When I was a kid, I fully believed that “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Article of Faith 10). I’m not sure what I thought that meant, but it sounded good. It still sounds good, and if anything I hope for this more and more each day.
As I travel the earth, or wander around in my backyard, I marvel at the wonders of the earth. There are more than 10,000 species of birds on this earth. I’ve spent most of my life chasing them, but have still seen less than a quarter of them so far. Each one is a miracle. Other creatures bring me joy as well. I’ve seen whole galaxies spinning in the solemn stare of a box turtle. I’ve had humpback whales so close that I’ve felt their spray on my face. I’ve snorkeled on tropical coral reefs and with seagoing salmon in an Oregon stream. I’ve watched spiders spin webs more than 10 feet across in central Texas. I’ve thrilled at the sight of a woverine loping across a snow field in the Big Belt Mountains of Montana, and shuddered to stumble across a fresh steaming pile of grizzly bear scat while alone on a trail in the Northern Rockies. The world, as created by the Lord with the participation of millions of animal, plant, and other intelligences, is indeed wondrous and beautiful!
Though many of these species are increasingly threatened by our careless disregard, as President Young has counseled, helping these creatures is a part of my religion:
We should love the earth. We should love the works which God has made…Let me love the world as He loves it, to make it beautiful, and glorify the name of my Father in heaven…The very object of our existence here is to handle the temporal elements of this world and subdue the earth, multiplying those organisms of plants and animals God has designed shall dwell upon it. (Journal of Discourses 9:168)
What does it mean to multiply these plants and animals that God wants to dwell with us here? For me, this is part of the restoration of all things–we are invited to bring these animals back. To live on the earth in such a way that these other creatures can thrive here with us. To do this we may at times need to repent, to turn from following after other priorities that if unchecked can harm these creatures. And it isn’t enough to save them in a refuge or a zoo. We are invited to multiply them. To make it so they can flourish. So that they can have joy in their sphere.
What a wonderful vision that is! Millions of creatures, enjoying what joy they are capable of, alongside our own joyous existence. Perhaps our joy can’t be full unless theirs is full also. Unless we love them as their creator loves them. Only then will our earth be renewed, and it will be a paradise–a true temple and a fit abode for the Lord–once again!