“An environmental ethic begins with the idea that the well-being of the entire community of earth is paramount, and human well-being takes place within that broader community.”— Gary C. Bryner
In the heart of our faith lies the principle of love for our neighbors, as emphasized by Christ in Matthew 22:39. This profound teaching extends far beyond personal interactions and weaves itself intricately into the realm of environmental justice. As President Ezra Taft Benson insightfully expounded, “It is not likely that someone who does not love his neighbor will be concerned with his adverse impact on the environment . . . The outward expressions of irreverence for life and for fellowmen often take the form of heedless pollution of both air and water.” As we strive to love and uphold our communities, we inherently assume a duty to care for the environment that sustains them.
A significant aspect of embodying this neighborly love lies in recognizing and addressing the disparities in how environmental benefits and burdens are distributed within our society. The principles of environmental justice illuminate these disparities, urging us to rectify the imbalances in environmental policies that often disadvantage certain communities. As former BYU professor Gary C Bryner aptly articulated in his article “Theology and Ecology: Religious Belief and Environmental Stewardship”, “Environmentalism fits within a social justice movement as it focuses on the distribution of benefits and burdens of modern economic and industrial life. Burdens such as pollution and toxic wastes are not distributed randomly or equally but disproportionately affect low income communities.”
“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.” — Alma 41:14
As faithful stewards of the Earth, we’re called to rectify these injustices and strive for a fair and equitable world. We are guided by the divine teachings of Alma 41:14, “Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.”
Gary C Byner expounds on how our commitment to environmental justice is fundamentally linked to our collective well-being “An environmental ethic begins with the idea that the well-being of the entire community of earth is paramount, and human well-being takes place within that broader community.”
In this light, our dedication to environmental justice is more than a duty—it’s a testament of our love for our neighbors, a commitment to fairness, and an active engagement in the divine stewardship of our shared home. Through our efforts, we not only preserve the Earth but also uphold the principles of love and justice at the core of our faith.
Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance Position
As advocates for environmental justice, the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance recognizes the importance of understanding who is affected by environmental issues, and how. Looking back at our environmental history, we see that the repercussions of unsound environmental practices have fallen heavily upon the most vulnerable—often individuals from lower-income backgrounds and communities of color. This pattern continues today, with the impending climate crisis threatening to hit the least responsible the hardest, particularly those residing in underdeveloped areas lacking the resources for adequate mitigation.
“It is not likely that someone who does not love his neighbor will be concerned with his adverse impact on the environment . . . The outward expressions of irreverence for life and for fellowmen often take the form of heedless pollution of both air and water.” – Ezra Taft Benson
As disciples of the Lord, we’re guided by the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. This love is reflected not just in our personal relationships, but also in how we care for our shared environment. It means shielding our neighbors from environmental harms and ensuring that the benefits of a healthy environment are shared by all. Access to clean water, air, and safe communities shouldn’t be a privilege but a universal right—fundamental to the sustenance of life.
Our commitment is to ensure these essential needs are met for everyone, and to advocate for fairness and justice in the world. We’re called to stand alongside our brothers and sisters, to strive for justice in environmental decisions, and to rectify the mistakes of the past. In heeding Jesus’s teachings to act justly, we are not only listening to His word but actively living it. Our mission is about giving voice to the voiceless, ensuring that everyone enjoys the blessings of a clean and healthy environment, and nurturing a spirit of community that embraces love and justice in equal measure.
What Can You Do?
- Prioritize continued education: Dedicate yourself to learning more about environmental justice, understanding its origins, challenges, and proposed solutions. Make use of available resources and encourage others to do the same.
- Examine past policies: Study the historical context of environmental policies in your region, paying special attention to any discriminatory practices and their impacts. Use this knowledge to drive changes in current policies.
- Respect indigenous heritage: Invest time in understanding the indigenous cultures of your region, their historical interactions with the land, and their sustainable practices. Advocate for the recognition and respect of indigenous land rights and environmental wisdom.
- Advocate for equitable environmental benefits: Use your voice in local community meetings and platforms to promote the fair distribution of environmental benefits, such as access to green spaces, clean air, and clean water.
- Connect with affected communities: Engage with individuals and groups who have borne the brunt of environmental damages in your region. Understand their stories and support their calls for environmental justice.
- Protect community green spaces: Lead or participate in campaigns to safeguard green spaces, particularly in less privileged communities. These efforts not only preserve local biodiversity but also improve the quality of life for residents.
- Mauli Bonner & Kimberly Teitter | Commemorating Juneteenth | MESA Fireside June, 2021
- Darren Parry | Replenishing the Earth through Faith & Environmental Justice | MESA Fireside Feb 2022
- Darren Parry | An Indigenous Perspective on Climate and Environment | C3 Coalition April 15, 2023
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 643
- Gary C. Bryner, “Theology and Ecology: Religious Belief and Environmental Stewardship,” in BYU Studies 49, no. 3 (2010),
- Matthew 22:39,
- Alma 41:14
- Sierra Club Environmental Justice Action
- The Environmental Justice Movement, Natural Resources Defense Council
- WE ACT for Environmental Justice