SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Though they can't be accurately labeled "environmentalists," two early LDS Church leaders shared theological concepts about nature that set them apart from most religious leaders of the time.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith, and to a greater extent, his successor, Brigham Young, taught that God created earth, plants and animals not simply for the use of man but as entities with souls.

Brian Wallis of the University of Utah told participants at the annual Mormon History Association conference this weekend in Sacramento that Young, in particular, was concerned not just for buffalo that emigrating Latter-day Saints shot for sport on the Great Plains, but also for "the crickets that consumed his people's food" once they reached the Salt Lake Valley.

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