‘A crisis of faith’: spiritual leaders convene at Capitol to call for Great Salt Lake action

Feb 17, 2023, 10:04 AM
Spiritual Leader Rios Pacheco of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation speaks to the importa...
Spiritual Leader Rios Pacheco of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation speaks to the importance of the Great Salt Lake to his community. Pacheco was the first speaker at the interfaith press conference Thursday morning. Photo by (Alexis Perno, Great Salt Lake Collaborative )
(Alexis Perno, Great Salt Lake Collaborative )

This article is published through The Great Salt Lake Collaborative: A Solutions Journalism Initiative, a partnership of news, education and media organizations that aims to inform readers about the Great Salt Lake.

The rotunda west steps were crowded Thursday morning. Members from various faith communities held signs reading “defend our future.” Front and center, a red and blue banner: “Save Our Great Salt Lake.” 

Rev. Monica Dobbins stood at the podium, representing Utah’s Unitarian Universalist congregations. She spoke of the principles that guide her community’s spiritual practices; among them, justice, equity and respect. 

“In consideration of these principles, it is clear that the ecological crisis facing Great Salt Lake is also a crisis of faith,” she said. “Our principles of justice and equity require action to protect people by using water more wisely and with more gratitude.”

Dobbins’ voice wasn’t the only one echoing the sentiment. The interfaith press conference featured spiritual leaders spanning several perspectives, but the message was unified: legislators need to take action this session to protect the lake. 

“There’s so many different streams that come in to make the Great Salt Lake, and to see all these different people from different streams of faith coming together, it’s just a really beautiful thing that we can work together on something that really does impact all of us,” Pastor AJ Bush said in an interview. 

Bush, representing First United Methodist Church and Centenary United Methodist Church, also spoke during the conference. She introduced the hundreds of postcards gathered from various faith members, of which were then delivered directly to the offices of the Senate and House of Representatives. 

While the event took place Thursday morning, the beginnings were rooted in conversations held in December at the People’s Great Salt Lake Summit. Deeda Seed, the Public Lands Senior Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, organized the conference after leaders wanted to do more. 

“The theme of interfaith collective action became really important,” Seed said. “Faith leaders, and members of the faith community, are very good at expressing and inspiring hope, and also [conveying] urgency.” 

Faith communities and hope are necessary when it comes to solving this issue according to Brigham Young University Professor of Ecology Ben Abbott, who described the consequences of inaction as “genuinely biblical.”

“One of the poisons that can stop us from acting on these issues is despair and fear,” Abbott said in an interview. “When we move from fear to hope and action, that is incredibly rejuvenating, and that’s what we need right now because Great Salt Lake is just one symptom of a deeper problem — of people feeling disconnected from one another and from the environment.”

Rios Pacheco, a spiritual leader for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, touched on how Shoshone spiritual practices heal this disconnect. He was the first speaker in the conference — something especially notable after the lack of indigenous inclusion across GSL advisory boards.

“Our people respect the water,” Pacheco said. “Each time we go to the water, we respect it by giving an offering to thank our Creator for giving us this life.”

As a Creation Justice Church, Rev. Chelsea Page from Holladay United Church of Christ echoed this dedication to respect, saying that protective stewardship preserves spiritual and physical wellbeing.

“Jesus’ second greatest commandment was to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Page said. “Our neighbors include the millions of birds and other creatures who critically depend on Great Salt Lake for their survival, as well as all the people who inhabit the Salt Lake Valley area.”

Rachael Lauritzen, Board Chair of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, quoted Elder Steven Snow, a general authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an official church historian, in her organization’s statements. “It’s our responsibility as stewards to do what we can to limit the damage done to God’s creation,” she quoted him as saying.

“We echo this call to action and add our passionate plea that we not only limit our harm, but also protect what we still have and repair the damage we have done,” Lauritzen said. “Let us not trade our birthright for a mess of pottage, but go forth as wise stewards of all that we have been given and benefited by, for the welfare of all.”

The news conference is just the beginning for this group. Seed says that she’s looking into organizing faith communities to meet directly with lawmakers to discuss solutions. While the group is concerned there won’t be enough immediate action taken this session, Seed is inspired by the interfaith community coming together to address the issue.

Related reading:


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Utah Drought

Rain barrels...
Britt Johnson

Utah Rivers Council selling discounted rain barrels as effort toward water conservation

SALT LAKE CITY — People can save thousands of gallons just by collecting water in rain barrels. A program by the Utah Rivers Council is selling rain barrels at a discount right now. It hopes that more Utahns will embrace the use of rain barrels. Collecting rainwater at home has more of an impact than […]
1 day ago
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Angel Moroni atop The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-d...
Ben Winslow, FOX 13

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it plans more Great Salt Lake, water conservation measures

The Church is looking at properties and water shares it owns in the counties that surround the Great Salt Lake for future donations.
1 day ago
great salt lake is pictured...
Kate Davis and Lindsay Aerts

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donates water shares to help Great Salt Lake

Gov. Spencer Cox expressed his gratitude to the church for the donation, saying that the decision makes the lake's future more secure.
6 days ago
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Construction above Pineview Reservoir in Eden on Thursday, J...
Leia Larsen, Salt Lake Tribune

Farmers are skeptical about participating in water leasing to save the Great Salt Lake

Like a lot of farmers, Harris doesn’t want to see the Great Salt Lake’s demise. But he’s skeptical he can help.
6 days ago
Wilson's Phalaropes and flamingos at Laguna Mar Chiquita. (Photo: Yanina Druetta)...
Aimee Van Tatenhove, Utah Public Radio

Ambitious initiatives and shorebirds connect two saline lakes hemispheres apart

As saline lakes continue to shrink globally, environmental protections are critical for these threatened ecosystems.
11 days ago
Starting Tuesday, the US Bureau of Reclamation will suspend extra water releases from Utah's Flamin...
Ella Nilsen, CNN

Great snowfall has Feds suspending water releases from Flaming Gorge

The extra water from Flaming Gorge was released to help increase water levels at Lake Powell. The extra snow this year has eased the need, somewhat.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
‘A crisis of faith’: spiritual leaders convene at Capitol to call for Great Salt Lake action