During the creation of the world, the Lord formed “every beast of the field and every fowl of the air, and then commanded them that they should “come unto Adam”, to see what he would call them, “and they were also living souls; for I God breathed into them the breath of life,” or put into those creatures their spirits and thus they have become living souls. We are aware of the fact that the spirit and the body connected, constitutes what we know as the soul, and that these souls whom the Lord created are precious in His sight. This is a principle that is widely forgotten and universally neglected by religious people. It is the disregard of this principle that is the downfall of every major civilization. Men everywhere are at variance one with another concerning which souls are of any worth in the sight of God due to an overwhelming spirit of selfishness, self-interest, and neglect of “that Spirit which leadeth to do good, yea, to do justly, to walk humbly and to judge righteously”. Some men will maintain that only their soul is of any worth and that their survival, rank, power and prestige should go uninterrupted by anyone or anything. Any breach against their self-centered goals will result in prompt or premeditated action that will eliminate their stumbling block once and for all. Others will agree that only their friends are of any worth in the sight of God wishing success and goodwill toward them and failure and damnation to all those who oppose them.
We are reminded of the example of Satan eons ago in those pre-mortal councils, requesting all- power for himself, total and complete damnation for everyone else. Satan did not stop at his rejection and banishment from the kingdom, but proceeded to start a business through Cain. Satan desired to destroy every living soul whom the Father had created yet concealed his intent behind a veil of lies and deceit. In short… Satan taught Cain to be careless and selfish. Those descriptive adjectives, careless and selfish, stand in direct opposition to everything that the Father stands for, yet Cain gloried in the things that he had learned from Satan. “Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain.” said Cain after the wealth of his brother fell into his hands. He then gives this well-known phrase, “Am I my brother’s keeper” short for- “why would any other living creature mean anything to me. I am concerned with myself and with my prosperity. It is a free enterprise and I will do whatever it takes in order to attain power and dominion over every creature I come in contact with. Leave me alone while I go about my business.”
In order to help make a better choice on how we must conduct ourselves in relation to all of God’s creations, the Lord has made His will abundantly clear. “Thou shalt not kill” is the word from Mt. Sinai, so we know where the Lord stands on that subject. We shall not kill our brothers and sisters lest we bring the condemnation of God upon us, so most of us don’t have much of a problem keeping that commandment, but over the years I have been troubled to see so many respectable men engulfed by a desire to kill those animals who have also “become living souls”.
What is it that inspires a man to kill and then glory in what he has done? “We need the food,” is the most common explanation. Well that is understandable and I know that it is doctrinally justified, but why must you shoot the poor animal, run over to it with breathless zeal, grab it by it’s horns, put your arm around it’s neck, take a picture, cut off the horns, and display it all on your mantle or in your garage? Do those horns represent trophies, or is there a chance that those horns represent a living soul with a family, with feelings, emotions and personalities. Those horns represent a living soul just trying to have joy in the sphere in which God had placed it, only to be destroyed by a man who gets a thrill out of hunting and preying on creatures less sophisticated than himself. In whatever way one tries to justify his desire to kill, he is stopped in his tracks by these words from the prophet Joseph F. Smith
“Our innocent little birds, natives of our country, who live upon the vermin…are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is abominable in my opinion. I think this principle should extend not only to bird life, but to the life of all animals… I never could see why a man should be imbued with a bloodthirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men- and they still exist among us- who enjoy what is to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds… I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find and for what? “Just for the fun of it”
The Prophet gives very plain and simple counsel but the Lord does one better,
“Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.”
Cain wandered the earth for 130 years looking for anything to kill, literally becoming “a human angel of death.” Ham was taught by his father Noah the principle upon which animal life should be treated, yet his desire for power overcame him which led to the destruction of all forms of life. Nimrod learned the ways Ham and became a mighty hunter and boasted that no animal could escape his bow. To him it was a source of pride, and a way to gain power over all things through violent force. He was fulfilling the will and mission of Satan, to first destroy, then subdue, and finally rule with an iron fist. The beasts that loved Noah began to fear and hate man and for good reason.
Through the duration of my childhood my mother taught me that you could always judge the character and disposition of a man by how he treats the animals that surround him. The nature of those men that respect the animals they associate with can always be characterized as meek, humble, mild, patient, and full of love. They always seem to possess a quality of leadership. The strength of a man is measured in the amount of compassion he will bestow upon those around him both small and great.
Abraham Lincoln refused to hunt animals in a day where his “manliness” could have been called into question for being so soft on animals.
A great leader among the Hunkpapa Teton Sioux Indians also known as the Lakota Indians remarked in a speech given at the powder river council of 1877 that “every seed has awakened and so has animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we to have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this land…” According to the Lakota Indian, a “kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakotas safe among them and so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.”(Reminiscent of the days of Adam and Noah) Of the Lakota Sioux, Chief Luther Standing Bear said, “The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. [The Indian] was kin to all living things and he gave to all creatures equal rights with himself. Everything of the earth was loved and reverenced. As yet I know of no species that was exterminated until the coming of the white man… The white man considered animal life just as he did the natural man life upon this continent as “pests.” There is no word in the Lakota vocabulary with the English meaning of this word…Forests were mown down, the buffalo exterminated, the beaver driven to extinction and his wonderfully constructed dams dynamited…and the very birds of the air silenced…The white man has come to be the symbol of extinction for all things natural in this continent. Between him and the animal there is no rapport and they have learned to flee from his approach, for they cannot live on the same ground.”
