Last month, my wife and I visited the Museum of the Rockies in Montana. While we meandered around looking at giant dinosaur skulls and whatnot I couldn’t help but wonder Why. Why did all these living things exist? Why were they created? What purpose did they serve living tens of millions of years ago long before any humans entered the scene? I’ve heard people in the Church ask these questions. In fact, just yesterday my 5-year-old nephew asked me if dinosaurs were real and why Heavenly Father made them.
I’ve talked a bit about these questions before. I’ve proposed theories that all living things are spirits or intelligences, of varying degrees, and that God put these intelligences into various bodies to match their varying capabilities so that they could receive physical bodies and have joy. This would mean that the purpose for all these dinosaurs, pterosaurs, synapsids, etc that we see in museums had nothing to do with us. It was all for them. Was the dinosaurs’ purpose to have joy?
My wife and I are attempting to grow a full on garden this year for the first time. When I walk into my garden and see our once seeds now little plants growing and changing day by day, it fills me with joy. I can imagine a God walking out into His Mesozoic Earth to see how his theropod and sauropod dinosaurs are growing and changing and finding inexplicable joy in that—all their feathers and quirky dinosaur sounds. Perhaps the purpose of dinosaurs was to give the Creator joy?
In the 5th day of creation we read that the gods prepared the earth to bring forth the fowls of the air (Abraham 4:20-22). I once heard dinosaurs as a group called “stem birds”—meaning that as birds evolved, other stems or branches shot off from that line to become things like triceratops and stegosaurus and brontosaurus, and all the other types of lovable non-avian dinosaurs. When I read the account of day 5 in Abraham 4, I honestly think about these other dinosaurs as the earth being prepared to bring forth birds. Was the purpose of dinosaurs to eventually get birds?
Speaking of birds: When I was in the MTC, you could choose what you wanted to eat from like 5 different entrees each meal. Usually at least one of those meals was chicken. As I’d wait in line, observing the army of missionaries eating and waiting to get food, I often wondered, “How many chickens had to die today to feed the MTC?” Was the purpose of dinosaurs to eventually get chickens to feed the Lord’s latter-day army of missionaries?
My wife and I have recently started keeping chickens in our backyard. While all 5 of them most infuriatingly refuse to lay their eggs in the beautiful nest box I painstakingly made for them, they do give us free, healthy, delicious eggs everyday. An egg is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Was the purpose of dinosaurs to give us chickens to give us eggs so we could have scrambled eggs for breakfast and get awesome and easy nutrition? The key is to not overcook them…
I recently talked to a guy on Facebook who promotes the doctrine of multiple mortal probations (MMP). It’s basically the idea where we have multiple lives on multiple planets in order to reach perfection and the station of a god. This guy believes that, like the Hindu belief of reincarnation, maybe our spirits served lives as animals in past worlds until we worked our way up to humans. Dinosaurs were animals. Were the dinosaurs just future humans for a future earth? When I look at the empty eye socket of that T. rex skull, am I looking into the eye of a future extraterrestrial insurance salesman on some other earth millions of years from now? Deep stuff…
In 1841, Joseph Smith taught that this earth was made from the pieces of other destroyed planets. Some people believe that all dinosaur fossils are fragments, leftovers, vestiges that came from these other earths—meaning that dinosaurs never lived here. This way, 66+ million-year-old dinosaurs don’t add evidence against a young, ~6,000-year-old earth, while simultaneously lending support to the teachings of the Prophet. Is the purpose of dinosaurs to verify the words of Joseph Smith and show that our planet is a young conglomerate of recycled worlds?
I’ve heard people speculate that the purpose of the dinosaurs was to give us latter-day people access to fossil fuels. Although oil comes from fossilized plant matter from way before the dinosaurs—not from those glorious beasts themselves—maybe it was an essential step in the process somehow? Maybe they did something to prepare the earth for us?
