“Going back inside is my favorite outdoor activity.”
These were words I lived by for a long time.
I’m one of those people who grew up dreading camping and avoiding it at all costs. I was often described as “too dainty” when I would try to help my dad weed the garden because I would become more preoccupied with preventing dirt from touching my skin and being grossed out by the worms and bugs. All in all, I was a homebody who just didn’t care to spend much time in nature or appreciate it. I didn’t see the appeal when I had everything I needed inside!
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a bit of a paradigm shift when it comes to nature and all it has to offer. I take long walks, I ride my bike, I actually stop and smell the roses, and sometimes I even scale mountains (my younger self would have a heart attack if she knew I did this for fun these days).
But most of all, I find that when I open up the scriptures or offer a prayer while I’m enjoying nature, I feel a strong sense of reverence and a profound spiritual connection to Heavenly Father, the Creator of this beautiful world.
I’m grateful for the spiritual places we can go to get away from the busyness of life, like the temple or even a quiet room in our homes. I have also found that being in nature and its peacefulness has helped me connect with Heavenly Father.
I’m still not the biggest fan of dirt or mosquitoes, but feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, smelling the scent of fresh rainfall, or hearing the sound of a babbling creek have allowed me to quiet my soul and prepare my heart to connect with heaven.
Nature now acts as a sort of personal sacred space for me, and I learn so many spiritual truths from spending time in it. Even the simplicity of changing seasons reminds me that through a dark, bitterly cold season, flowers will always bloom again. And the fact that an oyster can create a pearl out of a tiny grain of sand shows me how much potential I have as well. After a long day spent with my smartphone and having thousands of media stories coming at me from every angle, retreating to nature to connect with my Heavenly Father, even for a few moments, resets and revitalizes my worn-out soul.
There is something about being in the quiet outdoors that grounds me and helps me remember the significance of my life (and all life) on the earth. Nature reminds me that if God had time to craft that single blade of grass beneath my feet, the details of a butterfly’s wings, and the tiny gnats buzzing around my head, then He must have taken extra care to thoughtfully create me and each of His children too. Witnessing the beauty of the natural earth and all its intricate details is a great reminder of who I truly am.
Seeing and truly pondering my Heavenly Father’s creations reignites my faith that He is real and that He is always with me. These creations are also evidence of His limitless power—if He can make something as vast as a mountain range or an ocean, then He has the power to help me face my challenges too.
What Alma taught is true: “The earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, … witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).
Nature itself has also testified many times that Jesus Christ is the Savior. Think of the star that appeared in the sky as a sign of His birth (see Matthew 2) or how the earth shook and became dark and even seemed to mourn Him when He was crucified (see 3 Nephi 8). The intricate details of the earth have always been a testament of the reality of God the Father and His Son.
Nature is a quiet safe zone that is available to all of us. I know it’s a gift from our Heavenly Father to enjoy and benefit from when the world is so loud and obnoxious at times. I believe that spending time outdoors creates a powerful opportunity for us to turn our hearts to Heavenly Father and to hear Him. I know it has been for me. Many disciples of Christ have also had spiritually intimate moments and received personal revelation in the solitude of nature when they prayed for guidance:
It was on a mountain where the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord light the stones for his people’s barges (see Ether 3).
The Prophet Joseph Smith chose a quiet place in the woods to offer a simple prayer and was granted the First Vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:10–17).
Amanda Barnes Smith, a pioneer who survived the Hawn’s Mill massacre, was forbidden to pray vocally by enemies of the Saints in Missouri. She eventually hid in a cornfield to pray out loud and received inspiration and comfort.1
And even the Savior often retreated to the top of a mountain after ministering to connect with the Father (see Matthew 5:1).
Even our modern-day prophets, like President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have counseled us about the spiritual benefits of spending time in nature: “To truly reverence the Creator, we must appreciate his creations. We need to plan to take time to observe the marvels of nature. … Take time to sit on a hillside and feel the tranquility of the evening when the sun casts its last golden glow over the horizon.”2 And Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of how we can “listen for the voice of the Father in the bounties and beauties of nature.”3
I’m not saying that every time you take a walk on your local nature trail, you’ll have an earth-shattering spiritual experience. Or that nature should replace the time you spend at church or within the walls of the temple. But I do believe that the beauty and steadiness of nature is a gift from Heavenly Father. It can help us escape from the distractions in our lives and re-center our focus on hearing Him.
When I take time to set aside the things of the world and appreciate His creations, I find it easier to feel His Spirit and the strength, guidance, and peace He offers. That’s when I can truly see His hand in the beautiful, intricate details in my life and in all things—yes, even bugs.