Episode 20
Planet of the Priesthood, Part 3
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Planet of the Priesthood, Part 3

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A dose of sanity and a reclamation of stewardship.

Planet of the Priesthood, Part 3: Reclaiming Sanity and Stewardship

Welcome back to foreverLDS. A few hours before I began outlining this podcast I was listening to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland deliver the closing address in the last Priesthood Session of the April General Conference. If you didn't hear that talk, or if you didn't catch the Spirit or the power—I mean the sheer power—of Elder Holland's testimony, what are you doing listening to me? Go to LDS.org, find that talk, and listen to that.

Then you can come back and listen to this. But hearing the words of Elder Holland is a great way to check your personal spiritual barometer—make sure words spoken by a human voice, particularly one of the Lord's prophets, seers, and revelators, can still touch your heart. Make sure that words—pure testimony—can sink deep into your marrow and reconfirm the truthfulness of the Latter-day Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don't worry, after you listen to him, you can always come back and listen to me.

That final address in the final session of the April 2016 General Conference was one of the finest addresses by a General Authority I've ever heard in my lifetime. Don't worry, I'll still be here. Go listen.

Back? Okay, just know that I can't compete with Elder Holland. Happy to do whatever I can, but I know my limitations.

This Podcast is Part 3 of this series of podcasts I've entitled Planet of the Priesthood. In the first two parts I expressed certain doubts regarding scientific interpretations currently popular in many circles. I sought to take some hot air out of the debate regarding man-made global warming. Emphasize that the debate is NOT settled among scientists. I know, Bill Nye would like to put me in jail for that, or at least make me pay a hefty fine. And don't doubt for a minute, America—such a thing could happen. We don't really have free speech in this country, not the way I understood it when I was young. We have polarization. And I don't mean the kind of polarization that would mean the opposite of global warming. I mean an utter intolerance of those whose opinions are different from our own. Socially, religiously, and just around the corner, scientifically. Very strange world we're evolving into.

In this podcast my opinions and perspectives might seem all over the map. That's because both sides of the environmental argument are often guilty of manipulating data to support their agenda—which leaves the rest of us who try to nurture a sincere, unbiased desire to nail down the truth—with an enormous challenge. Fortunately, on many issues, common sense does prevail, and that's important, because we do have serious environmental challenges, and Latter-day Saints should accept that. My personal belief, is that it's the Priesthood of God that will eventually lead the way in cleaning it up.

First, some common sense with regard to all these apocalyptic predictions on global warming. A couple weeks ago we spent the night with relatives in Heber City, Utah. The night before we watched the weather report to find out what we could expect the following morning for our ride back to Cache Valley. "Rain," it said. No snow. Wouldn't get quite that cold. Just rain. That was the forecast just 12 hours before departure. The reality? Snow. Lots of snow. In Parley's Canyon. In Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber County, and especially in Sardine Canyon and Cache Valley. Oh, we made it home alive okay in our V10 15-passenger van, but it struck me that a forecast just 12 hours earlier—and I can't be the only person who's has made this observation—I mean weather forecasting—meteorology—has been around with satellites and Doppler radar and other toys and gizmos for what—50? 60 years? And we STILL can't accurately predict the weather twelve hours in advance? So how can any scientist possibly predict climate change over the next decade or century?

That kind of common sense is irrefutable. The only possible reply from GW advocates? "Well, we're better at macro models than micro models." Sorry, I'm skeptical. However, I repeat, despite my stance as a climate change skeptic, I do not excuse or diminish our responsibility—as the inhabitants of this planet, and especially as adherents of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ—to embrace our role as the primary stewards of Mother Earth.

Brigham Young declared, "The very object of our existence here is to handle the temporal elements of this world and subdue the earth, multiplying those organisms of plants and animals God has designed shall dwell upon it" (JD 9:168).

The Prophet makes clear that the word subdue means to plant, to cultivate, to nourish, and protect. Too many place a definition to the word "subdue" as something exactly the opposite of what Brother Brigham described. To them "subdue" means to exploit, often to squander, to destroy , and to waste.

LDS scholar Hugh Nibley offered a wide-ranging comparison of these opposing philosophies in an article he wrote about Brigham Young and the Environment. He noted that in 1846, as the Saints were about to embark on the first leg of their journey west, Brigham Young instructed the "Captains  . . . to instruct their respective divisions, to be very careful about setting the Prairie or woods on fire . . . to prohibit all discharge of fire arms in the Camp and to keep their guns and pistols out of sight.”  On May 6, 1847, as the first company moved out, President Young reported in his journal: “Traveled 19 miles. The prairie appeared black being covered with immense herds of buffalo.” Then on May 7th. “I preached in Camp and advised the brethren not to kill any more buffalo or other game until the meat was needed.” (Elden J. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young 1846—47)

Nibley continues, "To appreciate the farsightedness of [President Young], let us recall that twenty years after he gave this warning against fires, the youthful Mark Twain sat in a canoe on Lake Tahoe and watched with delight as the flames spread from his own campfire to set all the woods ablaze in a holocaust that destroyed everything “as far as the eye could reach the lofty mountain-fronts.” "All (Twain) could think of" says Nibley," was the splendor of the spectacle, for in his eyes the forests of the West were inexhaustible, and men could do as they pleased with them.

