By Alicia Wrigley-Gailey, Office of Sustainability
Last Friday, I was casually perusing my Facebook feed when I encountered an article entitled “Environmental Stewardship and Conservation” that had been posted by an acquaintance of mine. Like I generally do with any article with such a title, I clicked the link. However, I was surprised to find that, unlike most, if not all, of the articles regarding sustainability that I read, it was posted by a source I’d usually consider unlikely: the news site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It was a short little article, just five brief paragraphs. It was just a simple statement about what the church’s stance is on environmental stewardship: Earth is a beloved divine creation and that humans have a God-given responsibility to take care it.
The article didn’t contain anything that could be considered particularly ground-breaking or controversial. But, I have to tell you, I puzzled for some time over whether or not to post the link to it on my own Facebook page. I wanted to share it, but just wasn’t quite sure if I should.
My Mormon friends, I worried, would see me as some crazy liberal, cherry-picking LDS doctrine and highlighting one small piece that supports my own personal agenda. And I feared equally that my friends who aren’t Mormon would see the article as one more “preachy” attempt of a Mormon trying to force-feed their religion to the rest of the world.
Did you catch that? The little clue to something that I rarely (ok, never) talk about on the Internet? That’s right. I’m a Mormon. And I’m not just someone who was raised in the LDS faith and hasn’t totally separated myself from it as an adult. I’m a full-fledged, go-to-church-every-Sunday, never-had-a-sip-of-coffee, always-modestly-dressed kind of Mormon. A lot of the stereotypes really do apply to me. And I sincerely love my religion.
However, I don’t talk about my faith much in public or with people with whom I don’t have personal relationships. I’m not ashamed of what I believe, but I do run in circles where it makes me somewhat of a rarity. There’s this strange assumption in Utah that there is always a lot of animosity between those who are Mormon and those who aren’t; I know from experience that this isn’t the case. The people I spend my days with, most of whom aren’t LDS, are kind and good. They’d accept me, and do accept me, Mormon or not. But it’s never a comfortable thing to be the only one like you in a group, so usually I just avoid the topic.
The thing is though, I often feel like a rarity amongst other Mormons, too. I may be a faithful Latter Day Saint, but I’m also a vegetarian, a firm believer in climate change, someone who wants to spend her career working in sustainability. I don’t feel like there is anything mutually exclusive about Mormonism and environmentalism. In fact, it’s my great reverence for the Creator I believe in that led me to feel so strongly about environmental issues. I’m sure there are plenty of other Mormons just like me, perhaps even a lot of them. So it might be all in my head, but there’s undeniably something that makes me feel a little bashful, like I’m divulging an intimate secret, when I talk about my love for sustainability with other LDS people. It’s just not something we do.
This is exactly why I wanted to share that short little article posted by an official LDS Church source. They talked about sustainability, openly and directly! Sure, it’s not as specific as I’d like, but it’s enough to establish, once and for all that, yes, it’s OK to be a Mormon and an environmentalist. It seems silly, but I can’t say how much it meant to me to see the church I’m proud to be a part of put its stamp of approval on an issue I feel so strongly about.
And, in the process, I found out that it’s not necessarily a new viewpoint, just one we don’t hear about a lot. As I started poking around on LDS Church’s website, I found several quotes regarding environmentalism from Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS church, during the earliest days of the religion. In 1979, the three highest-ranking officials in the Mormon Church, called the First Presidency, issued a statement encouraging members to conserve energy by walking to church meetings, using mass transit, and not making unnecessary trips. Last year at the 18th Annual Stegner Center Symposium at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, Elder Marcus B. Nash, a high-ranking member of church leadership, gave a long and detailed address about how specific LDS scriptures and doctrines support environmentalism.
And, though I hadn’t heard about it before, I found out that the church is interested in green building practices. In the 1970s, a unique and energy-saving heating and cooling system was built into the high-rise Church Office Building. More recently, the downtown Church History Library and the church-owned City Creek Center are LEED-silver certified, and the church has built two solar-powered meeting houses. I hope to see such practices become not notable achievements, but the standard for building that the church adheres to always.
So, back to the short statement and Facebook: What did I end up doing? I decided that it was better to share something I thought was interesting and important than to avoid feeling a little like an outsider. I posted it. So far, it seems to have gone over just fine.
Alicia Wrigley-Gailey is a senior in Communication and Jazz Performance. She is a Sustainability Ambassador with the Office of Sustainability.