Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Can Mormons be more green?

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

OTHER POSTS BY METTE HARRISON:

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.


 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

7 Comments

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  • And retrofit our old buildings that have leaky windows and insufficient insulation! I remember when they had to do asbestos abatement to many buildings back in the 1980s. It’s time for another overhaul, this time to make some of those old, drafty buildings more green!

  • Point 1 – despite all the posturing by interest groups, and claims of 97% consensus etc, the notion of anthropogenic climate change is still very hotly contested. Almost every part of the theory is contested, from whether co2 increases are anthropogenic (Southern Hemisphere co2 cannot be explained by anthropogenic output), whether co2 causes warming, the extent of such warming, and whether such warming would be harmful or may in fact be beneficial. In such a hotly contested field, I can’t see the church issuing a directive anytime soon, as whichever way they go is likely to cause people to think it is uninspired and leave. The church is not in the business of saving the planet anyway, it is in the business of saving souls.

    Points 3,4 & 5. People walk or ride bikes to church? That’s cute. I’ll remember them when I’m driving the 20 miles into church tomorrow. Very Utah-centric, but in the rest of the world, it’s more typical for people to be more spread out, so distance to chapels means non-car travel is often not feasible. Every ward I’ve been in already has limited car-pooling where elderly or those without their own transport would be collected. It often involved someone dropping their own family off at the chapel, then going to pick up others. In my experience most of those cars in the church carpark arrived full, because most families are the size of their car.

  • The scientific community has a broad consensus that climate change is real. I know it is fashionable in conservative circles who get their information from faux news to doubt and scoff. I think it is one of the great moral issues of our time and would love to see these suggestions implemented church wide. Unfortunately it would require leadership in Salt Lake to truly emphasis it in a more direct and sustained way. The suggestions are great and I will do my part!

  • Making energy less affordable and spending trillions on a movement that constantly tells us there’s nothing we can do, we’re doomed…? No thanks. Wind turbines are ridiculously expensive, require high polluting chemicals to extract the 1 ton of earth metals each one is required to use (lookup cities in China where people have lost teeth and hair to huge lakes of sewage), kill God’s animals, turn mountain tops, fields, rolling hills into industrial centers.

    Solar panels are no better. Expensive panels that have a short lifespan, steal taxpayer’s money, work half the time they’re needed. It’s a scam.

    It’s all a scam. Imagine what we could with all that money, TRILLIONS of money stolen from people and funneled into these green, flawed, nightmares, if we stopped worrying so much about this temporary planet and focused our efforts on humanitarian causes instead.

    “Science is settled” explains the hypocrisy and natural mind of the movement.

    Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

    Strange how those that speak so much about this green movement speak little to nothing about God.

  • What moral issue? To spend so much of my time worrying about whether or not I’ve “done my part” to fix a terrestrial planet or preach the gospel?

    The great moral issue of our time is NOT about our carbon footprint but about distractions in this life keeping us from the gospel of Christ.

    And no, he never once gave his followers a discourse on camel dung due to overpopulation.

  • That is why religious folks like you are not assisting with the global warming problem. You think everything will be solved in the next life. Sorry! This is the life we need to be concerned about. We need to focus on real problems such as man made global warming, not did some person in India hear the mormon message.

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