28 April 2008

Of Sacred Groves and Tree Huggers

From the Tree of Life to the Sacred Grove to columns in a cathedral to a walnut tree in the Conference Center, trees and groves play a significant role in our religious life and worship. Some take this significance too far and worship the very objects created by God. These people are often called ‘tree huggers’ used in a derogatory sense by religious people towards others perceived of as worshipping nature. On the other hand, others will seek to destroy that which is sacred to others where critical beliefs may differ. Latter-day Saint teachings and practices sit somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, recognizing that trees are a means to an end; a vertical axis that links heaven and earth, and that trees, as creations of God, can lead us closer to Him.

Trees and religion
"Trees have played an important role in many of the world's mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages."(source) "Pliny the Elder (ad 23-79) indicated that trees were the first temples of the gods."(source) Additionally, "sacred groves were a feature of the mythological landscape and the cult practice of Old Europe, of the most ancient levels of Germanic paganism, Greek, Slavic, and Roman mythology."(source) Because of this, Christianity viewed this tree-worship as idolatry and as a result, history is full of religious people destroying sacred trees and groves to convert the pagan (atheist) away from worshipping nature. Trees, "as centres of pagan worship…became the objects of Christian zeal…The emperor Theodosius II (5th century ad) issued an edict directing that the groves be cut down unless they had already been appropriated for some purpose compatible with Christianity."(source)

The most famous sacred tree-felling episode involved the ‘Apostle of the Germans,’ St. Boniface. "In the midst of an awestruck crowd, (St. Boniface) attacked with an axe one of the chief objects of popular veneration, Donar’s sacred oak, which as the first blows fell upon it, the huge tree crashed, splitting into four parts, and the people who had expected a judgment to descend upon the perpetrators of such an outrage acknowledged that their gods were powerless to protect their own sanctuaries. From that time on the work of evangelization advanced steadily."(*Roskos, page 483)

Boniface overseeing the felling of Thor's Oak

Books like The Cross and the Rainforest by Robert Whelan still encourage this type of proselyting activity to further the work of God, by chopping right at the heart of paganism, including "deforestation in the name of this ancient, saintly practice of felling the sacred trees."(*Roskos, page 483) Additionally, in the introduction to the book Where Garden Meets the Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate, Rev. John Michael Beers likens the author to Boniface, facing "today’s New Age adherents in the environmental movement, who are not unlike the pagans of a millennium ago."(*Roskos, page 486) Additionally, the current environmental movement has as its representative the website Treehugger.com, arguably the most popular environmental site on the planet with more than 30 posts a day and an archive of over 20,000 articles.

Sacred Grove
Mormons clearly do not worship nature, but interestingly, do have their own grove of sacred trees. In fact, the Sacred Grove is arguably the most sacred site in all of Mormonism. This forested area of western New York in 1820 was the site of a visitation of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph Smith. It is the most recent site we have record of where all three members of the Godhead have been. Additionally, the golden plates were handled by each of the Eight Witnesses in this grove. President Monson has said, "The boy prophet Joseph Smith sought heavenly help by entering a grove which then became sacred." The term ‘sacred’ means the giving of "religious respect by association with divinity or divine things"(source) The trees, dirt, rocks, and plants all combine to form a sacred ecosystem which is all that now remains of Joseph’s encounter with divinity there.

Sacred Grove by CaptureThem

In discussing the trees of the Sacred Grove, we often personify the trees by giving them the human abilities of eyesight or hearing. "Trees of the Sacred Grove stand as witnesses and sentinels of what took place here."(source) "Mature trees at the time of Joseph still grace the forest."(source) Statements hypothesizing that these trees were here when certain events happened help add to the sacred nature of being in the presence of such trees, i.e. because of what they saw and heard, we will treat them with respect and reverence. In the future, it is probable that even being a seed from a tree that witnessed those events will have significance.

While a visitation of the gods shares a commonality with other sacred groves throughout the world, "The precise location where Joseph prayed and experienced the marvelous vision is not known. This omission on Joseph’s part seems intentional."(source) It appears wise that Joseph didn’t reveal the exact spot where the vision occurred, or we might ourselves have been dangerously close to worshipping nature, with sacred trees and shrines. Think about what we might do if we knew the actual spot where he fell to the ground, or how we would treat those select few trees, especially if they were still alive today. It would be hard not to revere such objects. So it’s good that we only know the general location where the event took place, allowing us to appreciate and take in the beauty of the Creation and revelation while among nature. Not knowing the actual spot of ground or trees involved, frees us to worship God while among the trees rather than worshipping the trees as God.

Fortunately the Church is serious about keeping this a sacred grove for the many pilgrims who visit seeking spiritual uplift and renewal. "The Sacred Grove is currently healthier, better cared for, and more beautiful than it has been for many years. The Church has for some years been directing a program to safeguard and extend the life of this beautiful woodland that is sacred to Latter-day Saints. New growth and plantings are extending the grove’s boundaries to its historic dimensions and strengthening its interior. The Sacred Grove is making a marvelous comeback from the disease and pollution that, until recently, seriously threatened its existence."(source)

Pillar of Light
According to Joseph Smith’s description, his vision in the grove began as a pillar (tree or column) of light descending towards him. Joseph stated, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me."(JSH 1:16) A popular hymn describes the experience as "a shining, glorious pillar"(Hymn 26)

Pillar of light by lordicarus

Sun pillar by Shaun Lowe

These images of pillars of light represent a tree in form; a vertical axis bridging the span between the heavens and the earth. One is created by shining a series of lights vertically, the other is "caused by flat fluttering ice crystals reflecting sunlight from the upper atmosphere"(source) In the case of Joseph Smith, a spiritual tree of light is what connected God and man.

Temple at the Sacred Grove
Today there stands another temple at the Sacred Grove. This appears to be the only place on earth where two temples, sacred to Mormons, occupy virtually the same site. One created by God, the other created by man. Both are holy and sacred. Both are the dwelling place, or house of God.

Palmyra New York Temple

The temple plays proper homage to the grove in the details of construction. Trees and nature play a prominent role. Within the temple we have the re-creation of the sacred grove highlighting the events that took place nearby. The builder of the temple stated, "One of the main pieces is of the First Vision, and the overall tree motif (that required the hand cutting and hand notching of the more than 6,800 leaves) gives patrons a feeling like they are in the Sacred Grove."

Front doors of temple

Baptismal skylight of temple

This is not unlike the cathedrals that attempt to achieve a sacred forest-like experience through the structure of the worship space. The very groves destroyed by the early Christians were later used as a model for their cathedrals and sacred spaces. "The sacred grove was at the origin of the temple, whose columns were initially trees, and later of the Christian church which still evokes it by the alignment of its pillars, the semidarkness within it, and the soft coloured light that filters through its stained glass windows."(source)

Fountains Abbey as a sacred grove by Taylor Dundee

Conference Center Pulpit
While the vast interior of the Conference Center was designed without a single column (treeless), there is a single tree that sits as the centerpiece of all our General Conferences: the walnut tree from President Hinckley’s backyard that was formed into the pulpit. A book has even been written about it. "Inspired by President Gordon B. Hinckley’s account, The Story of the Walnut Tree tells a tale of how the wisdom, nurturing, and vision of the prophet of God, the ‘man who loves trees,’ transformed a struggling walnut tree into a focal point of the majestic Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."(source)

Photo by Ravell Call

The walnut-tree pulpit is the best link to nature in this other-wordly spatial experience. The scale of everything is so large in the Conference Center, having a human-sized object as the center point of our attention makes all the difference. Because of its placement and focus, this tree still retains the vertical axis all trees do by linking the heavens and the earth. This axis is the focal point and where all our attention is drawn. How appropriate that the material used in this vast arena is from a single tree grown in the yard of a prophet – planted and nurtured for many years by him. This personal detail is one we can relate to and connect with. It is of the earth, and it is sacred. The words of the prophets spoken from the walnut tree link us to heaven, similar to a pillar of light or a sacred grove.

The Sacred Grove and Conference Center pulpit help define the proper relationship we should have towards trees and nature. While we do not worship the earth or creation, we need His creations in order to properly worship and commune with God. The place or object of sacred experience stands out as one of reverence and remembrance.

