PROVO — The short answer to the question, "Do animals go to heaven?" is "yes, and only to the Celestial Kingdom," a Brigham Young University professor said during a Campus Education Week presentation.

In his rapid-fire approach, Brett H. Latimer noted that the Eastern World "has a different view than we do." Many Eastern religions "worship the creations vs. the creator," he said.

The world view includes other kinds of animal protectors.

"Al Gore sees himself as a contemporary Noah," Latimer said.

Some ideas are evolving into concepts Latter-day Saints already believed about animal spirits, he said.

"Spot just died, you better have an emergency family home evening with something theological to say," he said.

Many cultures have a reverence for all life, while the Western mindset is that man has dominion over animals. To many people animals are meaningless and don't have a spirit, in contrast to the Mormon belief.

"Our belief is kindness toward animals," he said.

That isn't a traditional belief in Western countries, he added.

"Mormons are in the middle" between people who worship animals and people who hunt for sport, he suggested.

Even the Lord in the Bible commanded animals to rest on the Sabbath, he said. Other scriptural references speak about praying for animals, yet citing humanity as more valuable than sparrows. Modern scriptural references, particularly in the Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lean heavily toward killing animals only for food and clothing, he said.

"There is strong indication there will be accountability in killing animals" if not for those reasons, Latimer said.

Animals were created spiritually first in the likeness of their bodies and then physically, he said, drawing from Doctrine and Covenants section 77 and statements from latter-day prophets. They were not created in the image of God, nor were they given Godlike reasoning ability. They may have free will, he said, and also are included in the atonement of Jesus Christ and will be resurrected because they were created by God, but only to the highest kingdom.

They experienced the fall of Adam, and needed saving, but do not have the intelligence of man, he said.

How their owners care for them, "may have something to do" with their owners' salvation, Latimer suggested.

In the Millennium, animals will live together in peace.

Scriptural references to animals in Doctrine and Covenants section 77 are "foreign to other religions," he said. Additionally, references to animals in other scriptures show they can represent a species, beasts or corrupt kingdoms, Latimer said.

The late LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball said there were "clear guidelines" on how to treat animals, Latimer said, with the key being a person's motivation.

The church has not issued any statements on hunting, fishing or animal research, he said.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com