King David and the Doctrine of Blood Atonement

Bored in Vernal Blood Atonement, LDS lessons, Mormon 73 Comments

Avatar-BiVOT SS Lesson #24

The following statement was made by the LDS Church last Wednesday in conjunction with the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad in Utah.  I see this as a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what was taught in the past regarding the doctrine.

Mormon Church Statement on Blood Atonement

In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives.  However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.

Some church members and leaders used strong language

This statement glosses over the fact that it was the prophet and second president of the Church Brigham Young who initiated and publicly taught this doctrine numerous times, followed by later prophets and General Authorities in official discourse:

“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 atone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will 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 is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them….

“And further more, I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further;

“I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.

“It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit…. There are sins that can be atoned for by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, or a calf, or of turtle dove, cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man.” (Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pages 53-54); also published in the Mormon Church’s Deseret News, 1856, page 235)

so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Officially, the doctrine of Blood Atonement was to be practiced voluntarily.  However, Michael Quinn has shown evidence that this practice was carried out among church members and leaders and sanctioned by Brigham Young in the early days of Utah. (The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Vol. 2, pp. 241-261)

An appeal to Latter-day scriptures on the application of blood atonement to the sin of murder results in confusion. Alma 24 :10 states that murderers can receive forgiveness by repentance, while D&C 42:18 teaches that murder is unpardonable.  Attempting to doctrinally resolve this seeming conflict in a Deseret News article on July 4, 1883, Apostle Charles W. Penrose taught that in some cases such as murder done in anger or provocation, murder might be forgiven, but only after the guilty party atones for the murder by the shedding of blood. (Charles W. Penrose (July 4, 1883), “An Unpardonable Offense,” Deseret News 32 (24): 376.)  President Joseph Fielding Smith agreed, while making it clear that this should be completely voluntary on the part of the sinner:

Through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel…Man may commit certain grievous sins — according to his light and knowledge — that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone — so far as the power lies — for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail…But that the Church practices “Blood Atonement” on apostates or any others, which is preached by ministers of the ‘Reorganization’ is a damnable falsehood for which the accusers must answer. (Joseph Fielding Smith (1954), Bruce R. McConkie, ed., Doctrines of Salvation, 1, Salt Lake City, Utah:Bookcraft.)

According to both Penrose and Joseph Fielding Smith, the doctrine of blood atonement was the reason the founders of Utah incorporated in the laws of the Territory provisions for capital punishment, giving murderers a choice to be shot by firing squad as a “willing expiation” for their sin.

Blood atonement was understood to be a doctrine of the Church, and influenced policy-making and practice among nineteenth-century Mormons.  I believe that the majority of modern members will welcome a change in this policy.  But to present this change as anything but a departure from that which was taught by early Church leaders as doctrine is disingenuous.

We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.

Finally we come to  the connection this post has to this week’s Sunday School lesson.  It is a common misperception that the Church teaches “the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ.”  But in reality, our manuals and even our LDS edition of the scriptures teach that there are sins for which complete repentance through Christ’s atonement is not possible.  The murder of Uriah by King David is one of these.  Though David spent the rest of his life and hundreds of Biblical passages repenting of this sin, D&C 132:39 states:

David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.

The Bible Dictionary explains:

[David] was guilty of grave crimes; but unlike Saul, he was capable of true contrition and was therefore able to find forgiveness, except in the murder of Uriah. As a consequence David is still unforgiven, but he received a promise that the Lord would not leave his soul in hell. He will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium. Because of his transgressions, he has fallen from his exaltation.

Even the Sunday School manual concurs, backing up the position with a quote by Marion G. Romney:

Note that adultery is a serious sin, but David forfeited his exaltation because the Lord held him accountable for the murder of Uriah.

President Marion G. Romney said: “David, … though highly favored of the Lord (he was, in fact, referred to as a man after God’s own heart), yielded to temptation. His unchastity led to murder, and as a consequence, he lost his families and his exaltation” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1979, 60; or Ensign, May 1979, 42).


The LDS stance that King David was unable to be completely forgiven despite his obvious and sincere repentance has greatly bothered me.  Most other Christian churches teach that the atonement was active in David’s case, wholly cleansing him from all of his sins.  But the Mormon church does not.  That the fallen condition of David is so pervasively taught in LDS scripture, General Authority addresses, and curriculum materials lends credence to the doctrine of blood atonement as taught in the past.  In such cases, the Savior’s sacrifice is insufficient to cleanse transgressors from certain sins such as murder.  I witnessed one of the ramifications in Church policy when an investigator friend of mine in college was denied baptism into the Church because she had previously had an abortion.

I am curious to know the opinion of our readers on this subject.  First, do you feel the recent official statement above reflects an honest articulation of the teachings of the Church on Blood Atonement? Next, do you think that David lost his exaltation, and if so, does this place limits on the effects of Christ’s Atonement?

Comments

comments

Comments 73

  1. I think there are a couple possible thoughts that might relate. It seems to me that unpardonable sins are those made with understanding at the time (such as denying the Holy Ghost after it has made sure manifestation to you). Killing Uriah was not a simple murder, it was a carefully thought out, pre-planned abuse of the powers and rights that God gave to David. He was, as king of Israel, supposed to represent Christ to some extent. He was aware of the gravity of Saul’s sin (taking God’s power upon himself), because that was why he, David, was king. When he used his divinely-appointed Godlike power for his own gain, he took Saul’s sin and compounded it even further, knowing the consequences.

    Secondly, I always wondered if, although David felt sorry on some level, if perhaps he did not truly repent. I don’t remember any record of him trying to make some sort of restitution to Bathsheba or Uriah’s family, or of him publicly admitting his sin. Although he may have been sorry on one level for what he did, he still clung to the fruits of his deception.

  2. It is very much the refusal to cling to the fruits, the acceptance of punishment that is the essence of giving up sin. My earlier post on what it takes to support repentance is all about that point. It is not the shedding of your blood, but the willingness to accept punishment and acknowledge sin that is the essence of what is needed.

  3. It’s a very interesting post and I have to teach this lesson on Sunday. but, I think you are stretching things in two key areas. David’s issues and the Doctrine of Blood Atonement are only linked by one key thing— The “light and knowledge” of the person committing those acts.

    A careful reading of Brigham’s statement as well as JFS states,”if they had their eyes open to see their true condition” and “according to his light and knowledge.” Even Alma Chapter 24 reflects that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were being converted to the Truth at the time of their forgiveness, “we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed…” (Alma 24:9).

    So, the way I read it, is that someone who commits a murder of innocent blood has to have a pretty deep knowledge of the Truth and a true conversion to Jesus Christ to approach a level where a blood atonement may be necessary. I also do not read where this Blood Atonement is the shedding of blood in this life, as in an execution. It is somewhat akin to Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It may be necessary at a later time.

    The David part requires a bit more study on my part about why he is still not forgiven, so I will have to come back to that point. But let’s just say that it appears that he certainly fits into the category of someone who knew God and what was required of him and chose to commit not just one grievous act (adultery) but compound it by the murder of the husband.

    So, while this idea of a blood atonement was talked about, I do not think it is a doctrine of the Church as it applied to a Ronnie Lee Gardner. So the steement is correct, but I did find it odd that the church felt it was necessary to issue it.

  4. “…do you feel the recent official statement above reflects an honest articulation of the teachings of the Church on Blood Atonement?”

    I would like to hope that this is the direction Church doctrine is going, but it certainly isn’t where it has been in the past. I was consistently taught the doctrine of Blood Atonement growing up in the 50s and 60s and was truly amazed when an official LDS statement was made to the contrary a few years ago (when the means of capital punishment was being debated in Utah).
    Also, we had a friend in the 70s whose brother (both were LDS) admitted to being part of a civil rights murder conspiracy in the South. He was excommunicated and told that there would be no chance of forgiveness and re-baptism in this life, though he continued to attend church regularly after his release from prison (after serving a seven-year sentence).

  5. I should add that though I was taught the doctrine of Blood Atonement in church settings, my mother was of a different persuasion and I personally have always felt that if there is an Atonement, it must be universal.

  6. BiV, great post. I read a pamphlet not long ago that features the letter exchanges between Joseph Fielding Smith and the head of the RLDS church (his name escapes me). The issues were over Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the Blood Atonement doctrine.

