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Home / Articles / / /  Mullen | Earthy Mormons: The LDS have big love for the environment

Mullen | Earthy Mormons: The LDS have big love for the environment

By Holly Mullen
Posted // May 7,2008 -

I have this Mormon friend who loves the Earth. Not so different from a lot of you. He taps into his deepest spirituality while in the outdoors. Shooting down a north-facing slope on skis, climbing a favorite pitch on Little Cottonwood granite or an easy hike up to Big Cottonwood’s Lake Blanche—it’s all church to him.

Not that he didn’t spend a lot of days worshiping the conventional way—in church. My friend holds the position of high priest—the top rank in the LDS priesthood. He once served in an LDS bishopric of a university student ward. He says it was a challenge, but he loved it.

Something that’s always confused, even irked, my friend about contemporary Mormonism is its anti-environmental image. If it were up to him, every Mormon would gladly support 10 percent of Utah land as designated wilderness. That’s a decent tithe for all the God-given beauty around us.

For a church that urges organization and sustainability with calls for food storage and disaster preparation, its leaders have rarely taken any consistent stand on organized stewardship of the land. The last big show LDS hierarchy made about environmental protection was its 1981 opposition to the MX missile in Utah’s west desert. People buzzed about it for weeks. Shortly after, then-President Ronald Reagan scrapped the project.

You might argue the MX opposition was more about peace than environmentalism, but I think the two are a matched set. If you ask most practicing Mormons today when was the last time one of their leaders urged them to drive smaller cars, or to walk instead of drive the two blocks to the neighborhood ward, or to eat less red meat or to stay on established off-road vehicle trails while recreating in Utah’s desert they would be hard-pressed to answer.

In my own faded Mormon memory, I have to go back to the ’70s for a clear environmental message. LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball urged church members in general conference to refrain from wantonly shooting the birds and the beasts—which rankled the hunters—and to take note of the world around them.

And, contrary to the politically conservative image of the official church, many Mormon scholars can find nothing in scripture that urges gobbling up resources at the expense of environmental protection.

“I have never come across anything in LDS Church doctrine that says, ‘Be wary, people, of this [environmental] movement,’” says George Handley, professor of humanities at Brigham Young University.

But we live in a state where nearly 80 percent of the Republican-dominated Legislature is Mormon. Four of our five members of Congress are Republican and devout Mormon. Most have aligned themselves with big oil, coal and gas interests, and go out of their way to fight the smallest environmental protection efforts.

Some faithful Mormons want to change that. Last month, 40 progressive Mormons turned out in Provo for a discussion titled “Faith and the Land: Conversations About Spirituality and Wilderness.” Sponsored by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the talk focused on perceived conflicts between practice of their faith and environmental protection.

“It’s astonishing to me how LDS theology is very imbued with spirit, very supportive of the environment,” says Deeda Seed, outreach director for SUWA. “I was raised Protestant, and I thought we had an ethic about respecting the earth. But, I’ll tell you, the Protestant religions are lame in comparison to Mormonism on this subject.”

Handley has taught a class in faith and earth stewardship at BYU, and has authored several scholarly papers on the topic. He finds ample scriptural support for his own pro-environment politics, which mesh nicely with his Mormon faith. The creation story, the LDS “law of consecration” (sharing goods with others, a la the old United Order) and especially the Word of Wisdom all speak to him of treading lightly on the earth.

“The Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat sparingly, to consume the fruits that are in season and to eat no more than is necessary,” Handley says. Because the beef industry is heavily dependent on land use and fuel to transport its products, “if we committed to eating 20 percent less meat, we can use less energy and create less pollution.”

