Yes, Teresa, animals go to heaven

For quite a while I have done without cable TV and other popular entertainment during extended bed rest periods. Eternal Word Television Network has been one programming I have allowed myself. Though it is Catholic and I am LDS, I could stream their TV and radio shows on my ipad.   One well-known daily radio program is Catholic Connection, a talk format with interviews and discussions on current moral and political topics. Many topics cross denomination interest and Teresa’s switch from secular to religious media added professionalism to the show. She often bemoaned the pro-abortion and blatant anti Christian bias of the mass media despite tons of facts and arguments which get ignored in favor of a leftist political agenda. So, what occurred this week on her Facebook page was truly disheartening.

She posted a photo of a giraffe who gave birth and she remarked how people are much more interested in animal births than protecting the millions of human babies aborted each year. True enough. This giraffe did get loads of media attention while the plight and rights of the unborn go ignored. However, I thought the birth of a new beautiful animal as a gift and remarked based on sound biblical and revealed doctrine that animals have spirits and go to heaven. Jesus loves the animals and he redeemed them as part of the atonement. The whole creation in fact was redeemed by Christ. But oh…. Her reaction was sharp. Only humans are in the likeness of God. Animals do not go to heaven. Jesus did not die for animals. My Christianity is whacked. OK. Catholic doctrine. Fine. But what happened next was astonishing in its harshness. She removed me from her facebook page so I could not respond to defend myself. Wow, talk about overreacting. What is so horrible about animals going to heaven? Many even Catholics believe that pets will be waiting for us beyond the rainbow bridge. Now, hints of this along with modern revelation and scripture do support my view which I will get to in a minute.

I found Teresa’s show email and asked her why she did that to me and explained that I am not Catholic and we do hold that doctrine. Her response was that Jesus suffered on the cross for humans not for animals and that Christianity believes the way she does based on biblical text. She said I had no biblical texts to support my position. Really? How sure are you, Teresa?   What is odd though is that Catholicism as I understand from EWTN cannot base all of its doctrine on scripture. In fact, they say that scripture alone is not the source of all knowledge as the bible as we know it did not come into existence for centuries after Christ. Christ did not tell the apostles, “go and write scripture”. No,rather, oral tradition gives a fuller context to how Christianity should be. So, imagine a devout Catholic demanding biblical support for doctrine of another faith? Seems rather circular logic.

I did gather all sorts of scriptural support for the doctrine of the salvation of animals due to the infinite scope of the atonement. Most of which is going into a much longer piece elsewhere. I did want to write to Teresa again with all these ‘facts’ because as my husband wisely pointed out, she would not accept proof that she does not agree with. Similar to the pro-abortionists who will not accept that the growing clump of cells in a mother’s womb is a human being, a baby, neither will Teresa accept scriptures that challenge her ideas. Debate and argument never change people’s minds who do not want to be changed. So, I leave it to this post to share in a loving way why the atonement was a whole lot bigger than just saving Adam and Eve and their posterity.

First, in salvation history, we need to understand relationship of humans, and animals and nature to God. Catholics believe all living things including humans were created ex nihilo ie out of nothing. God just conjured us up. Humans were created on the spot and had never existed at any time before the Garden of Eden. We were created in the image of God which makes us higher than other forms of life but really deep down we are not much better than a cockroach: prone to sin, evil from birth. Makes me wonder why Teresa would spend so much energy trying to save such disgusting creatures. Mankind does have a soul –LDS call a spirit –but that soul was placed in us sometime in the development process. That soul does indeed have a chance to go to Heaven. Only souled creatures go to heaven. Animals on the other hand are also creatures but have no souls. They were created for us to have dominion over but they will turn to dust, poof, no big deal. LDS theology gives God much more credit. All living things were ‘conceived’ in the spirit before they were given temporal/earthly bodies (Moses 3:5). Meaning, that as a living thing, an animal has a spirit. We see this with our eyes. We can tell the difference between a living and a dead creature. That animating force is the spirit. And spirits cannot die. Even physics tells us that energy cannot be destroyed but rather changes form. In a way, it is immortal. Spirits are immortal. Humans have spirits, animals have spirits, even plants and the earth has a spirit of some type as they will all be renewed, we are told from scripture. (D&C 29:23; Rev 21:1)

Now, pro-animal people can be a bit zealous and say that animals have the same rights as do humans; that they are equal to humans. No. Humans are clearly closer on a sliding scale to God, the creator. We have a greater will than do animals. We feel that animals run on instinct alone and do not possess agency. Yes and no. Animals do run on instinct; however, they adapt and learn; they have personalities; and recent science is showing that they are smarter, feel pain, possess emotions, communicate, even some can compute. There is a lot once thought about animals that has proven false. I believe that when we see animals as does God, we will feel ashamed of our arrogance and ignorance. It does ring arrogant to wail, “God love us best! God loves us best!” which many Christians seem to do. How does that prove their argument? It sounds like a spoiled, insecure child when met with a new sibling. God’s love is infinite. Human love is finite. It is not a matter of being loved more or less, but rather God loves all of his creation. It is our task as stewards as disciples of God to see the creation through God’s eyes. To see honor what he called “Good”. To respect other living creatures as maybe having their own mortal experience, their own trajectory whatever it may be, instead of our toys to domineer. We often think dominion means lording but is that how God has dominion over us? By lording over us? By abusing? By minimizing OUR life and spirit? If anyone has claim to belittle others not on the same level, it would be God reigning over us. Yet, modern revelation reveals that humans are indeed made from ‘god stuff’. Our spirits were made by the creator in a special configuration and relationship.

