"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

Beliefs about Hunting

by President Joseph Fielding Smith
by President Lorenzo Snow
by President George Q. Cannon

by President Joseph Fielding Smith

Question: "I am not writing this in criticism of the Church or even questioning whether the Church is right or wrong, but it is something I have wondered about for a long time. The scriptures seem clear to me that the Lord would rather not have man kill animals unless they are needed to sustain life; and in your 'Church History and Modern Revelation,' you present the same thought, even stating that killing for sport is a sin. I fully accept this as being true and have patterned my life accordingly. What I am wondering is why this is not generally taught here where so much hunting is done? I realize that many hunters eat what they kill; but to me this does not justify the killing just as a sport. I would appreciate it if you would express your thoughts on this subject."

Answer: There is no statement in the scriptures indicating that the flesh of animals and birds and other living creatures was used as food before the days of Noah. It was after the landing of the ark that the Lord gave his commandment concerning the eating of flesh.

It reads in the King James version that this permission was given to Noah and those who came after as follows:

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.1

The Lord revealed this in a different form to the Prophet Joseph Smith as follows:


Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But the blood of all flesh which I have given you for meat, shall be shed upon the ground, which taketh life thereof, and the blood ye shall not eat. And surely blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.2

The inference in this interpretation is that the use of the flesh of living creatures should be indulged in sparingly although there was no sin in the shedding of their blood when required for food. There is no inference in the scriptures that it is the privilege of men to slay birds or beasts or to catch fish wantonly. The Lord gave life to every creature, both the birds in the heavens, beasts on the earth, and the fishes in the streams or seas. They also were commanded to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. It was intended that all creatures should be happy in their several elements. Therefore to take the life of these creatures wantonly is a sin before the Lord.

It is easy to destroy life, but who can restore it when it is taken? Moreover, were not all creatures commanded to be happy in their spheres at least by implication if not by word? What a dreary world this would be should all life in the heavens above, on the earth, or in the sea be removed? What is more joyful to the ear than the voice of the robin on an early spring morning as he sings his song? The voice of the thrush, the meadow lark, even the bark of a friendly dog, each of them expressing their joy for their existence?

No! Man should be more the friend and never an enemy to any living creature. The Lord placed them here.


No doubt most of our readers have read the story of Zion's Camp on its fateful journey to the relief of their afflicted brethren. Even if you have, it is worth telling here. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:

We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaguas, or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, "Let them alone--don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? 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, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety." The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird or an animal of any kind during my journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.

I had frequently spoken on this subject, when on a certain occasion I came up to the brethren who were watching a squirrel on a tree, and to prove them and to know if they would heed my counsel, I took one of their guns, shot the squirrel and passed on, leaving the squirrel on the ground. Brother Orson Hyde, who was just behind, picked up the squirrel, and said, "We will cook this that nothing may be lost." I perceived that the brethren understood what I did it for, and in their practice gave more heed to my precept than to my example which was right.3


We all realize that there are times when it is necessary to destroy animal life when it is the survival of the fittest and they become a plague to mankind.

President Joseph F. Smith many years ago, gave to the youth of the Church this excellent counsel:

I have just a few words to say in addition to those that have already been said, in relation to shedding blood and to the destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been spoken, and not less with reference to the killing of our innocent birds, natives of our country, who live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies of the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is abominable in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend, not only to the bird life, but to life of all animals. When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer herding along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hunt and none to molest in all the land especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures--the deer and antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection which is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men--and they still exist among us--who enjoy what is, to them, the "sport" of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day's sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.

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. I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for? "Just the fun of it!" Not that they are hungry and need the flesh of their prey, but just because they love to shoot and to destroy life. I am a firm believer, with reference to these things, in the simple words of one of the poets:

"Take not way the life you cannot give,
For all things have an equal right to live."4

And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.5

Is it not an excellent time for man to set the example as the Prophet has said?

Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.48
Copyright by Deseret Book

by President Lorenzo Snow

Killing for sport is wrong. In Adam-ondi-Ahman, while gradually recovering from the effects of a malignant fever which had detained me a fortnight in Far West, under the constant and skillful nursing of my sister Eliza, for some time I was unable to either do or read much. One day, to while away the slowly passing hours, I took my gun with the intention of indulging in a little amusement in hunting turkeys, with which that section of the country abounded. From boyhood I had been particularly, and I may say strangely, attached to a gun. Hunting in the forests of Ohio was a pastime that to me possessed the most fascinating attractions. It never occurred to my mind that it was wrong—that indulging in "what was sport to me was death to them;" that in shooting turkeys, squirrels, etc., I was taking life that I could not give; therefore I indulged in the murderous sport without the least compunction of conscience.

Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.188-189
Copyright by Bookcraft

by President George Q. Cannon

We should by every means in our power impress upon the rising generation the value of life and how dreadful a sin it is to take life. The lives of animals even should be held far more sacred than they are. Young people should be taught to be very merciful to the brute creation and not to take life wantonly or for sport. The practice of hunting and killing game merely for sport should be frowned upon and not encouraged among us. God has created the fowls and the beasts for man's convenience and comfort and for his consumption at proper times and under proper circumstances; but he does not justify men in wantonly killing those creatures which He has made and with which He has supplied the earth.

Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.30
Copyright by Deseret Book


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