseret Book. It is available in paperback, e-book and audiobook at Deseret Book locations, or by ordering at

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