Will a Jew Plow with a Mule?

Terminal hybrids are on my mind. Is it really acceptable to cultivate them? Injunctions against mixing were part of the law of Moses: “Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.” (Leviticus 19:19) “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.” (Deuteronomy 22:9-11) There are also the creation accounts of God commanding vegetation and animals to produce seed and fruit after their kind. What sort of carnal, devilish person would issue a different order to the life under his stewardship?

A benefit of breeding hybrids is the well known hybrid vigor. Animals that are crosses of two or three purebred strains grow faster and bigger than the purebreds. Vigor isn’t the only possible outcome, though. There are also hybrid inviability, hybrid sterility, and hybrid breakdown. Some genes don’t work well together. The very existence of species testifies of that.

One consequence of breeding purebreds (AKA inbreds) is that recessive genes of a deleterious sort have a greater possibility of being expressed due to being present on both copies of the relevant chromosome. Under diligent management, that can be a good thing however. Harmful genes are more likely to be exposed in purebreds and culled instead of hiding dormant.

With plants, commercial hybridization didn’t start until 1921. As far as I can tell, corn is the only crop that is mostly hybridized at present. I think hybrid cotton cultivation is gaining ground, but I really don’t know. (Corn wasn’t a random subject for Barbara McClintock’s life’s work.)

If any of you know of treatments of the issue of hybrids in our religion or others’, please pass along what you can.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

9 thoughts on “Will a Jew Plow with a Mule?

  1. I believe most silk for military devices is now harvested from goat/spider hybrids although I believe that was done via genetic engineering. (Basically it makes the goat grow silk on its back that can be harvested)

    Here’s an old article on it. (It’s about 5 years old)


    Regarding the religious implications. I’ve never heard anyone really complain about bioengineering which, when you think about it, would run up into problems with the Law of Moses. But I don’t think most Mormons think the Law of Moses really applies to them in that sense. (We eat pork after all)

  2. There are interesting ramifications for the spirit world. I.e., are there a certain amount of liger spirits running around in the pre-existence?

    I was under the impression that most crops are hybrids, but perhaps I was mistaken. Should have kept my cereal science textbook. Corn is an interesting one. It had been bread to the point that it could not reproduce without human cultivation before recorded history.

    Obviously inter-species sexual congress is frowned upon when dealing with humans. Does that translate beyond humans? I don’t think so. There are a lot of things we do with animals that should not be done to humans.

  3. Clark’s comment made me think of this entry in Rudgar Clawson’s diary:

    6:30 p.m. General priesthood meeting, Pres. Kelly presiding. Apostle Jno. W. Taylor was the speaker. Topics treated. Said that those who have sexual intercourse with their wives or touch any dead body are unclean until evening, and, therefore, during that day should not enter the temple or officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. Advised the brethren not to eat pork or use it in their families. (A Ministry of Meetings pg. 514)

  4. Wow. Someone was going a bit overboard. How seriously did people take that? I’d not heard of people trying to follow the Law of Moses like that.

  5. “Obviously inter-species sexual congress is frowned upon when dealing with humans”

    Ah, but what about efforts to engineer pigs so as to grow human organs?

    There already are human-animal hybrids. Just of very limited sorts.

    I suspect that as the technology develops though someone somewhere will do the Island of Dr. Moreau thing.

  6. Clark, I think the amazing spider-goat produces its silk in the teats, and the fibers are extracted from the milk.

    I think it is still worth pondering what the point of an old law was. Maybe they were just meant to mark a people. One point I suspect of this part of their law was to symbolically teach against mixing Israelites and Canaanites.

    My wife tells me that a standard fertility testing technique is to see if human sperm will penetrate hamster egg cells. When she objected to such an outcome, she was told the embryos don’t live long, which, of course, makes it alright.

    I think the distinction between modern hybridization and plain old cross pollination is the production of fields full of precise crosses, which takes a precise breeding of the parent strains. In the cotton article I linked, for example, the Pima cross involves creating one parent stock with sterile males. Its the “terminal” part of the program that gets my attention: creating strains that can’t or shouldn’t propagate themselves.

    By the way, my grandfather had high praise for the comfort and durability of a linsey-woolsey shirt he wore as a boy.


  7. Yeah, I don’t think adoption of the Law of Moses was all that common, but every once and a while I will come accross something odd like this.

  8. In my opinion, when a creature is born physically, it largely loses its previous spirit body, such that roughly speaking the eternal spirit-intelligence is the only thing that enters into the new embryo, relatively soon after conception (I do not think all embryos or collections of cells have spirits – corpses certainly don’t, and I seriously doubt plants do, in the spirit-intelligence sense of the term). Then it grows a new spirit body that matches its physical inheritance (subject to post-mortal transformation).

    And the reason why I say that is that it seems to be a crucial part of the plan of salvation that a person start out with a mixture of his parents genetic inheritance, if possible. It allows parents to understand and appreciate the problems faced by their children much better, because they are closely genetically related (and culturally and linguistically related).

    Not that it is necessary of course – I think some LDS traditions radically overemphasize the necessity of any viviparous relationship at all. I do not believe there is such a thing as viviparous spirit birth, for example, almost all of the scriptural evidence is against it, in favor of being born again of the spirit or having a spirit body raised in the surrection (per Moses).

  9. Aren’t these scriptures in reference to/simile of the commandment to “get thee out from among Babylon”, or in other words, not to mix with those not of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a commandment that was in place throughout the OT?

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