That We May Be One


This address was given by Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency during the annual Fall Forum for LDS Earth Stewardship on October 10, 2019. Read about the event here.

Sister Sharon EubankIt’s a pleasure to be in this White Chapel in Salt Lake City. I was sitting in the front row on this beautiful hand-carved bench and feeling what it’s like when we’re not removed from the process of how a thing gets made. Wood was cut and split and carved to make this chapel, and you can feel it when you’re here. I feel that way about every piece of creation, whether it is a tree growing out of a patch of soil or whether it is fulfilling the measure of its creation as a pew. I feel that today, and I want to feel it more than I do. 

This evening, I thought I would share what I consider to be the intersection between humanitarian work—the subject I live and breathe every single day—and earth stewardship, which all of us here tonight care so much about. The conversations on this topic have become polarized, easily devolving into politics represented by two cable channels. That is a shame. What is useful to me would be to find new ways of discussing the subjects of how to protect and care for the planet where we live in ways many more people can engage with. For example, Dr. Paul Cox at Brigham Young University has created a biographical documentary which provides a new framework to talk about environmental issues in terms of someone’s life story. I think we need different frameworks because the old frameworks don’t work; they just polarize the room and we no longer have the ability to speak about things that we want to, things that are moderate, and that utilize the foundations we have in common. I hope to do some of that tonight. 

Imagine you are Joseph Smith in 1830. You have just gone to all the effort to publish the Book of Mormon and officially incorporate the Church. You have a steady stream of people coming to your farm, wanting to see the gold plates or to meet a prophet of God or to ask questions about the Church. You’ve sent out missionaries, including your brothers, and people are starting to respond, get baptized, and join the Church. You know from prophetic vision that the gospel has to fill the whole earth because it is preparatory for the second coming of Jesus Christ. So, once you have established the Church in 1830, what would you do next? Joseph decides to translate the Old Testament—and I ask myself, “Wow! That’s the first thing you decide to do?” He starts with Genesis, and we get the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price from this retranslation or visionary rewrite of the beginning chapters of the Old Testament. 

Why was that the first thing Joseph did? Why was that the first thing the Lord inspired him to do in the restoration process after the Church was organized? I believe that the experiences of Moses and of Enoch were of such value to the latter-day mission of this Church that it was critical for us to have the 8 chapters of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Later this evening I will read from Moses 7, because I think it has so much to do with where we are today. 

I recently prepared a short presentation for the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency about global migration and displacement, and I want to share a few slides with you because there are some statistics here that help us envision the scope of what is currently happening. There are 244 million1 migrants who have left their home country and gone to live someplace else. 70.8 million2 people (inside their own countries or outside) are forcibly displaced: they didn’t want to leave, but war, violence, environmental pressures, or persecution forced their departure. 13.6 million3 of those forcible displacements were new in 2018. The scope of what we are seeing with displacement has not been seen since World War II.4 We get used to hearing these statistics because news and political opinion makers keep talking about them, but the scope of what is happening—the disruption to human behavior, human economies, and human families—is unprecedented. This is why you will hear United Nations officials groping for words to express the unusualness of what is going on. The world is trying to respond to five or six refugee crises at the same time, which has never happened before. 5

People are leaving their homes because their survival as a family is threatened. These threats center on economic pressures, socio-political burdens, and environmental factors. Economic and employment opportunities determine your ability to provide for yourself or your family. Socio-political factors that pressure people to relocate can include warfare or the threat of conflict, slavery or human trafficking, and ethnic, religious, racial, or cultural persecution. The threats of corruption and exploitation are compounded along the dangerous journey of relocation. Simply wanting economic opportunity in the United States isn’t enough of a draw to drive most families to take on such risk. Many of them are fleeing violence and crime, often perpetrated by powerful gangs. Families are facing terrible choices. A gang member will say to a little 10 year old girl, “I want you to be my girlfriend.” Or they'll say to a 9 year old boy, “Come and work for me.” If they don't comply, then the family is burned out of their house or people disappear. “You don’t migrate now in search of the American dream,” these families say, “You go for your life.”6 Sadly, we're seeing a great deal more of this than we have in the past. 

