Mormons, Global Warming, and the Second Coming

In our local Sunstone symposium I was asked to be one of three respondents to an article in Dialogue about whether or not science supports the story of Noah and the flood. My assignment was to comment on a statement near the end of the article that proposed the story of Noah could be used as scriptural backing for environmental causes. One statement I made in passing was that I feared believing that changes in the environment are part of the “signs of the times” would mean members of the church would not be very vigorous in supporting environmental causes.

Prophecy is not one of my gifts, so I was surprised and dismayed to find myself in a conversation with a relative recently, a conversation that I didn’t initiate, about global warming. She said she believes it isn’t possible for human activity to influence the climate—humans are too puny and weather systems are too powerful. She sees the “hand of the Lord” in the changes in the environment. She thinks the Second Coming and the end of the world are at hand, if not in our lifetime then in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. She feels we should look at climate changes with the eyes of faith and rejoice that the end is near.

Whether of not a person believes the Second Coming is at hand, whether or not a person believes climate change is caused by humans—these are matters of personal conviction and in some respects are not important in dealing with the matters at hand. If everyone can agree there is a problem, then sometimes it doesn’t matter if there are differences of opinion about how the problem came to be. And, putting global warming aside, there are still many environmental issues that are going to affect everyone: loss of species due to the degradation of habitats, water shortages, energy shortages, food shortages.

I am concerned about all the issues that fall under the broad umbrella of “the environment,” and I am worried that believing the end is coming and the Lord will take care of “it” results in passive behavior where we need active behavior. On the one hand, not even the angels in heaven know when the Second Coming will be, and on the other hand, we have the list of the “signs of the times” which are broad enough that many people who were convinced the end would come in their lifetimes are waiting for the end on the other side of the veil. I am worried that complacency won’t solve these problems, which will require effort on a continuum that starts with adjustment and ends with sacrifice. It is not comforting to me that the initial response to melting ice in the Arctic is a race to see who can exploit whatever natural resources become available.

As the oceans rise and climates shift, the poor in any nation and the poorest nations will be affected first. It will require a deep sense of our equal value before God to bestir ourselves to help when the problems are not the ones on our particular doorsteps. It will require us to think of environmental problems, in the words of William James, as the moral equivalent of war—as an issue as capable as war in drawing forth sacrifice and creating a sense of unity, but moral. I think it will require us to include changing our lives to better the environment for everyone as a religious imperative.

Do you think confidence in the Second Coming will make us (or any Christians) slow to act? Do you even think there is cause for alarm?


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Interesting timing on this. Just a short time ago my son and I watched Jesus Camp on DVD. In it there is a scene where a fundamentalist Evangelical Christian is homeschooling her son, and the lesson focuses on how there is no such thing as global warming and even if there were it would be irrelevant since Jesus will be returning soon.

    While I think there is some of this sentiment among Mormons, my sense is that it is much less than what I saw in the movie. Part of the reason might be that we’ve gone through a couple of widely held expectations for the second coming (1890 and 2000) that didn’t materialize, so I think most Mormons are settling in for the long haul.

    Personally, I’m not a big Signs of the Times guy; there have been Signs of the Times for 2,000 years, and I think they are meaningless as predictors of the Second Coming.

  2. I still am not sure why some have such a hang-up against global warming, especially religious conservatives.

    I imagine that there will always be millenialists, even if the Second Advent isn’t for thousands and thousands of years. But, especially for religious conservatives,the Earth is a stewardship. I can’t imagine forsaking any stewardship, because of a belief in an imminent end. Would you stop humanitarian aid? The perpetual Education Fund? Would you stop the welfare program of the Church? Home Teaching? I don’t see any valid religious claim to destructive consumption.

  3. I believe this is one of those rare moments that calls for a link to one of my own blog posts:

    In it I recount my experience with my brother, who holds to the view that we shouldn’t worry so much about the global warming and I assume other issues (environmental or otherwise) since Jesus will be coming soon. At first I was repulsed by this idea, but now I’m trying to reconcile my initial repulsion with Matthew 24:6 and 6:34 (sorry I would link them but it isn’t working in the preview). How does one reconcile these scriptures with environmental activism?

