I believe animals do have souls. If a God-created and God-given spirit or soul is what animates all of us humans, and I believe it is, then it makes sense that it is the same thing that gives life to animals and all living creatures (I’m not saying a human soul and a rabbit or snail soul are the same, just that they are all souls).
A few years ago I was pleased to discover that my personal theory on this subject is in line with what leaders of the LDS church have taught. One of my very favorite books is “Kindness to Animals and Caring for the Earth: Selections from the Sermons and Writing of Latter-day Saint Church Leaders” by Richard D. Stratton. This is a book that would be enlightening to any environmentalist or animal lover, whether LDS or not. I’ll share a few quotes that I like from the book:
Orson F. Whitney referenced LDS scripture Moses 3:19 (bold is added by me): “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.”
Whitney then commented, “Thus we see that the affirmative of the question, “Do Animals Have Souls?” is amply sustained by divine revelation . . . And Joseph Smith so believed, or he would not have said (as he is reputed to have said) concerning his favorite horse, when it died, that he expected to have it in Eternity . . . This is enough I think, to convince any Latter-day Saint that animals do have souls – that is to say, each animal is a spirit and a body, these together constituting the soul; and the same is true of the trees, plants and flowers.”
Joseph Fielding Smith, a great-nephew of Joseph Smith and a former prophet and president of the church, said, “Every creature on the earth, whether it be man, animal, fish, fowl, or other creature, that the Lord has created, is redeemed from Death on the same terms that man is redeemed . . . (Since these creatures) have been created by the Father, they are entitled to their redemption and eternal duration.”
Given their belief that animals have souls, it is no surprise that many LDS church leaders have taught the importance of treating animals with kindness and the respect due any of God’s creations (And many of these same church leaders have been disappointed by some church members’ failure to follow their counsel).
Joseph Fielding Smith also said, “It is a grievous sin in the sight of God to kill merely for sport. Such a thing shows a weakness in the spiritual character of the individual. We cannot restore life when it is taken, and all creatures have the right to enjoy life and happiness on the earth where the Lord has placed them. Only for food, and then sparingly, should flesh be eaten, for all life is from God and is eternal.”
George Q. Cannon said, “There can be no doubt in the mind of any person who believes in the God of heaven that He will hold man accountable for any ill treatment of the creatures He has placed under his control, and those who misuse or treat them with cruelty will be called to an account for such acts . . . These animals are His, He created them, and they are not outside of the reach of His love and care, and they cannot be badly treated with impunity.”
And Brigham Young, with typical directness, said regarding the practice of raising sheep, “Large numbers of sheep are often huddled into little, filthy pens and kept sixteen hours out of the twenty-four in their own filth and stench. For this you will be called to judgment, and if there is no one else to charge you with the wrongs, I will.” I’ll bet he would not have liked the chicken scene in “Napoleon Dynamite” any more than I did.