As to the buffalo, on a single day in the year 1884 Buffalo Bill killed 285 of them and left their carcasses rotting on the plains. In the following two years the last of the great herds disappeared, but William Cody instead of going to jail became a national hero."

With all respect to Brother Nibley, let me go off on a little tangent. First, I can't confirm Nibley's reference here. According to all accounts by 1884 there were no buffalo herds on the plains, except in private herds, and Dr. Nibley provides no source for this reference. Buffalo Bill was busy with his Wild West show in 1884, so the reference—yes, if I may be so bold, a reference by the renowned expert Hugh Nibley himself—must be considered suspect.

Lest you think I'm glossing over the life of this infamous bison slayer, let me offer a little balance. I grew up in Cody, Wyoming—a city founded by Buffalo Bill—in the shadow of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, still the world's largest museum of Western history. I washed dishes and served as a cook for about five years at the Irma Hotel, named for William F. Cody's daughter, and owned by his grandson, who dressed and wore his hair in the same style as his grandfather. Hugh Nibley's villianization of Buffalo Bill is not really justified.

Yes, William F. Cody was an ambitious self-promoter and entrepreneur. That was also his brilliance. He did much to cement the legacy of the American West in the minds of people throughout the world. Prior to the Civil War his family members were active abolitionists living in Kansas. In 1853 8-year-old Bill Cody watched his father, Isaac, stabbed twice after delivering an anti-slavery speech. The 8-year old boy thwarted a second assassination attempt on his father by riding 30 miles to warn him to take a different route home. Nevertheless, Isaac Cody died from complications of his original knife wounds four years later.

At 14 William F. Cody became the youngest Pony Express Rider and joined the Union Army in 1863. In 1868 he became a scout and Indian fighter and was hired to kill buffalo to feed workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, where he earned the name Buffalo Bill. He is said to have personally killed more than 4000 buffalo during this period, nevertheless, Dr. Nibley and other revisionists of western history have been a bit too eager to use William F. Cody to personify their philosophical and ecological agenda.

One of the biggest falsehoods we were ever told in grade school was that the great herds of buffalo that once blackened the American plains were wiped out by bullets. Yes, there was wanton slaughter of buffalo by settlers and professional hunting parties. Yes, the railroads did encourage passengers to shoot buffalo from train windows. But with estimates that buffalo herds across North America numbered at 60 million animals in the early 1800s, an accounting of processed hides from the end of the Civil War to the 1880s can't begin to account for the utter disappearance and near extinction of the species in the mid-1880s. According to many eyewitness reports who came upon massive herds of dead bison in many locations during the 19th Century—no bullet wounds, just dead carcasses—the American bison was wiped out by the same phenomenon that wiped out nearly 90% of the human population of the New World before the Pilgrims ever landed on Plymouth rock. Namely, disease. Diseases brought by humans in the case of what decimated Native Americans. And diseases likely introduced by European cattle in the case of the buffalo.

Still a terrible tragedy, but very different from the image of wanton and needless human slaughter that still pervades our ecological lore.

So while William F. Cody, with the object of earning a living, certainly played his part in exploiting natural resources, especially as a young man, he later expressed woeful regret for the American West that was, and even became what today we'd call an activist and advocate for what in his day were pretty liberal ideas. This included the rights of Native Americans. He highly praised his former enemies as great Americans and lambasted the U.S. Government for being the first in almost every instance to break treaties with the Indians which led to the uprisings that caused so much bloodshed.

Cody was also an early activist for women's suffrage (the right to vote) and conservationist causes, such as limiting trade in furs and hides for all big game and instituting fishing and hunting seasons. And he was instrumental in bringing hydroelectric power and irrigation to the Big Horn Basin, with dams and canals still in use today.

Sorry for that long tangent. The moral of the story is don't believe everything you hear or read. It goes to show that activists of every persuasion and ilk often, justly or unjustly, or somewhere in between, draft heroes and villains to ratify and advance their cause, a practice that almost always awards victory to "he with the loudest mouth". It's probably just his famous nickname, Buffalo Bill, that has made William Cody a favorite target of environmentalists, perpetually reminding everyone of those years when he supplied buffalo meat for hungry railroad workers.