The mere existence of a ‘sacred grove’ in the Church would typically be frowned upon by the Christian world. Such sacred groves typically referred to the pagan worship of the earth and were systematically destroyed, while some today still advocate such tactics as the price of conversion.

However, trees and groves in their many forms provide the link between the heavens and the earth. This connection with the divine is vital, and is why we keep returning to the trees. While there are those who deify trees, the religious person will recognize the trees as a means to an end by being brought closer to deity because of the trees.

*Felling Sacred Groves: Appropriation of a Christian Tradition for Antienvironmentalism by Nicole A. Roskos from the book, "EcoSpirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth" Edited by Laurel Kearns & Catherine Keller
Fordham University Press, New York, 2007.

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22 April 2008

Scouting for the Environment

This Earth Day evening, I have just returned from Scouts where I am currently the Varsity Coach in our ward. I have realized that many do not give due credit to the Scouting organization for its significant environmental component. The LDS Church recognizes Scouting as the official activity arm of the Church for the young men. We often hear the funny ‘pyromaniac’ stories around the campfire but rarely hear of the impact and respect taught to young people regarding the outdoors and environmental stewardship.

Many love Scouting, including the newly sustained President Monson. Conversely many would like to see Scouting and the Church sever their ties. Either way, a significant amount of the Scouting program is directly focused on stewardship and respect for the environment. One of the main focuses in Scouting is the Leave No Trace concept, increasing awareness and outdoor ethics with an award for both youth and leaders. Additionally, about one out of every five merit badges deals directly with the environment.

The most significant of these is the Environmental Science merit badge required for Eagle. Requirements focus on Ecology, Air Pollution, Water Pollution, Land Pollution, Endangered Species, and Pollution Prevention, Resource Recovery, and Conservation.

Additional Merit Badges with an environmental flare:
-Animal Science
-Bird Study
-Environmental Science
-Fish & Wildlife Management
-Insect Study
-Landscape Architecture
-Mammal Study
-Nuclear Science
-Plant Science
-Public Health
-Pulp and Paper
-Reptile and Amphibian Study
-Soil and Water Conservation
-Traffic Safety
-Truck Transportation
-Veterinary Medicine
-Wilderness Survival

The goal with many merit badges is similar to that of General Education, providing a wide array of knowledge, with most involving some type of career research to help channel young men into important and interesting career paths.

Are Scouting leaders in the Church appropriately conveying this message of environmental stewardship to the young men? Is the right message being taught? Is Scouting having a positive influence by teaching them correct principles about the environment?
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21 April 2008

General Authority concerned about the Environment

Elder Steven E. Snow was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 2001. In Oct 2007 he was called to Presidency of the Seventy. Prior to his service in the Seventy, Elder Snow was quite active in conservation efforts in his home of Southern Utah. There are two published accounts of his I would like to highlight. The first is from an article he wrote entitled, "Skipping the Grand Canyon," included in the book "New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community." The second is a statement read to the House of Representatives during a Joint Oversight Field Hearing when Elder Snow was a Board Member of the Grand Canyon Trust. The hearing involved the issue of air tour flights conducted over national parks.

"Our generation, more than any other, has the ability to irretrievably change the land. Financial rewards provide tremendous pressure to unleash our technology to reinvent our surroundings. There will be growth; change will come. But failure to care for the land on which we live means turning our backs on a heritage laid down carefully and at such great cost by our forefathers - and will leave us immeasurably poorer."
Steven E. Snow, "Skipping the Grand Canyon," New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community (ed. Terry Tempest Williams, William B. Smart, Gibbs M. Smith eds. 1998, 244).


Our organization is dedicated to conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Colorado Plateau. We have been involved in this issue of natural quiet in the parks for about a decade now with special emphasis on the two dozen parks on the Colorado Plateau. We hope that the visitor experience is not threatened as a result of the growing number of commercial air tours over our national parks. Now, natural quiet, of course, means many different things to many different people, and clearly there is no one definition which suits everyone, but what is clear is that regardless of how the term is defined, there is little dispute among visitors to our national parks, who seek solitude and escape from an increasingly urbanized society, that natural quiet is one of the defining elements of the visit to the national park, and we believe that has been borne out as a result of surveys which have been conducted in the past.

