When questions are asked about the conservation and preservation of the Earth, many members of the LDS Church rely on the belief that the earth will be miraculously healed at the time of the Lord's Second Coming. For many this justifies a careless attitude toward nature. They shrug at the notion of drilling in ANWR or the plight of the planet due to global warming. If we examined some of our core beliefs about our relationship to God and His creations, however, we would quickly see that as Latter Day Saints we have a clear responsibility to be stewards of the environment.
We believe that Jehovah created the earth. 1 Col 1:16 says that, "by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things by Him and for Him." Because the earth was created by Jesus Christ, it is a testament of his divinity. Alma taught this to Korihor whe he said, "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it." Many have felt the whisperings of the Spirit when they are surrounded by God's creations. Every time I go hiking I am amazed a the complexity and beauty of the earth, and it is a powerful witness of the Creator. Joseph F. Smith taught that "Men cannot worship the Creator and look with indifference upon his [creations.] Love of nature is akin to love of God." He also taught that "Nature helps us to see and understand God. To all His creations we owe an allegiance of service and profound admiration."
When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He commanded them to "be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." This dominion was given to man, not taken, and it is not license for unrighteous dominion. The warning of D&C 121 is very apparent in the way man has exploited the earth, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." Rather than viewing the environment as subject to us, we should view ourselves as stewards of God's creations. In D&C 104:13, the Lord said, "It is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures." George Handley points out that "it is because we are at the center of God's creation and because we are given stewardship over the earth that we are held moraly responsible and accountable to God for our interactions with all living things." The earth and all living things were created for divinely appointed purposes and our responsibility is to ensure that those purposes are fulfilled.
The Lord promised us, as stewards of the Earth, that as long as we are wise and righteous, there will always be enough resources. In D&C 104:17, the Lord says, "The earth is full, and there is enough to spare; yea I prepared all things." In D&C 59:16-20, the Lord says,
16 Verily I say, that insasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth (petroleum?), whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth Go that he has given all things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
As long as we are prudent and do not overexploit our resources, the Lord has given the fulness of the earth to us. However, if we condone greed and gluttony, we risk losing those blessings.
We do believe that the Earth will receive its paradisiacal glory in the millennium. This does not mean that when the Lord comes again He will simply fix all the problems we have created. We must avoid the "myths of millennial cleanup" which justify inertia and inaction. We can't assume the planet will be miraculously restored. We know that it will be renewed, but we dont' know if that renewal will be automatic or instantaneous. It might require as much as careful, dedicated work as the original planting of the Garden of Eden. We might spend as much as time gardening as we will doing temple work. Brigham Young taught that restoring the earth to a pristine condition is what the Lord requires of the Latter Day Saints. He also taught that only after the Saints had learned to live in harmony as stewards one with another and with the earth could they expect to inherit it from the Lord who owns it. We might as well get a move on it.
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