    I don’t think there’s any way around the notion that the LDS church taught, as doctrine, the idea that there are some sins for which it was expedient, if not necessary, to shed blood in this life for repentance. I also agree that the statement tends to sweep under the rug the idea that Brigham Young taught it, and it was believed, as doctrinal, by many including subsequent prophets. For me, this is one of those situation where I look at it at and think “well what did I expect”? I have long since dropped my expectation that the church would always act in a way I thought was honorable. And yet, like you, I think the church does many great things.

    We absolutely do not teach an infinite atonement (unless we work diligently to redefine what we mean by “infinite” which is probably the case). We teach a limited atonement. We could split hairs over intent all day, but at the end, there are some sins for which (we teach) there is no forgiveness. As for David, I would not even hazard speculation on the issue. I wish, so badly, that we ALL stopped this sort of speculation (the church itself included). We’re trying to draw inferences from scripture that is thousands of years old, whose authenticity and translation is suspect, the culture of which is foreign and unknowable in scope, and interpreted according to our modern day biases and mindsets. Why we even have to have this debate and draw conclusions based on the atonement from that is just crazy. Yet the judgment resides in our own modern day scripture. Very difficult to reconcile in my book.

    From the church’s vantage point I think they are utilizing the system in place. We have no creed, no official doctrine, etc. so the church can use this to its advantage to gloss over the idea that it was ever taught as doctrine. To me it should be a very good indicator that what the prophet says is not always God’s truth even if he claims it is. Whether or not this is “leading us astray” is another can of worms which I won’t open. Suffice it to say, I probably fall more in the “Liahona” camp than the “iron rod” camp!

  7. “…do you feel the recent official statement above reflects an honest articulation of the teachings of the Church on Blood Atonement?”

    In my own personal experience, yes. I never even heard the phrase “blood atonement” growing up until I discovered the bloggernacle.

    I like the comment in #6 “[it’s] not always God’s truth even if [a prophet] claims it is.” Brigham Young preached blood atonement, he also revoked the rights to the priesthood from African Americans which I think we can all agree was Wrong. Prophets are men too, and are subject to the persuasion of their own opinions and ideas as other men are. It would not surprise me if this idea of blood atonement was discussed or debated, made an impression on Young, who then adopted it into his personal belief system (and which of us has not done something similar at some point, in all honesty?).

    I think we do teach an infinite atonement, but that there are some sins so grievous that they cannot be overcome in this life alone. The penalty of denying someone life in this world (halting, or at least delaying his eternal progressions) merits a similar punishment under this logic (death penalty in this life, or delayed redemption in the case of David in the next, for examples). Which may be what Gardner was thinking. This is pure speculation on my part.

  8. “Infinite atonement” was always taught to me as meaning two things: that all who “keep their first estate”, that is who follow God when they have full knowledge of Him, will be resurrected.

    The second is that Christ suffered for all sins, infinitely, so that those who chose to do so could be washed clean of sin and raised up to exaltation. In the case of some sins, I thought it was not that Christ did not pay for those sins, it was that those who were capable of committing those sins would never be capable of utilizing the Atonement.

    In other words, it is not that the Atonement is limited, it is that when a person chooses to limit themselves (separate themselves from God) in full knowledge of what they are doing, they will not suddenly simply change their minds and decide to reunite with Him again.

  9. Excellent post BiV. The written record of teachings about blood atonement and the limits of Christ Atonement is massive. As you have made clear, it is imposssible to ignore the evidence.

  10. I simply reject the doctrine of an unpardonable sin along with the doctrine of an election so sure that nothing can forfeit it except murder. The idea of any act (no matter how heinous) excluding one from exaltation for all eternity is just ludicrous.

    I am surprised you had a friend who could not be baptized because of having an abortion. That is outrageous if she was contrite (and I, personally, have never talked to a person who had an abortion who was not contrite). There are obviously loads of people in the church who have at some point in time had an abortion. This is certainly not beyond the reach and power of the atonement.

    1. One who is participated in an abortion will be able to be baptized based on an interview with a higher authority (general)
      But there are some basic guidelines as to the time lapsed between offense and baptism. (helping assure full repentance)

  11. President Packer and Elder Andersen have both stated in fairly recent general conferences that the only sin not covered by the atonement is defecting to perdition. I do not think the truthfulness of the core principles of the Church rises or falls on the status of David in the hereafter. If he lost his exaltation, in my opinion, it is not because of the impossibility of his repenting and receiving forgiveness, but because of his failure in this life and the hereafter to call upon the merits of Jesus with a broken heart and contrite spirit. Also, in my opinion, David has a lot more to answer for than taking the life of Uriah or taking Uriah’s wife.

  12. Jacob J—Are you confusing exaltation with salvation?

    I fail to see how it could be ludicrous that something committed in this life might cause one to be unable to accept exaltation.

  13. Re #11 Jacob

    I simply reject the doctrine of an unpardonable sin along with the doctrine of an election so sure that nothing can forfeit it except murder. The idea of any act (no matter how heinous) excluding one from exaltation for all eternity is just ludicrous.

    This is my personal opinion as well. I believe in an infinite atonement defined this way, though I confess I don’t find this to be in harmony with current church teachings.

    As to abortion, I also am surprised by the example. I served my mission in Russia and nearly every woman we taught had had an abortion. I never saw anyone held back from baptism for it.

    Re #9 SilverRain

    In other words, it is not that the Atonement is limited, it is that when a person chooses to limit themselves (separate themselves from God) in full knowledge of what they are doing, they will not suddenly simply change their minds and decide to reunite with Him again.

    It seems rather presumptuous of us to decide when a person will or will not change their mind. To your point we can always question what if they do change their mind? However, from an LDS perspective I think you have it right.

    Note this statement by Spencer J. Condie from the 1996 January Ensign.

    The Book of Mormon teaches us of an infinite atonement (see 2 Ne. 9:7; 2 Ne. 25:16; Alma 34:10, 12, 14), an atoning sacrifice by Christ that is unbounded by time, ethnicity, geography, or even kinds of sins, save for the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:6).

    It’s weird though because he says it’s infinite but apparently it has a limitation on the kinds of sins it can cover.

  14. Thanks for the post – it is spiritually refreshing to see such as this. Yet, here are those (such as SilverRAIN) who are still looking to justify the Church of what seems to be a confusing doctrine by wondering for example “although David felt sorry on some level, … perhaps he did not truly repent.” Read the Scripture — please! What did David say to Nathan when David’s sin was exposed?

    And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

    In plain English:

    Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”

    I am thinking that if our Heavenly Father could “take away” David’s sin, so could the Church – once and for all.

  15. OP: I see this as a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what was taught in the past regarding the doctrine.

    How so? You are leveling a serious charge at the Church leaders. Can you back this up? Look at the three-sentence statement you quote:

    In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives. However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.

    Consider the first sentence: In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives. Is it true? Without doubt; some Church members and leaders most certainly used strong language that included the idea of “blood atonement”. In what sense do you believe they have misunderstood or misrepresented the reality of the mid-19th century feelings and actions of the Church leaders and members?

    Consider the second sentence: However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church leaders have the authority to proclaim doctrine. That is their right and privilege. Here they proclaim that “blood atonement” “is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” You cannot possibly object to this, unless you believe they are not authorized to make that proclamation. Is that what you believe — the Church’s leaders have no authority to proclaim the Church’s doctrine? If so, the conversation can end here; you don’t believe the Church is led by Christ’s appointed leaders. Fine. Lots of others believe the same (though they are mostly outside the Church). Assuming you do believe the Church leadership authorized to proclaim doctrine, in what sense do you believe they have misunderstood or misrepresented anything in this proclamation?

    Consider the third sentence: We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people. Same question as before: Assuming you do believe the Church leadership authorized to proclaim doctrine, in what sense do you believe they have misunderstood or misrepresented anything in this proclamation?

    You have made a grave charge against the Church’s leadership in accusing them of promulgating “a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what was taught in the past regarding the doctrine.” I see nothing in any of the three sentences you quoted that either misunderstands or misrepresents anything. The Church’s leaders do not attempt to represent what was taught in the past, beyond saying that “blood atonement” was believed and forwarded in “strong language” — which is absolutely true.

