“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. “ –Doctrine & Covenants
“The earth in its pristine beauty is an expression of the nature of its creator… I believe in the beauty of nature- the flowers, the fruit, the sky, the peaks, and the plains from which they rise. I see and believe in the beauty of animals.” –President Gordon B. Hinckley
This unique and intriguing doctrine- proper treatment of animals and the environment- I believe, should be an important part of our personal worship, and I have been surprised in my conversations with others, the lack of knowledge concerning their purpose in Gods plan and the Church’s doctrine concerning them. A better understanding in these respects can help everyone see our spiritual companions in a more eternal perspective, which will help them to treat them with the respect and kindness they deserve.
There exist two opposing sides of the spectrum concerning the level of authority of which we possess over the earth and the animals thereon. One is that held by organizations such as PETA who believe:
…that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose and that animals deserve consideration of their best interests regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans, or endangered and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all (just as a mentally challenged human has rights even if he or she is not cute or useful and even if everyone dislikes him or her).
While there is other individuals who give no value to the life of an animal and no thought in taking it at his or her will. The same ideas exist with respect to the use of the earths resources. So where is the line drawn? Why did God give us these animals and to what end? How are we to treat them? Where do they come from and where will they go after this life?
I will mainly focus on animals in addressing these issues and I will begin with their role in the plan of salvation and their level of intelligence, with a combination of religious and secular view points. In addition I will address the topic of dominion and stewardship that man may have over the animal kingdom.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31
The scientific community puts the creation of the earth at around 4.54 billion years. This age was determined by combining the interpretations of oldest-known terrestrial minerals – small crystals of zircon from the Jack Hills of Western Australia – and astronomers' and planetologists' determinations of the age of the solar system based in part on radiometric age dating of meteorite material and lunar samples.( "Age of the Earth." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 Dec 2007, 18:20 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 Dec 2007)
Joseph Smith once commented that if you were to ask the learned men why they say the world was made out of nothing, they may answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?”, and that by this they would infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. The Websters Dictionary states that the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing, but rather to organize; the same as an artist may organize clay into a sculptured masterpiece. Thus is the context for which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints defines creation, as stated in the Biblical text, and so “we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos- chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all glory.” –Joseph Smith Jr. (pg3)
These materials are referred to as Element, and are believed to have always existed in its raw form, and “they can never be destroyed; the may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed. They had no beginning and they will have no end.” –Joseph Smith Jr. (pg. 3)
It is out of these same elements that all things were made, man and animal alike. If we mention the physical, we must also look at the spiritual, because it is common belief that animals have no soul and therefore are not of God and are with out feeling. This idea is not held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that’s is to say that I have not found in any church literature the view that animals have no reason, and cannot think. Joseph Fielding Smith had this to say about the matter:
We have divine knowledge that each possess a spirit in the likeness of its body, and that each was created spiritually before it was naturally, or given a body on the earth. Naturally, then, there is some measure of intelligence in members of the animal kingdom. The fact remains, however, that they received their place and their bounds by divine decree, which they cannot pass. –Joseph Fielding Smith (pg. 2)
The secular world on the other hand doesn’t of course concern itself with matters of the spirit, but there are many studies on the intelligence of animals, for example not long ago, many scientists ranked humans as the smartest animals and all other creatures inferior. Others relied on anthropomorphism or testing animals purely by human attributes. Today's studies show that animals solve problems, make decisions, and show emotions--not unlike humans."We share the planet with thinking animals," says Harvard ethologist Marc Hauser.
The statement in the previous quotation concerning the bounds by which “they” (animals) “cannot pass” is worthy of noting, because as it says in another place:
It (animals) remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it. This means that a plant for example may not aspire to become an animal, nor an animal advance to the level of intelligence of a human. “There is no jumping from order to order. The limits of these orders are yet to be found. - John A. Widtsoe
Dominion and Stewardship
“And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.
