I was recently reading the passages for Come Follow Me this past week, Revelation 1-11, when I came across something relevant to this blog. As you know, this blog is all about reconciling science with our faith, and a huge part of that is the question of whether nonhuman creatures have spirits or intelligence (for more on that, see Organization of Intelligences: The Why of Evolution). And not only is the question if animals have spirits, but were they included in that grand assemblage of intelligences that Abraham saw “were organized before the world was” (Abraham 3:22)?
The first half of the Book of Revelation mentions four beasts in heaven–I like to call them the Four Beasts–and it’s something about these Four Beasts that jumped out at me as I read.
We’re first introduced to the Four Beasts in Revelation 4:6-9. There’s one like a lion, one like a cow, one like a man, and one like a bird. Earlier this year, I wrote an entire post about them and what they can teach us about evolution (see the Four Beasts). Joseph Smith, while discoursing about the Four Beasts in April of 1843, preached that these were actual animals that had lived on other worlds and had been saved in a postmortal heaven.
And the Book of Revelation supports this view. Along with the “four and twenty elders”, who we presume had once lived mortal lives and were now saved in heaven wearing “white raiment” (Rev 4:4), John saw the Four Beasts “give glory and honour and thanks” to God as He sat on His throne (Rev 4:9). Perhaps the beasts were thanking Him for saving them from their own mortal lives. “Thou art worthy, O Lord,” said the twenty-four elders, “to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” or, as the footnote indicates via the Greek, “‘on account of Thy will’ they are and were created” (Rev 4:11).
The supporting story to Joseph’s comments continues in chapter 5, where we see that “the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, … And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:8-10).
Even the Four Beasts were kings and priests?! What? … Now, as far as I’ve ever heard, redemption and the status of becoming kings and priests only fully comes in the afterlife, and so these beasts and elders must have lived before somewhere. They lived out their mortal lives somewhere else. And that’s what stood out to me when I read this the other day, and it’s what brought this question to my mind:
If there were animals in a postmortal heaven, why wouldn’t there be animals in a premortal heaven? Since there are humans in this postmortal heaven, and we KNOW that humans existed in a premortal heaven as intelligences, why would it be any different for the animals? In the postmortal heaven in which John saw, the beasts were talking, playing harps, singing, and praising the Creator who made them and saved them. Why wouldn’t they also be in the premortal heaven along with all the “intelligences that were organized before the world was” (Abraham 3:22)?
Think about it. After all, not only did Joseph Smith say, “The beasts were intelligent beings,” but he also said, “The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written.”
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
“And the four beasts said, Amen.” (Revelation 5:13-14)
Sources and Notes
- Plainest book quote: Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 342.
- Four Beasts from other worlds sermon and beasts are intelligent beings quote: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-8-april-1843-as-reported-by-william-clayton-b/7
- Featured image: The Good Shepherd, by Del Parson, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-new-testament-2019/48?lang=eng