Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

My introduction

The rugged coastline between Cape d'Or and Spencer's Island in July 2009.

As my first post for LDS Earth Stewardship I thought I might explore how I came to think of myself as a ‘steward of the Earth’ and how that relates to my being a latter-day saint.  My upbringing was hardly radical, I was raised by devout converts to the church who gave me a sound spiritual footing.  Being good parents they also gave me an awareness and respect for the world around me.  “Don’t litter” and “Don’t carve your name into a tree”, were taught to me in terms of respect for God’s creation.  This respect was re-enforced by many memorable family camping trips and ‘walks in the woods’ where we picked berries, chewed spruce gum and learned to identify various flora and fauna.

Aside from this, I don’t recall being taught anything about eco-systems, conservation or sustainability; the broader topics.  Similarly, my involvement in Scouting, through the Church, taught me many outdoor skills but tended to leave them outdoors.  We always returned home as if we were exiting the wilderness.

Even as a young person, I was never comfortable with the dominant man/nature dichotomy.  I always wondered why ‘pure nature’ would need to be untouched by man.  As I grew older I discovered the post Enlightenment notions of ‘systems thinking’, the emerging field of how everything is connected.

In many ways I attribute this innate holistic sensibility to my latter-day saint faith.  Knowing what we know about mankind’s divine purpose is the key to understanding how we aught to interact with God’s Earth.  He has placed us here as a unique part of creation not simply as observers or consumers of it, but as stewards.  If we are to progress beyond this life (or even as a society) we must learn the application of this.

Our’s is a Faith that values physical as much as spiritual, seeks connections that bind generations of the past to those of the future and teaches home-centred living.  Within the teachings of the Gospel we are given a whole understanding of life, rather than a simple religious dogma.  Earth stewardship is, as I understand it, another part of this whole – about the wise and appropriate interplay between mankind and the Lord’s creations over which He has given us charge.

  • Karmen says:

    Very nice introduction, Steve.  For a long time I have been disturbed by those in our Faith who feel that it’s okay to go out and trash, abuse and corrupt the physical world we live in.  I feel that when we exhibit a lack of love for God’s creation through word or deed we are inviting a “pruning.”

  • Steve Brogan says:

    Thanks! I don’t know if there are any sociological studies about the general attitude of LDS people vs the average person toward the environment, but I would guess we mirror the non-LDS population fairly well.  Some are hostile, most are passive and a few are quite keen.

    I think that Earth Stewardship is a fairly complex issue only because it is so broad, as such, the only appropriate ‘meta approach’ is, in fact, love.  Thus, making the Gospel the ideal lens through which to view individual environmental issues. 

    Of course, the Lord’s ways is never the ‘easy’ way.  As you say, taking the easy way typically results in some course correction.  As far as I understand it, that’s one of the primary messages of the Old Testament.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great introduction Steve. I especially love the idea of “home-centred” living–it’s a great description of my life now as a stay-at-home mom with young children. As we care for our homes in responsible, sustainable ways, we will naturally have a good effect on our local environment.