Latter Day Saints and Concern for Animals
A vegetarian, Joseph Fielding Smith in 1978 delivered a strong denouncement of killing for sport and advanced humaneness in general, quoting the previous prophets extensively. Noting that “it was important the animals be on the earth” he called the destruction of wildlife “wicked” and said “every soul should be impressed by the sentiments of all the prophets preceding me.”
Joseph Smith’s inspired version of Genesis read: “And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives: and the blood of every beast I shall require at your hands.” The concept that we would be accountable to God for every animal killed indicated that killing them should be limited to a serious choice only to save human lives.
Joseph Smith’s brother, Hyrum, said in 1844 of the Word of Wisdom, “Let the Saints be sparing of the life of animals; it is pleasing saith the Lord that flesh be used only in times of winter, or famine – and why to be used in famine? Because all domesticated animals would naturally die, and may as well be used by man, as not.”
The dictionary definition of “sparingly” is not “moderately.” It is “to be used in an emergency.” A “spare” tire is not used daily.
At Zion’s camp in 1834 Joseph Smith prevented his followers from killing three rattlesnakes and exhorted them “to become harmless before the brute creation, and then the animal kingdom will follow.”
Brigham Young’s sermons in Utah frequently mentioned animals. He held that “the more kind we are to our animals the more peace will increase and the savage nature of the animal creation will vanish away.” He blamed rich food, especially beef and pork, for shortening lives, claiming that “the foundations of longevity,” living even to “hundreds of years” would be found in a prudent diet, especially that of our parents in Eden.
At age 72 George Canon wrote, “To inflict pain or death unnecessarily upon any of the creation is not a commendable pursuit. To delight in slaughter and blood is not an indication of a pure heart. How is the time to come when enmity between man and beast shall cease If man, the superior animal, does not take himself the first steps by getting rid of his blood thirstiness and by regarding all life as sacred.”
Lorenzo Snow said of an incident in his youth, “While moving forward in pursuit of something to kill, my mind was arrested with the reflection on the nature of my pursuit – that of amusing myself by giving pain and death to harmless creatures that had as much right to life as myself. I realized that such indulgence was without any justification, and feeling condemned, I laid my gun on my shoulder, returned home, and from that time to this have felt no inclination for that murderous amusement.” In a later comment, he said he felt “the Word of WIsdom was violated more in the improper use of meat as in other things.”
Joseph F. Smith in 1912 spoke thus to the Deseret Sunday School Union, “It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be a thirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting ‘Just for the fun ot if.’ Not that they are hungry and need the flesh of their prey, but because they love to shoot and destroy life. I am a firm believer in the words of one of the poets” Take not away the life you cannot give / for all things have an equal right to live.”
In 1945 at a general Conference, Heber J. Grant said, “I think that another reason I have splendid health for an old man (88) is that during the years we have had a cafeteria in the Utah Hotel I have not, with the exception of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom.”