    24:6: And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (emphasis added)

    6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

  4. I should say, that my concern is not just about environment activism but about worldy problems in general, such as wars and such. The scripture says to not be troubled, but being troubled is the root of activism.

  5. One thing I find interesting is that many religious people believe that things like Hurricanes are caused by the sins of the people. Global Warming means they are right, sort of.

  6. #2: J, you had me (Would you stop humanitarian aid? The perpetual Education Fund? Would you stop the welfare program of the Church?) – and then you finished your list with “Home Teaching?” For many members, that wouldn’t be an issue, since you can’t stop what hasn’t been started.

  7. I agree with J. Stapley, Earth is a stewardship, we should always treat it with respect.

  8. I’m an ‘anthropogenic global warming’ skeptic for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with the Gospel; instead, they have to do largely with my computer science / simulation / modeling / data analysis background, in combination with the rather determined effort of many AGW proponents to ignore the historical climate record over the past 8,000-10,000 years. There are profound problems with the datasets being used to claim AGW (if you have any math/CS background, spend time at Climate Audit and you’ll see what I mean); by contrast, there are some very solid datasets indicating that global warming is on a ~1500 year cycle, likely due to solar influences.

    In fact, given how much warmer the global climate was after the end of the Lesser Dryas ice age than it is now, I would be tempted to claim (slightly tongue in cheek) that the current warming trend is part of restoring the earth to its paradisaical glory. ;-) Of course, the problem with that is that no “global warming” has occurred since 1998 — that is, the global temperature has made no statistically significant change in that time. (And, by the way, if you go read the literature, you’ll find that there is no supportable correlation between ‘global warming’ and hurricane frequency/intensity.)

    Note that I’m a firm believer in our stewardship and accountability regarding the earth. Hugh Nibley once interpreted one of Brigham Young’s statements to mean that the humans still around at the start of the Millennium will be the ones who will have to ‘restore the earth to its paradisaical glory’ and that it will be a work of many generations. [See “Brigham Young and the Environment” in To The Glory of God.] The better we treat things now, the less mess to clean up later. But that doesn’t mean that AGW is the threat that it’s being made out to be. ..bruce..

  9. No matter what we will always, always reap what we sow. Make no mistake, no deus ex machina will get us out of the problems we make for ourselves.

    It’s going to be up to us to find a way to survive as a species, and doing that will require that we preserve as many other species as possible from our present ecosystem. There’s a good reason we’re required to learn everything we can about every subject. It’s going to take all we’ve got to make it through, all the knowledge, wisdom, love, cooperation and hard work we can possibly muster.

  10. I have a wiki on the web called Click on the link at my name below to check it out. I have a lot of content left to load. It’s looking like a long shot at the present time, but it’s important that we do our best. =) And I have faith that our efforts have meaning, whatever the outcome.

  11. A sense of Christ’s eminent return to set things right can indeed alter presentist calculations. I have a close relative who spoke with me before the 2004 presidential election. She was torn because although she was not very pleased with President Bush or with the war in Iraq, she believed that turmoil in the Middle East — in particular the Iraq war — were the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

    Talk about lowering the bar — from seeking to build Zion to settling for the ability to actualize Armageddon!

    The whole reason we don’t know when it is coming is that when Christ returns He wants to catch us doing what we do every day — to see us in our regular element. His return should drive us to repent. Using it as an excuse to persist in our present foolishness and extortion of the planet is the antithesis of what we should be doing.

  12. I agree with bfwebster (#8) on this one.

    Stewardship of the earth is a very serious responsibility, and should be treated as such.

    Indeed, ask my wife sometime how often I come in from taking out the recycling without commenting on the apparent inability of many of our neighbors to crush their cardboard boxes, or even to make sure their tiny papers actually make it into the bins. Also: greasy pizza boxes are not recyclable, people!

    Anyway, I remain as unconvinced as ever that anthropogenic climate change is occurring. I’ve seen the skeptical scientists expose a manipulative algorithm and reveal various omissions of data that don’t support the desired conclusions. But I only see the prominent ‘faithful’ scientists respond with ad hominem attacks, comments exaggerating the breadth of the ‘consensus,’ or silence.