Other comments that came from the Utah County discussion group:

    n
  • “The church greatly emphasizes the importance of the family. Time spent together in wild places enhances family relations.”
  • n
  • “The Mormon pioneers came here to stay. They didn’t come to just take and leave, like many of the prospector and trappers who passed through Utah. Understanding the need for stewardship is part of the Mormon way of life.”
  • n
  • “Stewardship means an accountability to God for all sentient beings, not an accumulation of material wealth. If we view the world as a supermarket, we are failing to live by Mormon doctrine.”
  • n
  • “I would like to hear someone speak about the importance of environmental stewardship at general conference.”

Heartened by the interest on this topic, Seed says SUWA will continue to hold similar discussions statewide. You can visit suwa.org for information and to read more comments from Mormons who believe in protecting the earth.

 

 
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Posted // August 19,2008 at 16:43 In my experience, I think that Bill Lines came closest to the truth. nnThe reason that many Mormons do not consider the environment in their daily activities is that they do not live for the here and now, but rather, the hereafter.nnMormons live for the return of Jesus (have been since 1830) and consequently, paradise on earth. Mormons believe that, regardless of what happens to the Earth now, it ultimately does not matter as God has promised to restore it to its former glory. nnThis Earth, to a Mormon, when considering the big Mormon picture, is not important. The Celestial Kingdom and finally, Godhood await. 2008-05-12 08:41:17.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Hayduke 32.97.110.142 DD99EFE7-14D1-13A2-9FA229A2D06951CC BCE789A2-14D1-13A2-9FB9EBF521EC5CA6 4077C1E8-0C7A-E995-000C504D66B21098 Wow, I live only 15 or so miles from the Miller Sports Park, and the only time I have seen it was when it was in construction. Is that pathetic or what? I had no idea the park was so big. nnGuess it’s time I jumped in my truck and took a gander at the Sports Park. 2008-08-19 18:53:17.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 204.13.129.81 DDA2773A-14D1-13A2-9FFCD1AA8DB4C45B 99199AF8-14D1-13A2-9F359C8C778A7688 DD9CE69F-14D1-13A2-9FFB8253FE91A3D6 Gotta add a write in for Rich D at Big Deluxe - Best Tattoo Artist!nnHe is the best in Utah & Needs to be Recognized! 2008-08-19 19:02:36.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 70.192.153.59 DDA8E77D-14D1-13A2-9F08AEE7CA819399 DD305D8E-14D1-13A2-9FC5A0C4602DE34F I think Shurtleff needs some time on the bench to heal his leg, and to focus his full attention on getting his name removed from the escort service emailing lists. I guess that means it’ time for an anybody but... vote. 2008-10-08 12:12:26.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duke Leto 63.167.171.20 DDA92F53-14D1-13A2-9FBCD3B97EB6D22E B9075B94-14D1-13A2-9FB8BF6AA98AD08A Cal says, Most interesting is how the article singles out Mormons leading the charge for the Proposition. Nice to know all the Mormons who bother to complain to SL Weekly about persecution know how to apply it themselves. Hypocrisy LDS style in rare form indeed.nnOpposing or promoting a Proposition on a ballot is not a form of persecution. nnI, for one, am impressed with the role played by the LDS Church in the California Proposition 8 initiative. It marks the church as a social and moral force in today’s society. The church’s efforts, as well as the efforts of others groups involved on both sides of the issue, ought to be lauded and not criticized simply because we might disagree with their stance.nnNor is it a form of hypocrisy for an institution such as the LDS Church to involve itself in an issue that it strongly promotes. If one reads the written statements made by the Church, one realizes that the church has been open about its position on the issue. What other organization has been more careful to clearly state its position in writing for all the world to consider? Furthermore, it has concentrated on the issues themselves, both in its actions and its written statements, without resorting to personal attacks on its opposition or name calling.nnTo me, at least, the way in which the LDS Church has conducted itself with respect to Proposition 8 stands as a model for all organizations involved in promoting or opposing issues put to the electorate for decision. 2008-10-08 12:12:44.