Saturday, December 8, 2007

See That Ye Be Not Troubled

This post isn't about global warming, but it starts there.

A while back I realized that I didn't know how a felt about global warming. I knew a lot of people thought it was a big deal, and others didn't. It was hard for me to accept that an issue this grounded in science could be so divisive. It's not like the abortion issue, in which one's position depended entirely on a question that can only be answered by the conscience (when does human life begin?). So I felt confident I could find the "right" answer to this issue. I began researching (OK, I'm using that term liberally). I rented An Inconvenient Truth. I watched The Great Global Warming Swindle. I read State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I checked out books from the library, and of course I googled it.

After about 50 hours of "research", I have made a decision on my position... I don't know. It's roughly the same position I had when I began, but now at least it's an informed "I don't know". Both sides of the debate have valid arguments, but both sides also misinform and are too quick to brush off the other side's arguments. The debate is too political to discover the truth.

There's something I love about the position of "I don't know". It's a position I hold for other issues as well, such as embryonic stem-cell research. The trouble with "I don't know" is that it's difficult to form a policy around, or to use it to figure out who to vote for ("I don't know" is not a popular position for politicians). However, "I don't know" is great fun for debates. Whenever the issue comes up (usually after being around extended family for too long), I can just take the other side from whoever is debating me. In my family, that usually makes me the global warming activist.

I was debating with my brother on this when he brought up an argument that both interested and disturbed me. While not central to his argument, it's the piece that I remember most, probably because I had never heard the argument before. It goes something like this:

Since we believe we live in the latter days (as evidenced from the name of our church), what we think might happen far in the future is irrelevant. When Christ comes, the earth will be transformed and global warming won't be an issue.

I have a problem with this argument for several reasons.

First, we don't know when Christ will come. If it's another 500 years, we can cause a lot of human suffering during that time.

Second, it's true that we believe that the earth will be transformed in some way when Christ comes, but it's not clear to me exactly what it will be like and how it will happen. Perhaps, instead of changing in the twinkling of an eye, the earth will require some help from us. I imagine a child waking up on a winter's morning to see snow outside. Excited to play he hurries to get on his snow pants and boots. Then his mother comes in: "You're not going anywhere until you clean up your room." Could that be what happens when Christ comes? "We'll start the millennium when you've cleaned up the mess you've made!"

Thirdly, and most importantly, are the implications of this argument on other issues (see, I told this post wasn't about global warming--it just took me a while to get to the point). Should we not worry about the national debt because when Christ comes, the fact that we owe China billions of dollars won't matter? Should we not worry about stability in the middle east, since we know when Christ comes all will be made well, and in fact it is prophesied that there will be wars in the latter times? We could apply the same reasoning to any other issue with long-term consequences. Surely we should not ignore every issue with the excuse of "When Christ comes, all will be well."

I felt confident that I had successfully recognized that argument as flawed and irrational. But today, over a year after my discussion with my brother, the scripture came to mind where Jesus is talking about the wars and great calamities that will happen during the latter days before his second coming when he said:

See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass. (Matthew 24:6)

So how exactly does one become anxiously engaged in a good cause without first being troubled by it? Would I be pro-life if abortion didn't trouble me? Could my brother have been right all this time? Should we all just not worry so much and wait for Christ to come? Something tells me that's not what Jesus meant, but maybe that's just how I want to read it.


Paul said...

“See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass. (Matthew 24:6)
So how exactly does one become anxiously engaged in a good cause without first being troubled by it? Would I be pro-life if abortion didn't trouble me? Could my brother have been right all this time? Should we all just not worry so much and wait for Christ to come? Something tells me that's not what Jesus meant, but maybe that's just how I want to read it.”

My thoughts:

Christ also said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

All things unto God are spiritual not temporal. If you look at the _temporal events_ relating to global warming, terrorism, nuclear war, etc., why should that be any worse than my (and yours and everyone else’s) individual death, which is solely a _spiritual event_? Why worry that the dinosaurs went extinct or the Dodo bird, the carrier pigeon, or other things, which have, or are on the brink of it? Stars (suns to other worlds), planets, and other cosmological things have been coming into existence and passing (or changing state) from existence for eons of time in our perceived universe. This earth as we presently know it also will eventually pass away becoming transformed into a paradisiacal globe, and then into something eventually resembling a ‘sea of glass.’ But the following is the point I want to make, if I am able to make myself inderstood.

