How We Should Interact With Other Living Things

Scripture and Teachings Suggest We Are Far Too Casual in our Behaviors

Portrait of senior man petting domestic cat
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Every Living Thing Was Created By God

Although we are given dominion over other living things on earth, we are not free to hurt or misuse them in any way.

Scripture teaches that Heavenly Father is aware of every thing He has created, whether it is a sparrow or one hair on your head. He created it, He is aware of it, and He expects us to treat all His creations with respect and reverence.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the initial guidance given to Adam and Eve was expanded on.

Everything on the earth is for our use and pleasure, but only with good judgment and not to excess or in an oppressive or forceful manner.

If we truly have respect for living things and Heavenly Father's creations we must never mistreat anything for any reason or waste this earth's resources. We should never treat any of His creations with careless indifference.

Humane Day

Beginning in 1897 and continuing for twenty years until 1918, the Church practiced Humane Day. The purpose was to emphasize the need to be kind to animals. George Q. Cannon is largely credited with the inception of Humane Day, but President Joseph F. Smith was a strong supporter of it and the practice continued even after Cannon's death.

In an 1912 editorial inside the Juvenile Instructor, President Joseph F. Smith stated:

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. … It is an unrighteous thing to treat any creature cruelly.

Top leaders have been silent on this subject for decades. However, there seems to be new interest in the motivations that resulted in Humane Day. Some modern thinkers assert that animals have been objectified much like women, when they are treated as human sport and consumption rather than as God's creation.

It is possible that additional modern guidance may be forthcoming. We do not have any explicit modern guidance on using animals for medical research or in testing products, yet.

Brutality in Nature Can and Should End

Zion's Camp was a refiner's fire and learning experience for all the men who participated in it. It also resulted in some profound understanding from Joseph Smith on how the brutality in nature can end, especially by human actions.

Joseph Smith related what happened:

In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, “Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever 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 sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.” The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger. (May 26, 1834.) DHC 2:71.

This is not the only story of this nature. Similar stories occurred during Brigham Young's time.

There Will Be Peace Among All Living Things During the MIllennium

We have been promised wonderful things in the Millennium. These prophecies assure us there will be peace among all living things. Isaiah described this time period and it is echoed in the Doctrine and Covenants as well as the Book of Mormon.

We are told that during the Millennium, enemies such as the lion and the calf, the wolf and the lame, the cow and the bear and even children and snakes will all coexist in peace.

Although we know there will be peace in the Millennium, we do not have to wait until then in order to be kind to animals ourselves. We can, and should, practice kindness now