    If you are an active Latter-day Saint, your temple recommend interview includes a question of whether you sustain your leaders. Do you consider making such rash accusations as you have made above an example of sustaining your leaders? Effectively calling them liars? When your ward members call you a liar in your efforts as YW President, do you consider them to be acting in a manner that sustains you in your calling? When they berate you for your ignorance and dishonesty in your efforts as ward chorister, do you see this as a sustaining act?

    I am not surprised at misunderstanding of, or even sometimes disagreement with, the efforts of our leaders. I am appalled that anyone who calls herself a Saint would accuse our leadership of misrepresentation. I am disgusted when such an accusation cannot even be backed up with any evidence.

    Can you back up your accusation with any evidence? Because there certainly is none in the three-sentence quotation you provide.

  16. I find it ironic that Moses murdered an Egyptian and fled from Egypt when his crime was discovered and went unpunished and yet David, who clearly felt intense remorse for his sins–as evidenced in Psalms–is declared unforgivable by the Church.

    If Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses, which demanded an “eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth,” then surely capital punishment is questionable at best and inhumane at worst. Studies show that it does not deter crime, and the brutal act of killing someone who had killed another seems to be brutish and violent on every level. Life without possibility of parole seems a more apt sentence. In addition, DNA evidence has confirmed that a number of people have been sentenced and killed for crimes that they did not commit in this country.

    If murder is so reprehensible and unforgivable, then Nephi would be a criminal indeed. I am disappointed that the Church has not taken a stand against the death penalty and openly apologized for its past history of blood atonement, which is horrific indeed.

  17. It seems rather presumptuous of us to decide when a person will or will not change their mind. To your point we can always question what if they do change their mind?

    Presumptuous of us, yes, but not of God. I am speaking of theory, not judging individuals. I leave that up to God. We don’t need to question it at all. What does it matter to me whether David is exalted or not?

    David A—I see that you are trying to say I am ignorant (have not read the scripture properly) and that is why I disagree with you. Rather a weak argument.

    As for the scripture you cite, Nathan is merely telling David he will not be killed for his sin. It does not show David repenting necessarily, only acknowledging that he had sinned. In D&C 132, God himself says that David has fallen from his exaltation, which is in the context of polygamy and may mean complete exaltation, or may be only in the context of David’s multiple wives. An in-depth discussion of polygamy would have to be engaged in to elaborate further, which isn’t really the point of this post.

    The real core of this post is blood atonement. It seems to me after reading the quotes above (and I’ve not read much on blood atonement beyond that, so take it for what it’s worth) that blood atonement is presented as a possible part of repentance. In essence, it is saying that it is possible in some sins that in order to make restitution for sins committed, a person may be led to self-sacrifice.

    I don’t think even in Brigham’s words this means he has paid for his sins in the eternal sense of Atonement (capital “A”), any more than returning a stolen candy bar means you have paid for your own sin of theft. It would be a step of repentance, not an act that can buy you salvation or exaltation.

    I have thought that paying (or atoning) for one’s own sins in the eternal sense is a qualification for the Telestial kingdom. Those who utilize Christ’s Atonement enter into the Terrestrial or Celestial kingdoms. Exaltation happens only in the Celestial kingdom.

    Therefore, making the ground assumption that blood atonement is doctrinal (which our current leaders proclaim it not to be), it would still not replace the Atonement, nor would it save a person from the sin of willful and knowledgeable disobedience (which is what denying the Holy Ghost entails.) To throw the Atonement back in Christ’s face, you are pretty sure of your choice, which is why the Atonement will not cover that sin. It is a sin that by its very nature means fully and completely rejecting the Atonement.

    Politically speaking, it seems to me that capital punishment is more a question of whether or not society can morally or financially afford to allow certain people to live than it is a question of the perpetrator somehow paying a debt to society, as the concept of blood atonement seems to be.

  18. Carol—it might be noteworthy to mention that Nephi killed a man at the direction of the Spirit, he did not murder him. That’s not exactly something that can be governed by secular law. Don’t confuse religious definitions of murder with secular ones.

  19. Vort #16:
    Sentence 1: In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives. I find this sentence misleading because it downplays the Blood Atonement doctrine as simply emotional rhetoric which was used by “some church members and leaders” in the 19th century. It is quite a different thing to realize that Prophets and General Authorities taught this principle as doctrine in official church meetings and publications.

    Sentence 2: However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why use the word “so-called,” when this is the term the doctrine was known by? As I have shown, Brigham Young, Charles Penrose, and Joseph Fielding Smith specifically called it a doctrine. (There were others, but I tried to keep the post to a reasonable length.) The doctrine affected legislation on capital punishment in the Utah Territory. Additional evidence has been collected by Michael Quinn to prove that in early Utah communities the doctrine affected practice. Therefore, a more honest approach to the subject would be to make it clear that this is a change in policy rather than trying to make it seem that Blood Atonement was never officially taught.

    Sentence 3: We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people. Here the statement is claiming a teaching which conflicts with information in the scriptures, General Authority statements, and material in official lesson manuals. Church leaders are certainly free to proclaim doctrine, but it is confusing for the members when this doctrine is so clearly at odds with our correlated materials. I don’t feel that it is apostate for members to point out discrepancies and attempt to discuss and resolve them.

  20. Vort,

    I read through your post and then the OP again and I’m having a hard time understanding what you’re so upset about. I don’t see anyone calling anyone liars or questioning the ability of leadership to determine doctrine and I certainly don’t see any “grave charges” being made. It is a bit confusing to see some refer to an infinite atonement and others to put limitations on it. Anyway, maybe Thomas can weigh in and bring a little reason to the discussion.

  21. #20 BiV: I find this sentence misleading because it downplays the Blood Atonement doctrine as simply emotional rhetoric which was used by “some church members and leaders” in the 19th century.

    Was it emotional rhetoric?

    Was it used by some church members and leaders?

    What is it you expect our leaders to say to satisfy you? “Our early leaders taught such-and-such, but they were wrong”?

    I’ll bet you any money you do not hold to such a standard in your own personal conduct, of explicitly admitting and refuting anything you or your family might ever have thought at any time. It is the essence of hypocrisy to require of others what you refuse to do yourself.

    Therefore, a more honest approach to the subject would be to make it clear that this is a change in policy rather than trying to make it seem that Blood Atonement was never officially taught.

    Interesting that you feel qualified to lecture the authorities of the Church on honesty.

    Church leaders are certainly free to proclaim doctrine, but it is confusing for the members when this doctrine is so clearly at odds with our correlated materials. I don’t feel that it is apostate for members to point out discrepancies and attempt to discuss and resolve them.

    Nor do I. Calling our leadership liars, on the other hand, and especially because they don’t frame the issue in a way you find sufficiently acceptable or transparent in your own mind, does indeed strike me as (using your word) apostate.

  22. We want to be disciples of Christ.
    Charity is an attribute of Christ.
    We should try to gain charity.

    Charity is not attacking fellow disciples, whatever the reason.

  23. You are right. Your characterization of me as uncharitable is also correct.

    Both correct points avoid my central argument. Calling our leadership liars is a stunningly disloyal act.

    Uncharitable, too.

    Oh, yeah. And false.

  24. Biv

    I love the thought and time that you put into each and everyone of your post, including this one. I always learn something new.

    Wasn’t the whole Mountain Meadows episode one of blood atonement run amuck? That’s why one of the descendents’ of President Lee was held accountable for wasn’t it?

    I’m so sick of the conservative members in the wards, branches and blogs trying to say that if you disagree with leadership than your not a faithful member. Questioning leadership is a healthy thing and if people don’t like it, they should step back and reevaluate their own belief system because it can’t possibly be strong as they say it is. That fact of the matter is that BIV didn’t disagree with leadership she is questionig why there is such a turnabout on a doctrine that was taught and put into practice.

  25. I’m not addressing your central point. I know BiV is a big girl and can defend herself. I’m just pointing out that your method of engaging her in conversation detracts from what you are trying to say.

  26. Yeah, dblock . . . those nasty conservatives always stating their opinions with no thought of the feelings and humanity of the other side.

    Let’s run ’em out of town, eh?