Oddly, I don't have as much to say in defense of what Dr. Nibley says about Mark Twain, maybe because what little I know suggests that with age Mr. Twain become increasingly cynical, skeptical, depressed, and self-aggrandizing. He did speak out passionately against the kind of imperialism and nationalism of America and Europe that led to the conflicts of World War I. And then to World War II. The truth is that all of us have fallen short, and we could ALL learn from the words of a prophet of God.

Brother Brigham taught, "Satan, never owned the earth; he never made a particle of it; his labor is not to create, but to destroy; while, on the other hand, the labor of the Son of God is to create, preserve, purify, build up, and exalt all things—the earth and its fullness—to his standard of greatness and perfection; to restore all things to their paradisiacal state and make them glorious. The work of the one is to preserve and sanctify, the work of the other is to waste away, deface, and destroy; and the time will come when it will be manifest to all that the Evil One is an usurper, also that all governments, nations, kingdoms, and people upon the face of this earth, that are opposed to the Government of the Son of God, are usurpations and usurpers of the rights and possessions of Him whose right it is to reign" (JD 10:320).

Joseph Smith said, ". . . before (mankind) the earth was a paradise, and behind them a desolate wilderness. Brigham Young noted: "... every faculty bestowed upon man is subject to contamination—subject to be diverted from the purpose the Creator designed it to fill . . ."

In 1971—1971, that was almost a half century ago—LDS pharmacologist A. B. Morrison correctly observed: Pollution and environmental deterioration are primarily moral and spiritual problems, rather than problems of technology.

That's a somewhat different message than the one offered by today's environmental activists, who believe science, not faith, is the solution to every problem. Still, this doesn't change the reality of the problem. Just because I'm a skeptic of anthropogenic global warming, I'm not blind to the environmental catastrophe taking place in so many locations throughout the world. It's happening, and it really doesn't matter if it has anything to do with global warming or not.

Species are disappearing. The debate goes on with regard to the rate of extinction that we are currently experiencing, and there's no doubt—no doubt—that activists and alarmists are highly motivated to paint the problem as more serious than it is because they desperately want to be heard. They want something done. And they have a right to want it.

The science doesn't have to be that complicated to recognize that habitat destruction, the cross introduction of competing and predatory species and parasites as the world has become a smaller and smaller place—imports and exports flowing freely in our global economy—and the overexploitation of resources have devastated many of the most majestic and important species on the planet.

The problem—which is the same problem that has plagued the earth since mankind became its dominant species—is that rarely is a plan ever conceived for revitalization and rejuvenation. Only today it's a little different than, say, Roman times. Don't get me wrong. Great empires like the Romans were also great polluters of the environment, and drove many species to extinction or near extinction, such as the North African Elephant, the Syrian Elephant, the Atlas Mountain Bear, the Barbary lion, still the largest of any lion subspecies in history at 500 pounds and ten feet in length. The Romans and their predecessors also did much to exterminate a massive bovine species that you've probably never heard of called aurochs—an ill-tempered ox-like animal larger than the American bison. A few aurochs survived until the middle ages, but were finally wiped out by overhunting.

I'm kinda partial to big, beautiful animals, but we could list as many birds, plants, and other species. Still, this was the middle ages. The speed and efficiency that we can utilize today to industrially transform any natural environment—any parcel of land or sea—has no comparison in any age of human history. And again, outside of a few modern countries, there's little interest in reclamation. At the rate of deforestation in South America, Africa, and Asia, we are certainly losing species every year. Some say hundreds. Nobody really knows.

The fact is there are double the number of taxonomists working today—that is, people who study animal and plant populations—than were working twenty years ago. Some extinctions we can confirm. Others we can't because the industrialists are burning and stripping and consuming so fast that a full analysis isn't possible. I dread the idea that in our lifetimes—heck, in my lifetime—the day may arrive that there are no more tigers, elephants, or rhinoceroses in the wild. In fact, as far as rhinos are concerned, forget it. At current poaching rates all rhino populations will likely be extinct in the wild in ten years.

The Western Black Rhino was officially declared extinct in 2011. Before that official declaration no one had even spotted one for ten years. So why didn't anybody do anything about it? The problem was that the only surviving specimens lived in two of the most corrupt third-world nations on earth—Cameroon and Chad—whose impoverished citizens saw in their minds only the Ka-ching!--the killing off those last beasts, harvesting the horns and selling them on the black market, where demand in Asia—especially China and Viet Nam—is skyrocketing.

When I was a kid there were about a half million Rhinos roaming in herds across Asia and Africa. Now there are less than 30 thousand—and most of those are in protected reserves in South Africa. 1950 was a very bad year for the rhinoceros, as well as many other species that are now endangered. That was the year that the new leader of China, Mao Sedung, publicly declared that folk medicine needed to be reintroduced as a mainstay of China's medicinal needs. He directed the reestablishment of a hodgepodge of ancient folk remedies that today we call Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM.