When I die that is the end of my present world, and I go into another one that will be unlike this one, and which certainly will not have ‘issues’ like this one such as global warming. When my son passed away suddenly and unexpectedly a little less than two years ago and just before his twentieth birthday, in a way that was the end of this word for me and not just for him. Oh, I care about this world and about stewardship, the living who are still here, and temporal preparedness like food storage and things like that, but there are only certain things I can do, and the rest I just ‘let it go’ for “this too shall (inevitably) pass away” like my son did. I feel very strongly about the fact that he isn’t worried about ‘our’ global warming any more than he is about ‘his.’ It’s not just moot, but rather a non-issue -- most assuredly for him and almost totally for me. I am not a perpetrator of global warming any more than I am of international terrorism, etc, and there is very little that I can do personally to remedy these things. A hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, our current ‘global warming’ won’t amount to a hill of beans.

What I can do though, is to prepare myself, and try to work with and for my family and others in preparation for our eventual spiritual existence. We are going to spend a lot more time ‘dead’ than ‘alive’ in this world. That’s the only ‘global warming’ that I am really worried about.

In brief, and not delving into details, I’ll share one ‘communiqué’ from the Holy Spirit during a certain time in my life -- “You have a future in righteousness.” That was to be understood as personal, not global righteousness. “Sufficient unto (that) day (was) the evil (which was not of my doing) thereof.” I was told to just take care of my spiritual well being (maintaining my righteousness), and that’s all what really mattered. I wasn’t to be ‘troubled’ about anything else.

Horebite said...

Thanks for your thoughts Paul. I agree with you, if I'm understanding you correctly, that certainly things of a eternal nature should trouble us more than things of this earth.

The gospel has a moderating affect on our passions, both good and bad. It's easy to see how someone without an understanding of the gospel, but with a passion for an issue (such as environmentalism), can become obsessed with that issue. It's true that an understanding of the gospel puts all of the other issues into proper perspective.

However, I also believe, as I'm sure you do, that we have some responsibility to make this world a better place for future generations.

So I would say that we should be anxiously engaged in good causes, even earthly causes, as long as we do so in moderation, and without removing spiritual considerations from their proper place.

I think I will need to do some more pondering and studying on this topic, especially in consideration of what that scriptures (and now those two scriptures) mean.

LifeOnaPlate said...

Take into account that you are already in eternity, and your stewardship includes how you treat the world God has created. Certainly things of God should take precedent, but the earth, as it is, belongs in those "things of God." I am not some nutty environmentalist, I need to do a lot more than I do, but I feel any endowed member who pays attention at least to the beginning of the ceremony ought to have profound gratitude and respect for God and the earth He provided for us.

This can become a gospel hobby, and people can end up beating the drum and walking off the path, but I see more Mormons leaning the other way- the disregard. This is not good, in my opinion. We Latter-day Saints ought to embrace the new technologies and powers that enable us to keep the earth as healthy as possible.

If I get you guys right, you are sort of saying "do what you can, and don't worry, etc." I would change that to say "do what is right, let the consequence follow." Seek to be healthy in mind, body, spirit, and in your surroundings. Rejoice in the earth, it is a testimony of our Father, and we ought to do more than most currently do to help in keeping this earth beautiful.

Horebite said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree with both you and paul, and I think you're both giving voice to different aspects to how I feel on the subject.

Peter said...


I just thought that I would mention the phrase "come to pass". It could mean that it must happen. But if you examine the phrase that something must come to pass, could be a growing phrase. What I am getting at, and can hopefully express, is that maybe the end is not when these things are come, but when they pass(ed). Perhaps the millenium will come after we clean up our own mess, perhaps these wars and plagues etc will teach us some important lessons or place the correct people in the correct locations.

It was just a quick notice by me about that statement that something must come to pass.