  27. #27: You are right. You have pointed out my central, perhaps defining, character defect online: When someone touches a nerve, I allow my feelings to show, often in antisocial ways. I have very little tolerance for disloyalty. Even more than hypocrisy (which after all is difficult to avoid completely), it rankles me to the core. It is no one’s fault but mine that I don’t keep my disgust to myself and engage on a more cerebral level.

  28. #6: “Whether or not this is “leading us astray” is another can of worms which I won’t open.”

    Per President Packer, “astray” is limited to the narrow meaning “into error that causes permanent injury to the work.”

    So Brigham Young teaching blood atonement as doctrine (and there’s really no reasonable question that he did), didn’t lead the Church astray, i.e., into permanent injury. All it did, possibly, was get somebody shot who dearly needed shooting.

  29. Okay. Lemme see if I get this straight. We’ve got an infinite atonement with limitations. We’ve got sins which can not be forgiven in this life, but some question about what might be forgiven in the next life. And we have the notion of Blood Atonement, which seems to help/make possible forgiveness for some of those sins which can not be forgiven in this life. And we have some strong and emotional rhetoric from people like BY that talk about smoke coming out of blood as an incense to bring forgiveness, along those lines.

    And I need to apply to this my “so what” filter, to see what this means to me, because I’m Enlightened Correlated Man, and that’s what I do.

    I think the limited infinite atonement is a language problem that comes when we try to comprehend and deal with things that are infinite and eternal from our inherently finite and temporal perspectives. I also think a good portion of the conversation about those limitations is to avoid people making Cheap Grace based excuses for knowingly sinning. You know “Jesus paid an infinite atonement, and he loves me, so I can sin all I want and it’s already paid for” or “Jesus as the unlimited ‘get out of Hell free’ card.” Doctrinal problems with that aside, this mentality wreaks a lot of havoc on a lot of lives, and wanting to shut it down strikes me as a worthy goal, and I’m not certain that a little doctrinal twisting in pursuit of that goal is an unpardonable sin.

    So I read this idea of unpardonable sin as meaning “this is really serious stuff, so don’t do it.” This is what makes it through my “so what” filter of the whole idea, as a matter of fact.

    My modern-guy doesn’t like all this talk of blood. I don’t like to think about bloody sacrifices on altars, bloody Jesus in the Garden or on the Cross, bloody murder victims, or bloody murderers after their execution by firing squad. It’s unpleasant and distasteful for me, and I have a history that includes passing out in Freshmen Health after seeing a picture of a bag of drawn blood (flopped the desk over on the side — it was very embarrassing).

    But blood keeps coming up, especially in the era of BY. Smoky blood on the ground that makes God happy. Exalted bodies no longer having blood in them. I find the reasoning for these things to be weird, and the bases for them in scripture to be scanty at best. I periodically bounce them through my mind to try to expand my understanding of things of God, like a lot of the doctrinal speculation I’ve seen. Sometimes that process is productive. More often it’s interesting and challenging. But almost none if it gets through the “so what” filter. I still need to show love to people I don’t like, Home Teach when I don’t want to, sit in classes I don’t (necessarily) like, and go to the Temple when I can to try to gain a better understanding of things of God. More with the loving God and neighbor, less with the loving me and my favorite sins. And not as much chatty-chatty with Internet people as I want.

  30. “some church members and leaders used strong language”

    Vort, can you give a good reason why that phrase, and word order, would be used?

    Language can be technically accurate, but it can mislead — intentionally or unintentionally — by what is not said. When a politician who has been up to no good says “Mistakes were made by members of my administration,” while the statement is technically accurate, he is telling less than the whole truth when, as it happens, the “member of the administration” in question is the speaker himself.

    Leading with “some church members” reinforces the impression that the statements about blood atonment were free-wheeling doctrinal speculations by people outside the formal doctrinal chain of command. Even using the word “leaders,” without specifying that the “leaders” in question included the Prophet himself, further separates the Church from responsibility for promulgation of the blood atonement doctrine.

    I suppose the loyal and charitable thing to do here (as the ultramontanists would define those words) would be to presume that this unfortunate word choice, with its tendency to mislead, was simply accidental: The people who put out this press release just happened to speak exactly as a public-relations firm responsibility would speak, without noticing the likely effect of their language, i.e., to deflect attention from the undeniable fact that Brigham Young taught a doctrine that the Church now is at pains to make clear it rejects. It is my honest conclusion, based in what I hope to be a properly informed conscience and judgment, that this is less likely to be the case than not.

    The “grave charge” we’re talking about here, is “engaging in the practice of public relations.” I don’t think BiV has anything to worry about in her next temple recommend interview; in any event, that’s her bishop’s business, not that of anyone here.

  31. Important things to consider:

    1. In the study of any history we must be careful to avoid applying present-day morals, values, and understandings to past ideals. Perspectives, cultural norms, language, and understandings can change dramatically over time, even in just a few years. Just look at how blatant racism was prevalent in the US up through the 1960s and is now largely considered taboo and backwards. Assuming someone from the late 19th and early 20th century who was racist (such as Abraham Lincoln) was also backwards by applying our 21st century view of racism and racists would be unfair and inaccurate given that racism was common and accepted at that time. Another example is the word “gay”. How much has its meaning changed in the last 20-30 years? The same is true here; the Church is definitely explaining that 19th century rhetoric cannot be taken at 21st century value. This not only includes cultural understandings, but doctrinal as well. For a church who believes in continuing revelation why do we assume that everything taught in the past is it and there’s nothing further or a more fuller understanding? In terms of capital punishment, I have never heard the Blood Atonement spoken of in Church; though in my deeper study of Church History it is obviously present. The stance I have always seen is that most of the explanations of the Blood Atonement come from sources not considered fully reliable (“Discourses of Brigham Young”) and thus not considered doctrinal pronouncements by the Church (same with the book “Mormon Doctrine”). In other words, just because a GA or even the Prophet says something does not automatically mean it’s a pronouncement of doctrine. To assume so removes the human element and agency from those men to have their own opinions. Growing up I have always heard support for the death penalty as a way to *begin* repaying the debt of taking someone’s life in cold blood with scriptural support coming from the Book of Mormon. In the end, full forgiveness comes *only* from the Atonement of Christ but we must be willing to do as he asks if we want to be in a position to have the Atonement apply to us. That’s what I’m getting from the statement of the Church as well as the full purpose of the Blood Atonement.

    2. Regarding David, just remember we’re arguing points without anything CLOSE to the full picture. A few scripture verses cannot tell us how truly repentant David was or how much he really did know when he committed his sin. The LDS Bible Dictionary stating he “has not been forgiven” shouldn’t interpreted as “can never be forgiven”. Remember, “eternal punishment” is God’s punishment; he knows the time, length, and purpose for it. Unless we know the true amount of light and truth David possessed when he sinned we cannot truly know how far he fell and to what degree. This is why we can’t compare what David did to what other people did in Church History or in scripture, like Moses killing the Egyptian. Apples to oranges. Remember, where much is given, much is required; the closer you are to God, the further you can fall if you choose. David’s big problem isn’t so much murder or adultery, it’s sinning against the greater light, but apparently not to the degree of a son of perdition.

  32. Re SilverRain

    Carol—it might be noteworthy to mention that Nephi killed a man at the direction of the Spirit, he did not murder him. That’s not exactly something that can be governed by secular law. Don’t confuse religious definitions of murder with secular ones.

    I wonder if you feel the same about Osama bin Laden? This seems like a very strange argument in this context given the vast number of historical incidents of individuals killing others in the name of their religion.

  33. Silver rain

    I didn’t say run the conservatives out of town, those are your words.

    However, the problem that I have with the more conservative mindset in the church is the fact that they are the ones who tend to say if you don’t live the gospel exactly as they see it that your not a faithful member. This is exactly what Vort stated in his response to BIV. That couldn’t be more wrong in thought and practice. I don’t have a problem with someone voicing a conservative view. I have a problem with someone voicing a conservative view and then going the extra step and calling not only mine, but anyone’s else faithfulness in question when they don’t know how we live our daily lives

    BIV is a big girl and can defend herself,but she shouldn’t have to.

