Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Scriptural Basis For Mormon Environmentalism

As a Mormon and an environmentalist I believe that ensuring healthy air, water, and ecosystems is our moral and religious duty.  My own Mormon environmentalism is based on three important principles found in the scriptures.

First, all of creation is imbued with a soul, and thus has value.  We are taught that all things, both animate and inanimate, were created “spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth” (Moses 3:5), therefore they all have a “living soul” (Moses 3:9), and the “worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).  We are even taught that our mother earth herself has a soul and is conscious of our “filthiness”  (Moses 7:48).

Second, all of creation is meant to bear record of God.  The prophet Alma taught that “the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it . . . do witness that there is a Supreme Creator”  (Alma 30:44).  The Lord taught Adam from the beginning that “all things bear record of [Him],” including “things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth” (Moses 6:63).

Third, polluting the earth is a sin.  In Moroni’s vision of our day he gave many examples of the types of sins we would commit.  He mentions wars, murders, robbing, and lying.  In that list he notes that another sign of moral decay will be “great pollutions upon the face of the earth” (Mormon 8:31).

Given these principles, I think it is sad that members of the church are not generally the strongest voices in protecting our environment.  We put up with polluted and unhealthy air and water in order to protect corporations, we have much stronger voices for the slaughter of wolves, bears, coyotes, and cougars than for finding ways to peacefully coexist with wildlife, and we treat our last few truly wild places as commodities for our enjoyment rather than as having intrinsic value worth protecting at all costs.

I believe we have lost touch with the spiritual aspect of creation in our errant quest for perpetual economic expansion.  In our rush to "subdue" and exercise "dominion" over the earth we have forgotten that we are stewards only and will be held accountable for our stewardship.  When we report how we took care of the world which we were given will we be able to say we cared for it, nourished it, and protected it?  Or will we have nothing to show but a polluted world whose plant and animal life we destroyed for temporal gain?


Joseph said...

Some good thoughts. I think part of the problem with members of the LDS faith standing up for the earth more is that while we have scriptures that were revealed through Joseph Smith, we also have religious practices from the traditions of men that sometimes trample over those revelations.

One of those traditions of men is that when God created the earth, he did it by himself and just said it, and there it was. This makes the earth seem invincible.

In her article "The Book of Enoch and Cosmic Sin," the Methodist Preacher Margaret Barker points out a different version of creation that may be older than the one in the Biblical Genesis(Margaret Barker. "The Book of Enoch and cosmic sin. " The Ecologist 1 Jan. 2000. Or it looks like copyright may have been sidestepped here: http://jbburnett.com/resources/barker/barker_enoch&cosmic-sin.pdf). In the Book of Enoch version, the earth was organized out of chaos and stabilized. It was work.

Interestingly enough, through Joseph Smith we have a translation of the Book of Abraham. In that book, we learn that the Gods (I think it should have been Gods and Goddesses) had to work to organize the earth: Abraham 4:1 "...And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth."

This really changes everything (and not just strict notions of monotheism). Now that we know that the earth took work and care to organize, we also know that work and care can be undone. The earth is not invincible.

So to summarize, since the earth took time and care to organize, it is reasonable to conclude that "dominion" really is stewardship as Jacob S. pointed out, and that we should keep up the work of caring for the earth that began at her creation.

Jacob S. said...

Thanks, Joseph, that is spot on. To go along with the rejection of creation ex nihilo and the work put into this earth, remember as well that we consider the Earth to be our future celestial kingdom, and that we expect it to one day be returned to its "paradisiacal glory." Are we hastening that along or are we an impediment? Right now, the latter I think.