Pet Heaven: Faiths have differing views about animals in the afterlife

Published: Friday, Nov. 26 2010 2:00 p.m. MST

He said there may be plants and animals in the new earth as there were in the first earth.

"If there are animals on the new earth, they will be good creatures of God as the animals of the first earth were."

Information on the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Web site — www.pcusa.org — appears to argue that logically God would not exclude creatures in the afterlife who were part of his original paradise in the Garden of Eden.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a strong belief for pets/animals in paradise.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said animals — varied creatures — will be found in heaven ('Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,' pages 291-292).

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Latter-day Saints believe that animals, like humans, have spirits. Mortal and subject to death, animals will be saved through the Atonement of Christ."

The short answer to the question, "Do animals go to heaven?" is "yes, and only to the celestial kingdom," Brett H. Latimer, a Brigham Young University professor said during a Campus Education Week presentation at Brigham Young University in 2008.

He also suggested that how their owners care for them may have something to do with their owners' salvation.

Gerald E. Jones, former director, Institute of Religion, Berkeley, Calif., in a March 1977 Ensign magazine answered many animal queries in the "I Have a Question" section:

"— Do animals have spirits and are they resurrected? Yes. The Prophet Joseph Smith received information concerning the eternal status of animals. Answers to questions he posed are in the 'Doctrine and Covenants,' section 77. He also spoke about the resurrection of animals in a sermon but did not expand on the subject. ('History of the Church,' 5:343.)

"— To what degree of glory do animals go? The scriptures speak only of animals being in the celestial kingdom. Whether they go to other kingdoms is a matter of conjecture. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith on one occasion said the distribution of animals into all three degrees of glory is 'very probable,' (Improvement Era, Jan. 1958, pp. 16–17.) To my knowledge, no other prophet has published an opinion on the subject.

"— Are animals judged and resurrected according to their obedience to laws? According to Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, animals do not have a conscience. They cannot sin and they cannot repent, for they have not the knowledge of right and wrong. ('Man: His Origin and Destiny,' Deseret Book Co., 1954, pp. 204–5.)

"— Can animals be with their owners in the hereafter? There is no revealed word on this subject. Reason would tell us that a rancher or farmer may not want all of the cattle he has owned during his life. On the other hand, emotional ties may be honored and family pets may well be restored to their owners in the resurrection. Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote that Joseph Smith expected to have his favorite horse in eternity. (Improvement Era, Aug. 1927, p. 855.)

"— Just what is the relationship between men and animals? Men are children of God. Animals are for the benefit of man. This does not mean, however, that man is not to have a concern for this part of his stewardship. The prophets in all ages have indicated that man will be accountable for his treatment of animals and that justice and mercy should be exercised concerning them ..."

e-mail: lynn@desnews.com

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