Sustainable Community Development & Beautification
“We recommend to all people that there be no undue pollution, that the land be taken care of and kept clean to be productive and to be beautiful…” — President Spencer W. Kimball
Our faith deeply roots itself in the concept of creating sustainable and aesthetically pleasing communities, tracing its origins back to the early days of the church in Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph Smith’s design of the Zion Plat embodies this principle. As he laid out a city plan that promoted equity, mutual cooperation, and sustainable use of natural resources, he modeled how “land was allocated by lot according to need. Water rights were tied to the land. Irrigation demanded cooperation. There was no monopoly of natural resources, no speculation in land, water, or timber, but rather community management for the good of all”.
The essence of our communities, as taught by Laraine Day in the 1971 October Ensign, does not merely lie in their physical appeal but also in their social fabric. She stated, “Making the community better is everybody’s business. We are all in this together. The improvement of our environment is more than the removal of old automobiles and refrigerators, the picking up of trash along our highways, and other physical tidiness”. This underlines the importance of shared responsibility in maintaining and improving our communities.
“Making the community better is everybody’s business. We are all in this together. The improvement of our environment is more than the removal of old automobiles and refrigerators, the picking up of trash along our highways, and other physical tidiness” — Laraine Day
Sustainable development, moreover, places a premium not just on enhancing the beauty of our community but also on guarding our environment against pollution. This mandate was emphasized by Spencer W. Kimball when he declared in the May 1975 Ensign, “We recommend to all people that there be no undue pollution, that the land be taken care of and kept clean to be productive and to be beautiful…”
Our communities, furthermore, should be places of such beauty and serenity that they beckon the divine. Brigham Young inspired us to craft our communities with such care and dedication that “angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations”. He encouraged us to “progress, and improve upon, and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labours you may do so with pleasure”. Thus, the development of our communities should embody a holistic approach to sustainability and beautification, reflecting our shared faith and values.
Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance Position
The Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance believes that communities represent the bedrock of our shared Latter-day Saint experience. Our vision of Zion is essentially that of a community built in unity and cooperation. This foundational doctrine can, and should, be embodied within our physical communities today, mirroring the commitment of the early saints. We envision communities designed with sustainable and aesthetically pleasing plans that can serve as the foundation for future generations.
Sustainable community development transcends the creation of a thriving social fabric—it also calls for infrastructural development that safeguards the planet and enhances community resilience. This entails the adoption of sustainable infrastructure like community transportation, walkable neighborhoods, and renewable energy sources. Such a forward-thinking design ensures that our communities will not only survive but thrive amidst economic and climatic fluctuations. Our focus should not be on short-term gains but on the long-term sustainability and resilience of our communities.
“Cultivate the earth and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labours you may do so with pleasure” – President Brigham Young
The sustainable communities we envisage are not just functional and aesthetically pleasing but are also environmentally friendly. They will foster connectivity, enabling us to live, work, and commute without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing such pollutants will enhance the longevity and health of our community members. As we create communities predicated on interconnectedness, we’ll experience a deeper sense of connection and unity. We will truly embody the commandment to love and care for our neighbors when we design our communities with an eye on the prosperity of generations to come.
What Can You Do?
- Regularly attend your local city’s or town’s planning commission meetings. Your presence and voice can help steer discussions towards more sustainable development and planning.
- Reach out to your local legislators and urge them to advocate for sustainable community development. They represent you; ensure they’re aware of your stance on this issue.
- Support local businesses whenever possible. This not only stimulates your local economy but also reduces carbon emissions associated with transporting goods from far-off locations.
- Advocate for and support local green infrastructure projects. These could include parks, bike lanes, or green roofs which not only beautify your area but also contribute to environmental sustainability.
- Develop and promote sustainable and active transportation plans. This could involve carpooling, using public transit, biking, or walking to reduce emissions and promote a healthier lifestyle.
- Rep. Ben McAdams | “Creating Healthy Communities“ | MESA Fireside April, 2021
- Chris Wiltsie | “Sustainable Community Development“ | MESA Podcast
- S. George Ellsworth, “Heeding the Prophet’s Call”, 1995 October Ensign
- Laraine Day, “Improving Our Environment”, 1971 October Ensign
- Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?,” May 1975 Ensign
- Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1861), 8:83
- UNESCO Sustainable Development
- Norton Rose Fulbright, Sustainable Infrastructure: A path for the future
- Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure
- Institute for Sustainable Communities
- Sustainable Development Begins with Community Engagement