Enough and to spare

There is an increasing sentiment among some seminary students that the world is overpopulated, running out of resources and that the future looks bleak.  Many students have expressed to me thoughts such as, “What’s the use?  The world is going to end anyways.  Why get married and have children?  Will there even be a world for me to live in anyway?”

While I certainly agree with the fact that we face great challenges, that unemployment is a struggle for many families, and that we do live in a world that is increasing in darkness, I also find evidence to be optimistic.  We have more priesthood holders on the earth than ever before.  We have close to 60,000 missionaries serving in countries all over the world, bringing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people in their own language than in any other age of the earth (see Matthew 28:19-20).

The Lord has prepared us to work and to live in a time of uncertainty.  When he introduced the law of consecration to the Saints, the tendency to fear that others would not pull their weight was very real.  Others feared that the resources to provide for the Saints would be scarce.  Said the Lord in a revelation to the prophet Joseph:

I have prepared all things - D&C 104:17

“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth … and all things therein are mine.  And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.  But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.  For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (D&C 104:14-17)

There are some folks that interpret the preceding verses to mean that since the Lord has prepared all things, we do not need to worry about energy conservation, or the environment and the like.  The revelations of the restoration are replete with the concept that man is a steward.  We will be held accountable with what we have done with the material wealth the Lord has placed in our hands.  D&C 59 seems to indicate that we use the materials of this earth that it may benefit man, to please the eye and gladden the heart, yet we are warned to beware of excess (D&C 59:16-21).  There seems to be a balance that the Lord wants us to find with respect to using the resources of the earth.

Today we hear much about the state of the world’s condition, climate, atmosphere, and the like.  While I sometimes question the politics and motivations of the doom and gloom prognosticators on television, it is wise to have an understanding of D&C 104 in its context.

The Lord is addressing a group of Saints who are striving to live the law of consecration.  Prior to this revelation, in 1831, Leman Copley broke his covenant to consecrate his large farm as a place of inheritance for the Saints arriving from Coleville, New York.  Because of this, many of the Saints suffered (see D&C 54:5 and 56:14-17).  The issue is not about resources or the lack thereof.  At issue is the state our hearts.  There are rich and poor that have bankrupt hearts.  Leman feared that in contributing to the Saints he would lose his property.  What he failed to realize is that it was never his to begin with.  His fear of loss was stronger than his faith in Christ.  The Lord seems to be indicating that the poor also need to have broken hearts, finding ways to work to contribute and not expect others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves (see D&C 56:17).

I find the Lord’s instruction to Leman and the Saints in D&C 54, 56, and 104 applicable today.  The United States of America is at a point where both groups, the wealthy and the disenfranchised, need to come to the Lord with broken hearts and help to do the Lord’s will.  But I digress.  I must return back to the concern of the student.

Real resources

Because the Lord has given us an indication that the earth is full, and that there is enough and to spare, it is our duty to help Him make this a reality in the lives of His children.  While the world looks at people as a drain on the earth, to the contrary, the Lord looks at His children as the purpose for which it was created (see Moses 1:39).  Indeed, people are a wonderful resource.  When we see people from heaven’s perspective, everything changes.  What we believe really does affect our behavior.

Thomas Alva Edison 1847-1931

Can you imagine if Thomas Edison’s mother viewed him as a burden and abandoned him?  She already had six other children.  I for one am grateful that Thomas was allowed to perform his life’s work.  Certainly we all can agree that our lives have been illuminated by his genius and determination.  The materials needed to change the world as he knew it existed before his mind unlocked their potential.  What other technologies and inventions await the creativity of human minds to unlock as humanity moves forward?

We should have the right attitude of optimism and hope, coupled with the willingness to apply ourselves, working diligently to bring to pass the Lord’s purposes in our lives.  As we do this, we will see the hand of the Lord working in our lives, as our desires fall in line with his purposes.  It is His will that we should raise families and provide for them.  I have found that whenever I am stressed or fearful, instead of dwelling on things I cannot control, it is useful to do all I can to prepare, then to have hope.

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Recently Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed BYU-Idaho’s graduating class.  His talk was one of hope for the future for the class of 2012.  His words apply to all of us as we live in a world of uncertainty and constant change.  He stated:

“Face the future with optimism…I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new era of growth, prosperity and abundance…Many of these discoveries — as in the past — will be the result of the Spirit whispering insights into and enlightening the minds of truth-seeking individuals.

Many of these discoveries will be made for the purpose of helping to bring to pass the purposes and work of God and the quickening of the building of His kingdom on earth today… With these discoveries and advances will come new employment opportunities and prosperity for those who work hard and especially to those who strive to keep the commandments of God.

As you graduates do your part, the Lord will bless you with prosperity and the wisdom to keep your mind focused on what matters most in your life… I believe you graduates sitting here today will be active participants in temporal blessings if you keep the commandments of the Lord. With prosperity will come a unique challenge — a test that will try many of you to your spiritual core.  As you step into this new world of prosperity and engage in converting your education into financial success, you will always have to control wants versus needs.”

Elder Ballard spoke of two motivational choices: to build and acquire the blessings of the Lord for personal gratification, for the recognition of men, for power, influence and self-aggrandizement; or, to acquire those blessings with the motive to glorify God and, thereby, working to help usher in the growth and expansion of His Church.

“Those who seek riches to build up their own egos will find their treasure to be slippery and easily lost in unwise ways,” he said. “The welfare of their souls will be in great jeopardy…  The Lord is not telling us that we should not be prosperous or that prosperity is a sin or is evil. On the contrary, He has always blessed the obedience of His people with prosperity. He is telling us that we should seek prosperity only after we seek, find and serve Him. Then, because our hearts are right, because we love Him first and foremost, we will choose to invest the riches we obtain in building His kingdom.”

