Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Annual Board Retreat Report

Susan Soleil of Utah Interfaith Power and Light leading our brainstorming session about our future objectives.

Susan Soleil of Utah Interfaith Power and Light leading our brainstorming session about our future objectives.

The 2014 LDS Earth Stewardship retreat convened in Provo on February 1, when almost twenty supporters gathered in person and through the internet to choose new officers, take stock of 2013, and refine our vision for the coming five years.

Welcome of New Board Members and Selection of Officers

Seven new Board members were elected in the fall to serve two-year terms, accompanying four members in the second year of their terms. The newly-elected members are Brigham Daniels, Heather Belnap Jensen, Laura Lawrence, Michaelann Gardner, Peter Ashcroft, Philip Carlson, and Soren Simonsen. The second-year members are George Handley, Andy Carman, Rachel Whipple, and Stephanie Goodman-Chica. The Board chose the following officers for 2014.

  • Chair:                                        Rachel Whipple
  • Co-Chair:                                 Andy Carman
  • Executive Secretary:              Soren Simonsen
  • Secretary:                                 George Handley
  • Treasurer:                                Michaelann Gardner

2013 Highlights

Highlights of 2013 included the following.

501(c)3 Application: We are all very grateful to Scott Hansen for his pro-bono work and in-kind donations, as well as to Soren for shepherding the application process. In addition to thanking Scott, we will see that we provide him with any documentation necessary for tax purposes.

Networking: Steady increases in LDS earth Stewardship Facebook likes and people joining the Facebook group are one measure of our progress. Events have generally been well-attended, demonstrating that we are filling a need. One of our top priorities for 2014 will be to provide more opportunities for service and in-person gatherings.

Church statement on Environmental Stewardship: Elder Nash’s well-received University of Utah talk was a precursor to the debut of the Church’s new stewardship page later in the year. LDS Earth Stewardship will continue to promote the new Church web page in order to maximize its impact.

  • Church starting to speak up about Air Quality issue in Utah.

Membership and Communications: Communications mechanisms are currently somewhat confusing with a Facebook page, a Facebook group, and a Google group in addition to our official membership list. Many people are liking us on Facebook and joining the Facebook group, but those actions tell us little about demographics and values. That’s one reason that it’s so important to persuade our Facebook followers and those on our Google mailing list to formally join LDS Earth Stewardship. (Membership is free, and takes only a minute.) Joining LDS Earth Stewardship allows people to tell us more about themselves, where they live, and what’s important to them. The Board decided to launch a renewed membership push in 2014. One promising suggestion to publicize the group and incentivize membership will be a T-shirt design contest.

The group decided to use the official member e-mail list to communicate with to our members, and to consider phasing out the Google group altogether if it is redundant and not being used. Similarly, there is some concern that our Facebook page, alongside our Facebook group, might confuse people. Frequent postings to the Facebook group reflect the importance of the group to the community, but important messages are frequently buried. Administrators will begin pinning important posts to the top of the Facebook group to keep them visible.

Financial Report: LDS Earth Stewardship currently has a balance of approximately $1,400 (minus the transaction application to IRS). State Incorporation also required a fee that has been paid. We have a solid financial foundation, with some contributors making ongoing donations through PayPal.

Peter Ashcroft leading discussion

Peter Ashcroft leading discussion

Five Year Vision

A central purpose of our retreat was to establish goals for 2014, goal-setting that occurred in the context of a discussion of our five-year vision. Retreat attendees separated into two parallel discussion groups to discuss our five year vision under the direction of Susan Soleil. The first group had an institutional focus, while the second had a grassroots focus.

Institutional Engagement: The institutional engagement discussion identified four areas of outreach: political, the Church, higher education, and unofficial LDS publications.

Political

  • LDS earth Stewardship focuses on values, rather than politics. We should act as bridge-builders in politics by reminding people of values without necessarily dictating specific political actions. In five years we would like to be seen as a resource for other groups to build bridges.
  • We can create an information packet to send to LDS political leaders at the Federal and State level, encouraging them to join LDS Earth Stewardship. The invitation would be nonpartisan, including politically diverse high profile leaders such as Harry Reid and Mitt Romney.
  • Utilize the BYU Political Affairs Society to build relationships.

The Church

  • It would be great to have an event in conjunction with General Conference, a spiritual event, with a strong connection to the Church. One possibility would be to invite Elder Holland to speak.
  • Take every chance to cultivate relationships with Church leaders at all levels. We can also submit articles to official Church magazines.

Higher Education

  • Utah State University will host a Religion and the Environment Conference later this year with Phil Barlow. There is general agreement that involvement with higher education is important, and that we should pursue opportunities to be involved with this conference.

Unofficial LDS Publications

  • We will explore submitting articles to unofficial LDS publications such as This People and Meridian.

Grassroots Engagement: Grassroots engagement addresses two challenges: enlarging our audience, and refining  our message. The grassroots engagement discussion, identified several potential actions we can take in the coming year.

Current members commit to invite people to join the group

  • Pass-along cards, T-shirts, Posters, Flyers, Farmers Markets, etc.

More activities and promotional materials

  • Try for once a month events. Cottage meetings. Mormon Earth Day Rally. Bi-Annual Symposiums near General Conference.

Online Presence and Other Communications

  • Move the website to the next level. Continue to develop the blog. Increase Facebook presence. Linked-In.
  • Create templates so that ideas developed in one location can be propagated. For example, Walking to Zion campaign (everybody walks to church where possible). 5th Sunday Meeting Template.
  • Stewardship Merit Badge, Girls Camp activities

The retreat discussions have provided us with an exciting list of immediate and distant objectives; the real challenge will be turn these good ideas into actions. Those of us who gathered at the retreat recognized that we were acting on behalf of a larger community of supporters, supporters with whom we look forward to working as we implement these plans in 2014.

Board members skyping in on laptop while a very young LDS Earth Steward learns with her father, Soren Simonsen.

Board members skyping in on laptop while a very young LDS Earth Steward learns with her father, Soren Simonsen.