Unlike many Christians, Latter-day Saints believe that Adam and Eve were real people who were given a real charge to care for the earth. The Israelites were required to give the land a Sabbath year to lie fallow and recover. The Amish conduct their farming so that the land is not abused and can sustain its bounty. Wise stewardship of the land, to benefit both mankind and nature, and accountable to the Creator of both, is the theme of the "conservation" ethic.

Sadly, much of the modern environmental advocacy movement has adopted a distinct, anti-human ethic. Its rhetoric asserts that Nature or Gaia (the earth as mother) was just fine and happy until mankind came along and started to ruin it. Every policy supported by 21st Century environmental activists has the theme of eliminating mankind's presence in nature, from removing dams to banning the cutting of trees and letting them instead burn in uncontrolled forest fires, to limiting hunting and promoting the expansion of wildlife predators like wolves and cougars. Their theme is the "wilderness" ethic.

The supporters of the "wilderness" ethic, the "wilder" people, are not content to allocate public lands among various uses, one of them being wilderness. Their goal is to prevent the human use or development of any open land. They view animals as having equal moral rights to any human, and humans as just a kind of especially harmful animal whose intelligence is a threat to all other species. They have for decades been forecasting, with anticipation, the collapse of human civilization due to overpopulation, abuse of farmland, extinction of species, exhaustion of fossil fuels, or any number of other man-made catastrophes. The latest in this litany is the threat of global warming, which is supposed to doom civilization.

Those who subscribe to the "wilderness" ethic are worshippers of a different god than the God of the Bible. They reject the special status of mankind as God's children, whose redemption was bought at a terrible price by the suffering of God's Son.

For this reason, Latter-day Saints and other Christians should be careful about buying too easily into the rhetoric and programs of those who push the anti-human "wilderness" ethic in public policy. Those "wilder" people claim that Christians don't care about the earth because they believe the Second Coming of Christ will take the righteous to heaven while the wicked are destroyed.

To the contrary, as one of the Anglican Church's leading bishops has written in his new book about heaven, what the Bible actually teaches is that the earth will be the home of the resurrected, which is precisely the doctrine of the LDS Church as well. The Latter-day Saints believe that the ultimate opportunity of those who are exalted with Christ is to join him in being creators of worlds. Since we honor the Creator, and hope to someday emulate him, we should care about and for his creation in the same way he does. God's vision for the earth is not a wilderness of nature existing and evolving randomly for no purpose, but as a home created for his children.

We can study and debate specific policies of alternative uses of the land, its mineral and water resouces, and its air, but the way we weigh those choices will be determined by whether we acknowledge God's intent that it be a home for mankind, or think of mankind as a weed that would be better pruned from the tree of evolution.