I own only one pair of pants—a pair of neat black jeans. It may sound unusual, but that silly fact has brought me much joy. After college, I had to move out of my apartment in Finland, and since I had planned a two-month trip to the United States, I had to figure out what to do with all my belongings. So I made an inventory of everything I owned and realized that I actually needed much less than I had. After some honest contemplation, I decided to sell my excess belongings before moving out. I loved how it felt, and though it has been a few years, the feeling of not having many belongings is incredibly liberating to this day.
While I can’t say I’m a full-on minimalist, I’ve definitely shifted my lifestyle in that direction. Being more aware of what and how much I consume has naturally made me think about my personal responsibility for the environment, especially from a gospel perspective.
In the scriptures, we learn that the earth was created for us to inhabit (see 1 Nephi 17:36) and that all things on the earth were made for our benefit (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:16–19). We’ve been advised to be good stewards of this earth, which prompts the question of how we can fulfill that important responsibility. One way is by evaluating what resources we use.
The Lord provided us with these resources so that we could “have in abundance” (Doctrine and Covenants 49:19). But He also knows human nature, so He warned us against using these resources to excess (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:20). Anything in excess can cause us to take things for granted, which could result in not only a hardened heart or a failure to recognize whom our blessings are from, but also, in this case, environmental problems. This has often made me wonder: where is the line between having “in abundance” and having too much?
Doctrine and Covenants 59:18–19 introduces the idea that “all things which come of the earth … are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; … to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” We can understand that the resources aren’t given to us only for survival—they’re also meant to contribute to our joy.
When I was deciding which clothes to get rid of and which ones to keep, I held on to only as much as I felt I actually needed, and also which items I enjoyed the most. I realized that in possessing a lot of something, like clothing, I had a harder time appreciating it. After committing to the pants that I really liked and actually used, I felt greater joy wearing them. This applied to many of my other belongings too.
Sometimes it might be good to do some evaluating in our lives and to make adjustments to our relationship with these God-given resources. In my case, I was able to find joy in having less, and it resulted in a lifestyle change that helped me take care of the earth.
Though our individual efforts to care for the earth may not seem to make a significant difference, we can be willing to educate ourselves and act. We can seek the guidance of the Spirit as we evaluate our lives and make decisions about our material possessions and our actions. As the Lord is mindful of all of His creations—even every blade of grass—may we also be sufficiently mindful of this earth by making necessary changes, finding what we enjoy about it, and shifting our hearts to preserve it.