SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — There’s a common Christian phrase that says, “Faith without works is dead.”

Leaders from a multitude of religious organizations across Utah came together Thursday, Feb. 16, to tell lawmakers that hoping the Great Salt Lake will survive is not enough and that the time to act is now. Dozens of people filled the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol to raise their voices and call their government leaders to action.

Northwestern Shoshone Spiritual Leader Rios Pacheco began his speech in his native language and then explained, “What I said was I want our Father in Heaven to hear us this day and bless us as we talk about how important the water is.”

Pacheco set the tone for all those who would speak afterward.  

“Just like the Great Salt Lake is fed by many different streams, we are many different streams of faith, but we have come together around this one issue,” said Pastor AJ Bush, representing the First United Methodist Church. 

Pastors, reverends and believers from around a dozen different faiths were represented during the demonstration. The different religious institutions delivered a joint statement to lawmakers addressing the issue. They also delivered an additional 800 letters written by people who wanted to show support for the cause. 

“As Christians, we believe in taking care of God’s creation and loving our neighbor, and this is a way we can do both,” Bush stated.  

How does this do both? Rachael Lauritzen, board chair for Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance explained it best by saying, “We all have an imperative to take care of the natural environment that supports us. Without a healthy environment, we don’t have health; we don’t have livelihoods.”  

They call on lawmakers to pass the laws necessary to bring the lake’s water levels up to the healthy minimum, which would be about nine feet higher than current levels.   

“It’s their responsibility both as lawmakers and as people of faith, as individuals of faith, to take action now,” Reverend Monica Dobbins said. “We can’t wait.” Dobbins represented First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. She spoke about the need to act now before the lake’s deuteriation becomes irreversible. 

Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, led an extensive study into the decline of the lake and just how quickly that could happen.

He explained that now is the time to act — with hope and perseverance, it can be saved.

“If you look at the salt lakes that have been destroyed around the world, what we call success is usually a slowing of the decline,” he said. “No one has succeeded in turning this around, so that’s a big threat to our community. It’s also an opportunity for us to be pioneers and demonstrate to the world how we can come together and solve this in a collaborative, Utah way.”  

The religious leaders made two calls to action. The first call was for lawmakers to act now and pass laws this session to save the Great Salt Lake. The second call was to all other Utahns to reach out to their lawmakers and encourage them to pass those laws.