Prior to World War II, China, like most other countries in the modern world, had abandoned most of its ancient practices that mingled obscure ingredients with soothsaying and demonic exorcisms. China, however, had no choice but to bring these practices back because, quite simply, China was seriously lacking in trained physicians. And their communist isolation meant there was no way to replace the ones they had. The solution? Bring back remedies that utilized the old methods from texts hundreds of years old—medicines that included rhino horns, alligator meat, bear bile, and tiger, um...parts.

Chairman Mao freely admitted that he had no faith in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but as part of his propaganda campaign, he believed it was very important that his people believed it. After all, China had no doctors! Thus began a mass campaign of poaching rare and endangered animals that continues to this day.

Believers in folk or natural medicines—especially TCM—will insist that it's gotta be more complicated than that, but it really isn't. Traditional Chinese Medicine was literally invented from a hodgepodge of folk recipes and treatments from different parts of China by Chairman Mao and his Communist cronies. Even if modern China has now made it illegal to use these animal parts in their remedies, the influence of fifty implacable years of tradition are hard to shake.

Rhino horn, pulverized into a fine power and consumed in boiling water, is believed to cure every ailment from fever, to gout, to headaches, to carbuncles, to food poisoning, to hangovers, and "devil possession." The idea that rhino horn is an aphrodisiac is actually a European idea, based, more than anything, upon its shape. Now even that rumor has spread to different parts of the world, despite the fact that modern medicine can provide much more effective and verifiable treatments to all of these ailments, except devil possession. That one still requires two aspirin and a heavy dose of the Priesthood.

Now the problem is that the nouveau or "new rich" in China and for some reason particularly in Viet Nam, but also in other emerging economies, will pay exorbitant prices to acquire vials of powered rhino horn or the whole horns themselves as a status symbol to impress associates and friends. You wanna see my Ferrarri? No, no. I have something better. Come take a look at my rhino horn.

As this species is decimated by poachers it only increases the price of the horns, so for poachers it's well worth the risk. Organized crime is now heavily involved. As well as—you guessed it—Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. These armed gangs have helicopters and rocket launchers and high-caliber machine guns—far more sophisticated weaponry than any of their counterparts trying to defend these animals. The bad guys are simply better funded and better organized. These commando poachers are unleashed on the game reserves and wilderness areas of South Africa and Namibia and other places where Rhino herds can be still found. Rhino horn is now worth more than twice its weight in gold. By comparison, elephant ivory, at least if you sell it in China and other parts of Asia—is only worth about the same as its weight in gold.

Because Vietnam is particularly enamored of rhino horns, no surprise that in 2011 the Javan Rhino in Vietnam was also declared extinct. Sorta funny that for four decades we thought the Sumatran rhino was extinct in the rainforests of Indonesia. The worst thing that coulda happened is that news agencies reported was that forty or fifty of the creatures were discovered still living in Sumatra, publicizing this fact to eager poachers looking for new opportunities. A perfect storm of limited supply and high demand is in place to wipe out every species and subspecies of this majestic animal in the next ten years.

So for rhinos I don't have much hope. For elephants and tigers, it looks grim. But this has nothing to do with global warming. Just ordinary, every-day human greed. Maybe it's a positive that a recent census of tigers in the world has increased since 2010--from about 3200 in the wild to about 3500. Not a big difference, but it's the first report that hasn't decreased the overall population in decades. 3500 total animals in the wild. That's it.

I've heard some Latter-day Saints scoff at the idea of conservationism—plants, animals, landscapes. One person on Facebook told me, "Species have been arriving and going extinct for millions of years. Our first priority should be human enterprise—jobs and recreation. Don't put conservation ahead of the needs of real people—families and neighbors."

I remember the debates of recent decades when whole swaths of land—vast acres of forests and wetlands and deserts—were closed off to industry or bound up by so many restrictions that all hopes of profitability in certain industries dissolved or were reduced so dramatically that producers abandoned the project. Jobs were lost. Families were uprooted. Even projects normally beloved by conservationists, such as wind and solar energy farms, have been stalled or stopped—all to save what many have viewed as obscure and irrelevant animal species, like the spotted owl in Washington state, or the desert tortoise of Southern Utah, Nevada, and California, or even multiple species of sucker fish across the southwest. I mean, of what use is a sucker fish? Who cares about the survival or the extinction of an ugly, inedible, sucker fish?

The Prophet Joseph F. Smith said, "Take not away the life you cannot give, for all things have an equal right to live” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 1:371—72).  “Did you ever organize a tree, gold, silver, or any other kind of metal, or any other natural production? No, you have not yet attained to that power, and it will be ages before you do. Who owns all the elements with which we are commanded and permitted to operate? The Lord, and we are stewards over them" (JD 4:29).