We believe that the Park Service is the one charged to protect the resources of our national treasures like Grand Canyon and the Great Smokies, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Zion and Yosemite, and many, many others. Aircraft management plans developed by the Park Service could prevent the development of conflicts between natural quiet needs and aircraft overflights. For example, as part of the development of the management plan at Zion National Park, park managers in cooperation with tour operators have developed voluntary measures to minimize air tour impacts on the park. However, these measures are just voluntary, and without legislation, such as S. 268, the Park Service does not have the authority to require compliance. We think the situation in Bryce Canyon is plagued by fixed wing and helicopter overflights that impair both natural quiet and visual resource because they fly below the elevation of the park overlooks. Other parks on the Colorado Plateau, such as Arches and Canyonlands, are also experiencing these overflight issues.

Grand Canyon, I think, has been referred to a great deal today. It is an example of what can happen. By the time Congress passed the Natural Parks Overflight Act in 1987, there were 40,000 air tour operations per year in the canyon, and natural quiet had already become a scarce resource, and the air industry was firmly entrenched and growing. Ten years later we still have not restored natural quiet, and the number of air tour operations in the park has now more than doubled. We think the caps on flight operations is one reason why these past rules have failed. We think that it is a good direction to protect the natural quiet resource in our parks.
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15 April 2008

A Field Guide to Sprawl: LULU

Utah State Prison at Draper by jimjohnson13

This post features another of the fifty-one common building patterns defined in the book "A Field Guide to Sprawl" by Dolores Hayden. The Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah is a LULU, or ‘Locally Unwanted Land Use’. A LULU "creates a problem for people because of the way it looks, smells, sounds, or pollutes the environment…Protests against LULUs in newly developing areas with affluent residents may force them to remote locations, thus causing leapfrog development, which advances sprawl. LULUs often wind up located in communities without the political clout to resist them, including poor communities and ones inhabited by people of color." (page 64)

(Deseret Morning News graphic)

This past February, the Salt Lake County and the Draper City Council both passed a resolution asking the state to reconsider moving the prison. When built in 1951, the 700-acre prison was out in the rural landscape of the county, nowhere near the city. Now fifty years later, people actually live in Draper, and they don’t want to live next to prisoners. "If you're going to move the prison, you only want to do it once," said Draper City Manager Eric Keck. (source) Interestingly, I’m sure this was also said back in 1951 when the prison was moved to Draper from Sugarhouse. What he really meant is he only wants the prison to move out of Draper once.

Utah State Prison in the 1950's (Deseret Morning News Archive)

"Campaigns against LULUs are also called NIMBY (not in my backyard), BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near), and NOPE (not on planet earth)." (Hayden, page 64) In spite of this, Draper Council member Jeff Stenquist is quoted as saying, "This is not a case of Draper City not wanting the prison in our backyard. Moving the prison, and claiming that land for a higher-level economic use, would benefit the entire community - Utah County, Salt Lake County and the entire state." (source) So it’s a benefit to the entire state simply by not being in Draper? How does that even make sense?

2005 aerial image by Photographic Solutions

If the city and county have their way, it will only be a matter of time before the prison is moved, which brings up the concern of where they want to move it. According to Steve Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune, County Councilman Jeff Allen is looking at Grantsville or the Salt Lake Valley’s West Bench. Additionally, "past rumors have focused on Tooele and Sanpete counties." (source)

Mapquest aerial image showing Grantsville, Tooele, and the West Bench

Moving the prison further into the rural countryside will greatly impact more than the 1200 employees and 1500 volunteers who work at the prison day and night. "Moving the prison farther out from downtown amenities like courts and hospitals may also add heavy travel costs to provide for the needs and rights of the prisoners", said Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford. Additionally, about 20 to 30 inmates are taken to Salt Lake hospitals each day. And most importantly this will further distance the prisoners from family and friends, resulting in fewer visits. "Positive relationships can help inmates change and are one of the key factors in deciding if an inmate gets parole," said Board of Pardons and Parole member Don Blanchard. (source)

