Saturday, December 6, 2008

Study of the LDS Church - 5.2 Blood Atonement

The full atonement power of Jesus’ blood is a profound and limitless power according to the Christian faith. However, it has not always been taught as such by the LDS church.

The teaching of the “blood atonement” doctrine is one that is lesser known by outsiders to the LDS church (and even to some members), but one that was of great significance during the early years of the church.

Documented statements by Brigham Young show evidence of these teachings during the mid-1800s:

“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would stone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they would stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world. I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it a strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them.” (Journal of Disclosures, vol. 4, p. 53).

“I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath my bowie knife, and conquer or die. [Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.] Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. [Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’] If you say it is right, raise your hands. [All hands up.] Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work.” (Journal of Disclosures, vol. 1, p. 83).

McConkie also confirms this doctrine elsewhere in Mormon Doctrine by stating the following:

“…the true doctrine of blood atonement is simply this…under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the law of God is that men must then have their own blood shed to atone for their sins. Murder, for instance, is one of these sins; hence we find the Lord commanding capital punishment…President Joseph Fielding Smith has written: ‘Men may commit certain grievous sins…that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ…for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail….Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf (p. 92-93).

One Mormon leader, Heber C. Kimball, grandfather of the late 12th Mormon President, Spencer Kimball, is quoted in the Journal of Disclosures as saying that Judas was kicked to death by the other disciples to pay for his failure:

Jesus said to His disciples, `Ye are the salt of the earth, and if salt loses its saving principle, it is then good for nothing but to be cast out.' Instead of reading it just as it is, almost all of you read it as it is not. Jesus meant to say, `If you have lost the saving principles, you Twelve Apostles, and you believe in my servants the Twelve, you shall be like unto the salt that has lost its saving principles: it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.' Judas lost that saving principle, and they took him and killed him it is said in the Bible that his bowels gushed out, but they actually kicked him until his bowels came out. (vol 6, 125,126)

So, the teaching goes, in short, that there are some sins so great that even the blood of Christ cannot cleanse or forgive. What such sins are included? Let’s look further and see…

Murder: "I am opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground and let the smoke ascend thereof up to God..." (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church 5:296).

Adultery: "Let me suppose a case. Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them. You would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case, and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands" (Brigham Young, JOD 3:247).
Stealing: "If you want to know what to do with a thief that you may find stealing. I say kill him on the spot, and never suffer him to commit another iniquity ... If I caught a man stealing on my premises I should be very apt to send him straight home, and that is what I wish every man to do, to put a stop to that abominable practice in the midst of this people" (Brigham Young, JOD 1:108).

Marriage to a person of black skin: "Shall I tell you of the law of God in regards to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Brigham Young, JOD 10:110)

Covenant Breaking: "I say, there are men and women that I would advise to got to the Presidency immediately, and ask him to appoint a committee to attend to their case; and then let a place be selected, and let that committee shed their blood. We have those amongst us that are full of all manner of abominations, those who need to have their bloodshed, for water will not do, their sins are too deep a dye ... I believe that there are a great many; and if they are covenant breakers we need a place designated, where we can shed their blood ... Brethren and sisters, we want you to repent and forsake your sins. And you who have committed sins that cannot be forgiven through baptism, let your blood be shed, and let the smoke ascend, that the incense thereof may come up before God as an atonement for your sins, and that the sinners in Zion may be afraid" (Jedediah M. Grant, JOD 4:49-51).

Many supporters of this doctrine note that this is a command from God, much like the capital punishment laws given in the Bible.

There are various accounts of Brigham Young hiring men to enforce this gruesome doctrine, but they are not taken to be true to followers of the LDS faith.
What does the Bible say?

Well, to start with what the Bible does say about capital punishment, it does command this act, but seemingly as an act of establishing a government. It does not indicate that this principle is to rest in the hands of individuals seeking revenge, but rather in a body of government who regulates and enforces the laws commanded by God Himself. Also, nowhere do you see that men are atoned of their sins or saved as a result of capital punishment…it is just simply the penalty for committing the offense.

The argument that the redemption of mankind is possible through the full atonement received by Jesus’ sacrifice is accusing Jesus of not finishing the job He came to do.
You can also see an example in Paul, the “chief of sinners,” which he dubbed himself in 1 Timothy 1:15. He was behind the murder and punishment of many of the first Christians, including Stephen.

More scripture to back up the full power of Jesus’ blood:

  • Behold the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save…” (Isaiah 59:1)
  • And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
  • …the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin….If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • ...but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12).
  • By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

Now, when I spoke with our local missionaries regarding this issue, they noted that the only sin not covered by the blood of Jesus was the rejection of God and the Holy Spirit and that murder was not included. When I read them the passage from McConkie’s book, they noted that he was not creating doctrine, but was simply writing a book which is not endorsed by the LDS church as doctrine. In other words, his words didn’t hold water. I questioned as to why an apostle would write something regarding the church that was in opposition to the church’s teachings and why he would be allowed to remain as one of the apostles, they really did not have a good answer.
This just goes to prove that although it was once taught, it is not something that is strongly taught or even known by many of the members of the church today.

  1. Are there any sins for which the blood of Jesus cannot save you? (If yes, ask for an explanation and then offer the scripture that discusses the full redemptive power of Jesus’ blood. If no, please read to them all of the quotes of their church’s leaders that seem to teach otherwise).
  2. Regarding all of the commands in the Old Testament books of law for capital punishment, is there anywhere in those commands that indicates that the person will be redeemed based on their punishment or do you think it was simply the punishment for the crime?
  3. Since the previous leaders seemed to teach the Blood Atonement Doctrine (according to documented quotations), since the current church does not teach this doctrine and there is no indication that there was a specific revelation to the Prophet about it, does this mean that the church has gone through an apostasy regarding this issue?

For additional (shocking) reading, please click here to read more about the LDS Blood Atonement and its history.

Study of the LDS Church - 5.3 Racial Discrimination

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