"Wait a second," some folks might ask. "Do you really think when President Smith made that statement about everything having an equal right to live and us being stewards over all the Lord's natural creations, he was talking about a slimy, bottom-feeding, sucker fish?"

The Prophets and the scriptures make no distinction. All life is precious. Well then, what about those other scriptures that testify that the earth and all its creations were placed here for the "use of man." Don't forget that D&C 58:18-20, which famously employs this phrase, ends with, " to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion."

Brigham Young didn't even like destroying those pesky crickets that gobbled up the Mormon crops. He said, "Last season when the grasshoppers came on my crops, I said, ‘Nibble away, I may as well feed you as to have my neighbors do it; I have sown plenty, and you have not raised any yourselves.’ And when harvest came you would not have known that there had been a grasshopper there" (JD 3:159).  Years later he said,  “According to present appearances, next year [1868] we may expect grasshoppers to eat up nearly all our crops. But if we have provisions enough to last us another year, we can say to the grasshoppers—these creatures of God—you are welcome. I have never yet had a feeling to drive them from one plant in my garden; but I look upon them as the armies of the Lord (JD 12:121).

Some folks hear this and think, "You gotta be kidding. Brigham Young said that?"

Someone from my generation can almost hear the voice of Master Kan speaking to Kwai Chang Kane in the old television series, Kung Fu: "Balance, Grasshopper. Balance." Yeah, I know. About three people listening even understand that reference.

The idea is balance. Living within our means. Living in harmony with the world around us. Not extorting the world's resources for greed. Sacrificing whatever percentage of profits are necessary to insure that the Lord's admonitions are maintained. And if that can't be done without preserving enough profits to justify the project—let it go—abandon the project, and pivot toward another enterprise.

Common sense tells us we must find an appropriate balance, but I don't think either side of the environmental argument is particularly interested in balance. They hate each other! The enmity that exists between both sides is palpable. Listen to this case: The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Field in the middle of the Mojave Desert is, as of today, the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. It was originally conceived as a station that could generate 440 Megawatts of power. However, that design was scaled back to 392 Megawatts to avoid building part of the field on top of habitat claimed by the endangered Desert Tortoise. The developers hired some 100 biologists and spend twenty-two million US dollars caring for the tortoises on or near the site during construction. So significant effort was made to try and accommodate the needs of the environment with the ambition of the power plant. Some folks might exclaim 22 million dollars! But keep in mind, the plant itself cost 2.2 billion dollars. Suddenly 22 million sounds like a drop in the bucket. So here's a green energy company, sincerely striving to limit our consumption of fossil fuels, deferring to environmental needs. But don't be so quick to celebrate. Despite all the money and time devoted to preserving and relocating Desert Tortoises in the area, the BLM revised its study in 2011 and estimated that the construction process would harm or kill about 3000 Desert Tortoises. What? 22 million dollars and you couldn't insure the protection and relocation of 3000 tortoises? 

Unfortunately there's a serious disconnect in all of this, and I've mentioned it before. The disconnect is that somehow the loudest advocates of conservation, global warming, and saving the planet are those with the most secular, anti-religious perspectives. Many of them are downright hedonists, relishing sin, indulging to their heart's content, and rejoicing in the freedom to abandon every moral compass they've ever known and every tradition associated with Christianity and other religions. It's starting to feel like this whole thing is a pre-meditated plan—an extraordinary deception—one of the cleverest schemes the adversary has ever launched.  

Here we have Brigham Young making even faithful Latter-day Saints a little nervous because he sounds like a tree-hugging communist, and actual tree-hugging communists and socialists and even pure capitalists gaining the upper hand because they are convinced that their utter rejection of the faith of someone like Brigham Young and Jesus Christ, and their enthusiastic embrace of modern science, makes them less selfish—or at least it makes them appear less selfish, less concerned with the pursuit of filthy lucre and more intellectually aware, more cosmically conscience, of the threat to survival we face as a species as environmental disaster looms over our planet. They can even pursue filthy lucre with complete abandon and ruthless delight because they've invested in solar panels for their homes and are making a concerted effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

One thing is for sure. They're not hiding under a rock hoping to be spared of this impending disaster by something called the Second Coming. That's how many of them see Christians. No, it doesn't mean  we pause for one instant in preparing our lives for the return of our Redeemer—serving our families and our fellowman, attending our meetings, attending the temple, etc., etc. We already feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. Now I'm supposed to feel guilty about something else?

I hope not. Or maybe just a little. You see, sometimes we have a bit of a misunderstanding with regard to how the environmental mess that mankind has created is going to be fixed. I think many of us believe when the Savior comes again it will be like the fairy-godmother in Cinderella. Magic wands will be passed out so that we can sing "bippity-boppity-boo" and put everything right.

