Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Green Mormonism

While I am skeptical about some of the things people do in their efforts to "save the earth" (especially when it involves small groups of rich and extravagant folks telling or even compelling everyone else to live with less), I am all in favor of voluntary efforts to conserve and be responsible with scarce resources. I think it would be wise for local Church leaders to increasingly consider these issues - especially since many members are being compelled to live with less. Take home teaching, for example. When a home teacher is given five or six families to visit, do they all have to be scattered across the extreme ends of the ward? Why not favor geographical groupings, when it makes sense, to reduce travel time? Would it be wrong for some home teaching visits to take place in the Church before or after a Church event to reduce travel for home teachers? Why not do some leadership meetings by teleconference or web meetings?

While I think the surprisingly low price of gasoline we are enjoying with the economic downturn will be a short-lived phenomenon, even cheap $1.50 gas is a lot for people who have lost their jobs and have home teaching assignments that can take 100 miles or more a month of travel (not unrealistic in many parts of the world). Making Church work more energy efficient, when feasible, sounds like a good idea to me.

Do you have other ideas for how we can be more energy efficient and environmentally conscious? Apart from doing baptisms in cold water - there ought to be a little comfort provided for a new member's first few moments in the Kingdom.

34 comments:

Brian Duffin said...

I like your advice on geographic assigning of home teaching. It makes perfect sense to me, even outside of the real of being green. From a practical standpoint, it makes it easier for the home teacher to reach their families quickly, when necessary to provide aide and/or give a blessing.

ESO said...

Our branch arranged hting and vting in geographic clusters. None of us were terribly close as the rural branch covered areas of 3 counties, but it was an attempt based entirely on saving money, not on being green. There were some additional benefits, too.

I'd love to see newer chapels being built more green with solar panels and windows for light. Our chapels are so dark without electricity!

I would love to see fewer flyer and posters and more e-mails. I think many people could do without a ward bulletin. I use lds.org a lot--I don't need manuals anymore, either.

I am sure many people could do without multiple trips to church on sundays for presidency meetings, firesides, choir practice, etc. I say: consolidate.

Shaun Q said...

Let me preface this by stating that I'm not a fan of the whole "green at all costs" crowd. That being said, I do appreciate and enjoy the challenge of saving resources based on the economic and technical idea of scarcity.

I know that in some stakes -- Green Bay being an example (at least as of a few years ago) -- many Stake meetings are carried about by tele/web conference.

There's no reason it can't be done elsewhere -- here in New York City, due to a scarcity of space to hold stake-wide meetings, Salt Lake has installed a (surprisingly high quality) internet-based video conferencing system for holding stake conference.

A number of buildings (throughout the Church) that I've been to have outdated heating/cooling systems and inefficient appliances. If it would make economic sense to do so, replacing these systems and appliances, ideally with remotely controlled units, could yield significant returns in terms not only of energy efficiency and in terms of protecting sacred funds.

I do give major kudos to the Church for the work they've already done. Lighting throughout the church is nearly all fluorescent. Broadcasting conference over the internet has lead to saving a great deal of fossil fuel use incurred by people having to travel back and forth several times over a weekend to a meetinghouse. Moving family history resources online including eliminating the need to use TempleReady has quite literally been a Godsend and saves resources for the same reason as above.

L-d Sus said...

So many "green" ideas make sense on other practical levels too.

The Church has made some efforts to go "green": They have incorporated "sustainable" design features into the City Creek Development across from Temple Square.

For those interested, the results of a LDS/environment survey are available here.

Shaun Q said...

And.... though it's more of an economic comment... why is it that every meetinghouse seems to need at least 2 physical phone lines per ward (which usually have relatively little usage?) Secure internet connections are becoming more and more common in church buildings for CES, conferencing, and family history.

Why not run an enterprise class VoIP system (an Asterisk cluster comes to mind) in Salt Lake for meetinghouses throughout the US to obtain phone service? For a one time equipment cost in each building of less than an average ward's quarterly phone service, the Church could provide secure service to anywhere nationwide with a reasonable internet connection.

Shaun Q said...

