Perhaps no political issue is more divisive in the Mountain West Mormon community than environmental conservation. New Genesis, a Mormon Reader on Land and Community is a collection of essays that represent a wide spectrum of Mormon views on conservation, excluding only the advocates of unrestrained development. This collection may help to ease tensions among disparate stakeholders in Utah’s open spaces.
The predominant nature of the essays is autobiographical: in most, the author sets out to tell or illustrate the roots and meaning of his or her conservation ethic. Many of the stories are grounded in family history and experience, making the collection a valuable contribution to Utah history as well. Some of the essayists address certain aspects of the Utah Mormon paranoia about federal intervention and control that manifests itself in an unwillingness to control growth even when its destructiveness is apparent. Other authors recount the gradual loss of the farms, streams, or wild spots of their youth.
The Mormon tent shelters both those who love the land for itself and those who view development as the prime good. However, advocates of conservation have often felt excluded from the dialogue on resource use. Many of the essays probe the pain of authors who unravel the tightly woven fabric of Mormon history and culture, separating the threads of stewardship and conservation from those of economic growth and development.
No coherent vision of a Mormon environmental ethic emerges from this collection of essays—the issue is too complex for that. The essays are a group of early attempts at defining an LDS environmental ethic, not as a doctrinal matter but as part of our cultural heritage. The collection is enlightening, thought provoking, and immensely interesting—a valuable contribution to the budding dialogue on conservation in the LDS community.