BY DOUGLAS A.** WALLACE
Some fifty years ago, I discovered outdoor life such as fishing and hunting. As a child and teenager I was the son of a workaholic who never did such things. So like father like son, I did not learn nor was involved in recreational sports until I had a group of Explorer Scouts to lead. I was about 30 years old at the time.
Being an active Mormon, the Explorer Scout group was all Mormon youth. This was in Portland, Oregon and the specialty the group adopted was deep sea fishing, salmon fishing in particular. We took a 45 pound Chinook salmon to a Mormon Explorer Scout Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1959. It was packed in dry ice and was contained in a plywood box the size of a coffin transported on the top of a station wagon. After the 3-day convention was over the salmon was barbequed by leaders of the church youth there in S.L.C.
The next year, the group took up a new specialty; archery hunting. A couple of the boys were naturals while the rest and especially I had to really practice. At my recent 80th birthday one of my daughters now 55 thanked me for letting her and her siblings retrieve my practice arrows?
We hunted on Labor day weekend when the archery season opened in Oregon. I think it was just before the second or third annual hunt making it about 1961 or 1962, that an article by the next to-be president of the church, Joseph Fielding Smith appeared in the church Monthly publication then called the Improvement Era. The article attacked the sport of killing deer. That article was on the minds of the Mormon adults and teenagers gathered for the annual Explorer Scout outing camped in the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon.
Labor Day week end of course included a Sunday and as was the custom while we were there to enjoy the event, that we held some semblance of a church service to remember the Sabbath. Since Brother Smith's article was creating conflict in all of our minds I chose to speak/rationalize on that subject. I suppose one could say that was the very first public criticism by me of a church leader.
I held that all animal life required the harvesting of life, animal or vegetable, for its continued existence; except for salt there was no way in which humans could naturally ingest the minerals needed to sustain life. Therefore minerals which had been ingested through the food chain by lower forms were required to be consumed by humans.
Vegetarians seemed to be able to sustain life in avoidance of meat and that while they may argue against animal parts for human consumption, the very fact that they could not take directly from the earth the minerals the human body needed, they were indeed still relying on the need for the fruit of vegetable life production. Hence it takes life (past) to sustain life (present).
Brother Smith's criticism of Hunting/killing as a "sport" in contrast to an image of slaughter houses was short sighted in that no animals in the killing line escape death while those which die by sportsman have a measured chance of survival. I felt that his article would only have meaningful impact had it taken on the evil of slaughter houses and killing of animals in general for human survival as a proscription of God which it didn't.
After that talk***, the Explorer Scouts (and adults) went out and pursued their prey the balance of the day without recrimination or success I might add! I often think about those young boys who by now have lived the bulk of their lives and are in their sixties.
Scientists have learned to clone animals and to do in vitro fertilization. They have been accused of seeking to play the role of God. However until such time as they can assemble the basic mineral elements of an animal body and snap their finger creating it into life they will continue to be but handmaidens of God. In the meantime to improve life or the opportunity of life they need to work with the actual components of life as has always been the case from the beginning whenever that was. Absent that they can only produce robots with artificial intelligence.
No one has postulated a pure definition of life. There are many attempts to demonstrate what constitutes life but there is no definition of life itself. It is and will remain a mystery until such time as a higher power releases that knowledge to mankind.
A big question is placing value on life. The neighbor's child struck by a car is one thing while the enemy in the sights of a soldier sniper is another. Is there more to be gained by rushing the child to a hospital than blowing away an unknown enemy?
While we may hold each life precious we also discriminate between degrees of preciousness. Running over a neighbor's cat is far more serious than the bug that simultaneously died on the car windshield. Yet the neighbor's cat is far less important than the neighbor's child.
Each day we innocently kill microbes just by living. Certainly we do not grieve losses we know nothing about. Yet to each and every life form we are responsible for destroying, there is a need to cling to life and for every life there is a need to reproduce its life, all outside of the understanding of science.
Charles River is a very large international corporation dealing in life science where the value system of life is in daily question. Recently a very large research facility has been constructed not more than a mile from where I live in Reno. The structure is located behind a tall steel fence with an over burden of security apparatus. Several large chimneys reach skyward from the facility presumably utilized as incinerators for remains of destroyed life forms. When it was under construction/expansion a few young ladies picketed the project in protection of inferior innocent animal life.
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