Zelophehad’s Daughters

Animals and Souls

Posted by Kiskilili

Several years ago my little sister’s friend had an indoor cat who (therefore) had never been spayed. One afternoon the cat tore the screen of a second-story window in half, jumped out, and, one can only assume, met up for a romantic interlude with an unspecified ne’er-do-well of a tom. The result was four fantastically cute kittens in need of good homes. My family agreed to take in Terpsichore (rhymes with “hickory”), whom we named for the Greek muse of dance.

Not only was Terpsichore a skilled and creative dancer (she could not be restrained from leaping into the air if she saw people doing it), she also enjoyed gymnastics (my sister used to complain that Terpsichore liked to pounce on her fingers whenever she practiced back handsprings). (“Couldn’t you have named her after the muse of sleep?” my mother once asked after Terpsichore danced all over her bed while she tried to take a nap.) Another favorite pastime, which I liked to call “Loch Ness Monster,” involved standing on her hind legs under the mesh covering draped over our ancient couch, her back paws and tail plainly visible, and swiping dramatically at things on the couch and floor.

Not to imply that Terpsichore was all sweetness, light, and hilarity, though. Although I have no poop stories that can rival fMhLisa’s, Terpsichore did have an unfortunate tendency to temporarily forget her housebreaking when she saw the Christmas tree go up (we’re talking an artificial tree! Surely her animal sensibilities should have clued her in that it was not in need of fertilization?).

But she made up for her faults with this endearing habit of climbing up your pants to lodge herself in your arms on her back, like a human baby. And her proverbial feline curiosity was adorable–night or day, Terpsichore was in the thick of anything that went on in the house. If you opened a bag of flour, Terpsichore would stand on tiptoe to peer inquisitively inside. If you shook the jar of shells on the living room bookshelf, Terpsichore would come dashing in at full speed to find out what was going on. My brother used to call her the Safety Inspection Officer, because every time he came over to fiddle with the computer, Terpsichore would eagerly investigate every move he made.

One blazing Sunday afternoon, shortly before her second birthday, we found Terpsichore dead in the back yard, ants already crawling from her eyes.

At the time, I had a part-time job transcribing television infotainment programs and, by chance, the very next morning I typed a human interest story on whether pets go to heaven. Not possible, maintained every religious leader who was consulted (as tears flooded my eyes); animals lack souls. But, countered owners of dead pets everywhere, there’d be no heaven without Fido or Fluffy.

In the eternal scheme of things, what are animals in Mormon thought? Where did they come from to begin with? Do they live eternally or not? Are they resurrected? Do they continue to progress, the way human spirits are said to? Are they judged? Do they interact with the human dead? Are there housepets in heaven? And can only domesticated species serves as heavenly pets, or can dinosaurs and tigers be adopted?

In some great big menagerie in the sky, are pteradactyls and ground sloths going about their business alongside koalas and mongooses, mosquitoes and gnats? Or do even chimpanzees, with whom we share 98.6% of our DNA, simply disappear into oblivion upon death? If not, what fate awaits them?

16 Responses to “Animals and Souls”

  1. 1.

    Perhaps this is TMI, but I wrote up a brief review that may answer many over you questions relating to the Mormon perspective here.

  2. 2.

    …whoa, that didn’t make sense…but you get the idea.

  3. 3.

    Kiskilili, fantastic vivid descriptions. You’ve made me really sad that I had basically left home before the days of Terpsichore.

    Almost thou persuadest me to become a cat owner.

  4. 4.

    I want to be a cat owner. Someday, maybe.

    I’ve lost a lot of pets. More than is descent. Not because I mistreated them– they all ended up dying wierdly (feline leukemia, escaping from an ironclad rabbit cage, attacked by dogs, etc).

    Animals WILL be in heaven. No question. They have intelligence, intelligence is more precious than anything else in this universe, therefore, intelligence will be given a place after death.

    That’s what I think.

  5. 5.

    Cute post, K. I suspect that there will be animals in Heaven. How else could we have filet mignon? :P

    Kaimi (rhymes with hickorimi)

  6. 6.

    One of the major attractions of heaven for my older son is that he plans to see his cat Tigger, who died young after suffering a stroke, there. So I certainly hope there will be animals in heaven, because I’ve told my son there will be, and he’s going to be mighty mad at me if there aren’t.

    But I draw the line at scorpions. Even if they were kept as pets, I hope they will all be banished to hell.

  7. 7.

    I simply can’t imagine that characters such as Terpsichore are just snuffed out; I think that God has some kind of plan for all his creation, not just humans. (Though I realize this raises questions about whether heaven will be overrun with billions of resurrected mosquitoes.)

    A friend once told me of a non-member acquaintance who’d happened upon a newspaper article about people having experiences in which they were visited by their deceased pets. He noted that by some odd chance, all of the people reporting the experiences were Mormons, and so he wondered whether that was a part of LDS beliefs.

  8. 8.

    First of all, remember that all things were created spiritually before they were created physically. That’s strong support for animals having spirits in my book.

    What cinches it for me is an experience I have shared so many times, I might as well write up a version to keep on hand and paste in every time it comes up.

