N.T. Wright, Anglican Bishop of Durham, in his book "Surprised by Hope," discusses the Bible's actual teaching about the Resurrection and the ultimate destiny of mankind and the earth, and concludes, like Joseph Smith, that the earth will be heaven for the righteous resurrected. He argues that this realization should make us feel responsible for caring for the earth as our eternal home, rather than something we plan to desert forever after death, which is the basic understanding of most traditional Christians these days.
May I suggest a corollary to the LDS understanding of creation that bears on this issue?
It is one that derives from doctrines that are heretical to many denominations, and so are not available to them as resources for creating a theology of natural stewardship. It is virtually unique to Mormonism. In the Book of Abraham, it seems pretty clear that not only Christ but also the many "noble and great ones" and perhaps many others of us in the pre-mortal world participated in the planning for and actual execution of the creation of the earth. In other words, the earth is not just something we have been entrusted with by God, it is also literally OUR creation too!
It is something we discussed in the grand council in heaven, planned and sweated over, in whatever way spirit children can sweat, in order to get it right. It is clearly a complex system, the most complex part of which is the life on its surface. My guess is that when there was such a complex and big activity going on here, we were not just sitting on our clouds in the pre-mortal realm and dreaming about what earth life would be like. I think that, just as we expect to be fully occupied in the spirit world, and in the celestial kingdom, we were also fully occupied helping Christ with the execution of the great plan in heaven. After we all "shouted for joy," Jesus probably told us it was time to put our shoulders to the wheel and make it a reality.
To help build the home that would be ours for eternity, and not be slothful servants. When you talk about "Intelligent Design," the irony is that the specific intelligence that was the source of a particular feature of life on earth may have been your own! If we think of this earth as something WE helped to bring into being, we should feel upset that anyone wants to mess it up, abuse it and disrespect it. At the very least, we certainly witnessed the creation and participated in that way. When we are resurrected and recover our premortal memories, will we feel guilty that we treated so poorly what Christ and our brothers and sisters created with so much care? Shouldn't we learn to understand this world and the amazing things that were done in order to bring it to fruition? And if we actually aspire to become like Christ and the Father, and participate in world building ourselves, shouldn't we learn to have the proper care for the world we know because that will be a big part of what we will be spending eternity doing?
Isn't such learning part of the "principle of intelligence" that will rise with us in the resurrection? The planned programs of the LDS Church, especially Scouting, and Girls Camp, have the potential to teach us appreciation for the earth, in ways that our increasingly suburbanized lives don't.
Raymond Takashi Swensen is an environmental attorney in Richland, Wash., who has specialized in the environmental impacts of nuclear weapon systems and their production for the Air Force and the Department of Energy.
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