All these support people will have to follow the prison into the next rural setting, building up the rural location into more sprawl. What is not realized is that the prison will be a LULU no matter where it is put, and the further you put it from where people live, the worse you make it for the thousands who work at, volunteer at, provide food for, visit, or otherwise support the prison. So the LULU cycle just keeps repeating itself, and nothing is ever learned…where sprawl is called progress and poorly planned growth is always good.
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13 April 2008

Highlighted Environmental Artist: Ben Coultate

Namib Aerial 019

Ben Coultate is a Civil Engineer living in London who has a passion for photography according to his Flickr profile. The images posted on his page show aerial images of the desert unlike any I have ever seen. This series includes 18 images of the Namib Desert that are compelling, mesmerizing, and full of beauty.

Namib Aerial 032

The Namib Desert is in Namibia and Southwest Angola and features the tallest sand dunes in the world, up to 340 meters high. (source) "The world's oldest desert, the Namib Desert has existed for at least 55 million years, completely devoid of surface water but bisected by several dry riverbeds." (source) It is an extremely arid region receiving "less than 0.4 inches of rain annually and is almost completely barren" (source)

Namib Aerial 014

"A major threat to the Namib Desert is the impact of off-road driving. The impact is the greatest on the gravel plains where depressions left by vehicles remain for more than 40 years because the rainfall is too episodic and sparse to erase them. These tracks are unsightly and cause long-lasting damage to the lichen fields. Lichens are particularly sensitive to mechanical damage as they grow extremely slowly and cannot quickly repair damaged thalli. Most of the damage is done by mining company vehicles when on prospecting expeditions." (source)

Namib Aerial 034

"The present conservation status of the Namib Desert is good as most of the ecoregion is intact and is protected in extensive conservation blocks. The Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest conservation area in southern Africa and protects the central area of this ecoregion." (source)

Namib Aerial 035
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A Field Guide to Sprawl: Noise Wall

The book "A Field Guide to Sprawl" by Dolores Hayden offers a vocabulary for fifty-one common building patterns.

Retaining wall on the 210 freeway by Jimmy Lin

"When highways penetrate neighborhoods, cars, trucks, and buses generate exhaust fumes and noise night and day. A noise wall (or sound wall) is a barrier, usually concrete, erected to mitigate noise pollution. Noise walls do not work very well because on a wide highway, more noise will go over a wall than bounce back from it." (page 72)

los angeles freeway by speedwaystar

These noise walls are now a common staple of cities. The walls are built to "protect" residential neighborhoods that have been cut in half or otherwise destroyed by the highway. These unfortunate leftover spaces provide an ample amount of undesirable housing.

Houston05 by Lucas.Wall

"Although the walls may block about 90% of the energy in the traffic noise, that 90% reduction in energy is heard as only about a 50% reduction in loudness…Thus, many find that the mitigation that is offered by noise walls is inadequate. Other residents regret the fact that noise walls block the view to the horizon and give the roadway a 'channelized' look, and sometimes business owners or even the police object to the blocking of lines of sight." (Mike O’Connor, Noise and Air Quality Consultant)

By Tony Dejak, AP

One option to help restore line of sight is the use of acrylic transparent walls as seen here in Cleveland. The most appropriate solution is not to build high-speed freeways through neighborhoods.
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10 April 2008

The Transparent Creation

"Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?" (The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau)

The opening line of Rachel Carson’s ‘The Sea Around Us’ states "Beginnings are apt to be shadowy, and so it is with the beginnings of that great mother of life, the sea." When it comes to a discussion of the Creation, it is true that much is not understood. Adding to the confusion are no fewer than four accounts of the Creation narrative (Genesis, Moses, Abraham, Temple). But the Creation may be one of the clearest, tangible and real things we have been given from God. The beginnings may be in shadow, but the results are here for us to see, touch, experience, and learn from. For the religious woman or man, the ability to see God in all His Creations, transforms those Creations into a window by which to comprehend God. This transparency is His gift to us. Those who cannot see are the blind who "…have eyes to see, and see not…for they are a rebellious house." (Ezekiel 12:2) They "see through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12) where the creations, and God Himself, are translucent or completely opaque, rather than transparent.