@L-d Sus: I think it's important to point out something that isn't necessarily clear about your post. The survey mentioned in your post wasn't commissioned by the Church.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas! We drive about 20 miles one way to church. Our oldest started seminary this year, in addition to which he was assigned to a high school on the opposite side of the county making our daily trip just to get him to seminary and then to school over 5o miles. And we are not the only ones who drive far to do this. We really could NOT afford the gas. My son missed a lot of classes and now I don't know if he will make it up to graduate.
When gas prices were high, the bishop (whose son just started HS as well) said it was just a sacrifice we had to make (he only live a couple miles from the churh and his son goes to the HS right down the road) and refused to approved home study citing that then he would have to let others do it too. Would that really be so wrong? And while I understand some sacrifice is okay, let's not take it to extremes. The church is here to help us learn to live the gospel sensibly.

In tough economic times, we need to truly help each other, not expect large sacrifices from some, especially if those asking are already struggling!

Mormanity said...

Great comments, thanks. Yes, the Church has done a lot to improve energy efficiency in its buildings and to make Conference accessible easily to many, absolutely.

Now if we'd just get free wireless available in our buildings - there'd never be any reason to leave the Church. Would save millions of gallons of gas!

Mormanity said...

Also agree on cutting back on sacrament meeting programs. Many times the info is dated, inaccurate, and typically ignored by those who receive. Why keep printing it?

Ditto for some of the handouts used in meetings. When someone can print whatever they want, lots of paper will be used, just like the US government printing endless currency. Let's be tighter on copy machine access. Do we really need a 40-page handout for that training meeting? Perhaps I'm the only one who tosses them. . . .

kaydee said...
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kaydee said...

I agree that is wise for all of us to be good stewards of our resources. We are members of a Ward that encompasses more than 800 square miles. It is also a ward of people with very limited financial resources. We have combined Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching wherever possible. Couples are assigned to many homes to do both at the same time.

All that being said..... I would like to see more emphasis on the moral decay of the nation. I personally am of the opinion that is a much greater threat to our future stability and will get us long before the forests are gone or the landfills full.

kaydee said...

I agree that is wise for all of us to be good stewards of our resources. We are members of a Ward that encompasses more than 800 square miles. It is also a ward of people with very limited financial resources. We have combined Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching wherever possible. Couples are assigned to many homes to do both at the same time.

All that being said..... I would like to see more emphasis on the moral decay of the nation. I personally am of the opinion that is a much greater threat to our future stability and will get us long before the forests are gone or the landfills full.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to endless supplies of paper, it also applies to Institute. It is pretty frequent that every student is given a printout of a talk, or excerpt from church history, or a cute little paper you can glue into your scriptures. Usually I feel bad about throwing them away right after class, but when I'm cleaning up at the end of the semester, they all go in the recycle. Perhaps less handouts and more giving the option of those who are interested in picking it up at the end of class.

I think there's also the pressure on quorums and auxiliaries (or any other group in the church with a budget) to maximize the expenses so funds aren't decreased the next year.

Shaun Q said...

@Anonymous (et al who have commented on paper): From a sustainability perspective, paper really isn't the problem. Paper is one of the easiest items to recycle and accordingly, it is already one of the most recycled items. Not to mention that "virgin" trees are an easily replenishable resource...

Yes, it does take energy to recycle... it's not a perfect endeavor. I just don't think it's a priority problem.

That being said... the comment about having to spend money in the budget before the end of the year. It's unfortunate that in many wards there is a push to spend all of the funds available so they aren't reallocated for next year. I don't have a better suggestion though (short of giving a blank check to every ward)... does anyone else?

Shaun Q said...

@kaydee: Here, here. Your comment about the morality of the nation is dead on. If we (as a people, not as a government) spent as much time and money on advocating morality as we do on green initiatives, we might have a much better handle on our future.

bunker said...

I would like to comment on home teaching/visiting teaching geographically.