    Even so, at the end of the day I don’t think that what a Latter-day Saint believes about this issue should affect very much the way he or she takes care of that portion of Earth within his or her sphere of influence. “Pack it in, pack it out,” “cleaner than you found it,” “take care of it, and have joy therein,” etc.

  13. I also tend to side with bfwebster on this.

    My preference would be for people interested in the environment and activists to argue for a clean environment for the sake of a clean environment. Taking this approach by no means implies denying that humans are affecting/destroying the environment through pollution and emissions. Rather it emphasizes that humans must be good stewards of the earth for the benefit of all to enjoy a clean and healthy environment and preserve what is good and productive of the earth, including as much ecological diversity as possible where that will not unduly burden human growth and development. It seems unduly alarmist to make claims about global warming given what can actually be known about climate change predating the modern age.

    As humans, let’s all work for a clean environment, reduction of pollution, preservation of ecological diversity, reduction of emissions, etc., without alarmist and unsubstantiated rhetoric about global warming or human extinction.

    As Latter-day Saints, let’s do this with the attitude of stewardship over the incredible earth that God has blessed us with.

  14. Jonathan K says:

    Letting the earth go to pot because ‘Jesus is coming’ is whacko, in my opinion. We are hardly being good stewards. Considering something as simple as downtown urban settings having up to an increased temperature of 5-7 degrees compared to the surrounding rural areas means we have a great deal of influence on this world of ours. Improving pavement technology, green roofs(like the conference center), are easy and simple measures that are the right thing to do. Why wouldn’t we want to live in a healthier, cleaner environment?

    And every generation since Jesus left thought he would return in their lifetime. So for all we know it will be another 2000 years.

    I think this is a religious imperative and wish that the Church were leading the way with its massive worldwide building program. But unfortunately it isn’t.

    #4 – In my opinion, ‘Being troubled’ isn’t the root of activism – actively being involved in a worthy cause is.

    #2 – It seems like the reason religious conservatives aren’t buying into the fact that we are harming the earth is because this cause is being spearheaded by their enemy, the Liberals. Even though Al Gore made a movie, there is nothing political about this issue, and it should be one that has the potential to unite humanity on.

  15. To me the question of whether global warming is man made is irrelevant to the question at hand, which is: How should the belief that we live in the latter days affect how we view long term issues? While the post talks specifically about environmental issues (still not just global warming), I would say any long term issue (national debt, middle-east conflict, etc) is just as vulnerable to this way of thinking. While I agree with what most of what people are saying that we should still be concerned about long term issues, I still don’t see how we reconcile that with the 2 scriptures I quoted in #3.

    #14: Perhaps it depends on what Jesus meant when he said not to be troubled. Did he mean, don’t let it shake your faith or send you into a panic? Or did he mean, don’t let it get you worked up–don’t worry about it? I’m not sure. But in any case, the second scripture still has not been addresses. Is Jesus teaching that we shouldn’t worry about the future and just deal with the problems we have today?

    You can read those two scriptures in a way to support your point of view–whether it is that we shouldn’t worry about the future or whether you believe we should. But I think we need to be careful not to interpret the scriptures to fit out own pre-conceived ideas.

  16. This is a very old conversation. Such is the core of the premillennial vs. postmillennial theologies of American Protestantism (itself an amplification of much earlier debates in Christianity). Will Jesus come when we have prepared the world for his return, or will Jesus come when the world is unmanageably corrupted? One is based on a hopeful view of human dignity and will, the other based on a rather dismal anthropology. For a theology (the dilute and somewhat garbled Calvinism of many conservative modern evangelicals) that emphasizes human depravity and the unmerited grace of salvation, the premillennial view (Jesus arrives, then peace begins) will predominate. For those with a more positive view of human worth, the postmillennial view would tend to predominate.

    We as LDS have never quite known what to do with this. Our founders were counting down the hours to Jesus’s return in a bloody conflagration and openly mocked the proto-Progressives who hoped to convert the world and make of it a saner, better place. On the other hand, they believed that humans were the literal children of a loving God who interacted with them as nascent angels.

    I say let’s get to work. The warped Calvinist image of a bunch of human toads bleating out their depravity as great evil occurs around them, while admittedly a caricature, seems to me to have a sacrilegious kernel.