Brigham Young points out that, “although we are the “lords of creation”, and hold in subjection the creation; “we avail ourselves of the great truths found in the arts and science, we navigate the seas, survey the land, and convey intelligence with lightning speed, we harness steam and make it our servant, we tame the animals and make them do our drudgery and administer to our wants in many ways, yet man alone is not tamed- he is not subject to his ‘Great Creator.’ Our ignorant animals are faithful to us, and will do our bidding as long as they have strength; yet man who is the offspring of God, will not become subject to the most reasonable and self exalting principles. Doesn’t this faithless obedience demand respect and reverence? Then why are so many atrocities committed against our fury friends? Why do we hunt them for sport and abuse them for their ignorance? Do we have a right to use the authority that we have been allotted in this manner? Is this what is meant by dominion?”
It is true that [God made Adam] lord over the whole earth and gave him dominion over everything on the face of the earth. Lordship and dominion is the same thing. I found that the word lord is the usual English slurring of half-weard, hlaford, or the loaf-ward or keeper of the bread, because according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “in its original sense the word denotes the head of a household in his relation to servants and dependents who ‘eat his bread’… the development of sense has been largely influenced by the adoption of the word as the customary rendering of the Latin dominus.” Which brings us in the same dictionary to “dominion, derivative of domini-um, property, ownership, from dominus, lord, specifically “the lord of the household” [domus]. In short, lordship and dominion is the same thing, the responsibility of the master for the comfort and well being of his dependents and guests; he is the generous host, the kind “pater familias” to whom all look for support. He is the lord who provides bread for all… This definition of dominion places us as caretakers of the earth and the animals the dwell thereon. The question is, are we taking care or advantage of that which we have been made stewards.
The Unnecessary Taking of Animal Life
“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. –D&C 59:20
Granted there are different levels and degrees that exist within as well as between species, still it is the privilege of every form of life to multiply in its own sphere and element and have joy therein… Adam’s dominion was a charge to see to it that God’s all went well with creatures; it was not a license to exterminate them… Hugh Nibley (pg.15)
The United States is clearly actively and financially involved in hunting and fishing, be it for sport or necessity. Over 87 million U.S. residents 16 years old and older fished, hunted in 2006. During that year, 29.9 million people fished, 12.5 million hunted. Wildlife recreationists' avidity was reflected in their spending which totaled over $120 billion in 2006. This amounted to 1% of the United States GDP. Of the total amount spent, $37 billion was for trips, $64 billion for equipment, and $16 billion for other items. Sportspersons spent a total of $75 billion in 2006—$41 billion on fishing, $23 billion on hunting, and $11 billion on items used for both hunting and fishing. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation for 2006 http:// federalaid. fws.gov /surveys/ surveys.html)
Hunting and fishing are a huge pastime in America, making it a big part of American culture. I myself have been influenced by it, because the male side of my family has always been involved in it.
When growing up I idealized my older brother and wanted to be a part of everything they did, so when my oldest brother Rob came home excited one day with a new ‘toy.’ I was eager to participate. The toy turned out to be a blowgun, which is basically a pipe that propels small darts. I watched intently as my brother shot with great accuracy out of our back window at any unsuspecting sparrow or robin that happened upon a branch within the distance of their fatal breath. After my brother had taken down a couple birds he was anxious me a turn and a chance to prove myself worthy. I did not want to disappoint, and I didn’t. It wasn’t long before I had found my victim and brought it to its bitter end in life. After I hit it, I watched as it clumsily fell from branch to branch to it found the ground behind a bush. My successful shot was met with instant approval, praise and high-fives. I wanted to see my feathery trophy so I ran out the back door to find where it had landed. When I finally did find it, it was not dead but rather barely alive and fluttering and flopping around awkwardly- with the dart in its side-gasping for air. I immediately felt a great regret for what I had done when I saw the pain this small innocent bird was experiencing because of my actions, and cried as I did my best to put it out of its misery.
I had always admired the little birds that sang outside my window and always wanted to see one up close, but never like this. I decided then and there that I would never intentionally harm another one of Gods creatures.
Don’t kill the little birds
That sing on bush and tree,
All thro’ the summer days,
Their sweetest melody.
Don’t shoot the little birds!
The earth is God’s estate,
And he provideth food
For small as well as great.(Deseret Song1909, no. 163)
Spencer W. Kimbell (pg. 81) had this to say about the innocent taking of life:
And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country… in my opinion, I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals…
One of the poets stated in this connection:
“Take not away the life you cannot give,
For all things have an equal right to live.”
