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Gov. Cox is right, it’s time to pray for an end to drought

SHARE Gov. Cox is right, it’s time to pray for an end to drought
Bennet Gibson points at the low water levels in the Weber River in Utah in 2021.

Bennett Gibson, farm manager for Gibson’s Green Acres and Bennett Farms, shows how water levels are low in the Weber River, where irrigation water is pulled for farming operation in West Weber, Weber County, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Critics say the state of Utah has not done all it should to properly manage a scarce water supply. Certainly, a debate over pricing structures, tax subsidies to water districts, the construction of reservoirs and protections for the Great Salt Lake are appropriate and belong in the arena of public discourse.

But underlying all of the problems the state faces now as it enters a summer experts say could be one of record-breaking drought is one factor no law or public policy can reach — the amount of water falling from the sky.

For that, Utahns must turn to a higher power. 

We applaud Gov. Spencer Cox for recognizing this and issuing a call for a “weekend of prayer” for rain. We appreciate the ecumenical tone to his plea, as well as his frank and sincere recognition of mankind’s reliance on a higher power. All people in the state, regardless of their faith tradition or beliefs, should join in this collaborative effort to call upon a force more powerful than their own.

A sincere, statewide offering of prayer would do more than just confront the current drought. The very act of saying a prayer has the effect of humbling an individual. Collaborative prayer adds a feeling of unity to that humility — a unity that transcends the petty differences that tend to dominate modern political discourse.

These traits are desperately needed in a United States that today seems unable to rise above its divisions. It’s difficult to hate someone who has joined you in praying for a common purpose.

As the University of Connecticut’s Intellectual Humility in Public Discourse project has stated, humility in public matters involves, “the owning of one’s cognitive limitations, a healthy recognition of one’s intellectual debts to others, and low concern for intellectual domination and certain kinds of social status.”

This kind of humility fosters an open mind and a sense of one’s own fallibility and weaknesses.

“Philosophers from Locke to Rawls have seen these traits as being crucial to the kind of meaningful public deliberation that we associate with democracy,” the project’s website said. 

Through the ages, religious leaders have seen a higher, and perhaps counterintuitive, purpose to humility. “A man’s pride shall bring him low,” King Solomon is recorded saying in the Bible’s book of Proverbs, “but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.”

When a person is humble, he or she naturally turns from personal cares and looks outward, toward concerns about the welfare of others. It then becomes easier to turn off sprinklers, avoid washing the car and focus on more charitable considerations. A green lawn is not the most important part of suburban life.

The severity of the drought is beyond question. State figures show 97.9% of Utah is in at least a severe drought category, with 62.2% in an exceptional drought. Much of the spring’s meager runoff was absorbed by thirsty soils before reaching reservoirs. Many cities are facing dire conditions. Officials with northern Utah’s Pineview Reservoir told the Standard-Examiner it will run out of water by the third week of August if consumption is not curtailed.

The governor’s call for united prayer continues a long American tradition. Abraham Lincoln made a similar plea during the worst days of the Civil War, asking Americans to “humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

Franklin Roosevelt wrote a prayer that he read to the nation on D-Day. In modern times, other governors, including Rick Perry of Texas and Sonny Perdue of Georgia have urged prayer in the face of drought.

The time will come again to debate policy actions surrounding water in Utah. For now, however, the situation is so dire that only a higher power can help. We urge all Utahns to follow the governor’s plea and join in unifying, humbling prayer for rain this weekend, confident that blessings will flow in myriad ways.