  17. For a reductio ad absurdum: you decide whether it’s valid.

    A patient comes to a doctor, say with a pneumonia. The doctor replies, “the Millennium is imminent; there’s nothing a human can do to sway God’s will. God bless you,” then walks away without treating the patient.

    I perceive that refusal to engage environmental catastrophe is similar, but we are merely unaccustomed to taking ethical responsibility for the broader implications of our concerted actions, so we think we can slip by ethically unfazed in a way we would never allow a doctor, where we are accustomed to ethical obligations.

  18. I do not think that the belief of a timetable on the Savior’s coming should affect our behavior towards any long-term goal. It is as dangerous to think that His coming is imminent therefore no worries on x, y, and z as it is to say that He will delay his coming for x years. He will come as a thief in the night. That means that if you are prepared (you’ve not altered your modus operandi for short or long-term issues) you won’t be afraid at his return.

    “Be not troubled” has always meant to me that crazy shiznat is going down in the last days. Wars, rumors of wars, great calamities, and mens’ hears will fail them. Be not troubled (i.e., don’t lose faith). The Lord says in Matt 24:22 “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” It is my estimation that we may look upon today as a fond dream of utopia that we once enjoyed for the hell that is coming. It won’t shake my faith if that estimation is wrong, rather I’ll be relieved. I plan for the worst and hope for the best as a rule of thumb.

    That bucket of sunshine aside, don’t change your desire to do good based upon the events of the day or your preconceived notions of the Lord’s return. The scriptures leave no doubt on two things in that regard: 1) no one knows when it is and 2) no one will be left in the dark that the Lord has returned. When you see the great sign in heaven that JS said many will say is a planet or a comet followed by 30 minutes of silence and then the Heavens will be wrapped together as a scroll and the elements will melt with fervent heat and the face of the Lord will be revealed to all flesh. The glory of the Lord will burn the earth with fire

    And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
    9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (Zech 13-8-9)

  19. It’s helpful to realize that the entire history of Christianity is one of being consistently wrong about the second coming. The earliest Christians believed it would happen so soon they didn’t need to write down any scriptures. At least the worry about — or dismissal of — global warming has the virtue of being a global concern, rather than just a U.S. concern, which is usually the case for U.S. Mormons. Whenever second coming hysteria begins to rise, I always take comfort in Wilford Woodruff’s comment that while it could happen tomorrow he was still planting chery trees.

  20. bfwebster,
    That’s pretty good, Nibley’s rhetoric on BY’s rhetoric!

    Here’s another one. Nibley reports that Brigham Young used to say that no man, if allowed to speak, could possibly avoid revealing his true character.

    “Brigham Young and the Environment” well, I guess that shows just how prophetic the man was.

  21. As to the question of long-term decision making, if Jesus’ eminent return really meant that that He would soon be setting right all the stuff we screwed up, the brethren would not be counseling us to make prudent long-term financial decisions — in particular staying out of debt — while simultaneously telling us to prepare for His return. What does staying out of debt have to do with being not troubled or taking no thought?

    Regarding the question of whether Christ will come to an earth already prepared for Him or will come and set things in proper order after we ruin them, we know (cf. AoF 10) that the pivot point between doing what we are doing now (gathering Israel) and His return will be a real-time, real-space, anthropogenic event: the building of Zion. Even if we are convinced that the rest of the world will get worse and not better, we have an obligation as LDS to try to make our world more and not less Zion-like.

  22. I think that the jig will be up when the council at Adam Ondi Ahman (sp?) takes place and the 144K are anointed and Adam and Christ show up. That takes place prior to the second coming, and that’s a pretty big number of people to have them all keep a secret of such magnitude. Maybe the world will be in such a state at the time that we won’t have time to talk about it…? Who knows. I for one hope to get an invitation, whether posthumously or living.

  23. Brad, your contrasting of a vision of Zion to a vision of Armageddon is quite potent. Sam, while the folk in the 19th century anxiously anticipated Zion, they also believed that Zion was a necessary prerequisite (though the realities of such a position where frequently jettisoned).

    Horebite, I find your analysis of those verses, deeply troubling. Your interpretation is based on nothing but conjecture and the results have mortal consequences.

