Additional Resource

Honoring the Creator

By Elder D. Todd Christofferson

This speech was given at the Florianópolis Brazil Seminario SudAmericano 2023 (an environmental stewardship conference) in Florianópolis, Brazil, on Friday, October 20, 2023. See a news summary of the event.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Thank you for the invitation to speak to you in this 2023 edition of the Seminario SUD-Americano. I feel honored to be with you. Some years ago, I spoke in one of the early sessions or editions of this Seminario that was being held in Buenos Aires. I guess that was not a disaster, so you were willing to invite me back again. Thank you.

I congratulate Romanna Remor and the Roble Foundation board on successfully organizing the Seminario this year in Florianopolis. I know they have worked tirelessly to make arrangements for the distinguished speakers and presenters, plus all the logistical arrangements needed for such a gathering. I thank the individuals and organizations that have contributed funds and have otherwise supported the Seminario. This is a significant undertaking, but it is a wise investment for the future of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the communities and nations you live and serve in, and your current and future contributions as leaders and disciples of Jesus Christ.

I also congratulate the organizers on the theme they selected— “Our Stewardship of God’s Creations.” There can be no question about the importance of this subject. And I am glad you have taken a broad view of the issues, including, but also going beyond, caring for the physical environment. Caring for our bodies, protecting the sacredness of life, and promoting political and religious participation are all elements of our stewardship of God’s creations. His greatest creation is, of course, His children—you and I and all our brothers and sisters in the family of our Heavenly Father.

I had an opportunity to preview a copy of Bishop Gérald Caussé’s excellent address about our earthly stewardship and some of the things the Church is doing to help meet that responsibility. I thought it was an important treatise. I am one of Bishop Caussé’s biggest fans. He and his counselors carry a heavy responsibility in managing what we call the temporal matters of the Church. He spoke about just a few of those endeavors. If everything they supervise were incorporated into a business enterprise, it would constitute one of the largest corporations in the world—not the largest, but a major worldwide enterprise. The Presiding Bishopric carries that load without complaint and with wise and skillful leadership ability.

Besides all of that, Bishop Caussé speaks the elegant language of French. It is like listening to beautiful music to hear him speak in his native tongue. I know something about Spanish (a language I love), but I know nothing of French. I think if I could combine Spanish and French, I would come out with Portuguese.

Bishop Caussé explained something very important about creation:

“The creation of this marvelous world in which we live is not an end in itself; it is the means by which our Heavenly Father’s eternal designs can be accomplished. This earth and everything in it—the towering mountains, the vast oceans, the fertile plains, the green valleys, the meandering rivers, the arid deserts, the innumerable variety of plants, insects, birds, and animals—everything, absolutely everything, was created for one purpose: to enable His sons and daughters to inherit exaltation and immortality in eternal family units.”1

I add my own witness to the truth of this statement. The Lord Himself said that without the formation of eternal families through all their generations, the earth’s creation would be “utterly wasted.”2 This being the case, we should see our stewardship of God’s creations as a responsibility to help fulfill His purposes. We do not worship God’s creations; we worship God, the Creator. Therefore, we use what He has given us to honor Him and accomplish His will. As Bishop Caussé pointed out, our Heavenly Father’s will, His work, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.3 Knowing the ultimate purpose of creation, we measure what we do by that standard, asking ourselves, “Would it help, or would it hinder God’s divine plan?”

For example, we should use our earthly blessings to minister to the temporal and spiritual needs of others in a way that enables them to come to know and serve God and eventually inherit eternal life. The Lord explained it this way in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“It is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.

“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.

“And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

“But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.”4

The “first and great commandment” and the “second [that] is like unto it,”5 are our guide and our motivation. It is the love of God, first and foremost, that helps us discern and do the right things. If we love Him above all else, then He will guide and bless us to fulfill our stewardship. Part of that stewardship, as I just read, is our care for one another, and the first commandment—the love of God—will lead us to keep the second commandment—love of our neighbor—more fully and in the best ways possible.