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Robert Y. 71.35.203.6 DDAC1B73-14D1-13A2-9F61071C3C49DFDB A0CC56AE-14D1-13A2-9F241FE501074E21 County says Big Sky Coalition founder built home in floodwaynby ANTHONY QUIRINI - Ravalli RepublicnMay 12, 2008nnRavalli County is alleging that one of the founders of the Big Sky Coalition built his house in the floodway of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.nnCounty officials believe that Tom Robak’ house sits in the actual floodway, not just the floodplain, and that “significant” amounts of fill have been placed.nnPlacing fill and building in floodplains and floodways is strictly prohibited, and if the county is correct, it will require Robak to move the house.nnRobak is one of the founders of the Big Sky Coalition, whose Web site touts as “environmentalists with common sense.”nnDeputy Ravalli County Attorney Alex Beal wrote to Robak’ Attorney Dustin Chouinard saying,nn“As I hope I have conveyed above, these are very, very significant concerns ... The placement of a home in the floodway is of significant concern to everyone. Not only is there the great probability of the Robak house becoming inundated with flood waters, but there is a possibility the home could wash down stream and destroy other property.”nnRobak said he completed elevation studies and looked at floodplain maps before building his property.nn“We did the elevation study and it showed that the house, driveway and property is out of the floodplain,” Robak said. “They would like me to tear the house down because they say I raised the elevation of the house.”nnAccording to Robak, county officials came out to the building site to inspect where the house was being built three to four weeks into construction. Robak said he never heard from the county and then six months later they told him that the house was being built in the floodplain and floodway.nn“That’ really one of the big issues with me,” Robak said, adding that the house is his dream home. “At this stage of the game we’re sick about it. It’ taking a lot of energy.”nnAccording to county officials, placed fill may have altered elevation surveys.nn“The Ravalli County Floodplain and Environmental Health Offices have seen significant quantities of fill placed on Mr. Robak’ property, much of which appears to be in the actual floodway not just the floodplain,” Beal wrote.nnWith more-than-average snowpack in the high country, officials are predicting significant flooding this spring.nn“Floodplain violations have required houses to be moved in the past,” Ravalli County Floodplain Administer Laura Hendrix said, noting a home near the Conner Cutoff that the county moved recently.nnRobak is taking the county’ concerns seriously.nn“They are serious, they have done it in the past,” he said. “They got my attention... I guess it will eventually take a judge.”nnThis spring the county has issued two emergency floodplain permits so far. The permits allow citizens to build up banks or levies because of personal property damage from flooding.nnThis could be one of the worst flooding years in the Bitterroot Valley if proper conditions prevail. 2008-05-12 09:07:34.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Matthew Koehler 69.146.161.111 DDAC269A-14D1-13A2-9F0E7AA9AC3B2D72 B91085D1-14D1-13A2-9F0CDD130D5A8A69 4077C1E8-0C7A-E995-000C504D66B21098 I think tetsuo29’s idea has merit, but not necessarily because it is going to teach the non-Mormons anything. Non-Mormons are bludgeoned daily and/or weekly with the Mormon idea of normal social behavior.nnMost Mormons are raised heart and soul in their theology, and are exposed to nothing else. Therefore they simply cannot understand the point of view of the non Mormons.nnA column, like the one tetsuo29 describes, would hopefully give the Mormons who read SLWeekly a glimpse into the why behind the non-Mormon viewpoint. 2008-08-19 19:13:11.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 204.13.129.81 DDB1BD64-B771-5224-765EDD61DCB368BA CB9F51DA-A717-7F6A-3EA5F8A05D0430A6 Mike, what exactly is a negative bent?nSeems to me CW got it right and put KRCL in the bad light they CHOSE to be in by doing this whole thing so poorly. I was at the meeting and your number cruncher who KRCL paid a shit bag of money said most of the music will be scheduled.nIf you work at KRCL, you should be fully aware of how bad the management is... or you haven’t been there very long.nYou can put all the Billo Riley Spin on it that you want, but the CW article looks like it’s all fact. If it’s not, please enlighten us. 2008-02-02 22:08:08.