The Earth Will Appear as the Garden of Eden is a collection of essays designed to introduce, review, illustrate, and promote research and scholarship on the environmental history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The book well accomplishes these purposes in an honest and engaging fashion. While essays in edited volumes such as this are often uneven in terms of the quality and the contribution they offer, each piece in this work is remarkably well written and significant. As the book’s introduction explains, Latter-day Saint environmental history is a relatively new discipline, ripe with opportunities and avenues for engagement. The introduction and Jedediah S. Rogers’s opening essay constitute a wonderful primer for anyone embarking on Latter-day Saint environmental history research—I found myself wishing I had had these articles when I first began to dabble in the discipline.
The remainder of the volume is divided into three parts. Part 1 contains two essays, one by Sara Dant and the other by Thomas Alexander, a pioneer in this genre of history. These essays chronicle the history of environmental ethos, teachings, and practices that have prevailed among Church members and leaders over time and invite readers to assess their own understanding of the topic.
Part 2 contains four essays that focus on the Church’s theology and its interaction with culture, geography, and the environment. In this section, Matthew C. Godfrey explores the Church’s concept of Zion and how its placement and establishment have impacted the environment. Brett D. Dowdle reviews the social, cultural, and environmental challenges faced both by early missionaries to Britain and by British converts in Nauvoo. Richard Francaviglia next offers a fascinating discussion of what maps produced by early Church members reveal about Church environmental history and perceptions. Betsy Gaines Quammen concludes part 2 with an exploration of the historical, theological, cultural, economic, and environmental issues surrounding the establishment of Zion National Park.
Part 3 is a delightful anthology of articles covering a broad range of Church environmental history and issues. Jeff Nichols discusses the environmental and theological history of the livestock industry in Utah. Brian Frehner reviews the environmental history of irrigation in Utah and the challenges that controlling water created for the early Saints. Brian Q. Cannon follows with insights into the reasoning behind and environmental issues created by the Church’s early efforts to establish new agricultural settlements throughout the Intermountain West and how those efforts fostered federal land use regulation. Nathan N. Waite next provides an overview of the historical theology and culture of gardening among Church members and the environmental issues that have contributed to it. Rebecca K. Andersen concludes part 3 with a serious look at the environmental impact of aggregate mining in Utah and its interaction with the Church and its historical sites.
The volume concludes with two essays. The first is an epilogue by another pioneer in the discipline, George B. Handley, that provides a summary of what he has observed over the years regarding the Church’s, and Church members’, stances on, attitudes about, and actions toward caring for Creation. His essay gives hope for a future of responsible environmental stewardship. The closing essay by Elder Marcus B. Nash poignantly illustrates that hope and direction as he invites members of the Church to be environmentally careful and wise as we use and live on this earth God created for us.