Teach Them Correct Principles

Posted on October 11, 2012 by


There is a well-known quote from Joseph Smith who was asked about his leadership style of the Latter-day Saints.  He responded, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”  This culture of self-governance is quite strong among Latter-day Saints.  That culture goes hand-in-hand with scripture, too, as it states:

“It is not meet that I [the Lord]should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” D&C 58:26

“I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.1 Nephi 19:23

So there is a well-established tradition among Latter-day Saints to take what we learn from prophets and scripture and extrapolate upon what we learn in order for application at various aspects of our lives.  It is, therefore, not uncommon for a member of the Church to expound upon some principle or doctrine of the gospel.  Hopefully this expounding takes place in the form of private or personal teaching, at a so-called “fireside” meeting (an informal meeting that may be more instructional than spiritual in nature), and not in a sacrament meeting or testimony meeting (D&C 42:12-13).

So it is in this tradition of self-governance that George B. Handley gave a talk at a Church fireside regarding Environmental Stewardship.  Since he has chosen to publish that talk on-line it is important to point out here what is core Mormon doctrine and what is his personal extrapolation of that doctrine.

It is safe to say that Mr. Handley’s five “fundamental principles of stewardship” are correct.  Mormons do believe that the earth is sacred, that we played some role in its creation, that animals and the earth itself have souls, that God is pleased with His creation, and that we displease Him when we abuse it.

And with the words, “so here are ten steps we can take to begin to act on these principles”, Mr. Handley then embarks upon a journey of application of those principles into self-governance.  The reader is to understand that what follows (reducing automobile use, water use, waste, energy use, and consumption, recycling, work and play, pursuing renewable energy, eat wisely, and cherish your home) are not, themselves, Mormon beliefs – but rather they are well-intentioned ideas which may very-well be good for others besides Mr. Handley to follow.