  34. 29 — I don’t get this loyalty thing. I seriously don’t. If someone is right, then I support their being right. If someone is wrong, I help them see where they are wrong so they can get right. If someone is attacked beyond reason, then someone else is wrong, and I help someone else see where they are wrong so they can get right. Loyalty seems to want me to cut someone slack I otherwise wouldn’t out of loyalty, and that just seems wrong to me. If you can explain it to me in a way that I can understand, I would very much appreciate it.

    But I don’t see any commandment that I be loyal. I do see some that tell me that I am to love my enemies, and my neighbors, and God.

    Now, BiV has laid out a case here where Church leaders taught something rather at variance with what is taught by Church leaders today, and she seems to be surprised by this, and you seem to be upset by it. I’m wondering at both of you. How is it surprising that the Church today teaches different things differently than was taught before? This is just one of a not-short list of such things. How is it uncharitable to point out that people are doing things differently than we would want them to and aren’t actually perfect? If she was saying “therefor, the current leadership has clearly lost God’s favor and have apostatized” then I see problems with that including, probably, loyalty. But the only person talking about Church leaders lying is you — she’s stopping short of that point rather intentionally from what I can see.

    Personally, I’d rather see the Church be more up-front with the fact (unquestionable fact) that different things are taught differently today than they were in the past. Why would a Church that claims to be led by continuing revelation through living prophets have any problem admitting that things are different because of that revelation? Does it sometimes strike me as something less than honest? Yeah, sometimes. And it bugs me. But this is hardly a new phenomenon either. It traces back to a time when it wasn’t safe for Church leaders to be transparent about what they were doing, and it’s just never gone away. If God has a problem with it the way I do, he’s not talking to me about it. What they need to do about it, if anything, is above my pay-grade. They don’t answer to me about it, nor need they.

  35. Certain doctrines have changed over the years, for want of a better word the LDS church has become more “liberal” or “progressive” through succeeding Presidents of the church. I’m pleased with the recent developments within the church, and I feel members should recognise our cultural achievements through identifying how far we have come since the church was established.

    The Soccer World Cup proves how far societies can progress, by being open about the mistakes we’ve made, we free ourselves from the chains of our past.

    I welcome more achievements of this kind.

  36. “Certain doctrines have changed over the years, for want of a better word the LDS church has become more “liberal” or “progressive” through succeeding Presidents of the church.”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIAAAAAHHHHGGG! No! But probably true.

    Now if the Church can just get “liberal” and “progressive” in the ways that I like (see Johns Locke and Milton), and not the icky “social justice” way I most definitely don’t like, everything will be peachy. With brown sugar and a sweet biscuit crust on top…mmmmmmm.

  37. Re Vort

    I have very little tolerance for disloyalty.

    I think this speaks volumes (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). I think it’s great that there are so many who value loyalty so much. Without so many loyal individuals to their respective countries, religions, tribes, etc. I can’t even imagine how life might be. And I think it’s wonderful we have the Gospel to help us guide us in our loyalty so that we’re not blindly obedient.

    My only suggestion is that you perhaps consider that BiV (and others) may feel they are being loyal by pointing out areas for improvement or change. Perhaps you see this is as critical, but others may see it as necessary feedback. “Sustaining our leaders” is a tricky phrase with many possible interpretations.

  38. Now if the Church can just get “liberal” and “progressive” in the ways that I like (see Johns Locke and Milton), and not the icky “social justice” way I most definitely don’t like, everything will be peachy. With brown sugar and a sweet biscuit crust on top…mmmmmmm.

    Sign me up for this version of “liberal” and “progressive” as well!

  39. #34 jmb275—I fail to see your point. That is exactly what I was saying: that there are religious transgressions of law, and there are secular transgressions of law, and you can’t judge one by the other. In other words, you can’t say that Nephi broke God’s law by killing Laban, when it was God who told him to do it, even though he certainly broke secular law. If the lawmakers of Jerusalem got their hands on him, he would have certainly been punished (correctly) according to their law. I never hinted that the secular lawgivers should forgive transgression of secular law because Nephi was keeping a religious law. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was saying that Nephi, according to God’s law, did not “murder”, and therefore his killing of Laban is not a good example of someone who is punished for murder according to God’s law.

    #35 dblock—And I never said you said that. 🙂 What I have a problem with is when people take an aspect of human nature and apply it only to those who don’t agree with them. It isn’t conservatives who “voice a view and then call [another’s] faithfulness in question” when it doesn’t agree, that’s people, conservative, liberal, whatever.

  40. While many of the more “conservative” members do have a “my way or the highway” type attitude regarding personal interpretations, it is hardly restricted to conservatives. I’ve seen plenty of more “liberal” members of the church who possess the same kind of attitude that their view is more enlightened, more educated, more advanced, more individual (as opposed to following the crowd), and therefore more correct. There seems to be a stereotype that being liberal equals more open-minded and easy-going. In reality, how open-minded and easy-going someone is has more to do with their personality than their ideology. I’ve met just as many close-minded, uptight liberals as I have conservatives in and out of the Church.

    “Conservative,” “liberal,” and “progressive” are very relative terms. When the Church was established, it was considered HIGHLY liberal with such doctrines as God having a body and (gasp) additional scripture. One generation’s liberal is the next generation’s conservative. Even “progressive” has changed in the US quite a bit just in the 20th century. Today the Church is definitely considered socially and fiscally conservative (particularly in regards to the nature and role of the family and its members), but hardly can be considered “hardcore” conservative in terms of actually pronounced doctrines and policies (that’s not to say there aren’t hardcore conservatives in the Church however!).

  41. Jrid

    I would agree with you on your basic premis, but I’ve never herd, and or read a liberal calling someone an apostate because they just printed something a blogger doesn’t agree with.

    I have on the other-hand witnessed firsthand more conservative people feeling quite content in their belief system saying that certain people in the church and out of the church will burn in hell for not believing the same as they do. I’ve read that attitude on certain post on the Mormon Matter blogs in the past. I’ve also read it in on a post from a famous entertainer who happens to be Mormon.

    This has become a threadjack. I think we should return to the original OP piece and discuss the valid points of the article,rather than calling the writer an apostate simply because you disagree with her premise. That was uncalled for.

  42. Re SilverRain

    Presumptuous of us, yes, but not of God. I am speaking of theory, not judging individuals. I leave that up to God. We don’t need to question it at all.

    I am just trying to point out that your definition of infinite atonement presumed the idea that those who commit the “unpardonable sin” are not forgiven because they forever choose to reject the atonement. If the individual does change his/her mind and decide to accept Christ how does that change your definition of infinite atonement and how does that square with church teachings on the issue? Is the unpardonable sin intrinsically unpardonable (as I believe the church teaches) or is it, in fact, pardonable? If the former, then I say the atonement is not infinite.

    That is exactly what I was saying: that there are religious transgressions of law, and there are secular transgressions of law, and you can’t judge one by the other.

    Yes, I see this. But it is also a very dangerous road, and an unacceptable one for human societies particularly when it comes to something as grievous as murder. How are we to determine who is justified in their breaking of secular law for religious reasons and who is not? After all, if it happens here on Earth we have to deal with the loss of life. We can’t just simply “not judge” when people’s lives are taken.

  43. SilverRain: I am sorry that you concluded that I think you are ignorant. Not at all. I didn’t use that term.

    To be rather provocative, I think, you wondered aloud whether David had truly repented of his sin of murder. Since you didn’t seem to “remember” him doing that- please allow mrefresh your memory – and to provide those reading this blog, some scriptural evidence of both his confession and his repentance of sin.

    Davids Confession to God’s prophet in 2 Samuel:

    David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin.

    David’s confesson to his congregation:

    Psalm 32

    Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
    Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
    When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
    For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
    I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

    David’s confession to God:

    Psalm 51: A Prayer for Cleansing To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath–she’ba.

    Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness:
    according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
    For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

    Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:
    that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,
    and be clear when thou judgest.

    Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
    Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
    Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

    Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
    Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
    Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
    Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

    Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:
    and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
    O Lord, open thou my lipss: and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
    For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it:
    thou delightest not in burnt offering.

    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:a broken and a contrite heart, O God,
    thou wilt not despise.
    Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
    Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering:
    then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

    If you can provide a more profound and moving record of another man’s CONFESSION and REPENTANCE, SilverRain, please do post it.