  24. I agree with J. Stapley, Earth is a stewardship, we should always treat it with respect.

    Comment by Howard


    Ever wonder why it takes a thousand years of Christ reining on earth before it is ready for a wind up?

    Lots of messes to clean up. Might as well start now.

  25. Ugly Mahana says:

    As someone who in action is probably environmentally unfriendly, I object to the assumption that Latter-day Saints have a doctrinal basis for abusing the earth. On the contrary, I fear that I violate my stewardship, and as each day brings me closer to the second coming, so each day brings me closer to the time when I will have to account ot the earth’s Creator for my failures in this regard.

    On the other hand, I do not count myself among the political environmentalists not only because of my natural weaknesses, but also because the solutions proposed seem both as draconian and as ineffective as the protections imposed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Much of environmental politics seems to be driven by a power grab along the same lines as the war on terror is used as an excuse to curtail civil liberties and everyday freedom.

  26. I have to agree with Ugly Mahana. “Much of environmental politics seems to be driven by a power grab along the same lines as the war on terror is used as an excuse to curtail civil liberties and everyday freedom.” It seems to be a big money grab too. Carbon offsets. Consulting groups making mega-dollars to help companies improve their environment images. Useless products claiming to be carbon-nuetral cropping up everywhere.

    I always look back to that chilling day in 5th grade when I realized that there was another ice age acomin’ and there weren’t nuthin’ I could do about it. Nothing. What a hopeless feeling. Now it’s global warming that we get to fear.

    Fear seems pretty useless as a reaction. It seems to be a foolish thing to try to instill in people. As I homeschool my kids, we frequently discuss global warming. I try to avoid the doomsday approach. I teach them stewartship. It’s our job to use resources wisely, to do the best we can in the sphere we move in. We use organic gardening methods. We recycle. We occasionally walk where we need to go. My son dreams of creating a solar car that will halt air pollution.

    I have no doubt that 20 years from now there will be a new theory on why the Earth is being destroyed. Whatever that theory is, it seems to me that the solution will still be using resources wisely and doing the best we can in the sphere we me move in.

    I try not to panic about the fact that our sun will eventually burn out too.

  27. Jami,
    Of the John or Patrick variety? ;)

  28. Martha

  29. Joe Schmoe says:

    I must say I am in the camp with Bruce et al.: AGW is not a confirmed fact, but we should take care of our stewardship. Interestingly enough, Ugly Mahana shares similar sentiments with a chapter of Glenn Beck’s (am I allowed to say his name without being booed?) book about global warming: in that it is being pushed for more egregiously forcable income redistribution and a new industry of Big Energy.

  30. Sorry for the sloppy post earlier. A quick re-read before posting was obviously needed. :)

  31. JS,
    How does Mr. Beck’s book square with UM’s take on post-9/11 hysteria re: security/curbing civil liberties? I somehow suspect that if you rewrote Beck’s tract and replaced every use of the term “global warming” with “global terrorism” and all of Beck’s “egregious” policy bugaboos with references to the Patriot Act, Halliburton, or Gitmo, it would read like a DailyKos blog post. My only point is how amusing it is that people shouting apocalyptic jeremiads from the rooftops on the threat of radical Islam want cooler heads to prevail and rhetoric that appeals to fear removed from the policy debate on GW.

    If nothing else, props to UM for taking a consistent position.

  32. Kathleen Petty says:

    I am happy to see there are so many earth stewards among BCC readers. I realize not everyone agrees about what is happening to the climate. We all of us live so short a span we may never know what the final answer is. Some of the changes reported in the Arctic, in Greenland, on small islands in the Pacific, are so remote we can wish those affected well, but then go about our lives. But what if we, especially we affluent citizens of the West, were asked to make real sacrifices? Suppose we were asked to only take one airplane flight a year? Suppose we were asked to keep our homes cooler than is really comfortable? Suppose we really did have to start eating locally–for me that’s no citrus fruit, for example. What will motivate us to do that?

  33. J. Stapely (#23): I think you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying, or perhaps I’m not making myself clear enough–I apologize.

    I agree with you and most and the other commenters that the correct course of action is to be concerned about the environment and other issues of long-term consequence, and not to allow the signs of the second coming to cause us to neglect our duties to take care of our stewardship.

