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

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

 (Photo illustration by Aaron Thorup) (Photo illustration by Aaron Thorup)

Do pets and animals go to heaven?

This is a widespread question on the Internet, with more than 4.3 million sites trying to address the issue in some fashion.

A fido paradise or kitty heaven isn't specifically mentioned in the Bible and so every religion has its own beliefs.

Animals were present and peaceful in the Garden of Eden, though. The future for animals is also promising — according to the Bible — as the lion shall eat straw like the ox in the Millennium and the wolf, leopard and sheep are also mentioned as existing on earth and living peacefully then (Isaiah chapter 11).

Here's a sampling from various faiths on the animals in heaven topic:

According to the Catholic Answers Forum (forums.catholic.com), "Animals have a material soul that ceases to exist when they die. Humans have a spiritual soul that continues to exist after death," Michelle Arnold, a Catholic Answers apologist, stated.

Chaplain David Pascoe blesses a Yorkshire terrier named Jack during the Oct. 3, 2009, Blessing of the Animals. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Chaplain David Pascoe blesses a Yorkshire terrier named Jack during the Oct. 3, 2009, Blessing of the Animals. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"But does this mean that animals will not be present in the afterlife? That is a question to which we do not have an answer. There does however seem to be hints that God will restore the universe at the end of time. As animals are part of the 'visible universe,' it seems possible that they too might share 'their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.' It might be possible that God might also re-create those animals who have been a pleasure and comfort to man in his earthly journey. We don't know in this life, but it is something for which we can hope."

She also said that if pets are needed for our perfect happiness in heaven, then pets will be there.

The catechism of the Catholic Church does not directly address the question of pets going to heaven, according to Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD, of EWTN, the global Catholic Television, Catholic Radio, and Catholic News Network. He says that while all living beings have a soul, the soul of a plant or animal goes out of existence when they die, while a human soul does not.

Animals lack the intelligence which allows them to choose either God's will or their own will and are thus not accountable for their actions, he argues.

"The church will demand that animals be respected as part of creation while at the same time insisting that the dignity owed a human being should never be given to an animal," Geraghty stated.

Zen Buddhists simply have no specific belief in an afterlife for animals.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the entire earth will be a sanctuary in the eternities and that includes being a peaceful place for animals.

An official statement from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church states:

"Although human beings are the pinnacle of creation, all creatures are the handiwork of God and thus are deserving of our esteem and protection. Because we are sinful, we sometimes forget our obligations to other creatures. Ecosystem and species destruction are visible evidence of our sinfulness."

While it does not address the possibility of animals in heaven, the statement warned: "How we treat animals reveals our true nature."

There is no Jewish tradition with regard to pets and heaven. However, most western Jews believe that all love comes from God and will return to God. This could therefore include faithful companions, like man's best friend, going to heaven too.

According to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the question of animals going to heaven is a "cautious 'maybe.'"

The Rev. John Brug stated in 1995 in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod publication, "Since animals do not have immortal souls, we might think the answer is no. Several facts, however, make one hesitant to be satisfied with a simple 'no.'"

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

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company