  44. David A — please remember that we as Mormons are very good at dismissing the sincerity and intent of others. David may be saying the right words in the beautiful quote, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept it as real if there is contrary authority. Just like someone may say that they have prayed about the Book of Mormon and not received an answer that it is true, but we are okay dismissing them because they probably didn’t have a sincere heart, real intent, and faith. I’m honestly not trying to be snarky here. We truly have been conditioned to not take people at their word on certain things.

  45. SilverRain: Jacob J—Are you confusing exaltation with salvation?

    Nope, I meant exaltation. Eternity is a long time. People change dramatically during their adult lives of fifty years or so. Is it plausible to think that based on some action today a person can’t (or even won’t) change given a thousand years, or a million years, or an eternity of years? To me, it is not plausible. It strikes me as ludicrous, given what I know of people and their ability to change, coupled with what I know of God and his longsuffering desire to exalt us.

    Vort,

    Get a grip. Loyalty is a problematic virtue to begin with, certainly less obviously virtuous than, say, honesty. Even then, honesty is not the most important virtue. President Packer has suggested that usefulness is more important than truthfulness. If you’re going to get your panties in a bunch over something, pick a good solid virtue like kindness. Who knows, it might also spill over and help you deal with the disgust you feel when reading the thoughts of people you disagree with.

  46. Thanks so much for your candor, DrPepper: for me, if I can’t take the writers of the law, and of scripture at face value witbout second guessing their meaning or wondering if they are just putting one on, rather to just to believe what they wrote is what they meant leads to a dim view of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where it states that all scripture is God-breathed.

    A bit of light, though, in this rather dark discussion is Bruce R. McConkie who wrote that is there nothing which to compare in the *inspired teachings* with the Psalms of David. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine) I’ll take him at his word.

  47. The woman who said she wasn’t allowed baptism because of having had an abortion is leaving out vital information and “the rest of he story.”

  48. “rhetorical, emotional oratory” — what is interesting is that Brigham Young complained, at times, about the need he had to use that kind of oratory, hyperbole, to get people to listen to him.

  49. #49..I suspect that the woman denied baptism for having an abortion is not likely from my perspective. Over four years I interviewed a couple hundred woman seeking baptism who had had an abortion and were not turned away–and my training was that abortion was not a disqualification for baptism but discussed to assist someone to get past it and seek counseling if necessary. The reality is that we do not know all that occurred in that interview and never will in all likelihood. I had someone say that they were denied for such and such when in fact I knew it was for a practice that they refused to give up of a very serious nature.

    Aso to this post. Thank you BIV. Again, I coincidentally have just read Quinn’s account of blood atonement in Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. I can’t get some of the nightmare consequences of such teachings out of my mind right now. I have an ancestor that was there when MMM came down and he rejected what was to happen and afterwards what did happen. He became totally inactive and made his family to NEVER speak of John D. Lee in his home—my 90 year old mother reminded me of this recently.

    The teaching of blood atonement had consequences then and now. My mother’s side became pretty much all inactive for generations (still many are) because they knew of patriarchal “blessings” promoting vengeance/blood atonement; local leaders (SPs) in southern utah and John D. Lee seeing themselves and acting out as executioners based on some twisted blood atonement doctrine, and my ancestor saw the fruit of it firsthand–the accounts are horrific. I think unlike BY who saw MMM (even though no proof he authorized it ) as God’s vengeance (and blood atonement was his doctrinal justification in part if not wholly), that GBH did the right thing by confessing our role in those murders and implicitly in any rhetoric/teachings leading up to the many crimes committed by early Utah saints because of “blood atonement” teachings.

    I do not know what to make of all of this. But I will say this, that I was taught from youth that in mormonism I am only required to by “loyal” to the truth—and as my father taught me “Mormonism is about truth and anyone who tells you otherwise is not loyal to Mormonism” Now we can search, question, and re-examine our evidence and even our analysis but to swear allegiance to obvious error and shut our eyes to inconsistencies is not healthy nor “mormonism” –at least not the Mormonism I am loyal to…

  50. Ron and Trish: I suspect you are both right, and that this is not a usual situation. However, abortion is always referred to a higher authority by the missionary interviewing the potential member. Local leaders vary in the way they interpret doctrine and in this case the Stake President felt that it was a sin that could not be covered by the atonement. My point is just that in the past the doctrine has been understood this way, and from what we still have in our manuals, one can see why.

  51. Ron “and my training was that abortion was not a disqualification for baptism but discussed to assist someone to get past it and seek counseling if necessary” — that is my experience as well.

    BiV — sorry your Stake President went off the rails in the story.

  52. Great discussion! I’ve enjoyed reading all of it.

    I’m a convert of just 10 years. I’ve been taught from the get-go that Eternal Principles never change but church doctrines that rest upon Eternal Principles may change as living prophets guide a living church. However, the Eternal Principles will never change. Polygamy (for example) was a doctrine once taught but is not taught now even though it remains an Eternal Principle. Call me radical but it doesn’t bother me a bit if/when a doctrine changes, or if it’s no longer taught. If the church is a living, vibrant entity, such must be the case it seems to me.

  53. #44—”If the individual does change his/her mind” . . . and that’s just it. I imagine that part of what makes it unpardonable is that they are at a point when they won’t change their mind, just as Satan and his followers aren’t going to change their minds. In other words, there comes a point when you cut yourself off from God irrevocably. God doesn’t do it. You do it.

    “How are we to determine who is justified in their breaking of secular law for religious reasons and who is not?” And I think you aren’t hearing what I’m saying. You don’t have to determine this because you leave secular matters to secular government and religious ones to religious government. “Render to Caesar” and all that.

    David A—*sigh* I don’t think you understand my point. I don’t determine whether or not David actually did repent. I think the scriptures you cited COULD refer to any number of things David needed to repent for, and not to David’s sin with Uriah and Bathsheba, especially since we don’t know timing or context for the Psalms. I think when the Lord said David had lost his exaltation, that COULD have been referring to his polygamy, since that was taught to Joseph as essential to exaltation. We just don’t know, nor (to be blunt) do I care. What I am saying is that IF you take the Lord’s words in D&C at face value and assume that David will not now be exalted, THEN he must not have repented. I’m discussing doctrinal possibilities relating to losing exaltation, not trying to determine whether or not David has indeed lost his. I’m happy to leave that between David and God.

    Wow, Dr. Pepper. Your condescension is sweet enough to make my teeth hurt.

    dblock—You have a point. Liberals usually don’t use the word “apostate”. But, neither did Vort, initially. Funny how intimations can be made to that effect without actually using the word.

    Maybe it’s because I consider myself neither purely liberal nor purely conservative, but I don’t see a whole lot of difference between calling someone’s righteousness into question because they are “apostate” or between doing it by calling them “unChristlike”. It amounts to the same thing. There is a tricky balance between trying to gently draw someone’s attention to uncharitable behavior and uncharitably attacking them for not being charitable. I admit to some definite trouble finding that balance, myself, as this discussion probably demonstrates.

  54. In regard to David’s loss of exaltation (vis. D&C 132:39), another possibility is that Joseph Smith was in error in proclaiming such a judgment. Let’s not forget that this section of the D&C is also the same section used by JS and subsequent church leaders to insist that exaltation depended on entering a “celestial” (i.e. polygynous) marriage covenant. I reject that notion, and probably most of D&C 132 by extension. I have no idea about the current state of King David’s soul, nor do I care very much. I would prefer to believe in the possibility/probability of David’s true contrition, and in God’s ability and desire to forgive us all our trespasses. If we are wont to limit the atonement’s efficacy upon certain sins committed by others, doesn’t that place us in a precarious situation in regard to eternal salvation? How are we so sure that our own sins are able to be forgiven? We might not have ever killed someone, but what if we rejoiced in another’s death (Saddam Hussein, a serial killer, or even someone who cheated us out of something that we felt was rightfully ours)? We might not have ever committed adultery in the physical sense, but how many times have we fantasized about being with someone other than our spouse? What is the difference?