Mircea Eliade in his amazing book ‘The Sacred and the Profane’ discusses many religious symbols in nature that help provide this transparency. "For religious man the supernatural is indissolubly connected with the natural, that nature always expresses something that transcends it." (page 118) The religious person will be able to see the sacred in all things through symbols of the actual objects themselves. Only by attaching meaning to these symbols are we able to see God’s transcendence in the Creation and in all things. This human experience is reinforced in the Book of Mormon teaching that "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it" which allows us to look at how God is revealed to us in every day life and ritual. (Alma 30:44) Joseph Smith further taught, "any man who hath seen any or the least of these [sun, moon, or stars] hath seen God moving in his majesty and power." (D&C 88:47)

Physical symbols that reveal the Transparent Creation:

The heavens reveal the Most High who "is manifested in meteorological phenomena – thunder, lightning, storm, meteors, and so on." (Eliade, page 121) Storms and other natural disasters, rather than indicating pleasure or displeasure, simply reveal God and remind us of He who is in charge. The vertical expanse of sky is also linked with ascent, climbing, trees, and mountains. Nephi, the brother of Jared, Peter, James, John and Jesus all sought inspiration and knowledge by ascending to the tops of mountains.

Stones "reveal power, hardness, permanence…perceived by virtue of a religious experience, the specific mode of existence of the stone reveals to man the nature of an absolute existence, beyond time, invulnerable to becoming." (page 155) Joseph Smith and the brother of Jared each used stones to help reveal God. These stones, which "were white and clear, even as transparent glass" enabled the Seers to reveal actual light as well as spiritual light and revelation about God. (Ether 3:1) Seer stones are independent of time and reveal the past, present and future of God and man.

The waters have always brought forth life. The land came out of the waters, and as such, was created from the waters. "Everything that is form manifests itself above the waters, by detaching itself from the waters." (page 131) The waters "precede every form and support every creation." (page 130) Symbolism of water represents both death and rebirth. Contact always brings regeneration and purification in rituals such as baptism, and the sacrament. The Garden of Eden contained a fountain of living waters from which sprang four rivers. The dream of Lehi likewise contained a fountain of living waters, which represented the love of God.

"On the level of profane experience vegetable life displays merely a series of births and deaths. Only the religious vision of life makes it possible to decipher other meanings in the rhythm of vegetation, first of all the ideas of regeneration, of eternal youth, of health, of immortality." (page 148-149) It was a piece of fruit that conferred immortality while in the Garden that Eve and Adam were allowed to eat from. Likewise, it was a miraculous and forbidden piece of fruit that changed them into gods, with the accompanying knowledge of both evil and good.

The moon represents the cycles of life "in becoming, growth and waning, death and resurrection. For we must not forget that what the moon reveals to religious man is not only that death is indissolubly linked with life but also, and above all, that death is not final, that it is always followed by a new birth." (page 157)

"The sun remains unchangeable; its form is always the same. Solar hierophanies give expression to the religious values of autonomy and power, of sovereignty, of intelligence." (page 157) For Latter-day Saints, the sun represents Celestial glory, even that of the unchangeable God. "These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical." (D&C 76:70)

Women and men are also a symbol of God, reinforced by Jesus, the Creator, coming embodied to the earth as a man and Joseph Smith’s testimony that man is in the image of God. While here, God could be seen, touched, and felt. He taught in symbol, and was a symbol Himself. But only those who had eyes to see were able to see Him for who He really is, and not as a man. Only those who believed saw Him as God – the rest saw only a man. In the King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith taught that to see other people is no less than to see God, because God is an exalted Man.

From these few examples God’s Creations each represent higher realms and meanings which teach us about Him. In a very real way, removing ourselves from the waters, sky, vegetation, or people is to remove ourselves from God. We are removing ourselves from the very things He has created that are continually bearing testimony of Him. Living close to the elements reminds us of our dependence on God for all things. As mostly urban dwellers, how can we avoid losing our transparent connection towards God? How can this dependence be retained where consumerism, capitalism, and specialization rule the day?

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…" (Walden by Henry David Thoreau)
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