MESA’s 2018 Letter to LDS Congressional Senators and Representatives

June 10, 2018

Dear  [Representative/Senator],

We, the undersigned, constitute the executive board of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA).  We represent a growing grassroots nonprofit organization comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with friends and allies.

Church leaders have long encouraged members to be engaged in political and community affairs.  Recent and timely Church announcements regarding Environmental Stewardship and Conservation (see https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/environmental-stewardship-conservation), and Honoring Creation (see https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/in-honoring-creation-we-honor-the-creator), underscore principles of preservation and conservation, and our accountability for being good stewards of the land, air, water and other resources of the earth.  Through these, our faith leaders remind us that “God’s creation is bigger than politics.”  Our cause lies at the intersection of these two principles — engaged citizens advocating for environmental stewardship and conservation.

We strongly support the admonition of prophets of our time — from Joseph Smith to Russell M. Nelson — who individually and collectively have called on Saints around the world to “care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations.”  Faith is action, and our faith guides our actions and activism.  Fortunately, our own LDS values and beliefs of caring for creation are shared among major faith traditions around the world, including many Indigenous Peoples’ beliefs and traditions.

In the past year, many treasured natural areas and sacred places of human history, particularly Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, have come under attack.  Many of these attacks are led by politicians from Utah with whom we share a common LDS faith.  Even more troubling to us is that these challenges to our public land conservation efforts have been done for primarily political reasons, rather than from a standard of values we cherish as a people.  These values are rooted in a deep desire to protect and preserve wild places, both for wholesome outdoor recreation, and to preserve the cultural histories and sacred sites of our Native brothers and sisters, whom our faith holds in high regard doctrinally.

The people of Utah and the citizens of the United States overwhelmingly support not only the protection of natural areas in general, but more specifically the conservation of these vast public lands in Utah.

A recent study showed that 98% of public comments during the Trump Administration national monument review (initiated a year ago) supported keeping and even expanding these  national monuments, rather  than reducing or rescinding them.  In addition, the elected leaders of  five tribes — Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute and Ute Mountain Ute — were key proponents of establishing Bears Ears National Monument, and they continue to support this monument to protect the living cultural landscape.

Today, MESA members and large numbers of Latter-day Saints remain disappointed that many of our elected political leaders fail to represent the deeply held views of their own constituents in this regard, much less the views of the vast majority of Utahns and fellow Americans who wish to preserve and protect these national treasures.  Church leaders “commend those who seek to care for the earth in harmony with gospel principles,” and we echo this sentiment.

We admire and respect the early explorers who mapped out this rugged frontier, pioneers who established colonies and settlements throughout this part of the West, and the Indigenous Peoples who preceded them by many generations, all of whom continue to inhabit this territory today.  There are many oral and written histories of these places of solitude, beauty, hardship, and peace.  We honor these histories, and their many evidences and artifacts that are laced throughout these vast areas of wilderness terrain.  These spectacular natural and sacred places provide essential balance against our large and growing, and often overly consumptive, societies, and remind us of the uniqueness and goodness of God’s creation.

We support how and why Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were established — to protect native ecosystems, unique vistas, archeological treasures and Indigenous Peoples’ cultural and ancestral sites that are abundant in both monuments, and following years of public input from diverse perspectives.  We share with our Native brothers and sisters a love of and reverence for our earthly home and all of God’s creations.

We acknowledge that the Church has not made any official statement on these national monuments, and is not likely to do so. “Though the Church does not typically take a stand on specific governmental or regulatory proposals for dealing with environmental challenges, it teaches these important principles of stewardship and reverence, hoping they are remembered and applied in the lives of members as they care for God’s creations.”

We feel compelled by our faith and our knowledge of the principles and values of environmental stewardship, to individually and collectively advocate for the conservation and proper regard for our public lands.  In this important quest, we urge you, our political leader with whom we share a common faith, to support our national monuments as originally established, and appropriately conserve these areas of priceless natural beauty, critical ecosystems, and the innumerable cultural and archeological sites they contain.

We urge you to be leaders and exemplars in environmental stewardship and conservation efforts, to rise above the entrenched political dogmas that have reduced the protection of these public lands, and to avoid the damage and destruction of these important wilderness areas and sacred historic cultural sites if not adequately preserved.

Sincerely,

MESA Executive Board

Ty Markham, Chair

Soren Simonsen, Vice Chair

Marc Coles-Ritchie

Alicia Connell

Stephen Glines

James Singer

Kent Udell