Then Spencer W. Kimball (pg. 81) added to the poem: “…because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.”
My older brother never has quit hunting and I doubt he ever will but I have been impressed by his practice of giving the meat of his kill to a family that is in need, so as to not waste it, and thereby puts it to proper use and blessed the life of a family, thus honoring in my opinion the animal. “We hope, if men are hungry, they will get enough to satisfy their wants, but no more” –George Q. Cannon
All muscle tissue is very high in protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, However muscle tissue is very low in carbohydrates and contains no fiber. The fat content of meat can vary widely depending on the species and breed of animal, the way in which the animal was raised including what it was fed, the anatomical part of its body, and the methods of butchering and cooking. Wild animals such as deer are typically leaner than farm animals, leading those concerned about fat content to choose game such as venison, despite the increased danger of exposure to chronic wasting disease; however, centuries of breeding meat animals for size and fatness is being reversed by consumer demand for meat with less fat. Animal fat is relatively high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which have been linked to various health problems, including heart disease. ("Meat." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 Feb 2009, 22:18 UTC. 24 Feb 2009
George Q. Cannon addressed the topic in this way: “The Lord has given animals, fowls and fish to man for his use. They are under man’s control, to be used for food with prudence and thanksgiving and not wastefully. But we have heard of animals’ life being very much wasted to gratify the hunting propensity of some man. This is wrong. When people can use game for any kind of food, and they stand in need of it, the Lord is not displeased if they kill it. When however, they hunt it for the mere pleasure of killing, then sin is committed.” This quote makes clear the Churches view of the proper use of these animals.
Accountability and Judgment
“And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:11
The words of the scripture allude to the fact that we will be judged for misusing or abusing the charge for which we have been entrusted, namely the proper care and use of God’s creatures.
George Q. Cannon explained it in this way: “The birds and animals cannot speak, but they can suffer, and our God, who created them, knows their sufferings, and will hold him who causes them to suffer unnecessarily to answer for it. It is a sin against their creator.”(pg. 94)
Therefore, we will all have to answer for the lives we take, so it would be wise to judge well whether the need justifies the act, so as not to bring blood upon ourselves in the day of judgment, John the Revelator declared that in the millennium the animal creation will manifest more intelligence then they now possess, in their “fallen condition”, and he continues in stating that they will even know how to praise God. He says, “And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, blessing, and honor and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb forever and ever.” What? The animals will be endowed with language? If, this is the case then they may have power to speak against us for say sins we have committed against them. This brings up our final and ever important question: Do all dogs go to heaven?
“For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand.” -D&C 29:24-25
I’ll let Joseph F. Smith answer this question… “The simple answer is that animals do have spirits and that through the redemption made by our Savior they will come forth in the resurrection to enjoy the blessing of immortal life.”
We learn from this that the animals will be resurrected, but the question remains: Where do the beasts, birds, and fish, and all other creatures will go after the resurrection? We can only express opinion. John the Revelator saw many of them in heaven in the presence of God. It is I believe very probable that they, like mankind, may be distributed in the various kingdoms, as does Joseph F. Smith, who said: “We may well believe that each of the kingdoms such creatures will be assigned” (pg. 108)
In conclusion, I have attempted here to show through the words of God through his servants and facts and opinions surrounding this important topic of the proper place and use of animals and there place in the plan of salvation. I have learned that animals truly are an integral part of the plan of salvation and organized from the same elements as ourselves by the same hands of our Creator, with spirit and intelligence much like ourselves and fell and will stand before Him he will take in account our treatment of these His creations, the animals, He will look to see if we have accented righteous dominion, kindness, and prudence.
Animals are truly a blessing and a wonderful example of humble obedience, such as those animals that gathered at the ark in answer to the revelations of God, of which they were a far better judge than the world of mankind in that age.
I would hope that we could learn from them and respect them and honor them in our treatment towards them that we may begin to execute righteous dominion, in preparation to create worlds as Gods in embryo, and to each remember these verses:
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast,
He liveth best who lovest best.
All things both great and small
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all. (pg. 83)
The majority of the citations compiled here, are found in a book of Mormon quotations, entitled:
“Kindness to animals and caring for the Earth: selections from the sermons and writings of Latter-day Saint church leaders / compiled by Richard D. Stratton.”