Is there anyone that cannot see this being carried out even to this day? Hunters wait all year long for the chance to go into these animals last piece of refuge whence they were driven by bulldozers and rifles with their fate depending on the accuracy of the men in the orange suits. Traveling through Provo one day while taking my wife to work, I was puzzled by the number of trucks I saw towing camouflage quads. I wondered if we were going to war! Then I noticed orange tape attached to everything they owned. I suspected that the first day of hunting season had arrived and she confirmed that by telling me that 3-4 of the kids in her class were gone on hunting trips. They have their guns, their mini tanks and their children and off they go to see who can kill the biggest living thing. “Since the days of Joseph Smith, presidents of the Church have made resounding pronouncements against the wicked practice of needlessly killing animals and birds for pleasure, and have been unheeded; we have just passed a law permitting fourteen year olds the pleasure of killing big game.” Young kids that have not even reached the age of accountability are being taught by their parents the ways of the mighty hunters such as Cain, Ham, Nimrod, and Esau instead of teaching them the ways of Adam, Abel, Noah, and Abraham, all of whom were great friends of the animals to which they lived amongst. It is interesting to note that in vs. 18-22 of Moses Chp. 3, after the Lord made that well know pronouncement that it “is not good for man to be alone” He immediately proceeded to make the animals of the earth and the fowl of the air and commanded them to become acquainted with Adam. The Lord saw that His creations were still incomplete and so He made Eve, the last and final creation, making the process complete. Our ancient parents understood that these creatures were made to be helpers and friends instead of pests and prey.
“A true latter day saint is kind to animals, is kind to every created thing, for God created all,” says David O. McKay. He continues,“ The author of “The Ancient Mariner” is right, when he deplores the killing of the albatross in writing these lines:
“He prayeth best who loveth all things both great and small. For the dear God who loveth us, he made and loveth all.”
Disgusted with what he has seen concerning the treatment of animals, President McKay relates an experience that he had while working on the farm; “A man who was working for me once on the farm came home about sundown and said, I have just killed a porcupine over there.” I said, “Why did you kill it?” “Oh” he said, “just for fun,” and I said, “Did you kill it or is it over there suffering?” “Oh, I killed it.” Well I wondered, so I just took time to cross those two creeks and go over to the little hill. He had not killed it. The poor creature was just stunned, its head was beaten and he was struggling. What fun can there be in treating dumb animals in that cruel way.”
I believe that it has to do with power. Men want to exercise power in order to show and gain control. Why do you shoot that grizzly bear from 200 yards away? Because you have power to do so. Why don’t you put down your gun and run up to the bear and attempt to slay that creature with your bare hands? Because then you have no power, and the bear now has power over you. Lack of power and control breeds insecurity for shallow people while an abundance of power leads to excessive pride with their downfall being imminent. Why do you beat that poor dog? Because you can, and that makes you feel good right? To see all things cower before you because of coercion. This same principle applies to men who beat their wives. This is the principle upon which Satan bases his entire warfare, starting with the smallest and the weakest and working his way up to the biggest and the strongest. There is always more, Mahan says, use force to achieve power over those in an inferior position and put them into subjection. In Liberty jail the Prophet Joseph Smith set forth true principles relating specifically to those holders of the priesthood explaining that “we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority (or might we say power) as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” When we, “seek to gratify our pride… our vain ambitions or to exercise control or dominion” over others, “the heavens withdraw, the Spirit is grieved” and that man’s priesthood is nowhere to be found! You now say to yourself… “well that scripture is talking about how you act to the human family”, and your right but I think it extends to all creatures and so does Joseph Smith as illustrated in an important teaching moment during Zion’s camp. The Prophet wrote:
“We crossed the Embarrass River… In pitching my tent we found three massasaguas, or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, let them alone, don’t hurt them! How will the serpent lose its venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety.”
What is the prophet trying to teach us? It is reminiscent of the Saviors commission to those He “sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves?” The Lord wants us to be wise but at the same time retain the characteristics of the mild creatures of the earth, showing no animosity or desire for dominion over others. The similes above given by the Master are weighted in their expectations for what He wants the disposition of His disciples to be.
We have truths presented to our minds and to our souls and yet we will always have a choice. We have servant and Lord testifying of the need for the children of God to lose their animosity toward everything possessing life and until that day there can be no hope for millennial splendor. Until that day we cannot enjoy the peace and love of Zion, the Garden of Eden, or the Celestial glory we strive to experience. Until we can heed the words of the Savior and His prophets we will not progress, but come to an impassible wall that stands between the kingdom and ourselves. Only upon the principles of love, mercy, and compassion can this wall ever be broken down. I hope for the day when “All creatures of our God and King, can lift up their voice and with us sing.” The day will come when we are brought forth in a glorious resurrection and these animals, our helpers and our friends will be right there with us also receiving resurrected bodies to dwell forever with those that loved them. Let us put aside our desire to kill and to hurt, to oppress and to subject, and show the Lord that we will repent and become good stewards over the vineyard to which He has entrusted us with. The only lasting power will reside in the person that submits his own will, in order to seek and apply the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. “I love my creatures far more than you ever could,” the Lord told Esdras in a vision. Our choices determine who we are and shape our character into what we will become. The Lord wants to know if we will despise everything that is lower than ourselves for if we do, we cannot become what He is. He remembers the fall of every sparrow and He is sure to remember the one who made that sparrow fall. He is now, and will continue to, “prove us herewith, to see if we will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God will command them.” Let us triumph over the principles that were introduced by Satan and remember that every living soul is important to ourselves and to its Maker.
“The lives of animals…should be held far more sacred than they are”
-George Q. Cannon