    On a different note, what I find interesting about David is that in Mormonism, words attributed to David are virtually unknown in LDS religious culture, whereas there is heavy emphasis in most other Christian religions on the Psalms in particular. For example, a bible publisher will often publish an edition of just the New Testament and the Psalms; also, Catholic monks and nuns are required to recite all 150 Psalms in the course of 7 days. Many Christian and Jewish groups find comfort and solace, confidence in and reliance upon God through these timeless poems, and yet they are largely absent from the LDS consciousness. I recall a story I heard growing up wherein a person was in the military and someone heard that he was a “priest” (because he had the Aaronic priesthood and had been ordained to that office), and invited him to officiate at the last minute at a funeral service. This young serviceman had no idea what to do, so someone suggested he lead the congregation in the recitation of “The Lord is My Shepherd”. Of course, he didn’t know the text by heart, and he didn’t even know where to find it until the Spirit whispered to him that it could be found in Psalm 23. Psalm 23! How many LDS don’t even know where “The Lord is My Shepherd” could be found, or if asked, could say what Psalm 23 was? I wonder if we don’t read and learn the Psalms in LDS religious practice in part because David lost his exaltation (and therefore his words aren’t worth reading?)? It is a pity, really; the Psalms humanize David, and we could learn much from such a complex and nuanced character instead of concentrating almost exclusively on one-sided boy scout leaders such as Nephi and Moroni. Anyway, sorry for the rant. What does everyone else think of the LDS approach to the biblical writings attributed to David?

  55. Oh and, my opinion on blood atonement: it was a superstitious and morally reprehensible doctrine based on an incorrect understanding of the nature of the Atonement. Why would a God require the shedding of more blood to “atone” for the shedding of other blood? This seems to me a corruption of the principle that repentance requires sacrifice from the penitent, in that somehow someone decided at some point that the nature of the sacrifice needed to parallel the nature of the sin committed. Eye for an eye, anyone? Except Jesus himself proclaimed a different mindset, and his own sacrifice was meant to abolish this way of thinking in favor of mercy. I find it sad that JS and others got caught up in trying to figure out all the ways in which one might limit the effects of the infinite atonement.

  56. “What does everyone else think of the LDS approach to the biblical writings attributed to David?”

    I remember teaching Gospel Doctrine and asking class members where they go in the scriptures for comfort. Most gave the stock answer, “Book of Mormon”. When I said I go to the book of Psalms, most had quizzical looks on their faces, suggesting, “Well, yeah, I guess you could go there.”

  57. “I wonder if we don’t read and learn the Psalms in LDS religious practice in part because David lost his exaltation (and therefore his words aren’t worth reading?)?”

    I think you have that exactly right. And the reason David is supposed to have lost his exaltation, is because Joseph was using his example to explain the law of polygamy.

  58. Silver Rain

    In my opinion, you do not have trouble finding the balance. To me you come across as being pretty fair minded, you don’t go to the extremes of any one argument. And at least you try to take into consideration what the other person is saying and even when you disagree, you don’t clobber the person over the head with it.

    I try to come off the same way. Sometimes I am not as eloquent as some of the other people who post, and I am working on that. I am cursed with having a quick temper. So when I read something that seems unusually harsh, or extreme I tend to react quickly. I don’t like the feeling that someone is being pick on simply because of what, or how they believe because its’ not up to me to be the judge of that.

  59. What the past prophet said on this subject was wrong. There, I said it.

    I’m grateful for ongoing revelation and the ability to receive personal revelation.

    Suggesting we be unquestioningly loyal to our leaders and to past interpretations instead of current interpretations leads to theories like the ones Jon Krakauer presented in his book, where lunatics are loyal followers and all mormons are idiot lemmings.

    Not my mormon experience.

  60. SilverRain — one more point – not to belabour but to qualify. You wrote: “we don’t know timing or context for the Psalms…”

    Not wanting to be accused of calling you ignorant again, and not knowing what you mean by “we”, I will simply point out what the Old Testament testifies regarding the timing of David’s confession, that he sinned by killing Uriah when Nathan came to him and accused him of being “that man”:

    From the AUTHORIZED KING JAMES VERSION WITH EXPLANATORY NOTES AND CROSS REFERENCES TO THE STANDARD WORKS OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS

    THE BOOK OF PSALMS
    PSALM 51

    David pleads for forgiveness after he went in to Bath-sheba—He pleads: Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.

    TO THE CHIEF MUSICIAN, A PSALM OF DAVID, **WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET CAME UNTO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATH-SHEBA**.

    Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
    For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

  61. Re SilverRain

    And I think you aren’t hearing what I’m saying. You don’t have to determine this because you leave secular matters to secular government and religious ones to religious government. “Render to Caesar” and all that.

    Hmm, I suppose we are talking past each other then. To me, I DO have to determine this because I live in the secular world. I mean I guess I personally don’t have to since I’m not a lawmaker, but we as a people do have to decide this. I guess we’re just saying the same thing.

  62. You know, I think that everybody gets too worked up about doctrine, and look to the leaders of the Church for what is true doctrine. They should look to the leaders for general guidance, and not doctrine on points that are not solidly established, namely “mysteries.” They should be seeking their own position for where the Holy Ghost leads them on these subjects. They should not get worked up that a PR statement like this one from the Church represents what is ultimately “true” or even what the Church will teach 20 years in the future. I have learned from personal experience that you simply cannot look to the Church for answers on many points. I have realized that the Church is there for authority to perform ordinances and to conduct meetings, but in truth, it was only there to lead you to Christ. After you have come unto Christ, you must learn from him personally. That doesn’t mean that you leave the church by any means, but it does mean that you de-couple yourself from the notion that the Church represents what is true doctrine on every minor point. The Church merely embodies an authorized organization on the earth that we are to be a part of until Jesus comes back and gives us further light and knowledge. Let the Church do what it needs to do and say what it needs to say to exist and prosper, but de-couple yourself from both the notion that you must look to these things for ultimate truth. The Church and correlation exist for the sake of being a worldwide missionary church in a hostile environment. It is a product of the context of its time and environment, and is navigating in hostile waters. After this order of the world ends, I’m confident that the incarnation of the church in days to come will not resemble a correlated thing, but will more closely resemble what the Savior has in mind for it, both in doctrine and organization, and will be more perfect than it is now.

  63. I loved your post. I have been thinking about this and as far I´am concerned I believe that our Father through Jesus Christ can make all things known to us in this life or after it. But nevertheless what do you think about D&C 19:15-17 pertaining ‘blood atonement’? 

  64. David is unquestionably forgiven in Scripture, and by our doctrine of “confess/forsake and I the Lord remember them no more”, as only a sincere, heart-changing, born-again confession and forsaking can and always does produce.  By our doctrine all sins can be forgiven, save only the sin of “denying the Holy Ghost” which has its very own qualifications of “seeking to kill the Lord Jesus Christ or his servants, and shedding their blood in open, knowing warfare with God.”

    David repented, was forgiven, and prophet of the Old and New Testament who spoke of David thereafter referred to him as “after God’s own heart”, or “like David…in holiness, goodness, righteousness…” and Christ is called “the Son of David” and “David” and Joseph Smith Jr. even names his still-unborn last son “David” before he goes to Carthage…in love of David, who loved the Lord with all his heart.

    And David prophetically speaks of Christ’s coming MORE than any other prophet in the Old Testament and truly he PROPHESIED  of Christ over and over again all through his beloved prophesies in the Book of Psalms….and the Prophet David is more quoted by Jesus Christ himself, than any other prophet.

    David is held as a major PROPHET by the Koran in scripture and by all the world of Islam; and by the Talmud…and the Jewish world.  Somehow, only we Christians, who profess to believe in the Atonement of Christ as being able to reach out and “scarlet becomes white as wool”, only we Christians and especially we Latter-day Saints (via the unprophetic Bible Dictionary) send him to hell and leave him there in our teachings….supposing we send the fear of God through the people to tell them not to Kill Uriah and not to bed Bathsheba all in one terrible example….when in fact BOTH can and will be forgiven by Jesus Christ if only one truly repents….and Scripture clearly says that David repented AND WAS FORGIVEN.

    And then we get to that scripture unique to the Latter-day Saints that says “David lost his exaltation”, and we seek to understand how this kind of statement from the Lord through the Prophet Joseph could possibly be in reference to the Prophet David, sending him to a perpetual Hell.

