"SALT LAKE CITY — The valley here was shades of brown, its vast saline lake shimmering, when Brigham Young first surveyed the landscape in 1847 and recognized a place he had seen in a vision: a spot to make the desert bloom, a promised land for the persecuted flock he led as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Today, the valley is the headquarters of a faith with 17 million adherents worldwide and a tableau of verdant lawns, fertile farmland and booming growth. Yet the transformation is threatened: Because of overuse of water and climate change, the Great Salt Lake is drying up — and the Mormon Church is taking on an unusually public role to help save it.
Last summer, the church began urging conservation and touted its water-saving efforts in the American West. At its fall general conference, which Mormons everywhere follow for speeches considered direction from God, a senior bishop stressed using Earth’s resources with restraint. This spring, another senior bishop delivered what was praised as a landmark address on Mormons’ history with water in the valley and outlined an unprecedented move: permanently donating a small reservoir’s worth of church-owned water, the largest such gift ever made for the lake."