    I am simply bringing up the point that it is possible (and reasonable, but perhaps you would disagree with that) to interpret those scriptures to mean that we shouldn’t worry about global warming. So I don’t see that view as wacko, as someone else put it. However, I don’t agree with it, personally. And I’m interested to know how people interpret those scriptures. I think I understand the interpretation of the “be not troubled” scripture as saying “don’t lose your faith”. That makes sense. The “take no thought” scripture is a bit more difficult to explain, in my opinion. I don’t think Jesus is saying, “don’t be concerned about the future” because that just doesn’t seem right (although that’s not much a basis for interpreting scripture). But if he’s not saying that then I don’t really understand what he was saying.

    So, in short, my analysis of these scriptures is unfinished at best, and I don’t yet know how best to interpret them. So I’m sorry my questions troubled you so deeply.:)

  34. I agree with Jami. . .a quote by L. Tom Perry from the Nov. 1981 Ensign follows:

    “Traveling to the four corners of the world we encounter all too often a spirit of gloom among the people. Their concerns range from wars, . . . famine, climate changes, pollution, etc. . .times can be difficult.

    However, a look at the causes of the difficulties proves that they are man-made and that solutions are within man’s ability to accomplish.

    Several years ago, I was on an all day hike into Colorado mountain wilderness with a talented photographer. She had spent the last 15 years of her life detailing clear streams, fields of flowers, and abundant wildlife.

    That day our conversation turned to the environment that we were both in awe of, and she said that the great tragedy of polluting the earth is that coming generations would be unable to enjoy what our generation has taken for granted.
    Sadly, I think that Anne is on target if we collectively fail to clean up our act.

  35. Horebite, if you take Matt 6:34 seriously then you have to believe that you should live without purse or scrip, right?

    As far as Matt 24:6 goes, it would appear that it reinforces a non-fatalist world view. Said Jesus: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Basically you will see all this crazy stuff going on, but as one translation states “Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately.” So it is saying you shouldn’t freak out that the end is near (because it isn’t), not you shouldn’t freak out over the wars themselves.

    Kevin can correct me if I am mistaken (or anyone else for that matter).

  36. That gentle reminder of the global cooling fear mongers was a good one to toss into this discussion.

    Though the killer fogs of London and the manure problems of the 1800s are good reminders that life can become unsustainable if pollution outstrips technology.

  37. BTW, get out to West Texas, Knox, Benjamin, etc. and you will find areas that are actually clearer and less polluted than they were.

    Population is emptying out of some parts of the country.

  38. J. Stapely, so you are saying that there are some scriptures that we shouldn’t take seriously? On what basis do we decide which scriptures to take seriously, and which to ignore? Is this a translation issue? Is Jesus just speaking in extremes to make a point? I accept the argument that I am to be concerned about the future, I’m just honestly trying to figure out what Matt 6:34 means, as well as other verses such as 25. Am I just to ignore it, or is there some other interpretation that makes sense?

    #19 mentioned the quote from WW about still planting trees. That’s great. I agree. But my question still remains: what, then, does this scripture mean?

    I feel that sometimes we have a position and ignore any evidence that seams to contradict our position. This is why I bring up these scriptures. My position is the same as yours, I would just like to better understand the seemingly opposing evidence.

    Regarding the “take no thought” scripture, your interpretation seams reasonable to me.

  39. Widtsoe had something interesting to say on these issues:

    “What of tomorrow? is shouted by the forces of evil. In the consequent din is forgotten the glorious promise that “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matt. 6:34) Forgotten also is the ancient truth that fear is the devil’s first and chief weapon. Make a man or a nation afraid, and his strength like that of Samson shorn of his locks, is gone. He is no longer useful in the work of the world. He becomes a tool of the unholy forces which seek to destroy mankind.”

    Harold B. Lee regarding Matt. 6:34:

    “Don’t try to live too many days ahead. Seek for strength to attend to the problems of today…Do all that you can do and leave the rest to God”

  40. FDR summed it up very well:

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

  41. Someone once quipped, “What do you mean my worrying accomplishes nothing? Ninety percent of the things I worry about never happen.”

    I wonder if the “take no thought” scripture means, don’t get so caught up in the worrying that you stop the doing.