    Alas, it is not so.  In the full context of sacred scripture David saw his evil, confessed it to the Lord in one entire Psalms….confessed it to the Lord’s anointed (Nathan) and soulfully sought the Lord’s forgiveness and fully received it, and was praised for his righteousness and holiness before God in scripture over and over again by every prophet who spoke of him throughout the Bible.  

    So David lost his exaltation?  What exactly does that then mean to us as Latter-day Saints? On first glance we conclude self-righteously that David will suffer endlessly in Hell and well-deserved, that “dirty rat”.  On second glance we say “what exactly did he lose: exaltation?  Wow, he is still in the Celestial Kingdom…just not in that highest, most exalted state….way, way, way up there (3 or endless divisions like one star differeth from another in glory…), just not in that top 1/2 of 1% of the great ones?   Or on third thought: he is not yet exalted and must still atone in some way patiently, for his sin of responsibility for ordering the death of Uriah, and if David is faithful through the entire repentance and suffering process, and places his full trust and love in the Savior Jesus Christ…he will be FULLY FORGIVEN, as is our CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, for what sin can we not gain COMPLETE FORGIVENESS through the beautiful atonement of the Messiah?  

    None.  There is none, not of the sins David committed in this life.  And we should all be very,  very careful if we get caught up teaching even what our beloved LDS Dictionary claims as “truth” about David’s eternal soul, where if we have judged him poorly, it will be our own judgmental souls in danger of the hellfire and great sin, and not King David…prophet of the Lord God Jehovah and most quoted prophet of our Lord Jesus Christ while in the flesh.  David has his most heinous sins of a lifetime recorded in perpetuity for us to read and consider.  I see the recording and the reading of King David’s life in the Old Testament as a test for all who would judge him to Hell or “unforgiven”.  Here is the test: do you know the scriptures well enough and understand them deeply enough, and have you read the Old Testament slowly enough and with sufficient reflection on what you are reading….so that you can take in the whole picture of King David’s life and “judge well, and live!”

    If you fail this test, you have supposed yourself able to judge the soul of one of the greatest of all the prophets who has yet lived upon the earth….and just because you think you see his sin….you have not judged well, for you only know a very, very, very tiny part of King David’s story (only a few, myopic verses in all of Holy Writ), and you have not searched your scriptures carefully nor reflected deeply upon them.

    It is easy to send him off to eternal suffering and lost kingdoms, but I have pondered David’s “LDS-sentenced damnation” for many decades and as I grow in learning, understanding, spiritual awareness and curiosity (I always consider the other half of the untold story, no matter who is the story teller) I am very confident that in that celestial world to come, King David shall reign in love and glory…forgiven and sins forgotten by God and by all who have that godlike capacity to see beyond mere words and search them out in the full context of all that has been revealed and all that the Lord does now reveal….and the beauty of David’s life becomes a test to see which of us can comfortably leave his eternal salvation and glory fully in the hands of a forgiving and loving God.

    And if David can and is forgiven and sins forgotten of his most despicable crimes and failings….then just perhaps our terrible sins and failings of mortality….however great or small…just maybe ours too can really, really, literally be erased and gone and “white as wool” as promised by Jehovah via Isaiah 1:18.

    I love King David and my soul yearns to know him the way every marvelous prophet of God including Jesus Christ during his mortal ministry….to learn to know him that way, and to love and honor him, and in the next life to count his friendship dear….exactly the same way I expect to find my love and affection for Brother Joseph.

    Tell me your thoughts, as this topic only comes up in Gospel Doctrine class in church once every 4 years, and I always take the time to read to the class of David’s scriptural forgiveness and speak of the Atonement and of the Psalms and  David’s prophecies and Christ’s quoting the prophet David…..and eternal salvation in the Celestial Kingdom….and witness however strongly or humbly the Spirit allows me to do on behalf of this marvelous prophet of God I have come to know and love so dearly.

    David’s life and our understanding of it, is a marvelous TEST for each of us….as their is clear scripture on both  sides of the “saved/exalted or damned” discussion.  And soon we’ll know the answer.  Hope to see you there with us as we discuss the miracle of Forgiveness and man’s quick and failed judgment of much he does not comprehend, and of Christ’s infinite atonement and we’ll know then which of can and who cannot, forgive, as God does.

  65. I agree Andre Dean above.  The Lord never does anything by whim or convenience.  He does everything for the purpose of promoting His doctrine.  He didn’t kill David like He did Solomon.  He didn’t take the kingdom away from David but it continued united through Solomon’s reign and until Solomon started worshipping idols. 
          D&C 130 doesn’t say that David lost the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom, it says he lost “his” exaltation which could easily mean that he doesn’t get his 600 wives in the hereafter,  It also says that he will receive “his portion.”  I find it fancinating some are so quick to judge David’s eternal status and are so politically correct that they can’t point out the wicked acts of those around them.  The one thing that we are not supposed to judge is whether someone is damned or in which kingdom they will end up in.  That decision is Christ’s alone.  Not ours. 
         David has done more good in bringing people to Christ through his life and teaching than most of the prophets put together.  He never, like Solomon, abandoned the Lord or put Him in open shame.  David was loyal.   Yes, he made a hugh mistake that he has had to pay a ttremendous price for, during his lifetime and perhaps even after but the Savior’s atonement works for all types of sin and it is unbelievable that some try to discount the power of the atonement in David’s case.  It seems very foolish to do so.

  66. The LDS section of 132 on Eternal marriage comes from the LORD Jesus Christ, the God of Israel, known as the Lord Jehovah, the second member of the Divine Godhead. Jehovah is subordonate to Eloheim the Eternal Heavenly Father. Eternal life is synonymous to Eternal love and only Exlated married personages become Exalted parents, Kings and Queens in Celestial glory. This law is Absolute. Heavenly Father produced all of us, spirit sons and daughters because Eloheim’s Eternal companion is our Mother in Heaven and He has many honorable Celestial female spouses. The Lord Jesus Christ followed His Father Eloheim’s law of Eternal marriage by having Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene as His eternal companions. It is not my doctrine but the
    scripture 1 Corintians 11:11 says “Neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” Heavenly Father sealed in Marriage for eternity Adam and Eve and they both gained Eternal Lives and Godhood. Adam and Eve are Exalted beings and if Adam is a prototype of Christ just as Abraham is, surely the Lord  Jehovah, Adam’s superior Officer in the Priesthood married in the flesh Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene. Eternal Life CANNOT exist for single people, PERIOD.
    Eternal life implies Eternal Lives and the perpetuating of the Inter-Galactic race of immortal spirit beings.
    As for King David, the reason King David lost the possiblity of Eternal life is because of the murder of Uriah.
    If King David had NOT commited murder but confessed his sins to Nathan the prophet, the sin of adultery, there is every indication that the possible road back to Celestial glory and Eternal life would have been possible. The repentance process would have been DIFFICULT but still possible. Unfortunately, murder places a man guilty of that crime beyond the reach of Celestial glory. Even the middle terrestrial glory is impossible where the presence of the Lord Jesus is possible, without the Father’s presence.
    The eternal destiny of murderers with liars, sorcerers and adulterers is to suffer the wrath of God in hell until the second resurrection and be placed in the lowest degree called Telestial damnation (DC76: 101-112).
    David will be visited by the Holy Ghost in eternity but will be a servant of God. The Lord stated that telestial beings will be servants of God Eloheim and of Christ Jehovah but where the Supreme Creators dwell in Celestial glory, they cannot come, worlds without end.
    I am so sad that the vast majority of mankind, possibly over 90% or so will be placed in Telestial glory, a glory of very limited advancement.

    1. Possibly over 90%  Telestial? Wow, I’ve never heard anyone that pessimistic. Everyone will go where they choose. They’ll know what they missed out on, but they will all have a degree of happiness where they end up. A loving God whose plan involves the best of both justice and mercy will not leave anyone to suffer forever. Infinite suffering, finite duration.

  67. David’s sin was not murder alone because murder can be forgiven. To murder after becoming a prophet is considered “denying the Holy Ghost” which is unpardonable. The fact David did what he did after all he’d seen, experienced, and received is the true sin. Let me know if I’m on to something or just confused.

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