As a recent convert to the whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB) (no animal products, & stay away from processed foods), I understand that many, including myself, are hurt when animals are killed. I want to offer some explanations for why this took place in The Law of Moses. If you’re interested in more info on the WFPB diet, particularly a perspective of church leaders and other great scientists who all discourage the use of meat etc., see my notes on “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” by Jane Birch in my book on health.
-There is no animal which God will not raise from the dead! God will raise all animals from the dead! If he wants to take the life of an animal, a lesser intelligence, to illustrate a critical teaching to the higher intelligences which they could not get any other way, the understanding of Jesus Christ, then it is his power to do so. He created all creatures. Death is come upon all of them. Life, also, is come upon all of them. In the resurrection, even they shall rise. An animal is going to die weather by getting eaten, or starvation, or the pains of old age. If God wants to slay it on an altar, it’s just as well. God not only created the animals, but he created you also. So don’t complain about how he chooses to do things. We are little children trying to understand the workings of a parent. Eventually all doubt as to why God chose to do things this way will be removed from us, and all the facts will be before us, and we will wonder why we were ever so skeptical of our loving Father in Heaven.
(references showing animals to be resurrected, see Prophecy key to the future by Crowther, and the Book of Mormon states it plainly)
-Another idea is that learning about God’s sacrifice for mankind via the animal sacrifice symbols was hard to lose those animals, but it’s even worse to lose a human soul, which would occur if people forgot about God’s role in their salvation. It’s so critical that people understand, that we are doing something dramatic, killing an animal, to try and get them to understand. There are higher and lower life forms. The highest life forms are human beings. It is worse to lose the soul of a person than the life of an animal.
-An idea Dr. Jordan Peterson gives is that killing an animal was showing that you were serious about keeping your commitment. Sacrifice always accompanies devotion/dedication. Today we have few to no symbols for showing serious commitment.
-The following is an excerpt from a brilliant address on this subject, the why of ancient biblical animal sacrifice, from Elder Holland in an address titled “Behold the Lamb of God” (2019, April General Conference). The full text is available in text video and audio: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2019/04/28holland?lang=eng
“Looking up from water’s edge, past the eager crowds seeking baptism at his hand, John, called the Baptist, saw in the distance his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, striding resolutely toward him to make a request for that same ordinance. Reverently, but audible enough for those nearby to hear, John uttered the admiration that still moves us two millennia later: “Behold the Lamb of God.”1
It is instructive that this long-prophesied forerunner to Jesus did not call Him “Jehovah” or “Savior” or “Redeemer” or even “the Son of God”—all of which were applicable titles. No, John chose the earliest and perhaps most commonly recognized image in the religious tradition of his people. He used the figure of a sacrificial lamb offered in atonement for the sins and sorrows of a fallen world and all the fallen people in it.
Please indulge me in recalling just a little of that history.
After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve faced a devastating future. Having opened the door to mortality and temporal life for us, they had closed the door to immortality and eternal life for themselves. Due to a transgression they had consciously chosen to make in our behalf, they now faced physical death and spiritual banishment, separation from the presence of God forever.2 What were they to do? Would there be a way out of this plight? We are not certain just how much these two were allowed to remember of the instruction they received while still in the garden, but they did remember they were to regularly offer for a sacrifice unto God a pure, unblemished lamb, the first male born of their flock.3
Later an angel came to explain that this sacrifice was a type, a prefiguration of the offering that would be made in their behalf by the Savior of the world who was to come. “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father,” the angel said. “Wherefore, … thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.”4 Fortunately, there was going to be a way out and a way up.
In the premortal councils of heaven, God had promised Adam and Eve (and all the rest of us) that help would come from His pure, unblemished Firstborn Son, the Lamb of God “slain from the foundation of the world,”5 as the Apostle John would later describe Him. By offering their own little symbolic lambs in mortality, Adam and his posterity were expressing their understanding of and their dependence upon the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Anointed One.6 Later, the wilderness tabernacle would become the setting for this ordinance and, after that, the temple that Solomon would build.
Unfortunately, as a symbol of genuine repentance and faithful living, this ritualistic offering of unblemished little lambs didn’t work very well, as so much of the Old Testament reveals. The moral resolve that should have accompanied those sacrifices sometimes didn’t last long enough for the blood to dry upon the stones. In any case, it didn’t last long enough to preclude fratricide, with Cain killing his brother Abel in the first generation.7
With such trials and troubles going on for centuries, no wonder the angels of heaven sang for joy when, finally, Jesus was born—the long-promised Messiah Himself. Following His brief mortal ministry, this purest of all Passover sheep prepared His disciples for His death by introducing the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, a more personal form of the ordinance that had been introduced just outside of Eden. There would still be an offering, it would still involve a sacrifice, but it would be with symbolism much deeper, much more introspective and personal than the bloodletting of a firstborn lamb. To the Nephites, after His Resurrection, the Savior said of this:
“Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood. …
“… Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. …
“… Therefore repent, … and be saved.”8
My beloved brothers and sisters, with the exciting new emphasis on increased gospel learning in the home, it is crucial for us to remember that we are still commanded to “go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.”9 In addition to making time for more home-centered gospel instruction, our modified Sunday service is also to reduce the complexity of the meeting schedule in a way that properly emphasizes the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as the sacred, acknowledged focal point of our weekly worship experience. We are to remember in as personal a way as possible that Christ died from a heart broken by shouldering entirely alone the sins and sorrows of the whole human family.
Inasmuch as we contributed to that fatal burden, such a moment demands our respect.”