Spirituality and the environment

Spirituality and the environment January 12, 2011

I just came across an Ensign article on a topic I never expected to find in that magazine – the environment. Not our spiritual surroundings, but the actual great outdoors. Titled “Our Deteriorating Environment” and written by A. B. Morrison in 1971, the article describes in detail the pollution of our air, water, and land. While the information is a bit dated (lead pollution in the air has been wiped away with the use of unleaded gasoline, and Lake Erie has been largely cleaned up), many of the points Dr. Morrison makes are still pertinent.

Morrison makes the point that “in the last few years” opinions on environmental problems have become dangerously polarized. 40 years later, that’s certainly still true. Concern for the environment is often cast as an obsession of the political left, the cause of aging hippies like Al Gore. It’s not widely considered a to be a political issue with high moral stakes, like abortion or gay marriage. It’s certainly not a topic that I ever hear discussed in church. There are no save-the-environment themed Sacrament meetings, no Enrichment meetings on recycling, no requests from First Presidency to call your senator about CAFE standards.

But Morrison says that the problems of pollution and environmental deterioration are primarily moral and spiritual in nature. He wrote, “The prevalence of pollution stems from a lack of proper knowledge and understanding of the real purpose of life and of man’s place in the eternal plan provided by a loving Father in heaven.”


“Many of our environmental problems arise from the fact that our society has become obsessed with materialism. We must come to realize that there are higher motives for human existence than technological advancement and the acquisition of material gain.”


“The reason we are in trouble ecologically is because of our inability to see ourselves as a part of nature. We have not seen ourselves for what we are: part of the web of life and part of the biological community; a portion of an incredibly complex ecological system; and intimately a part of the total environment… We have behaved as though we have some sort of divinely provided right to despoil the physical world.”

and finally,

“In addition, too often we fail to see ourselves as part of a human continuum. We think only of our own generation as though it exists alone, with no obligations to the future and without any heritage from the past.”

Materialism, entitlement, and selfishness. All of which could find an antidote in charity, which is definitely a moral and spiritual concept. Morrison concludes by saying he believes the answers to all environmental problems and their underlying moral failings can be found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. His reasons are the following:

1 – “The gospel teaches us that this world is our home, created for us under the direction of a loving Father in heaven, whose sons and daughters we are… As such, it must not be misused or looted, for we are stewards entrusted with its care.

2 – “The gospel teaches us there are purposes to life that transcend the acquisition of material things. [The purposes of mortal existence] are primarily spiritual and center on development of the divine potential for growth and advancement that we all have.

3 – “The gospel teaches us that we are part of the continuum of human life. We draw from the past and are obligated to give to the future. We have an obligation, therefore, to others yet unborn—an obligation to present to them a world with beauties that they too can enjoy.”

What do you think? Is the connection between our spirituality and the environment tenuous and not worthy of much attention, or is Morrison right? Should our stewardship for the environment receive more attention in our worship and classes at church? Why do you think the environment has become so politicized, and would it be possible to discuss our stewardship of it in church without it becoming a political argument?

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