In the early
1800's, Church founder Joseph Smith demonstrated vision not commonly
shared with many of the other Christian teachers of his day. He
taught that even animals have eternal souls and that humans should
show compassion and refrain from killing them unless absolutely
here to see article.) Several of Smith's successors emphasized
similar principles and labeled sport hunting as an activity unworthy
of church members. As recently as 1978, the president of the LDS
Church taught in a solemn worldwide church general conference to
avoid needless killing as a form of recreation.
things have changed in recent years and financial considerations
have pushed church leaders to not only drop any criticism of sport
hunting but to actively promote it. The Church now benefits financially
by running big-ticket, private, hunting preserves on some of the
same agricultural lands that provide foodstuffs used in its relief
Two years ago,
we reported on one such facility. See http://www.vegsource.com/articles/catano_hunting.htm
. We also requested that readers who disapprove of a religious organization
making money by promoting bloodsport send their feedback to the
church's Public Affairs Office. Enough of you did that it convinced
the Church to make some changes. "Canned" hunts (the releasing
of captive animals as easy prey for hunters) were eliminated. The
facility also stopped assigning LDS Church missionaries to staff
the hunt clubs.
we've recently learned that other steps maintain the status quo
and allow the continued earning of profit while giving the appearance
that the church has distanced itself from the hunting operations.
For example, at Westlake Farm near Elberta, Utah, the church has
leased the sport hunting operations to a private party. At first
glance, that seemed like a positive step. After closer examination,
it appears that no significant changes were made. A spokesman for
the church disclosed that the church still intends to profit from
the new arrangement, and a church-owned corporation continues to
develop artificial habitat to lure more game animals onto its land.
On other LDS
Church-owned properties the hunting operations remain unchanged.
The mammoth Deseret Land and Livestock ranch in Northern Utah continues
to operate a big-ticket hunting and fishing operation. Killing a
bull elk there can cost wealthy hunters over $11,000. There are
other fee-based sport hunting facilities, but the Church's First
Presidency and Presiding Bishopric have informed us through a Public
Affairs official that they will not disclose locations or provide
any further information about them.
One irony is
that the LDS Church is often quite strict about the things people
can or can't do on its real estate. A Public Affairs official commented,
"It is common knowledge that the Church imposes restrictions
on property that it leases." For example, businesses that sell
products discouraged by the church's health code, like tobacco and
alcohol, cannot lease space in church-owned commercial and office
buildings nor can those items be consumed there. Restrictions even
cover what types of movies can be shown at theaters in church-owned
for fun, on the other hand, apparently does not carry any moral
stigma in the LDS Church today. The church does enforce a "no
drinking, no smoking, and no Sunday hunting" policy on its
facilities, but, on the other six days, the killing of animals for
fun-once considered morally wrong by at least five past presidents
of the church-continues for the sake of revenue.
we communicated directly with the church's agricultural management
firm, Farm Management Corporation, on this matter, but now a gag
order has been established to funnel all discussion of the hunting
facilities through the church's Public Affairs Office. E-mail from
the general public is not accepted, but the phone, fax and mailing
address are below.
give the church the benefit of your views on church-sponsored bloodsport.
The LDS Church does many marvelous things like helping all people
during times of crisis, so please take a few minutes to help the
church see that the older, more compassionate position of its former
leaders regarding sport hunting might be rediscovered and pulled
down from the shelf.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Public Affairs Office
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
15 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150 USA
800-453-3860 ext. 22205
(outside USA telephone) 801-240-2205
Please copy us what you send to firstname.lastname@example.org
We would also appreciate hearing about responses you receive.