My 5-year-old daughter got her first pet for her birthday last summer: a fish she lovingly named Beanbag. When inquisitive minds inquired about the origin of his name she excitedly explained, “In preschool I had this favorite game that was a beanbag toss and since he is my favorite fish I named him Beanbag!”
Sadly, Beanbag will not be with us this year to celebrate her 6th birthday. The evening my daughter discovered his lifeless form “laying on the ground” of his fishbowl there were many tears shed. It seemed a milestone of childhood. A rite of passage. An event a child will remember even years later in adulthood.
As we held a short memorial for Beanbag we began with a prayer. We took turns saying something we liked about Beanbag and remembering funny moments like when he jumped out onto the table while we were changing his tank water. My daughter worried that Beanbag would be sad or lonely and experience pain as we flushed him down his watery grave. This might sound silly, but as we sat there in the bathroom preparing to say goodbye to Beanbag, it was the scriptures and Primary songs that brought comfort to a little girl who was mourning the death of her first pet.
Section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that “Beasts have spirits and shall dwell in eternal felicity…” (chapter heading, see also verses 1-4 and additional scriptures below). This scripture eased her fears knowing Beanbag would not be sad or in pain but indeed enjoy eternal happiness. We talked about the resurrection and how spirits live on after the body dies. To end our memorial we suggested we sing a song. She immediately liked the idea but didn’t want a “Rock ‘n’ Roll song or a ballet song” (her older brother’s and her typical requests respectively). No, she wanted, “a song of God: I am a Child of God, and Our Father Has a Family“. And so with many a tear we sang the familiar words that now offered peace and comfort to a little girl learning about mortality and eternity.
Our Father has a family. It’s me, it’s you, all others too; we are His children. He sent each one of us to earth, through birth, to live and learn here in families. God gave us families to help us become what he wants us to be. This is how He shares His love. For the family is of God. (The Family is of God)
I am a child of God and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday. (CS 2)
More about the role of animals in God’s eternal plan:
* Bible Dictionary, “Christ:” “He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing.” (page 633)
* Bible Dictionary, “Revelation of John: “Animals are resurrected from the dead, and there are animals in heaven, redeemed by the blood of Christ.” (page 763, referring to Revelation 5:11-14)
* Moses 3:19 “. . . God formed every beast of the field, . . . and they were also living souls.”
* Genesis 9:9-10 “. . . “I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark,to every beast of the earth.” (That is, God covenanted with man and animals.)