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Kindness to Animals

Kindness to animals can be found in the early teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Joseph Smith (1805-1844), who founded the Mormon Church in 1830, preached the humane treatment of animals:

"God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them.

"Kindness to the whole animal creation and especially to all domestic animals is not only a virtue that should be developed but is the ABSOLUTE DUTY OF MANKIND. Children should be taught that nature in all forms is our heavenly Father’s Great Book of Life.

"Furthermore, he who treats in a brutal manner a poor dumb animal, at that moment disqualifies himself for the companionship of the Holy Spirit."

It appears even poisonous snakes were to be treated with respect. An entry in Smith’s diary dated May 26, 1834, describes poisonous snakes found in the encampment: "The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill the serpent, bird or animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary to preserve ourselves from hunger."

According to Mormon theology, humans are held responsible for treatment of every animal in their care. In Joseph Smith’s inspired version of the Bible, Genesis 9:11 reads: "Blood of animals shall not be shed only for meat to save your lives; and the blood of every beast I will require at your hands."

Commenting on this verse, W. Cleon Skowsen writes in First Two Thousand Years, "God did not intend that the lives of animals should be subject to cruelty and abuse. The proper treatment of the animal kingdom is part of the human stewardship."

The Mormon scripture and Bible (Doctrine and Covenants, 49:21) says: "And woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need." It further states, "Man has been entrusted with sovereignty over the animal kingdom that he may learn to govern as God rules, by the power of love and justice, and become fit for his eternal destiny as a ruler of worlds." (Doctrine and Covenants, Commentary, section 47, p. 361).

The Mormon Church has also advocated a mostly vegetarian diet as part of its philosophy of health and reverence for life. This began in 1833, when church founder Joseph Smith received a revelation of such a health code as God’s will, emphasizing grains as the staple for one’s diet. Meat is meant to be eaten only rarely, such as in times of famine or extreme cold, when animals will likely perish.

The exact statement from the Mormon scriptures reads as follows:

"Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air,
I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with
thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used
sparingly;

"And it is pleasing unto Me that they should not be
used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."

--Doctrine and Covenants 89:12,13

Brigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith as head of the Mormon Church in 1847, taught that animals are a sacred gift from God and humans are obliged to respect them: "If we maltreat our animals, or each other, the spirit within us, our traditions and the Bible, all agree in declaring it is wrong...The more kind we are to our animals, the more peace will increase."

David O. McKay, former president of the Mormon Church, explains humanity’s duties and responsibilities towards animals as follows: "A true Latter-day Saint is kind to animals, is kind to every living thing, for God has created all...In all teaching, the element of love for all of the creatures of the earth can be emphasized, and thus religion imparted."

According to George Q. Cannon (1827-1901): "These birds and animals and fish 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.

"Children who are trained to respect the rights of the lower animals," taught Cannon, "will be more inclined to respect human rights and become good citizens. It has been observed that in places where special attention has been given in the public schools to the subject of kindness to animals, the percentage of crime has been lessened."

Joseph Fielding Smith, nephew of church founder Joseph Smith, and president of the Mormon Church from 1901 to 1918, has written:

"It was intended that all creatures should be happy in their several elements. Therefore to take the life of these creatures wantonly is a sin before the Lord.

"There is no inference in the scriptures that it is a privilege of men to slay birds or beasts or to catch fish wantonly

"The domination the Lord gave man over the brute creations has been, to a very large extent, used selfishly, thoughtlessly, cruelly...

"Kindness to the whole animal creation is not only a virtue that should be developed, but is the absolute duty of mankind...But with this dominion came the responsibility to treat with love and consideration every living thing...

"Take not the life you cannot give. For all things have an equal right to live."

Hugh Nibley, a church leader in Utah, has written:

"Man’s domination is a call to service, not a license to exterminate. It is precisely because men now prey upon each other and shed the blood and waste the flesh of other creatures without need that the world lieth in sin."

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