Conservationism and LDS Meetinghouses

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One of my favorite temporal/practical things the LDS Church is doing recently is making more energy-efficient buildings. This is not a new philosophy or theology or practice of the Church, we just are living in a time when it is starting to be cost-effective to have energy efficiency as a goal in architecture. “H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church, said, ‘For decades we have looked for innovative ways to use natural resources in our meetinghouses that reflect our commitment as wise stewards of God’s creations.'” A new meetinghouse was recently built in Mesa, Arizona that includes an array of solar panels on its roof to help offset energy costs. Not only that but it also includes a number of other features that reduce electricity use, water use, and waste. It’s a combination of technology, conservationism, and religion.

Just like all we’ve been given by our Father, we are asked to be wise stewards – to take care of, nourish, and nurture – of the earth. Just like we would not abuse other people, ourselves, or animals, we should not abuse the earth. It is God’s creation and we are not to treat it lightly. This does not mean that we cannot use it, it is for our benefit, but we need to be wise in our use of the earth and its resources. This transcends political ideology. Church spokesmen are talking about reducing carbon emissions or “footprint”, which often is a politically-charged term but using that term or worrying about carbon footprint does not change the underlying principles of these energy efficient meetinghouses. The LDS Church is trying to do its part to use resources more effectively while taking care of the earth.

Some of the other improvements of the new meetinghouse include:

  • Energy efficient windows
  • Improved insulation
  • High efficiency furnaces
  • More efficient lighting
  • Automatic light switches that turn off when rooms are not occupied
  • Landscaping that uses drought-tolerant plants and automated irrigation sensors

Will these meetinghouses be built en masse? It’s possible if they turn out to be viable solutions in certain areas. While solar panels will not work in all locations, there are other principles of conservation that will work in many locations. While touring the Atlanta Temple last week, we saw some of the enhanced efficiencies of the temple, including efficient laundry appliances. These are all wonderful steps in improving our use of the earth.

We have been commanded to be wise stewards: “All things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” (D&C 59:18-20).

The Saints have been promised an inheritance of the earth if they are righteous: “And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it. And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh; And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts. And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away.” (D&C 38:17-20). If the earth is the Lord’s footstool, we should treat it well. We should not abuse it. Even if the earth shall be renewed at a future date (see D&C 29:23, for example), we do not have free reign to use with excess.

How do we do this? Do we limit human population as many propose? No. As Pres. Packer said recently, “And the Gods said: ‘We will bless them. And … we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.This commandment has never been rescinded.” (Oct. 2010 General Conference). There are enough resources for everyone. “For the earth is full [of resources], and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” But we need to share with others and not horde or abuse what we have: “Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.” (D&C 104:17-18).

How we treat the earth, I believe, is reflective of our faith in Christ. Does this mean if you hunt or run a mining company or use resources, you somehow have less faith in Christ? No. What I mean is that our faith in Christ can help us be more aware that the earth is His creation and that we should treat it well. The LDS Church is trying to do its part to leave a smaller footprint on the Lord’s footstool so that there are adequate resources for everyone and so that we are better able to keep the earth beautiful so that it might “please the eye and gladden the heart.”

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