Essay on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith
|📌Published:||16 April 2021|
As children of God, we were sent to earth to gain a physical body in order to progress toward perfection1. When examining the earth with an eternal perspective one begins to wonder why God placed animals on this earth. How do animals help us reach eternal life? Through Jesus Christ, God placed animals on this earth2 to help us in our daily lives, develop an understanding of gospel principles, and to remind us of God’s power.
While here on earth, we will face many challenges. God created animals to help make our lives easier. During the creation, God declared that man had authority over all the animals3. This means that humans are allowed to use animals for their benefit. When leaving the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve clothing made out of animal skins4. Besides the purpose of modesty, clothing can be used for protection and warmth. During the summer time, a layer of clothing can protect the skin from sunburn. During the winter an extra layer of clothing can keep someone warm and protect their skin from frostbite. Besides the use of clothing, animals can be used to help with manual labor5. Using animals for manual labor, allows us to work faster and with less pain. For instance, instead of bending over for hours tilling the earth, an ox can be used to pull a plow. After asking the Lord about the use of tobacco, Joseph Smith received revelation that man is allowed to eat meat as long as he eats it sparingly6. The protein in meat provides our bodies with nutrients needed to give us strength7. Although we are allowed to kill animals for food, we should never kill an animal for sport. Joseph F. Smith stated, “I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood”8. Joseph Smith also stated, “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…”9 Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith tried to teach us that it is not tolerable to kill an innocent animal if we are not killing it for food. When we kill an animal, we are taking away the gift of life from a living creature, which is against the commandments10. They also are suggesting that when we kill, we let an unholy spirit dwell in us. Animals are still creatures of God and as such we still need to respect them, especially after all the comforts they bring into our lives11. Besides blessing humans physically, animals also bless us emotionally. God taught Joseph Smith that animals were created to “...please the eye and to gladden the heart”12. Today we have animals for pets and emotional support services. Animals serve us by bringing us joy and relieving our stress. Animals are beneficial to our lives both physically and emotionally. Without animals we would have to make clothes out of plants, eat only vegetables, do intense labor ourselves, and lack the joy brought to us from animals.
Throughout the scriptures, animals have been used symbolically to help us understand gospel principles. Before Christ came to the earth, animals were used for sacrifices13. For an animal to be sacrificed it had to be a male, a firstling, and have no blemishes14. These requirements symbolized Jesus Christ who was the first born of the Father, perfect, and male15. Having the sacrifices meet these requirements taught the people the sacrifice God would make by letting His Only Begotten Son be crucified. Offering a perfect male was a sacrifice for the ancient people since their lives depended on animals. A strong male could be used to increase the flock and produce a stronger generation of offspring. It would have been easy to sacrifice an animal that was not beneficial to the flock; however, the people would not have learned the magnitude of the sacrifice both God and Christ would make. While teaching the people in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ taught the parable of the lost sheep16. This parable teaches us about the love Christ and God have for us. We learn that Christ will never give up on us because to him everyone is important. God wants all of us to return to him and as such we need to be willing to help bring people to the covenant path. During the October 2018 General Conference, Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared a story about a sheepdog that would not leave his flock of sheep17. This sheepdog stayed with the flock all winter long and eventually led the sheep safely home. Much like this sheepdog we should never give up on someone who has lost their way. We need to stay with them, comfort them, and guide them. We should never let someone feel forgotten or worthless. As we love and accept everyone we will begin to feel the light of Christ in our lives. When describing the effect the light of Christ will have during the Second Coming, Nephi stated “...then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb...and the lion shall eat straw like the ox ….They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”18. We learn from this scripture that the light of Christ will bring peace and love to the earth. From this scripture we can infer that the light of Christ can change someone. For a predator to eat straw, its digestive system would have to change. If its digestive system did not change the animal would die because it would not receive any nutrients of malnourishment. This scripture symbolically represents the change that occurs when someone has the light of Christ. Someone who has the light of Christ might become a more loving and caring person than they were before. Although animals can be used to teach us about good, they can also be used to warn us. During the October 2019 General Conference, Elder Bednar used cheetahs to warn us about Satan’s tactics19. When hunting, cheetahs use their camouflage to sneak up on their prey, topis. In order to project themselves from cheetahs, one topi stands guard while the others graze. If the topi spots a cheetah it will alert the others and flee. Instead of giving up, the cheetah will continue to stalk its prey until it is successful. Like cheetahs, Satan is patient and will not stop pursuing us until he entraps us. Satan will attack when we are weak, unprepared, or distracted. A cheetah’s camouflage can symbolically signify Satan’s tactics to lead us off the covenant path. Satan will try to hide from us the dangers of sin and convince us that there is no harm done. We learn from this parable that we should never let our guard down. As we steadfastly watch for Satan as topis watch for cheetah’s, we will not be led off the covenant path and will be drawn closer to God.
Lastly animals are used to remind humans of God and his power. In the “Book of Mormon” we read about an antichrist named Korihor. When brought before Alma, Korihor challenges Alma to prove that there is a God. Alma responds saying, “...the scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator”20. This scripture reminds us to try and always find the hand of God in our lives. If we look for God’s hand in our lives, we will be able to see the many blessings he has given us. In biology, one learns that life has to come from life, it cannot be created by an inanimate object or randomly show up. This law then suggests that there must be a divine being in order for life to begin, otherwise life could not have happened. Thus animals prove that there is a God. In the scriptures, God uses animals to remind humans of His power. For instance, when Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, God protected Daniel by shutting the mouths of the lions. This event led to the conversion of the king, who stated God, “...delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions”21. Without the protection of God, Daniel would have been eaten by the lions. Similarly, God used His powers to heal the faithful Israelites when they were bitten by serpents. In order to be healed by God, the Israelites had to look at a brazen serpent. This event tested the Israelites and their faith. Those who looked at the serpent were healed and reminded of God’s power22. While traveling through the wilderness, the Israelites had a hard time finding food. God blessed the Israelites by sending them quails to eat23. This is another example of God showing His power. The Israelites were traveling through a barren wilderness where they could find no food. When they turned to the Lord, the Lord was capable of sending quails to them so that they could eat. Through animals, God reminds us of His powers and existence.
Animals were placed on this earth to help bring blessings to God’s children, teach important gospel principles, and remind us of God’s power. As we appreciate what animals do for us we will begin to see the hand of God in our lives. We will begin to see the small tender mercies God has given us because He loves us. With this knowledge, we will strive to be more like Him and try to live righteously so that we can one day live with Him again.