If a ward is over 800 square miles like one poster mentioned then it would make sense to assign according to geography. On the other extreme, while I live in Utah (where meeting housing are more abundant than 7-11's) I think this idea doesn't make sense, of course. Even in a not so close ward I think assignments should be given through inspiration. There are reasons some people are given to others. And to some it doesn't matter (usually active members).

Another thing. Why even have visiting teaching at all? Maybe I just don't get it. Why do sisters need another visit during the month? Are the home teachers not good enough? I don't get that.

L-d Sus said...

@ Shaun Q

You are correct. The survey was an informal and private effort, not commissioned by the Church.

Thanks for pointing that out.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. If Global warming was really caused or worsened by human activity Wouldn't the prophet come out and tell us? I mean there are millions of us LDS folks in the world. If the Prophet told us all to stop driving cars wouldn't that make a huge impact?

Anonymous said...

Shaun Q, I know this blog entry is on going "green" and being resourceful in behalf of the environment, but I suppose I was referring to the church saving some "green" by using less paper/toner.

quandmeme said...

We are toying with geographical groupings to build community and stewardship (S. Nevada ward is too small to say its for eco-responsibility). Does anyone use the geo code feature of the MLS?

On a frivolous note, did you know that you could dump the exported CSV data from your lds.org directory into geocoding programs (free at sites like http://www.batchgeocode.com/), export it to kml and then view it in google earth? More fun than useful if you've lived in the ward for a while, but to new, guys, very cool.

Trimber said...

Shaun said: If we (as a people, not as a government) spent as much time and money on advocating morality as we do on green initiatives, we might have a much better handle on our future.

We do spend a huge amount advancing morality - in the form of the gay agenda, the pro-abortion agenda, the anything goes agenda, and the atheistic moral perspective pushed by our educational system, the media complex, and Congress.

ginger said...

Home teaching is done in the home for a reason. There is a lot a home teacher can see for himself and that cannot be hid if he makes an actual visit to the home. That is the purpose of home teaching... not numbers, and not just a lesson, but to make sure the family is being taken care of in their physical needs as well.

Alex Valencic said...

My stake presidency frequently holds presidency meetings over the phone. I've thought that that was pretty neat. I don't think they do it for "green" purposes, though. I think it is mainly because the Stake President lives about 50 miles away from his counselors and exec. sec.

As much as it would increase the convenience for home and visiting teachers to meet at church (and it is done on many occasions, especially in singles' wards), I agree with ginger that it needs to be done in the home. Home teachers are commissioned to be the eyes and ears of the bishop. If you are meeting at church, then you are seeing the same things that the bishop sees. And, besides, the Lord has commanded that the visits be done in the home (D&C 20:47, for example).

By far, though, I think the easiest and most sensible change we can make is to cut down on all the paper. I don't really need a hand-out for every single lesson, and a copy of every single talk. Write the web address on the board and I can look it up when I get home. And we do need to start recycling. Unfortunately, it is frequently more expensive, for the consumer, to recycle than it is to dump everything in the trash.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 5:20 AM:

the Lord has asked us to be wise stewards. Whether global warming exists or not and if it does, whether it is caused by men or not does not matter if we are being wise stewards. If we are wise stewards with our resources, we should be continually looking for was to reduce waste. It is now called being green, it used to be called being a wise steward.

I wish that youth activities happened on the same day. It would save me from continually driving 20 miles each way to church and back to support the various activities. I could be a wise steward with my time and my resources.

Michemily said...

I have thought so much about this as the years have gone by. Emails instead of paper, less electricity in the buildings or alternative energy, encouraging people to come to church in carpools or by walking, etc. It seems like a lot of Mormons think that environmentalism is liberal, when really, it's conservative and goes along with our beliefs superbly. If we have responsibility for the earth, why don't we do a better job and talk about it more in church?

Shaun Q said...

@Michemily: "Environmentalism" in the form of the political movement it entails today is extreme. It doesn't just advocate being "good stewards of the Earth"; instead, it advocates uncontrolled environmental free reign in all situations.

Farmers are kept from farming their land in technically efficient ways that could save millions from hunger. Small businesses are forced out of the marketplace as increased regulations (for largely political purposes) make the cost of doing business too costly. The capital investment for many new technologies prices those advances from coming to fruition.

