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Mormon church makes new push for environmental stewardship

Published November 15, 2013 10:42 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mormon environmentalists got a boost on Nov. 6, when the LDS Church launched a web page on its newsroom site, laying out the church's views on "stewardship and conservation."

The approach may not be new, but the place of publication and emphasis is.

For the first time, an official site gathers in one place LDS pronouncements and teachings about care for the natural world. It carries an authoritative tone.

"The Earth and all things on it should be used responsibly to sustain the human family. However, all are stewards — not owners — over this Earth and its bounty and will be accountable before God for what they do with his creations," the main essay says. "Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the Earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The Earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends his creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved."

The site also has links to Mormon scriptures about the Earth as sacred and speeches by LDS leaders encouraging care and protection of nature. It provides a list of approved conservation practices, including energy-efficient heating and solar panels in new LDS buildings, along with tips for energy conservation.

Seeing the statements and links posted on an official LDS website "is really exciting," says George Handley, an environmental activist who teaches literature at Brigham Young University. "All week long I have been getting emails from leaders in the environmental community in this state and across the nation who are so pleased to see it. And many members of the church as well have been sharing it widely on the Internet."

For years, people have asked Handley for information about Mormon views of stewardship, he said, and "until now I haven't been able to point them to an authoritative source."

Now he can.

His LDS students, Handley said, are eager "to act, as Mormons, on behalf of better stewardship of the environment. ... This helpful instruction and outline of stewardship principles ... should guide us in our decisions about using natural resources."

It will also help, he said, build relationships with like-minded activists in other faiths — including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, the Evangelical Environmental Network and many others.

Peggy Fletcher Stack