Can Mormons be more green?

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A guest post by Mette Harrison

Mormon scripture repeatedly reminds us that we are to be wise stewards over the earth. The prophet Mormon warns us about our day, when there shall be “great pollutions upon the face of the earth” (Mormon 8:31) and also that we are polluting the church of God with our desire for wealth and for substance, and for fine clothing and adornment of our churches (Mormon 8:36-38).

The Doctrine and Covenants have frequent references to our stewardship over the earth, in particular D&C 49:19–21, which reads:

19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

So why is it that so many Mormons seem all too eager to ignore global warming science, to be more concerned with capitalism than conservationism? I could also ask why it is that my personal choice to be a vegetarian is so often mocked or actively attacked, despite the fact that the Word of Wisdom clearly says that we are to eat meat “sparingly.”

I feel strongly that we Mormons as a group need to do a better job of caring for the earth, as we have been called to do by God himself.

The LDS Church has made some encouraging moves in this area. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a great new essay up at lds.org about environmentalism and Mormonism (see here). I’ve been glad to see the church moving toward more environmentally friendly cleaning products that are in the buildings for members to use when they are cleaning on Saturdays. As well, at least a few of the church’s newest ward chapels and other buildings have been LEED-certified.

But here are some things I believe we as a church could do a better job at:

  1.     Issue a statement on global climate change. Encourage members to see this as our responsibility and within our power to change. Pray for God’s help to find solutions.
  2.     Add recycling stations (particularly in the library) for paper. While we’re at it, let’s eliminate crafty activities that don’t reuse materials or handouts in classes that will add to landfills. And let’s encourage rather than discourage electronic scriptures and lessons.
  3.     Place bike racks outside the building to encourage bike riding to and from church. Also, possibly bike riding groups for those who live outside of Utah and are many miles from church.
  4.     Position a shoe rack at the doors for people who walk to church and need to change shoes. (Women, in particular, find it difficult to walk to church wearing high heels—but we could get rid of that expectation, as well.)
  5.     Direct members to carpool to and from activities. When I owned a van, I found it very difficult to get other church members to share for various reasons (convenience but perhaps also pride). I think the church could mandate all seats being filled farily easily.
  6.     Hold church swaps for clothing and other items that might otherwise end up in the landfill. This could be particularly useful for scout shirts and Sunday clothing.
  7. Encourage more visits to local watersheds to hear about how to water appropriately and what local plants should be added to our lawns.
  8.     Hold ward competitions to get electrical usage down in households across Mormon neighborhoods. Turn out lights, computers, and the furnace/AC when not in use.
  9. Place more efficient toilets and water faucets in church bathrooms.
  10.  Eat our food storage instead of letting it rot. We are very good at gathering food storage, but I see less effort to encourage people to be cycling through it.

If you are in the leadership of a ward, you can probably start doing many of these things on your own. This isn’t about politics, or it doesn’t need to be. This is about stewardship over the earth and using our resources wisely, with a mindfulness that God has given them to us and that we are not to be wasteful or we will be subject to God’s own consequences.

This should all be done in the spirit of love and joy in the gift of the earth, and without judgment to neighbors who are struggling to see the ways in which they can improve. We should be an example in being green—not only to Mormons, but to non-Mormons, as well.


Mette Ivie Harrison

(courtesy of Mette Harrison)

Mette Ivie Harrison

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Mette Harrison is a regular guest blogger at Flunking Sainthood and also at the Huffington Post. She is the author of many acclaimed novels, most recently the Linda Wallheim mysteries The Bishop’s Wife and His Right Hand.