  42. Hoerebite: you are saying that there are some scriptures that we shouldn’t take seriously?

    While I think we should take all scripture seriously, application of scripture is tricky matter. We are constantly negotiating the application of scripture. Take the law of consecration for example (or the WoW, or Paul’s rules that women not speak at Church). Matt. 6:34 discusses itinerancy. While the early missionaries went without purse or scrip and the practiced was rekindled at around 1900 (with some missions practicing it into the 50’s [both Lester Bush and Bonner Ritchie served itinerantly in Boston]) we simply don’t do that now. Are you saying that the Church no longer takes the scriptures seriously?

    Do you take the Lord’s injunction to give all that you possess to the poor seriously?

    It isn’t a translational issues. It is a complex negotiation between the members, the Church hierarchy and the Revelations of God. Just because I am not giving all that I own away, doesn’t mean I simply ignore the Lord’s injunction to do so. The biggest problem in such cases is people that latch on to a single verse, invest it with some sort of primacy and then make drastic policy decisions as a result.

  43. 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    “Take therefore no thought for the morrow” – you shouldn’t live your life in fear of what may come.

    “for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” – regardless of what you do, tomorrow will happen. It might turn out good, it might turn out bad, you can’t control what that outcome will be, just how you react to it.

    “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” – evil will not go beyond the bounds of what you can deal with. As the latter times come, the times will get worse, but your ability to deal with it will also increase if you are living according to God’s commandments and his oracles, the prophets.

  44. Suppose we were asked to only take one airplane flight a year? Suppose we were asked to keep our homes cooler than is really comfortable? Suppose we really did have to start eating locally–for me that’s no citrus fruit, for example. What will motivate us to do that?

    I’m already motivated to do that. It’s called being poor.

  45. Amen, Susan M.

    I always shrug just a little when I hear very rich people whose lives stamp an incredibly large carbon footprint lecture the common people on reducing our own. Whether Gore is right or wrong, he’s a hypocrite in this area. I have six children (and multiple others living in my home at any point – two right now), yet my family’s carbon footprint is MUCH smaller than Gore’s as an individual. (That’s ten people to one person, and it’s not even close.) I’m all for taking care of the earth, but this type of hypocrisy is ludicrous.

  46. J. Stapely,

    I accept that there are some scriptures that set forth policy or principles that we don’t currently practice as taught in the scriptures (consecration, missionaries carrying money, etc.). That’s understandable considering we believe in modern prophets who guide us as the Lord wants in our day. However, I don’t believe Matthew 6:34 is an example of this. The reason is that Matthew 6:34 has been quoted in modern times, as demonstrated by others here, and I’ve heard it talked about in lessons, and I’ve never heard any GA say anything to the affect that this is a scripture that we don’t currently live. Nor is this scripture related to any church policy (such as the missionaries not carrying money example) that we can point to as proof that we don’t currently live it.

    An interesting thing I found today though is that in the Book of Mormon version of these teachings, an extra verse is inserted that makes clear that Jesus is speaking specifically to the 12 disciples. So perhaps these teachings don’t apply as much to the general membership of the church–but more so to those called specifically to preach the gospel full-time, or perhaps only to the apostles. However, since the scripture is quoted in modern times when speaking to the general membership, I don’t think we are completely absolved of our responsibility to consider the scripture.

    Also, clearly Jesus could not have meant these teachings literally. To literally take no thought for tomorrow is crazy. However, as some others have pointed out, there is some value in not over-worrying about what might happen in the future. If we then take a less literal interpretation of what Jesus said (which indeed is required for sanity), then we could say that he doesn’t say specifically what level of worry is appropriate. That, I suppose, is up to us to figure out.

    My point is that although I’m still concerned about the environment and other issues that will affect our quality of life over the long term, perhaps I’m not worried about them as much as I would be if I didn’t understand the gospel and the importance of being sure I’m worthy before God today. As important as the environment and all the other issues are, our most important priority is to make sure we and our families are living the gospel. So, with that in mind, I would not be surprised if membership in the church does correlate slightly with a lesser concern for the environment. And that is partially due to the teaching that over-worry is not appropriate.

    I don’t think I can devote more time discussing this so I won’t be commenting here again. I think I’ve gained some answers to my questions, so I thank you for the answers and the debate.