The holy scriptures recount the salvation of human kind from the fall, but this does not mean that is the only story going on? The scriptures do tell of a greater purpose and narrative that we humans are not alone in God’s plan. “My work and my glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind, said God to Moses”. (Moses 1:39). True. What an honor to be so beloved and the center of God’s work, but maybe there are subplots for other living things? Animals must matter to God otherwise why create them at all? Edenic humans were vegetarian. Only after the fall did humans consume animal flesh.  Why put Noah through such hassle to build a huge ark and gather breeding pairs of animals? Why did Christ stop animal sacrifice? Why include animals in LDS temple narrative? Why are animals in heaven (Revelation 4: 8-9). God must love animals; must have their interest at heart, have a purpose for them that we may not know. Remember, creation did not sin; animals did not disobey God. Humans did. Humans brought the fall and with it came the fall of creation. Why should the divine grace of the redemption which hit the refresh button on humans, not also do so for creation?  Catholics called Christ and new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve. What about the creation? Logical sense to believe the ‘infinite and eternal sacrifice” was by definition for ALL things (Alma 34:10).

There is so much more I have written elsewhere about the salvation of animals. Whether or not you agree with this, one should appreciate the beauty and gift of a baby mammal and not diminish it, or others who believe so. To dismiss such is to be guilty of the callousness you ascribe others. No baby giraffe has kicked me off facebook. Teresa, evangelization is not ‘my way or the highway’ attitude but rather it starts from finding commonality, building a friendship and then allowing love to convert. We have so much that we do share and can appreciate of each others’ religions. I am puzzled why you cannot see the good in others and not wish to engage in meaningful dialog. Consider the leftists who refuse to acknowledge your perspective but rather dismiss and denigrate you, so too I feel you have done to me. Those who complain are guilty of the same, my husband says.   There is no discussion where there is no love.   I sincerely hope your love of unborn babies will translate to love of God’s children not of your faith who share so many of the same values.

Mormon and Catholic : a friendship

Mormon and Catholic: a friendship 

For nearly ten years my Catholic friend, Carol, and I have grown closer as I made retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Though not geographically close, she became my mentor into the world of the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani, a laiety group to follow Cicstercian charism and spirituality while living in the world.

 

Becoming a Lay Cistercian does not require conversion to Catholicism but does require to abide by the core of Benedictine/ Cistercian daily practices: prayer, work, study, silence, hospitality, contemplation, and church worship. Nothing in this is beyond expectations of a faithful Latter-day Saint. Particularly poignant was how this devout spiritual life seemed tailor made for me: a childless LDS married woman, with a husband who is also the only LDS member in his family. A small and distant extended family. No personal academic career prospects due to disability, and no close friends in local LDS wards. So, basically, not busy with family, few commonalities with local ward women, unemployed and bedridden. I do love the Book of Mormon and my temple blessings; however, I struggle to discover my purpose and meaning in a family-centric church. Also with a strong desire for a quiet, prayerful life (contemplative) in a very action –oriented church.  

 

Little did I guess that Carol and her husband did not have children either and as a result she experienced similar loneliness in the Catholic Church. We could empathize with the trial of childlessness amidst family-friendly church cultures. Many of my days are spent in bed due to incessant widespread pain and fatigue that allow few avenues for normal daily activities. Again, Carol experienced similar health issues earlier in her life and could empathize. I wished to devote much of my day to God through prayer, study and reflection, as did she. Along the way, we would compare each other’s practices and tenets. Our shared primary goal is to live eternally with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

 

 

We regularly read and discuss a variety of faith books related to monasticism, contemplative laity, and literature for biweekly phone discussions. We came to realize that though our churches were very different in some aspects, many core ideas had a familiar ring. Jesus Christ, emblematic in the (Eucharist/sacrament) is the center of our religious services. Family is very important. Our deceased need to be remembered and honored. Prayer, scripture study, fasting, blessings on the sick, baptism as a required ordinance, compassion for the sick and poor, and the afterlife as a real place are but a few topics we could discuss. The more we shared, the more we could respect and appreciate. That led to interfaith visits to tour the new Indianapolis LDS Temple, and an upcoming excursion to visit a special year of mercy door at a cathedral. Our friendship includes regular prayer and fasting for each other within our particular faith rituals.

 

What Carol and I enjoy as laity mirrored the friendship and discussion in the 2015 book Catholic and Mormon: a theological conversation by Stephen Webb and Alonzo Gaskill., representing the Catholic and LDS perspectives respectively. We had just started to read for a book discussion in early March. The book is a dialog on various topics to compare and contrast respective theologies. In many ways the tone of discussion reflected a genuine friendship and mutual respect without compromising rigorous academic standards.  

 

Stephen H. Webb as a scholar was remarkable in the world of comparative religion, in that he was fair and respectful of Mormonism. In kind, Alonzo Gaskill could give due to contributions of Catholicism. A full book review would be too disjoined in this personal discussion. I will say more in another post.  

 

Tragically, the world lost Stephen H. Webb on March 5, 2016. A scholar, a father, a friend to an LDS co-author and the Latter-Day Saint Community in general. I would like to imagine him view Carol and I with a huge smile reflective of his enthusiasm for Catholic and Mormon dialog. The fruit is Carol and I: two simple women who have grown through interfaith friendship.