Environmentalism as it is is extreme and only lends more power to the government. It is for this reason that Environmentalism is anything BUT conservative.

Resources should be saved, the beauty and sustainability of the earth should be conserved... but all within reason. Pols have hijacked the term and forever associated it with a liberal, if not socialist agenda.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12:35 PM

I agree we should be wise stewards. I also agree with conserving energy and going paperless and recycling just because I don't believe in being wasteful. According to all the new hype (and Al Gores movie) If we don't slow down global warming our children will face a terrible future. If this is true how come the prophet hasn't told us we are destroying the planet and we need to stop?

JG (anon@520am)

titch said...

This really comes down, like all issues, to being worthy to have the Spirit to guide you to make the correct decisions when assigning partnerships (if you are the leader(s) making them).

Surely the main question which needs answering should be what are the needs of the people being visited and which companionship is best placed to meet them???

As for the environmental issue, unfortunately in our Branch, there are too many who don't want to be visited by X or who don't want to visit Y to take this into account. Sad but true and it's probably an issue in a most other units as well.

All the best

kaydee said...

I think there are good reason to have both visiting teaching from RS sisters and also the home teaching program. We moved into a ward and as a new member I was assigned to visit teach the Stake Presidents wife. She badly needed someone to confide in and I worked that purpose for several reasons we had in common. She was a very sad and lonely woman and confided things to me that proved to be true when they divorced and her husband was excommunicated. That is probably an extreme example but some times women need other women not the Priesthood authority exclusively

Also the geographical thing in our 800 sq. mile ward just doesn't work that well. It is how it is tried to be carried out. There are too many inactives among the furthest away and it is also sparsely populated. They are the ones who need to be taught but unfortunately wouldn't be diligent in spirit or or in person to carry out the calling of a home/visiting teacher.

Tossman said...

I get the purposes for and usefulness of HT/VT, but as somebody who works 3 jobs just to make ends meet, those few hours I have home on Sundays are going to be spent in my home with my kids, not my neighbors'. I give them a call or chat privately after church and call it good.

I really wish HT/VT was optional, or a specifically targeted calling.

gnp said...

My brother-in-law is a bishop and he said he gets a huge amount of church-related papers in the mail. He felt that a lot of that same information could be delivered via email and/or a secure web site.

Matt W. said...

One simple and easy thing you can do to be greener is be cremated. Saves your family about $9000 and the earth the same amount of land as about 10k disposable diapers.

Kris said...
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Kris said...

I think about this alot and it drives me crazy! We say we're going to be good stewards of the Earth, yet we're so wasteful. We print a copy of every talk (one-sided no less) and hand it out, only to have them thrown away. We print programs every Sunday with outdated and inaccurate information, lights are left on, it is either freezing in the building or burning up. And then so many meetings! We even have meetings to plan other meetings!

I never hold a meeting just because I'm supposed to. It drives me crazy when I drive an hour each way to the Stake Center, spend 2 hours of time (and the energy of running a building, gas, mileage, etc.), just to get enough information that could have been summed up in an email. We are not living up to Heavenly Father's expectations of being good stewards of the Earth. I think of Pres. Hinckley's talks at conference and the "miracle" of the internet. How foolish we are not to take advantage of these opportunities to reduce our waste and consumption.

With regard to Home Teaching, I have a strong testimony of the Spirit's guidance in directing that program. Not that church leaders always are guided by it, however, but who teaches whom needs to be left to the Spirit. Now, logistically, leaders should be sensitive to the needs of members and should avoid having members driving all over the place. Our EQ and HP leaders have done their best to break our ward into smaller districts and assign HT families within their districts, but then there are exceptions to that.

As for Visiting Teachers, I don't see the purpose or value of my wife getting a letter in the mail once every 3 months anyway. How is that helpful?

Back to being green, there is alot more we can do, and alot of resources available to us that we are not using. But not everyone has a computer or the internet, so not everyone can participate in that manner. The church would become very exclusionary if we tried to operate in that manner.

Why don't we at least have recycling bins?