I saw an inspiring example of divinely guided stewardship last month in a location outside the city of Chennai in India. Almost 20 years ago, Sister Becky Douglas, who lives with her husband John in the eastern United States, began a project to help persons affected by leprosy which she called Rising Star Outreach. Her efforts were prompted by a personal tragedy. Her daughter, Amber, who suffered from serious depression, committed suicide as a young adult. You can imagine the grief that engulfed John and Becky. As they tearfully sorted through Amber’s possessions, they found the record of a donation Amber had made to a charity in India that aided people with leprosy. Becky decided that to honor the memory of her daughter, she would try to do something to help this same suffering population, and she traveled to India to investigate the possibility.

To make the story short, Becky has had great success over the intervening years. By what I believe was divine intervention, she was introduced to Padma Venkataraman, the daughter of a former president of India. Padma is a revered figure, much like Mother Teresa, and she counseled and worked with Becky on ways to make a lasting difference for good working within the strictures of Indian culture. They started with a leprosy colony using simple training, microloans, and support circles to help adults become self-reliant. Many in India believe that those afflicted with leprosy are cursed by God (or the gods) and somehow deserve their fate. For many, they are the untouchables that even the untouchable class won’t touch. With no empathy or help, those with leprosy feel they have no option but to try to eke out an existence by begging. Rising Star Outreach gave those in the Bharathapuram Leprosy Colony a new vision of their possibilities.

When Kathy and I visited the colony, we found small but sturdy homes in a well-kept community. Among other things, there is a clinic, an adult art school, a computer facility, and a care facility for the older, disabled population. Many who still have some fingers dress their own wounds. Some, however, cannot, and Kathy and I found ourselves washing their feet—feet with little or no feeling and few, if any toes—scraping away dead skin, and rubbing baby oil into the remaining healthy skin, all in preparation for the nurse to bandage their open sores. People in the colony raise chickens and cattle, make clothing, paint, and engage in a variety of other small business ventures. For the most part, over the last two decades they have gained economic stability. Now some of their relatives who would not even acknowledge them in the past come to them for assistance, advice, and even jobs.

The discrimination and rejection experienced by those with leprosy extends to their children. Becky’s second major project through Rising Star Outreach was a school for these children who were generally barred from public schools. It is impressive to see this school today. With the help of many donations, including some from the Marriott family foundations, it is now a preschool through 12th grade institution with well-kept buildings and grounds, a water purification system that makes water from the tap potable—something one doesn’t find in even first-class hotels in most of the world—roof-top solar panels that supply all the school’s electrical power needs, and a clean, efficient cafeteria offering simple but healthy meals.

Most impressive, however, are the bright, enthusiastic students. They are so eager to learn, and they enjoy quality instruction, including science labs. Their rate of success on national exams is astounding. I was energized just to be around them. People from surrounding communities, who would never associate with a leprosy-affected person, are anxious to get their children into this school.

I cite this as one shining example of a determined Latter-day Saint fulfilling a stewardship of ministry to severely disadvantaged children of our Heavenly Father in ways that help them fulfill the measure of their creation and the ultimate purposes of His creations.

The Church as an institution may take positions on public issues or any other subject as determined by the First Presidency. You and I are not authorized to commit the Church on any issue but can certainly reiterate the declarations and statements of the First Presidency. This principle pertains to everything from abortion to climate change and the many things in between. There are, of course, many matters where the First Presidency makes no comment or takes no position. As a Church, we are not obligated to opine on every question.

What you will find most often, rather than support for or opposition to specific proposals, is the First Presidency and other Church leaders teaching gospel principles and relating those gospel principles to the issues and circumstances of our time. The 1995 Proclamation to the World: The Family is a prominent example. The principles enunciated in this Proclamation have real world application as in promoting man-woman marriage, bearing and rearing of children in intact families, and values and practices that bring happiness in family life. These relate directly to the purposes of creation. Individuals will react to these prophetic statements as they will, given their moral agency to choose. But the Church and you and I are free to make our case and actively support what we know to be true.

As Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants explains, we don’t presume to dictate or “exercise unrighteous dominion.”6 Our way—the priesthood way—is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge.”7 Pure knowledge is truth, and in the end, truth will prevail. It must prevail if we are to have strong and stable societies that will, among other things, respect and preserve God’s creations.

We need to resist the efforts of some to bar religious voices and values from the public square. People of faith have a great deal to contribute to the discussion about what makes a healthy person, a healthy society, and a healthy environment. You should not be shy about supporting what you know to be true and the goals you feel are just. And there is no reason your voice should not be heard in discussions about how to achieve those goals. In our societies, people may share the same goals but disagree about how to achieve them. There are often different means to the same ends, and we should be part of respectful discussions about the best choices.

Principles and values in the gospel of Jesus Christ provide wise guidance, and we should not be afraid to base our proposals, opinions, and recommendations on our beliefs and values. In doing so, we are not imposing our religion on others, we are taking part in public discussions about the way to proceed. We are seeking to persuade and convince others just as everyone else seeks to persuade and convince others to their point of view. Everyone has values they believe in, and in democratic and pluralistic societies we decide together which values will prevail. We may not always agree with decisions or directions taken, but we continue to participate in the process, always promoting what we think is best just as everyone else does. Just because what we favor and promote is based on our religious values does not make our opinions invalid or inappropriate. We all have a right to be heard and to “make our case.”

When he spoke in General Conference in April 2021, President Dallin H. Oaks said this about our responsibility as citizens:

“We must pray for the Lord to guide and bless all nations and their leaders. This is part of our article of faith. Being subject to presidents or rulers of course poses no obstacle to our opposing individual laws or policies. It does require that we exercise our influence civilly and peacefully within the framework of . . . applicable laws.”8

Throughout history, religious belief and practice have been foundational for stability, peace, and civilization itself. People who feel accountable to God for their decisions and behavior try to act for the welfare of their fellow beings, their brothers and sisters. They live with a self-imposed discipline, striving to do what they believe God would want them to do. They may not be totally consistent. They may even fail at times. Nevertheless, they will feel the need to repent and try again to do better and to be better. Believers don’t need to be tightly regulated or forced to do what will support the common good. They are willing to obey even the unenforceable when they know it is good and right.

Without a foundation of faith, a person is likely to feel accountable only to himself or herself. His or her own welfare or pleasure can become the highest good or highest priority. Outcomes can be anything if a person truly believes that something is right or true simply because he or she declares it to be right or true, and that no one, including God, can question what is true for her or right for him.

This is the doctrine of Korihor who taught that “every man fare[s] in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime.”9 Thus, there is no atonement for sins, and there does not need to be because there is no sin. And with no need for an atonement, there is, says Korihor, no Christ.

But there is a Savior who is Jesus Christ. “The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”10 There is right and wrong; there is truth and error; “there is a law given . . . and a repentance granted . . . God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement.”11 In all aspects of our earthly stewardships, our love of God and our discipleship of Jesus Christ will be a sure guide, and surely, we will do real good in the world. May each of you be an instrument in the hand of God, and may your life be a blessing to past, present, and future generations.


1. Bishop Gérald Caussé, “Caring for God’s Creations: A Duty of Love,” Florianópolis Brazil Seminario SudAmericano 2023, Oct. 18, 2023.

2. See Doctrine and Covenants 2:3.

3. See Moses 1:39.

4. Doctrine and Covenants 104:13–17.

5. See Matthew 22:37–39.

6. Doctrine and Covenants 121:39.

7. See Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–42.

8. Dallin H. Oaks, “Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Liahona, May 2021, 107.

9. Alma 30:17.

10. John 1:2–3.

11. Alma 42:22–23.

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