I personally don't quite think that's how it's gonna work. I suspect we're gonna have to get down in the muck. The Lord is going to guide our actions—in fact, without His direction, I don't think we could do it. But we're going to get our hands dirty. Our Tenth Article of Faith says "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."  Brigham Young wanted us to understand: "It will take generations to entirely eradicate the influences of"—he calls them "deleterious substances." In other words, pollution. The "filthiness" of those who have "extorted" the resources of our planet with no plan of renewal or rejuvenation.

Because I am convinced activists are prone to exaggerate or twist issues beyond scientific consensus and common sense, let me list a few problems that are verifiable. Here's some of the most polluted circumstances—places—in the world and the problems causing that pollution. Admittedly, many of these catastrophes are in regions that we feel helpless to do anything about. Don't worry. There are plenty of problems in the United States. The point is it really doesn't matter where it's located. This list does affect the world at large.

1. The Citarum (Kit Are Um) River in Indonesia is considered by some the most polluted river in the world. About 30 million people rely on the river for drinking, bathing, and agriculture. It's knee-deep in visible, insoluble litter and crud, but this is secondary to the waste pumped into the current by over 200 textile factories that line the riverbank among which are massive amounts of lead, arsenic, and mercury.

There remains some controversy about the general acidification of the world's oceans and the killing and bleaching of coral reefs throughout the world. For example, coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, thought to be dying because of Global Warming, appear to be blooming, experiencing a recovery. Not so for other vast coral reefs off the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, affected by poisonous runoffs, overfishing, and strip-mining of the coral itself for cheap building materials. Activists often refer to the health of the world's coral reefs as the "canary in the coal mine"—the most obvious evidence of global illness. They also refer to the loss of amphibians across the globe as the "canary in the coal mine." So there's obviously several "coal mine canaries" analogies being used to drive home the point.

I just wish the activists wouldn't exaggerate or use scare tactics. The instant they do, people have a tendency to go—pshah!—like putting Polar Bears on the endangered species list specifically because of anthropogenic global warming. There's no existing threat to the extinction of polar bears. In fact the recovery of polar bear populations since the 1960s should be a success story. In those days the numbers were estimated around 5000 animals. Today, it's over 30,000 animals. This  is an herbivore like a rhinocerous. It an apex predator. These are healthy populations. The only thing that threatens them is global warming. If estimates on global warming are wrong, there is no threat to this species.

Twisting such facts for the sake of politics undermines the cause.  It's often like pulling teeth to get a neutral accounting of these problems—an unbiased  assessment that has no agenda. Whether its cyclical, whether it's permanent.

It drives me as crazy as anyone else trying to get to the bottom of it. However, common sense seems to support the validity of the argument that the health of the world's coral reefs is under threat. On the whole it doesn't have to relate to global warming. Typical extortion, greed, and the unchecked pillage of natural resources explains enough—much like the unchecked pillage of the world's rainforests with no plan to protect, revitalize, or regenerate.

2 in the list of global environmental disasters: The meltdown of the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine hasn't gone away. About 1000 square miles of land have been declared uninhabitable to human beings for the next 20,000 years. Strontium-90caesium-137 and plutonium still contaminate the soil and eventually, to return the earth to its paradisiacal state, we're going to have to clean it up. Strangely, wildlife, including elk, wolvesbadgerboardeereaglesmoose, beaver—all seem to be flourishing exponentially just outside the worst zones of contamination, although no true census of various populations have been conducted and fewer extensive studies have been done regarding the actual health of these animals.

Let me go through some of these a little faster.

3. The island of trash the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Often this is called the North Pacific Gyre (jaw-yuhr) because it circulates clockwise in the currents, the trash floating as deep as thirty feet below the surface. Oh, and in the next decade the size of this island of trash is expected to double.

4. The Ganges River Delta. Everyone admits that 58 percent of waste, including human waste, of New Delhi and other metropolitan areas is dumped straight into this river, affecting a population that may be half the population of the United States.

5. Lake Karachay, Russia. Some call this the most polluted spot on the planet—even worse than Chernobyl. The Soviet Union made this a dumping site for their nuclear waste for half a century. Now the radiation level is so high that it's sufficient to give a lethal dose after just an hour of exposure. 

6. The island of Haiti. Haiti only comprises half of this Caribbean island, as you know. The other half is the Dominican Republic. Not long ago 60% of Haiti was covered by jungle and forest. Now it's less than 2%. You can easily distinguish where the border between Haiti ends and the Dominican Republic begins because one side of the border is wasteland and the opposite side is jungle. The same phenomenon much describes the island of Madagascar.

Listen I could go on and on, but it's so depressing. And unfortunately, our hyper-modernized and industrialized nation of  the United States isn't immune. Appalachia, West Virginia, has experienced terrible devastation related to mining practices that have removed entire mountaintops, creating an erosion nightmare and a runoff thick with pollutants, poisoning streams and rivers throughout the region.