In addition to the pressures I’m describing, there are the environmental factors. There are longer-term environmental changes happening that increase displacement. For me, whether we agree on the causes of the environmental changes, is almost beside the point. The loss or decreased productivity of farmland is driving five- and six-generation families off of their lands. Rising seas mean water scarcity from saltwater intrusion is a problem along many coastal regions. This is affecting places like New Jersey, New York, and Amsterdam, but it is most troublesome in the Pacific, where saltwater intrusion is affecting agriculture in a major way. The populations at risk from rising sea levels are high density populations. For example, the Mekong Delta is one of the most populated places in the world and is at risk for major sea intrusion over the next 15 to 20 years.7 People all along the coast of India and across the South Pacific are already being affected by rising seas. In addition to saltwater intrusion and loss of farmland, droughts are getting more severe. Now, I come from a weather family and they can get jiggy about weather extremes, but we really are seeing stronger hurricanes, more intense flooding, and rain that doesn't come for a long time and when it does come, there’s a damaging downpour.8 For example, there have always been cyclical droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, but they are lasting longer and are more intense. These extreme weather patterns are driving a large segment of the migration we are seeing. A New York Times article entitled “Heat, Hunger, and War Force Africans Onto a ‘Road on Fire’” explains how African migrants cross the dangerous Sahara Desert to get up to Libya or Tunisia for a chance at taking a leaky boat across the water to land on the shores of Europe for the chance of being admitted somewhere for asylum.9 No one makes that perilous journey lightly.

There are severe humanitarian implications in these journeys. As people move from one place to another, unlimited need bumps up against finite resources. This is what the United Nations is grappling with: they don't have the resources to deal with the pressures the way they had in the past. They are looking for new sources of funding and new people who will, in a grassroots kind of way, get involved in ways that are new. People are forced to move, and in transit they are suffering violence and death in ways make it hard for me to sleep at night. These situations aren't resolved in one or two years. The Syrian conflict, for example, is going into its eighth year, with increasing conflict outside its borders. 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced outside Syria’s borders. Many more are displaced within Syria. Millions have relocated—enough that a quarter of the population in Jordan and third of the population in Lebanon are now refugees from neighboring conflicts. Think of the pressures this migration exerts on the host countries’ water supplies, infrastructure, sanitation, education system and in many other ways. Their infrastructure was not built to anticipate that the national population would jump by 25% in just a year or two.

Protracted situations mean long-term needs must be considered. While sometimes there are opportunities for people to return home and rebuild their communities, there are devastating cases that don’t end with that option. Some of the areas recently liberated from Islamic State terrorists, such as Mosul, are a good example. What used to be the second largest city in Iraq was made largely uninhabitable by the Islamic State. Facing an advancing army, its soldiers poisoned every water source, booby-trapped every hospital, cut every copper wire, smashed everything that was technical, and generally ensured that Mosul’s infrastructure could not be used again in any way. To those returning to rebuild, they will have to start from the Stone Age to build up an ancient city again. Many will never be able to return in their lifetime. Their situations highlight the necessity of integrating many displaced people into their host communities for long periods of time. I think I read statistics yesterday that said only 97,000 of the 70 million people have been resettled into permanent situations in the West, specifically within the United States or Europe. Most of them are still living in temporary communities, trying to figure out, “How do I get into school? How do I get along in social settings where I speak a different language? I'm from a different place and belong to a different religion, will I be accepted?” This is vividly seen in a Southeast Asia situation where a Muslim minority was expelled largely because of their faith. They are not wanted over the border where they are temporarily staying, and are not welcome to return to their home communities where they have lived for generations. Long term solutions must be found before a generation is lost to scarcity and poverty.

However difficult and intractable these situations can be, opportunities are tremendous for personal service by individuals. President Nelson in this recent General Conference encouraged us to find ways to live our personal religion, to show that we believe in God the Eternal Father and in the brotherhood of man by trying to keep the two great commandments—to love God and to love our neighbor.10 The opportunity is ripe for each one of us to take a cause that we care about and do something helpful that we have not been doing. I believe it will be individuals and families trying to keep the two great commandments that will move this world forward toward the second coming. 

I am always thinking about addressing the root causes of displacement, and one of those root causes is environmental degradation. The poor feel the effects first and perhaps most keenly, but these are pressures that affect us all. So, when I got this invitation from Rebecca, I said, “Yes! I want to come talk about that, and I want to come talk about it with people who feel passionately about action.” So, I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you.

Let me now read a few verses out of Moses 7, and I want you to think about what this vision would mean if it were happening to you: 

And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? 

And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth? 

And the Lord said: . . . I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity; whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall; wherefore, blessed are they of whom I have spoken, for they shall come forth with songs of everlasting joy. 