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Scuse me while I... 71.195.238.177 DDB6E16E-D619-F311-CF4E5D0DF78F48A5 CB9F51DA-A717-7F6A-3EA5F8A05D0430A6 Thanks to the DJs who have been pouring out the goods every week. Doug got me ready on monday morning and Liz sent me partying by friday afternoon. I’ll miss the voices and personalities that make KRCL what it is. Let me know if their is an opening on the Board of Directors. 2008-02-02 22:13:45.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Jason 71.38.235.190 DDC81DA5-14D1-13A2-9FC903975673C3CB BCD0F027-14D1-13A2-9F2D8F192321328C 4077C1E8-0C7A-E995-000C504D66B21098 Not one person on this planet knows the mind of God. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either a liar, or delusional. nnEvery single holier-than-thou, so-called Christian who tries to tell you that they are right and you are wrong is in actuality defying a Commandant of Christ.nnMatthew Chapter 7, verses 1-5nnJudge Not, lest you be Judged in return. for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. nWhy do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ’Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? nYou hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. nAt Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan, Jesus was talking to the multitudes gathered there after hearing of His message and of His healings to beseech them to not become like the pharisees and hypocrites who think they are above sin.nnAnd in case you hypocritical Christians missed it, you are in no way free of sin in your own lives. Therefore you are in no way whatsoever QUALIFIED to tell someone else that they are nasty sinners and going to hell.nnAnother tip here: Matthew 7, v1-5 was a command from Christ, not a polite suggestion.nnYou, the Christian, may tell people that, in your opinion, what they are doing is wrong. But you cannot point a finger at them and say with any kind of authority, that they are sinners. The reason you cannot do that is because...... you. are. NOT. God.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 12,2008 at 10:44 Where did the logic stray?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 12,2008 at 10:36 what bigotry would that be?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 12,2008 at 10:24 So, Bad Mormons has changed names to come back as Prejudice. nnPrejudice/Bad Mormons: Do you find it difficult to try and point out another person’s supposed bigotry while airing our your own?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 12,2008 at 09:41 All states face challenges dealing with the environment.nNo other state has a Mormon population as large as Utah’s.nTo blame Utah’s non-unique situation on Mormon teachings etc is not supportable by fact.nDo you blame southern states’ enviromental problems on Baptists? Other states’ problems on Lutherans, Catholics or whomever is the dominant culture?nnThere is a faction in Utah that blames anything they do not like on Mormons. It is not a unique response, bigotry and prejudice are universal vices; only the targets change.nIn 1930 Germany it was Jews.nIn the Jim Crowe South it was African-Americans.nIn many parts of the country today it is Hispanic immigrants.nIn other times and places Catholics, Irish, Italians, Chinese etc etc have been the victims of bigotry and made scapegoats for anything and everything.nnDrawing generalizations about an entire group based on the limited number of interactions one individual has is prejudice and bigotry.nnWhat is unique in Utah is the level of hostility, bigotry andnlack of civility that seems to be acceptable.nnPick a post thread from any Salt Lake media organization that touches on Mormons; go thru it and replace each occurance of Mormon with your favorite group; Mexicans, blacks, Jews, Catholics etc; and see how it sounds. I suspect that no where else in the country would you find any other group so viciously malaigned.nnThis article would have been great had the aurthor simply told about the fine SUWA event.nPrefacing the actual substance of the article with a ramble thru her personal collection of Mormons are anti-environment trivia is pointless and reflects more on her than on the mass of Mormons she has never met but doesn’t mind indicting.nnIf bad Mormons’ response is predictable perhaps it is because most people, Mormon or not, find the relentless anti-Mormon framing of every issue wearying.nnDo writers from Utah ever go on to make it in the real world? I doubt the intellectually dishonest and lazy drivel they get away with here would pass muster many other places.

 

 
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