Latest from Mormon Land: Rat out wards that overwater their lawns

Takeaways from the church’s push to preserve the Great Salt Lake; a life lesson from the legacy of baseball legend Henry Aaron; a holiday haul for charities; and BYU gets a new president.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) This 2014 photo shows two Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in Kaysville. Church leaders are encouraging those who see overwatering at the faith's buildings to report it.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get the full newsletter, exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

Troubled waters

In one of the most sweeping and detailed environmental addresses ever delivered by a top church leader, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell last week spelled out the worldwide faith’s efforts to conserve precious water, preserve the imperiled Great Salt Lake and cultivate a sustainable planet.

Here are key takeaways:

• Cut back on watering at meetinghouses (and rat out wards that aren’t doing so). “Water use at our Salt Lake County meetinghouses was reduced by 35% [last year] compared with 2020,” said Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. “... We acknowledge that our efforts are not perfect, and we invite church and community members to contact local church leadership if they observe any instances where best practices are not adhered to.”

• Please, listen to the scientists. “We encourage engagement and responsiveness to legislative changes and other recommendations from subject-matter experts recognizing the need to act with urgency and unity towards the future we hope for — one with a healthy Great Salt Lake.”

• Do as we do. “As the church strives to reduce its water use, we invite members of the church and community to also reduce their consumption.”

• Yes, pray for rain and snow. “In addition to steps we can take, individually and collectively, we also believe in a higher power that can be called upon.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks March 17, 2023, about water conservation.

Waddell also outlined concrete water-saving measures, noting the church has:

Donated 20,000 acre-feet of water a year to forever flow into the Great Salt Lake.

• Created a Sustainability Office and Sustainability Leadership Committee to implement water-wise initiatives.

• Installed cutting-edge technology to conserve water in its farming operations.

• Put in place smart controllers, hydrometers, rain sensors and drip irrigation systems across many meetinghouses, temples and other facilities.

• Transitioned away from lawn-dominant landscaping at meetinghouses to more water-wise grass and plants with plans to retrofit even more buildings.

• Set in motion plans to use more trees, less grass and more perennial plants in the makeover of downtown Salt Lake City’s Temple Square.

While Waddell’s prepared speech covered a lot of territory, it didn’t specifically mention the world’s most pressing environmental challenge: climate change. Other church leaders have done so, however, most notably apostle Dallin Oaks and now-emeritus general authority Steven Snow.

A key to success: failure

(Harry Harrris | AP ) Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron hits his 715th career homer in 1974, breaking Babe Ruth's record.

With opening day a week away, we move to the next life lesson from the baseball diamond.

Fifth inning • Batting .300 is a mark of success.

Put another way: Even the best hitters fail 70% of the time. Take Henry Aaron. One of the game’s greatest sluggers struck out 1,383 times along the way to his 755 dingers. He walloped homers in 6% of his official at-bats and whiffed in 11%. But no one would call Hammerin’ Hank a failure. So what does this teach us? It’s simple and sublime:

Failing doesn’t make you a failure.

Too often, fear of failure keeps us from succeeding. Imagine Aaron or Babe Ruth or Willie Mays afraid to step up to the plate because he stands a better chance of making an out than ripping a hit.

In the movie “Apollo 13,” flight director Gene Kranz says, “Failure is not an option.” It’s a memorable line but a monumental lie. Failure is indeed an option. It has to be; otherwise, we will never succeed.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Learning and faith

Two writers from “Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart” discuss their identities as Indigenous scholars and Latter-day Saints as they navigate a life of learning and a life of faith. Listen to the podcast.

Cha-ching for charity

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Two girls look at the many options available for purchase in a Giving Machine in Calgary, Canada. Canada was one of 28 locations around the world in 2022 where donations were made during the Christmas season.

Those Yuletide Giving Machines — with donations from 425,000 individuals in 28 cities across six countries — netted some $7 million in donations for a range of humanitarian groups this past holiday season.

That tally, according to a news release, translates into 3.2 million healthy meals; more than 516,000 childhood vaccinations; schools supplies for 32,000 kids; and 38,000 chickens, 25,000 ducks and 3,700 beehives to provide families with long-term nutrition and income potential.

Since 2017, the program has brought in more than $22 million.

En français

“J’enseigne aux hommes des principes corrects, et ils se gouvernent eux-mêmes.”

Don’t recognize this well-traveled quote from church founder Joseph Smith? Well, it first appeared in French, ace historian Ardis Parshall notes on her keepapitchinin.org blog, over the signature of future church President John Taylor.

What’s it say in English? “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

Merci, Ardis.

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland speaks to C. Shane Reese after a devotional at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Holland announced that Reese will become Brigham Young University’s 14th president May 1.

• Apostle Jeffrey Holland, facing a backlash over his planned speech at Southern Utah University’s commencement ceremony, encountered no such resistance Tuesday at church-owned BYU, where he announced that the Provo school’s current academic vice president, Shane Reese, will succeed Kevin Worthen as the 14th president of the church’s flagship educational institution.

• Two researchers have renewed the debate about whether church founder Joseph Smith relied on a “seer stone” or the “Urim and Thummim” to translate the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon. Either way, this was no ordinary translation.

• Tribune guest columnist Eli McCann recalls his first date with his future husband: a tour of the Kirtland Temple.

• Our own Peggy Fletcher Stack collected her lifetime achievement award from the Religion News Association last week in Bethesda, Md., and received two standing ovations — one before and one after her speech.