Okay, that's enough. But it highlights these words from Brigham Young. In fact, what I've just revealed turns this quote into an understatement. He explained: "There is a great work for the Saints to do. Progress, and improve upon, and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labours you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations."

So that's our objective. We have to prepare a world worthy for the return of God and His Angels. So here's what I'd love to see happen. Chances of this? Slim. I know. But it would be the right thing, because the saints of God are going to have to deal with this situation sooner or later. I wish the Church—the people of God—would reclaim the initiative of being the responsible stewards of our planet from the environmental wackos. I'm sorry. I know that's a very derogatory term. And if you're highly environmentally conscience and you're not a wacko, forgive me. I'm guess I—I'm not referring to you. I'm referring to those who have made saving the planet their favorite "cause-de-la-vie", while simultaneously advocating unrestrained hedonism (love of pleasure), relativism (the idea that right and wrong are in the eye of the beholder), and atheistic secularism. These are the people who currently sink their claws into any and all initiatives regarding the salvation of the environment, and I want it back, circumscribed by a conviction of faith.

Here's why I want to get it back from the no-compass crowd, the anything-goes-as-long-as-we-reduce-our-carbon-footprint crowd. This isn't hard to understand. Those whose lives are diametrically opposed to the commandments of God are not going to get it right. They are not going to identify the problem correctly, nor are they going to identify the solutions. They do not rely upon the Lord's guidance to find solutions. They rely upon convoluted bureaucracies and the wisdom of men. It's just like individuals who spurn the commandments and think they can rely on their own wisdom—on the arm of flesh. Satan is granted power and they will get it wrong every time.

For example, we hear a lot these days about building permanent bases on the moon, or on Mars, and even mining these locations. Futurists seem particularly excited about the prospects of mining the vast wealth of precious minerals on nearby asteroids. The prospect sounds exciting even to me! Nothing seems more optimistic about the prospects for mankind than to think the free market might promote and finance such ambitious expeditions into the cosmos.

Then I read the words of Brigham Young and he sort of sticks a pin in it all. He reminds us, "...the earth is very good in and of itself, and has abided a celestial law, consequently we should not despise it, nor desire to leave it..." ( JD 2:302—3)  "Our business is not merely to prepare to go to another planet. This is our home..." JD 8:297. "We are for the kingdom of God, and are not going to the moon, nor to any other planet pertaining to this solar system. . . . This earth is the home (God) has prepared for us, and we are to prepare ourselves and our habitations for the celestial glory in store for the faithful..." (JD 8:293—94).

Fascinating that he would say these things so many decades before anyone realistically considered the prospect of actual space travel. And I suppose technically the prophet doesn't say we won't achieve such objectives, merely that our emphasis, spiritually, should be different—earth focused, earth bound, and with an emphasis directed to our own blue-green and living spaceship. That we should recognize the noble character of our own earth, our connection to it, our responsibility and stewardship toward it. I don't think any of us can conceive the magnitude of the miracle that you and I were judged worthy to be sent here, to Mother Earth, a sphere that has abided a celestial law and is already slated to receive a celestial glory.

Who knows how many eons ago that decision was actually made, or the parameters that determined that this would be our destiny. But I believe our connection to our home planet is deep, it's meaningful, and it's profound. We've forgotten the depth of our own emotional connection—our love—for the earth upon which we live. That relationship is no less eternal than the relationship we hope to enjoy with our families and loved ones.

So perhaps that's why Enoch was so distraught when he recorded the literal suffering that the earth endures at the hands of wicked men. In Moses 7:48-49: 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?

If you read on the Lord reveals that he will have compassion upon the earth. Moses 7:61: 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.

All my life I've tried to envision those days, tried to speculate how it would come about, and when it would occur. After fifty years I have to confess that I've never had a clear image of any of that. So many things have surprised me. So many things have occurred that I couldn't have possibly guessed. The only thing I believe I may be observing correctly is the fact that everything is starting to happen now very fast. Movements and trends and technologies and perceptions and the tendencies of mankind to embrace greater and greater levels of corruption are increasing at a rate that I never would have imagined.

We thought the world was moving fast in the '70s, when I grew up. When I joined the Church in 1981 I don't think anyone believed the world could get much more wicked. If a poll had been conducted, I think most of us would have believed the Second Coming would have already occurred by now. After all that I've observed I think I'm finally coming to the understanding that I'm not so concerned about the accuracy of my guesses. I just want to serve. I don't need to know the precise order of events. I just want to be doing the right thing when all that Brigham Young and Enoch and Joseph Smith and so many other prophets have described finally start to unfold.

This has been a tough podcast. It's been a long podcast. Three parts. I learned a lot while researching it and like so many other teachers of various spiritual subjects I have to concede that the principle beneficiary of that knowledge is probably me.

