Additional Resource

The Divine Gift of Creation: Our Sacred Duty to Care for the Earth

By Bishop L. Todd Budge, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Bishop L. Todd Budge.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download Photo

This talk was given on October 5, 2022, at a gathering titled “Why it Matters: The 1st International Academic Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals.” The event was jointly organized by Utah Valley University’s Office for Global Engagement and the Civil Society Unit of the United Nations Department of Global Communications. See a news summary of this event.

The Divine Creation

It is an honor to be a part of this important conference and to speak with you today about why it matters that we care for each other by caring for the earth. In quiet moments we discern the holiness of the earth. Some of the first words written by the prophet Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, testify to the grandeur of the universe and our place within it:

For I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceedingly great and marvelous, even in the likeness of him who created them. And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed … All, all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power.[1]

Reverence is the starting point for environmental stewardship. The entire system of creation compels our amazement, awe and wonder; what a solemn responsibility we share in taking care of this divine creation.

The Living Soul of Creation

All creation — human, animal, plant, rock, the microscopic, the inert and the organic, every diverse element — exists in kinship and fulfills its purpose in relation to one another. Latter-day Saint scripture explains this connection: “The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.”[2]

We believe that matter is animated with spirit. The love of God permeates all things, all elements, and all beings. According to our scripture:

And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. And it became also a living soul. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man.[3]

God’s presence and truth abide in and through everything. God created the earth for the use of man, and each one of us is accountable to God for how we use it.

Stewardship of the Earth, Not Ownership of the Earth

This trust is not a matter of what we have the right to do to the earth, but the responsibility to care for the earth. The earth is a gift to care for, not a possession to keep.

Fellow Church leader Elder Marcus Nash said, “All humankind are stewards over this earth and its bounty — not owners — and will be accountable to God for what we do with regard to His creation.”[4] Though humankind is given dominion over the earth, that dominion should be a righteous dominion, “one that is guided, curbed, and enlightened”[5] by the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The unbridled, voracious consumer is not consistent with God’s plan of happiness, which calls for humility, gratitude, and mutual respect.”[6]

“The earth is full, and there is enough and to spare,”[7] — so says the Latter-day scripture. If we act as good stewards, there are plenty of resources for the needs of our brothers and sisters around the globe, but not in excess and not to hoard from the poor.[8] Bishop Gérald Caussé, the Presiding Bishop of our Church, elevates the care of humanity as the culmination of this endeavor: “Our stewardship over God’s creations also includes, at its pinnacle, a sacred duty to love, respect, and care for all human beings with whom we share the earth.”[9]

Making a Practical Difference

Learning stewardship takes time. Over the years the Church has worked to improve its environmental impact. We take seriously our moral obligation to take care of the earth and be good neighbors and collaborators in society. We have previously and are currently engaged in numerous efforts to be wise stewards of the earth. But as I mentioned, this takes time. We are very humbled by this challenge and realize that we are not perfect—but we are trying. I would like to share some of these initiatives with you.

Agricultural Land Management

The Church celebrates its use of sustainable farming and ranching practices, such as the use of cover crops, crop rotation, no-till farming, grazing management, and other greenhouse gas capture methods, such as feed additives. Our guidance for soil management is to utilize existing material as much as possible and to maximize carbon sequestration. We have long encouraged our members and communities to grow gardens to improve the productivity of the land. Church Humanitarian Services teaches families living in urban and rural areas how to apply sustainable techniques for food production, nutrition, diet and home food storage.[10]

Water Conservation

The Church made an official statement in June this year highlighting the importance of water conservation, especially in areas where droughts persist. Best management practices are utilized for all new landscape designs and remodel projects of temples, meetinghouses, welfare facilities, and educational buildings. At Church headquarters alone, we have reduced our water consumption by over 30 million gallons annually between 2018 and 2022. We strive to incorporate water-wise principles of regionally appropriate plant material, reduction of lawn, and efficient irrigation systems, such as smart controllers, hydrometers, rain sensors, drip irrigation, and use of secondary or reclaimed water.[11]

Energy Management

The Church has long-standing efforts to conserve energy and increase its energy efficiency. We have undertaken projects to improve heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, and install more energy-efficient lighting, including the increased use of LED lights. The Church’s Headquarters Facilities department reduced its annual energy consumption across the portfolio by 17.8 gigawatt hours from 2018 to 2022, the equivalent of heating over 13 million households. The Church also continues to explore energy opportunities and currently has on-site solar projects on meetinghouses in various states across the country and globally.

Waste Reduction

We aim to avoid material waste throughout our operations and to reduce, reuse, and recycle. In 2019, our Print and Distribution Center recycled 3,679 tons of paper, 173 tons of metal, 303 tons of cardboard, 175 tons of plastic, and 55 gallons of used oil from machinery. The Church continues to evaluate opportunities to reduce its use of single-use plastics and in some instances exceed global and local regulations.


The Church is taking various strides to improve air quality and reduce transportation emissions. These include increasing the fuel efficiency standards of our global vehicle fleet. We also encourage Church employees to use public transportation options and other active transportation, such as biking and walking, where possible.

Sustainable Building Practices

The Church owns and operates a significant number of buildings worldwide. As a property owner, the Church has incorporated many sustainable design and construction principles and practices, including materials and site selection, prefabrication and modularization, and other practices that support the long-term operations and maintenance of the building. Given its global operations, the Church has increasingly prioritized the adaption of local building materials and methods to reduce emissions and transportation costs, support local economies, and minimize disruption to the local environment by avoiding cutting down trees, erosion, and laying excessive water lines.[12] The Church also owns several LEED- and WELL-certified buildings.

An Eye toward the Future

When it comes to taking care of the earth, we cannot afford to think only of today. The consequences of our actions, for better or worse, accumulate into the future and are sometimes felt only generations later. Stewardship requires feet and hands at work in the present with a gaze fixed on the future.

President of the Church Russell M. Nelson echoed this sentiment: “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another.”[13]

Our lives play out in the tension between individual and society … between past, present and future. None of us is born a lone individual. We come to this world with preexisting relationships, bonds and obligations. Eighteenth-century statesman Edmund Burke affirmed that society acts as “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born.”[14] We find our place in the world through this continuity of relationships. When we look after only our present needs, we break this sacred social chain.


We have an obligation, to be good stewards, to pass to future generations an earth better than we found it through the habits and values of wise stewardship. We have the power within us to not only maintain, but to be co-creators with God in beautifying and replenishing the earth. In doing so, we not only show our reverence and love for God, the Creator, but love for His greatest creation — each of us, humankind.

Thank you.


[1] Joseph Smith Papers Project, History, circa Summer 1832, The Church Historian’s Press.

[2] Doctrine & Covenants 93:33.

[3] Moses 3:9.

[4] Marcus B. Nash, “Righteous Dominion and Compassion for the Earth,” annual Stegner Center Symposium at the University of Utah, April 12, 2013.

[7] Doctrine & Covenants 104:17.

[8] Doctrine & Covenants 59:15–21.

[9] Bishop Gérald Caussé, “Our Earthly Stewardship,” 192nd Semiannual General Conference, Saturday Evening Session, October 1, 2022.

[11] See “The Importance of Water Conservation,” Church Newsroom, June 22, 2022.

[13] Russell M. Nelson, “The Creation,” Ensign, May 2000, 84.

[14] Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.