And it came to pass that Enoch cried unto the Lord, saying: When the Son of Man cometh in the flesh, shall the earth rest? I pray thee, show me these things.

And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah; 

And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; . . . that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. 

And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other;

And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.

. . . And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.11

As a Relief Society leader, I think how we--Relief Societies and Elders Quorums--are charged with the work of salvation; we share the stewardship of preparing the earth and its people to create this state of Zion, defined as: one heart, one mind, dwelling in righteousness, and no poor among us. Now what does creating Zion and being of one heart and one mind have to do with caring for the earth? I don't have the answer to this, I'm sincerely asking you. I want to think about this question. What is the linkage? Rebecca [director of LDS Earth Stewardship] mentioned earlier that some people will say, “Isn't there something more important to do? Shouldn't we be caring for the poor versus caring for the Earth?” And my question is, are they not linked so inextricably that we can't do one without caring for the other?

While you're thinking about that, I want to show some photos and quotes—and I think these will be meaningful because I just saw that a group from LDS Earth Stewardship was down in Zion National Park for a service project. Casey Jones, the assistant director of Outreach and Development at Zion National Park, sent me some stories I thought I would share with you. As I read them, think about these quotes not as if they're about Zion National Park but as if they're about the actual Zion. 

First is a photo I took of the Great Salt Lake from the western side of Antelope Island. I can see this island from my house and when the sun is setting behind it that’s pretty much Zion to me. 

Isaac Behunin was a pioneer. He built a log cabin and started a farm exactly where Zion's Lodge sits today. At some point, he was reading the Bible and came across Isaiah 2:2, which reads, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Behunin had lived through the persecutions of Nauvoo of being driven from place to place, and this home, this canyon, this last haven, felt like his Zion. Among God's towering temples, he found refuge and called it Zion—so that's where the park got its name. (Brigham Young didn't like the name because he wanted something else, but when he finally went down there and saw it, he agreed to call it Zion.) Behunin’s quote reads, “A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as he can in any man-made church; this is Zion.”12

We have a physical reaction when we are in nature. Sometimes it's overwhelmingly strong when we are in a place like Zion National Park, or putting our hands in the soil, or even riding a bike out on a bike path (thanks to our friend Sarah Bateman in Utah County). When we are out in nature, we feel the spirit of it. I believe the spirit comes from the obedience of Creation. All of nature—the rocks, the mountains, the ocean—will line up at the command of God, and will rearrange itself in whatever way He directs. We are the only beings to whom He has given full agency to choose what we do. So, when we are in nature, we feel the obedience of it to its Creator, and it touches us; we feel it in our hearts.

The second person I want to tell you about is Frederick Dellenbaugh. He was with Major John Wesley Powell and Jacob Hamblin on the second expedition to explore the Colorado River, traveling in canoes. As they went through Zion, Dellenbaugh was blown away by what he was seeing. He vowed to return, and he followed through 27 years after the expedition. In 1903, he gathered up his paints, got a horse, and spent the entire spring, summer, and fall going through what is now Zion National Park and painting. In 1904, at the World's Fair in St Louis, he exhibited some of these paintings. People didn't think the scenery was real. They thought it was fake! Nonetheless, Dellenbaugh’s paintings and an article he authored in Scribner’s Magazine, were a significant influence on President Taft’s decision to declare Mukuntuweap National Monument, which was later renamed Zion. This quote is from that Scribner Magazine article: 

“Away below, sage-covered slopes extend to the distant green of Virgin City, overshadowed by the towering magnificence of the Great Temple, standing unique, sublime, adamantine. One hardly knows just what to think of it. Never before has such a naked mountain of rock entered into our minds! Without a shred of disguise its transcendent form rises preeminent. There is almost nothing to compare to it—Niagara has the beauty of energy; the Grand Canyon, of immensity; the Yellowstone, of singularity ; the Yosemite, of altitude; the ocean, of power; this Great Temple, of eternity— . . . Storm, night, the stars, the sun and moon, the elements, alone hold communion with that pristine crest. . . . in all that wondrous expanse of magnificent precipices we hear no sound save our own voices and the whisper of the wind that comes and goes, breathing with the round of centuries. . . . The whole marvellous landscape circled around us now in one immense sweep, weird and wild to the last degree, with apparently no human life but ours within the vast radius of our vision. Mountain, canyon, cliff, pinnacle, valley, and temple stood forth, naked as in those first hours when lifted out of the enveloping seas; a wonderful, an appalling wilderness, of which Little Zion, the Opalescent Valley, is the heart and culmination.” 13

He was moved; those are beautiful words.