I love the opportunity to share the things of my heart to listeners on foreverLDS. The conflict is that I have a novel to write, and though the Podcast may indeed become a viable source of income in the future, I gotta finish the Tennis Shoes series. I've devoted a lot of energy to that over the last couple weeks, which explains the lateness of posting Podcasts. Sometimes in the crucible of creating something as complex as a Tennis Shoes novel I do need to get away for a while and focus on something else to revitalize my imagination. So while, unfortunately, I realize I can't be quite as consistent as to add a new podcast every week, I'll still do my best to keep 'em coming. In the meantime, I doubt many of my readers will be disappointed in my ongoing marathon to finish "Thorns of Glory".

Those who subscribe to foreverLDS on iTunes or Stitcher will know automatically when I post something new. For the rest, I'll keep up the habit of announcing new podcasts, LDS Storytellers Workshop Sessions and other features on Facebook. I hope followers and friends will spread the word from there.

I'm eternally grateful for your support, your listenership, and your friendship. Stay close to the Lord. If you don't feel as close to the Lord today as you did yesterday, who moved? May God provide you with the greatest blessings that life can provide, and the most abundant and eternal blessings of heaven and earth. This is Chris Heimerdinger. Until next time, over and out.




  • Sidney Williams

    May 27, 2016 10:24 pm

    I am so excited to find these podcasts. I have been listening to them during what little time I have between work and school. I am in Columbia. I am a little confused because the things I have learned about you don’t seem to correspond to the things you speak about in your podcast. Anyway, keep up the good work. It is nice to know you sacrifice your time and writing (i.e. financial obligations) in order to record your messages.

  • Chris Heimerdinger

    Sep 6, 2016 11:36 pm

    Thanks Sidney. Not sure what I said in the podcast that didn’t correspond with what you may have heard about me. For all I know, both may be perfectly true. :)

  • Chris Heimerdinger

    Sep 7, 2016 1:15 pm

    Thanks Sidney. Not sure what I said in the podcast that didn’t correspond with what you may have heard about me. For all I know, both may be perfectly true. :)

  • Nathan Richardson

    Oct 17, 2016 11:40 pm

    Great series on the environment. I like how you lay the foundation for being motivated to improve the environment. The next step is discussing how to go about doing so, and that’s the step where so much of the modern world gets it wrong. They almost always assume that the solution is more progressive politics, when in fact in so many cases, big government exacerbates or even causes the problems. In reality some of the best ways to improve the environment are by taking seriously the prophets’ calls to honor freedom and the Constitution. The free market and small government are not only moral approaches, they’re also more effective.

    Take for example the rhinos you mention. Why are they still endangered, while the American bison no longer is? Did you know there are laws that make it illegal to privately own rhinos and elephants (and other endangered animals)? Listen to this interview of legal scholar Walter Block (on the awesome Tom Woods show, episode 119) where he explains the history and effect of well-intentioned but poorly-conceived laws. Because people can’t own rhinos and elephants and thus breed them, marketeers have no incentive to care for them or invest in them. It’s the Tragedy of the Commons; poachers get what they can, concluding that they might as well, since the alternative is that someone else will use it up first. Lack of ownership incentivizes poaching.

    Contrast that with bison: The laws forbidding ownership were removed, and lo! People were eager to invest in such a valuable animal. They bought them and breeded them like crazy, increasing the population. Granted, it was to use their hide, meat, horns, etc. as a commercial product. But ownership incentivizes people to care for things sustainably. And given the option to own and have your property protected by law, someone trying to make a living and feed their family would much rather invest in a livestock ranch than risk jail time for poaching.

    If lawmakers stopped punishing private ownership, the same principles could help restore other endangered animals like rhinos and elephants. But few people are even aware of the laws that actually cause or exacerbate these problems, so we keep hacking at the leaves instead of cutting at the root.

    COMMENT FROM CHRIS: I wonder if owning rhinos or elephants is practical for breeding purposes? They do this with the Asian Elephant, but the African Elephan is a rather imperious creature that is notorious for breaking through barriers and trampling local property. You could also probably do it with smaller species of rhino (some of which are already extinct), but again, the African varieties are sizable and dangerous animals, unlike bison, which can be penned and herded like cattle. Perhaps Tom Woods already addressed this, but breeding rhinos or elephants, as far as I understand it, is always a very difficult and costly process, even on their native turf like South Africa. Frankly, that's what's supposed to happen on a nature reserve, but these facilities must involve so much acreage that they are threatened by "hit and run"-style poachers. I suppose setting up safe facilities in the United States is a consideration, but again, the complexities of getting the right environment might be preventative. Hoping that because Eric Trump and Don Jr. seem to like hunting such big game animals that this administration will take a fundamentally active role in resolving this problem. It can often be demonstrated that hunters turn out to be the most aggressive conservationists.
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