We are no longer an agrarian society, no longer tied so closely to the land that we feel immediately the effects of our stewardship, for good or bad. Part of that may be because we own such tiny little pieces of land instead of family farms, grazing ranges, and ranches. Even if I do everything I can to improve on my own .21-acre lot in downtown Provo, even if in that small realm, I am the perfect steward, I will have a negligible impact on the larger environment of which I am a part.
For that reason, much as I hate to admit it, stewardship cannot be a completely private enterprise. I own little land myself, but I am a citizen of a country that owns vast tracks of land, much of it in my own state, administered by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. And although my vote, my voice may be just as insignificant in shaping the policies that govern the use of that public land as my .21 acres is relative to the 1900 million acres of the contiguous United States, I still have a obligation to speak up, because that is a real exercise of stewardship in our country today. The fact that we don’t personally own the land neither excuses us when we fail to speak against environmentally destructive policies nor protects us from the ill effects of such use. We must come together collectively as stewards or suffer collectively the loss and damage allowed by our disagreement and apathy.
I don’t know what the best policies are concerning public land use, preservation, and development. I suspect that they would best be decided locally by people who balance immediate gains with long term needs. I do know that unless we have the discussion, and weigh our interests against our obligations, we cannot claim to be good stewards.
Elder Snow did not explicitly advocate political action in his essay. He did, however, talk about stewardship in relationship to our roles as citizens.
“I believe the Lord expects up to act as good stewards. We have many stewardships, not only in our family, church, and citizenship responsibilities but also in temporal things. That principle is clear in LDS scripture:
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine…
Behold, all these properties are mine,…And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards; otherwise ye are no stewards. (D&C 104:14, 55-56)
…it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father. (D&C 72:3-4)
As Mormons we tend to focus on our ecclesiastical and family stewardships, which is well and good. But I believe we will also be held accountable for how we treat one another, the community in which we live, the land that surrounds us, even the earth itself (244).