In the (out-of-print) anthology To The Glory of God (Deseret Book, 1974), Hugh Nibley had an entry entitled “Brigham Young on the Environment” (pp. 3-29). The entire article is worth reading, but I’ve always been intrigued by the following passage, which suggests that the Article of Faith that states that “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” is talking about work that we will have to do (Nibley’s citations are from the Journal of Discourses and indicate volumn:page:year):
If the earth still retained its paradisiacal glory, we would be justified in asking, “What do we do now?” But that glory has departed, and the first step in the rebuilding of Zion is to help bring it back. “Who placed the dark stain of sin upon this fair creation? Man. Who but man shall remove the foul blot and restore all things to their primeval purity and innocence? [That is a large order, an impossible assignment, and Brigham admits it.] But can he do this independent of heavenly aid? He cannot. To aid him in this work heavenly grace is here.” (10:301:64.) Fortunately it is God’s work, in which he allows us to participate. “The greatest acts of the mighty men,” said Joseph Smith, have been disastrous. “Before them the earth was a paradise, and behind them a desolate wilderness. . . . The designs of God, on the other hand” are that “the earth shall yield its increase, resume its paradisean glory, and become as the garden of the Lord.” It is a clear-cut and fundamental doctrine: “We believe . . . that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Tenth Article of Faith.) that, however, according to the same Article of Faith, will be the last step of five in the rehabilitation of the earth, and according to Brigham Young, it was to be a long hard pull: “Not many generations will pass away before the days of man will again return. But it will take generations to entirely eradicate the influences of deleterious substances. This must be done before we can attain our paradaical [sic] state.” (8:64:60.)
Now, in fairness, I think that Nibley is misapplying that last quote a bit, though he may not have had the full paragraph on his note card (and appears to have a typo) — but the original, complete quote is in and of itself interesting and does indeed have environmental application and again is decades (if not a full century) ahead of its time:
If the days of man are to begin to return, we must cease all extravagant living. When men live to the age of a tree, their food will be fruit. Mothers, to produce offspring full of life and days, must cease drinking liquor, tea, and coffee, that their systems may be free from bad effects. If every woman in this Church will now cease drinking tea, coffee, liquor, and all other powerful stimulants, and live upon vegetables, &c., not many generations will pass away before the days of man will again return. But it will take generations to entirely eradicate the influences of deleterious substances. This must be done before we can attain our paradisaical state, for the Lord will bring again Zion to its paradisaical state.
May God grant that we may see and enjoy it. Amen. (JD 8:64)
Something to think about. ..bruce..
5 thoughts on “Restoring the earth and ourselves: Brigham Young”
Yes. I suspect it’s work that we will have to do. Here’s how Captain Moroni put it: “. . . could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.”
Good quote, and very applicable. ..bruce..
I appreciate your post. I think that much can and needs to be done, especially by members of the church leading the way as stewards of the earth. I like how he talked about needing the help of ‘heavenly aid’ in order to renew the earth. This is a great opportunity for us.
Interesting insights. I think “Brigham Young on the Environment” is now part of “Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints” in volume 13 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. It’s an excellent book, with many takes from Brigham Young on the environment.
I don’t think that we often think of what our impact is on the environment around us. We might follow the example of how the Church takes care of Temple Square and other temple grounds around the world, and make it a model for our own treatment of our surroundings.