    In February of 2004, my then-fiancee (now husband) and I were preparing to move from Japan, where we’d spent the last three years teaching ESL, to his home country of Canada. I was facing some big; from single to married, from gainfully employed to immigrant unable to hold a job and unsure of what job to apply for when the immigration process was finally finished. As I lay in bed the night before our flight, I prayed. It was long and it was rambling and I simply poured out every thought in my head and every worry I had until at last there was nothing left. Then I said “Well, I guess now I’ll shut up so I can here You if there is anything You have to say to me.” Then I waited.

    There was a pause and then I heard– heard with my heart and my spirit– “Lili misses you.”

    Lili, my bright, funny, bratty little dog, had been dead for two years.

    What arrogance to think that mankind is the only part of God’s creation that He made to last. (Which is a disagreement with all those religious leaders who claim animals have no soul and not your post, Kiskilili.) His eye is on the sparrow. The animals we have loved are waiting for us in His home along with the people we have loved. I don’t know how Terpsichore will react but I know Lili will hurl herself at me at 90 mph just as she used to.

  9. 9.

    I wonder if we are foolish to think the quality of the love that we receive from animals is in any way inferior to that from people, or that God is a respecter of species. He loves children specially. They are innocent, and their hearts are free, and lack guile. I simply can’t doubt that he loves animals the same way. Possibly even more.

  10. 10.

    Years ago at an LDS bookstore, I picked up a little booklet entitled, “Animals and the Gospel: A History of Latter-day Saint Doctrine on the Animal Kingdom” by Gerald E. Jones and Scott S. Smith. It’s a very nice summary of statements made by LDS leaders regarding animals.

    Some interesting quotes from the book:

    Joseph Smith: “Says one, ‘I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.’ Any man who would tell you this cannot be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them…the four beasts were four of the most noble animals that filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect…”

    Orson Pratt: During the millennium, animals “will manifest more intelligence and more knowledge than they do now.” He conjectured that one characteristic animals would gain would be language.

    George Q. Cannon:: Until men “cease their war upon the animals, the reptiles, the insects,” President Cannon said that the millennium would not come.

    David O. McKay: “…It is very probable that [animals], like mankind, will be distributed in the various kingdoms, celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. We may well believe that in each of these kingdoms such creatures will be assigned.”

    I have no idea if the booklet is still in print but thought I’d mention it in case anyone is interested.

    And my thanks to those who shared their pet experiences – very sweet.

  11. 11.

    Great post, K. I agree with your wise sister, Lynnette (Hi, Lynnette!), that the spirits of animals as loveable as our devoted pets aren’t snuffed out forever. But given this possibility (i.e., that animals live forever – or that we’ll see our pets again in heaven), don’t you think that we shouldn’t kill animals and eat them?

    Of course, there’s no need to worry if only the cute, cuddly animals most people don’t eat are resurrected, but just think how awkward it would be if we have to share heaven with all the resurrected hamburgers and steaks we had eaten during our lives. :P

  12. 12.

    Hi back, ECS! As someone with rather, umm, carnivorous tendencies, I have to admit that it might be a bit disturbing to encounter all those resurrected hamburgers. Though maybe, as per David O. McKay’s quote above, they’ll be in a different (and quite likely higher) kingdom than I will. ;)

  13. 13.

    I agree, ECS, that it sounds quite awkward to meet our dinner in the next life–especially if animals learn to talk, as Tam cites Orson Pratt as suggesting. (I just dreamed recently that Lynnette and I were taking a train trip across the country, during the course of which we adopted a talking kitten named Celindra.) I’ve frequently considered becoming a vegetarian, but then, I dislike almost all meat, so that wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice for me! I would wither away and die without dairy products, though.

    I wonder how cats will feel upon meeting their numerous victims resurrected . . .

    (Are you still going to eat the filet mignon if it talks back, Kaimi? ;))

    Great post, Stapley (I knew what you meant!). I also find the LDS idea that animal spirits continue on appealing, though all sorts of logistical questions remain unresolved.

    Like Sare, Ziff’s son (my amazing nephew), Lynnette, Proud Daughter of Eve, Tatiana, Tam, and company, I’d like to think there are animals in heaven. Thanks for all your interesting comments. It makes little sense to me to draw a somewhat arbitrary line around humankind (and exclude even Neanderthals and Australopithecines?). On the other hand, humankind is said to be created in the image of God, as God’s children, which seems to give us a special status animals lack. I’m not entirely sure what to conclude.

  14. 14.

    Kiskilili, you remind me of how much I really do miss Terpsichore, clawing her way up my jeans while I was doing my hair in the morning, stealing the dice off of every board game we played . . .

    Someone (who may actually been Kiskilili, come to think of it . . . ) once proposed to me that animals go to heaven, or go to one heaven-like locale or another, based on their relationships with humans. This is problematic, certainly, if we’re going to address the place that animals have in God’s universe, with or without regard to humans; on the other hand, I kind of like the guarantee it suggests that, not only will Terpsichore (and Tybalt and Bal Boa and all Lynnette’s hamsters) be alive and well in the next round of alive and wellness, but that she’ll be alive and well and in the same heaven-like locale as I am.

  15. 15.

    Oh dear, Melyngoch; I’d forgotten about those hamsters. I’m afraid that if I’m reunited with some of my former pets in the next life, I may have a bit of repenting to do.

    Kiskilili, I hope it was a prophetic dream–I like both the idea of a train trip across the country, and a talking kitten named Celindra!

  16. 16.

    Moses 3:19 (emphasis added)
    19 And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.

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