Two final quotes. One is from Elder Stephen Richards. This comes from a general conference report in 1940, published in the Improvement Era. He is speaking of Zion National Park but think about it as if it is the real Zion: “[I]t is a sermon—inspiring, exalting, lifting man from the baser things in life to the nobler. . . . His vision is enlarged, his sympathies are broadened, his love of his fellow-men is deepened and his trust in God and the universe is supreme. He is made a better man.”14

The last is from President Russell M. Nelson. “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another.”15

I’ve probably read too much, but expressed in these literary and prophetic words is the spirit we feel when we are in nature. It makes us better people; it raises and lifts our spirits so that we treat ourselves and our fellow beings differently. Going back to Moses, recall how Jesus said, “I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity”.16 In the same chapter, I find it very interesting that it says about Enoch: 

“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity.” 17

His heart swelled wide as eternity. My question is: if Jesus Christ is the King of Zion and as broad as eternity, and Enoch—when he was in the presence of Jesus—felt so much compassion for the earth and its inhabitants that his own heart swelled as wide as eternity, then what would it take for each of us to have our hearts swell as wide as eternity? What vision would encompass us enough so that we could truly have one heart and one mind and dwell in righteousness and have no poor among us? 

I ask you seriously and thoughtfully to consider the question: what does Zion have to do with stewardship of the Earth? I will volunteer to come back and listen to a discussion or a panel or anything you want to organize at some future time if you will think about the questions I am asking. I want to hear from you, not as an assignment but because I care so deeply about the potential answers.

First question: When we waste what others desperately need, what are the ramifications to our physical hearts and our unity? This is a difficult question for people who live in what we call First World countries because it's almost impossible not to waste things. Yet our Lord and God, as the Creator, wastes nothing; His system has no waste. When we waste what others desperately need, what does that do to the fabric that stretches between us as human beings?

Second question: I told you earlier a bit about why I think we feel the spirit of God in His creations. In our own creations, what do other people feel? We honored Sarah Bateman with an award this evening because of some of her unique creations and how they make us feel. When we look at our own creations or the creations we are a part of, how do we feel? What feelings flow from what we are creating?

And the third question: What would move our hearts? How could we frame the discussion so that we would stop having the same unsuccessful conversation over and over again? What would move our hearts to swell as wide as eternity so that we would act, we would use our will, we would do something new for the benefit of humankind?

If you will indulge me—you are all as good as a choir in this building. There is no piano and I don't play the organ but, as my closing testimony, would you sing a capella with me these three great verses of “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah”? Pour your heart into it, and we can lift the roof off of this chapel.


1. Guide us, O thou great Jehovah,

    Guide us to the promised land.

    We are weak, but thou art able;

    Hold us with thy pow'rful hand.

    Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,

    Feed us till the Savior comes, 

    Feed us till the Savior comes.


2. Open, Jesus, Zion's fountains;

    Let her richest blessings come.

    Let the fiery, cloudy pillar

    Guard us to this holy home.

    Great Redeemer, Great Redeemer,

    Bring, oh, bring the welcome day, 

    Bring, oh, bring the welcome day!


3. When the earth begins to tremble,

    Bid our fearful thoughts be still;

    When thy judgments spread destruction,

    Keep us safe on Zion's hill,

    Singing praises, Singing praises,

    Songs of glory unto thee, 

    Songs of glory unto thee.18


These words are my testimony. I don't know exactly what to do but I'm committed to waking up every day and trying to put some action into my beliefs. I pray that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, who is also Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the New Testament, will guide me so that little tiny drops of action can somehow flow together into a small stream that joins a bigger river that flows into the ocean and finally create Zion. All of us can be part of that.

May God bless your work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.




10 President Russell M. Nelson “Love Thy Neighbor” General Conference report, Ensign, November 2019
11 Moses 7:48-49, 53-54, 60-64, and 17-18
12 Isaac Behunin, quoted in “Zion National Park, Utah,” Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, Aug 14, 2014
14 Stephen L. Richards Conference Report, Apr. 1940; “Avocation,” Improvement Era, June 1927
15 Russell M. Nelson “The Creation,” Ensign, May 2000, 84.
16 Moses 7:53
17 Moses 7:41
18 LDS Hymns, 83