It is through choosing to seek riches for the sake of riches that individuals will always fall short, he said.  (BYU-Idaho: ‘Face the future with optimism’  Church News, Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012 By Marianne Holman)

Ezra Taft Benson- 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints- 1985-1994

Ezra Taft Benson knew more about agriculture and the workings of government than anyone I know.  He served as the Secretary of Agriculture from 1953-1961 during which he was also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  He made some interesting comments with respect to man’s ideas on population control and the earth’s resources.  He said:

“The precepts of men would have you believe that by limiting the population of the world, we can have peace and plenty.  That is the doctrine of the devil.  Small numbers do not insure peace; only righteousness does.  After all, there were only a handful of men on the earth when Cain interrupted the peace of Adam’s household by slaying Abel… and so far as limiting the population in order to provide plenty is concerned, the Lord answered that falsehood in the Doctrine and Covenants when he said: ‘For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.’ (D&C 104:17)

A major reason why there is famine in some parts of the world is because evil men have used the vehicle of government to abridge the freedom that men need to produce abundantly.  True to form, many of the people who desire to frustrate God’s purposes of giving mortal tabernacles to his spirit children through worldwide birth control are the very same people who support the kinds of government that perpetuate famine.  They advocate an evil to cure the results of the wickedness they support.” (Conference Report, April 1969, p. 12)

I conclude with an optimistic point of view from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis:

C.S. Lewis

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’  I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night…’   In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.  Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented…It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty…“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things- praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends…not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” (C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, p. 606)

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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3 Responses to Enough and to spare

  1. david says:

    You might appreciate this support:

    The New York Times


    September 13, 2013

    Overpopulation Is Not the Problem


    BALTIMORE — MANY scientists believe that by transforming the earth’s natural landscapes, we are undermining the very life support systems that sustain us. Like bacteria in a petri dish, our exploding numbers are reaching the limits of a finite planet, with dire consequences. Disaster looms as humans exceed the earth’s natural carrying capacity. Clearly, this could not be sustainable.

    This is nonsense. Even today, I hear some of my scientific colleagues repeat these and similar claims — often unchallenged. And once, I too believed them. Yet these claims demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the ecology of human systems. The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered “natural” ecosystems.

    The evidence from archaeology is clear. Our predecessors in the genus Homo used social hunting strategies and tools of stone and fire to extract more sustenance from landscapes than would otherwise be possible. And, of course, Homo sapiens went much further, learning over generations, once their preferred big game became rare or extinct, to make use of a far broader spectrum of species. They did this by extracting more nutrients from these species by cooking and grinding them, by propagating the most useful species and by burning woodlands to enhance hunting and foraging success.

    Even before the last ice age had ended, thousands of years before agriculture, hunter-gatherer societies were well established across the earth and depended increasingly on sophisticated technological strategies to sustain growing populations in landscapes long ago transformed by their ancestors.

    The planet’s carrying capacity for prehistoric human hunter-gatherers was probably no more than 100 million. But without their Paleolithic technologies and ways of life, the number would be far less — perhaps a few tens of millions. The rise of agriculture enabled even greater population growth requiring ever more intensive land-use practices to gain more sustenance from the same old land. At their peak, those agricultural systems might have sustained as many as three billion people in poverty on near-vegetarian diets.

    The world population is now estimated at 7.2 billion. But with current industrial technologies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that the more than nine billion people expected by 2050 as the population nears its peak could be supported as long as necessary investments in infrastructure and conducive trade, anti-poverty and food security policies are in place. Who knows what will be possible with the technologies of the future? The important message from these rough numbers should be clear. There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity. We are nothing at all like bacteria in a petri dish.

    Why is it that highly trained natural scientists don’t understand this? My experience is likely to be illustrative. Trained as a biologist, I learned the classic mathematics of population growth — that populations must have their limits and must ultimately reach a balance with their environments. Not to think so would be to misunderstand physics: there is only one earth, of course!

    It was only after years of research into the ecology of agriculture in China that I reached the point where my observations forced me to see beyond my biologists’s blinders. Unable to explain how populations grew for millenniums while increasing the productivity of the same land, I discovered the agricultural economist Ester Boserup, the antidote to the demographer and economist Thomas Malthus and his theory that population growth tends to outrun the food supply. Her theories of population growth as a driver of land productivity explained the data I was gathering in ways that Malthus could never do. While remaining an ecologist, I became a fellow traveler with those who directly study long-term human-environment relationships — archaeologists, geographers, environmental historians and agricultural economists.

    The science of human sustenance is inherently a social science. Neither physics nor chemistry nor even biology is adequate to understand how it has been possible for one species to reshape both its own future and the destiny of an entire planet. This is the science of the Anthropocene. The idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future. Humans are niche creators. We transform ecosystems to sustain ourselves. This is what we do and have always done. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.

    Two hundred thousand years ago we started down this path. The planet will never be the same. It is time for all of us to wake up to the limits we really face: the social and technological systems that sustain us need improvement.

    There is no environmental reason for people to go hungry now or in the future. There is no need to use any more land to sustain humanity — increasing land productivity using existing technologies can boost global supplies and even leave more land for nature — a goal that is both more popular and more possible than ever.

    The only limits to creating a planet that future generations will be proud of are our imaginations and our social systems. In moving toward a better Anthropocene, the environment will be what we make it.

    Erle C. Ellis is an associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a visiting associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

  2. Thanks for the post, and especially thank you for the NY times article. It’s something I really needed to hear. Being told you’re selfish by countless faceless internet personas and liberal friends can make you not want to have children at all. But I do want to have children, and I’d prefer not to think of myself as a terrible person for thinking of that. 🙂

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