  47. Horebite, it would appear that we agree. Our living the gospel is primate. Perhaps we understand our gospel obligations differently (or perhaps not), but I don’t think we would disagree that all of our stewardships are important, though some may be more so than others.

  48. For many months, “Plant cherry trees” was something of a motto with my Elders’ Quorum. This came from the last lesson in the Wilford Woodruff manual:

    I recall a reported statement, attributed, as I remember it, to President Wilford Woodruff. Some of the brethren of his time are said to have approached him … and to have inquired of him as to when he felt the end would be—when would be the coming of the Master? These, I think, are not his exact words, but they convey the spirit of his reported reply: “I would live as if it were to be tomorrow—but I am still planting cherry trees!”

  49. It seems like the reason religious conservatives aren’t buying into the fact that we are harming the earth is because this cause is being spearheaded by their enemy, the Liberals.

    I agree.

    It is not comforting to me that the initial response to melting ice in the Arctic is a race to see who can exploit whatever natural resources become available.

    The North-West Passage belongs to Canada, and we will fight to the last man/woman to maintain our sovereignty over it……or at least until the next Hockey game starts….

  50. Kathleen Petty says:

    Susan M.–
    Exactly–and how fair is it that when the crunch comes the poor always are affected first when they sometimes have contributed the least to the problem. (I can hear here the answer–“Life isn’t fair.”) There are not very many things that move people to sacrifice if their own well being and that of their family isn’t at stake.

  51. kristine N says:

    Wow, I get away from the internet for a few days and miss all the climate excitement.

    Not to be snarky here, but as a climate scientist I’d appreciate real criticism of the climate science instead of ad hominem attacks claiming I’m just going to make an ad hominem attack against anyone who disagrees.

    I realize it’s likely very few of those I’m going to respond to will read this, but nevertheless, here goes:

    Global cooling–Byproduct of sulfur emissions and incomplete understanding of Milankovitch cycles. Sulfur dioxide creates aerosols that reflect solar radiation back out to space, thus cooling the atmosphere. Starting in the 40’s, global temperatures dropped because of the presence of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, mostly from burning high-sulfur coal in power plants without scrubbers. Scientists were also coming to accept and find evidence of Milankovitch cycles in climate about the same time, and it was noted that the Holocene (which we are in now) is a few thousand years longer than previous interglacial periods. Understanding the the climate is largely controlled by solar insolation, thinking that at least based on the previous length of interglacials we must be heading into a glacial period soon, and noticing the downtick in global temperatures, some people came to the conclusion we would soon find ourselves in a glacial period. Better simulations of orbital dynamics have subsequently shown the Holocene has lasted longer because of a fortunate confluence of orbital parameters, and has shown that the Holocene, even without Anthropogenic greenhouse gases, would last a few thousand years more. Concerns over acid rain led to controls on sulfur emissions, which then decreased the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere, which is why we now see the impact of CO2 in the instrumental record. Incedentally, if you don’t think we puny humans can really influence the atmosphere, here’s a good exampe of us actually doing so.

    Hurricanes and Global Warming–A recent study by a couple of guys at Purdue show that hurricanes help transport ocean heat. As the ocean warms, hurricanes become more frequent to transport more heat to higher latitudes. This is a long-term effect and will become more pronounced as global temperatures increase, but, as with all instrumental observations, a pattern will probably not be obvious for a while thanks to significant year to year variation.

    bfwebster–It’s the Younger Dryas, not the lesser Dryas. I don’t even know what to say about Steve McIntyre and climate audit. How about this–he’s nit-picking data, claiming that limitations in reconstructions somehow invalidate them (every paleoclimate reconstruction has limitations–the trick is knowing how to interpret what you can and minimize the uncertainties in everything else), and ignoring the fact that the bulk of climate reconstrutions all show the same thing–We’re warmer than we used to be, and not, as he likes to suggest, because the sun is giving off more radiation.

  52. kristine N

    Thanks. It’s nice to know the reasoning behind my fifth grade teacher’s efforts to scare the pants off me. :)

    One of the things I like (if that’s the appropriate word) about global warming is that if we are indeed effecting the climate then it at least feels like the things we are doing to try to help may, in fact, help.

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