As a kid, I loved dinosaurs. I still do. I liked them so much that my earliest career ambition was to be a paleontologist. I think most children are drawn to them for some deep, fundamental reason. I don’t know why, but I do know that dinosaurs shaped my childhood and my dreams. I know that God loves children, and He would probably spend hundreds of millions of years on making all little kids a gift that would last their entire lifetimes. Was the purpose of dinosaurs to delight and stimulate the imaginations of billions of children the world over?
Also When I was a kid, I’d sit in my elementary school class and doodle when I got bored. Needless to say, I doodled quite a lot. One of my favorite things to draw at times like these was a giant, hairy, werewolf-like monster of my own creation. I designed that thing—and to my 10-year-old self, it was pretty dang cool. Maybe God was like this with dinosaurs. Maybe He just wanted to make some creatures that looked awesome. I mean He’s God—why not? Was the purpose of dinosaurs a chance for God to be creative?
One thing I’m trying to do better is look at things more symbolically, or metaphorically. We can make decisions that will lead us to destruction. But we can always repent and reinvent ourselves. When the asteroid hit and wiped out the dinosaurs, things were ugly and bad. Like, death and melted bits of rock falling from the sky all over bad. But life rose from the ashes, a new world was born, and before you knew it, 63 million years had passed and humans and delicious red-meated ruminants were on the earth (Abraham 4:24-30). Was the purpose of the dinosaurs to teach us a spiritual lesson? To give us hope when things look gloomy? How are we going to respond to the End-Cretaceous asteroids in our lives?
These are all nice and thought-provoking hypotheses for why dinosaurs exist(ed), but my all-time favorite theory is that dinosaur bones are clever fabrications and were planted on earth by Satan to deceive us and make us believe in evolution and an old earth. If you’ve read any other posts on my blog, you know my stance on those issues—but WHAT IF, guys?! Is the purpose of dinosaurs to tempt us? To lure us away from the true path? Scientists tell us these fantastic beasts lived MILLIONS of years ago on our planet, which some maintain vehemently is only about 6,000 years old, according to the Bible. How could this be then if dinosaurs were real? Is there a dark side to these (supposedly) amazing/nefarious animals?
On the flip side of that, some still theorize that dinosaurs never existed, but it was God Himself who hid these dinosaur bones around the earth to test our faith. Will we still believe in Him despite these cool-looking things that might’ve lived millions of years before Adam’s fall (2 Nephi 2:22) and which support Darwin’s theory of evolution? Maybe dinosaurs are a test. Will you pass?
I don’t know what the purpose of dinosaurs was. Maybe it was a combination of some or all of those theories above. Maybe dinosaurs, like everything in Nephi’s vision or the tree of life, are just a representation of God’s love for us (1 Nephi 11:21-25). Maybe, like for us, they were just to have joy for themselves (2 Nephi 2:27).
When I look at a lifeless, 66-million year old edmontosaurus skull, I have to wonder why it ever hatched; and why its parents hatched, and so on. I imagine millions of years as the earth changes and is prepared for our modern day. I imagine a living Creator watching over them as a gardener would watch the plants in his garden. Just as the gardener planted seeds for fruit, God planted seeds that evolved and grew into dinosaurs. They were like beautiful flowers in his well-thought out garden. Some of them terrifying, carnivorous flowers, but beautiful nonetheless.
So when I look at these old fossils, my imagination runs wild. And although I don’t know all the reasons, I know that there’s a God behind it, somehow. It’s kind of weird to say it, but I feel the Spirit when I’m in natural history museums. There’s an awe there that’s akin to gazing at the stars on a clear night far from civilization. Those stars are there for a reason too. Perhaps the reason for all dinosaurs, stars, exoplanets, and most things in the universe was taught to Abraham anciently:
“… there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.”Abraham 3:17
For further reading, here are some LDS views on the purpose of dinosaurs, and when/where they might have lived:
And here are some other Christian sources on dinosaurs: