Expounding the Prophets

On March 4th 1843 the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith told the Nauvoo City Council:

Incense 5“I was 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 thereof ascend up to God; and if ever I have the privilege of making a law on that subject, I will have it so.” (History of the Church 5:296)

After Smith’s death and the prophetic mantle passed to Brigham Young, the second LDS prophet expressed some similar thoughts:

“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 might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course.” (Journal of Discourses 4:43, September 21, 1856)

Later that same day LDS Apostle Jedediah M. Grant preached:

“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.” (Journal of Discourses 4:49-51)

For discussion: What message do you think these LDS prophets, seers and revelators meant to convey to their listeners? What did they mean by their remarks?

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For further reading see Blood Atonement – If It Was Never Taught, Why Do So Many Mormons Believe It? by Bill McKeever.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Mormon History. Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to Expounding the Prophets

  1. Jacob5 says:

    Well Lautensack, I truly do appreciate your truly honest attitude with our discussions.
    If it may have seemed that man is good in my discussion, I would have to say that generally that is not the case.
    In science perhaps you have learned of the law of entropy. This is where, if anything is left on its own it will brake down to its baser elements. I believe that this is true about the nature of man. Without God’s influence man becomes a degenerate and lothsome individual. I have met many who have purposefully sought self gratification by simply doing “what comes natural.” Eventually there thoughts match their actions.
    Just as we have in the Book of Mormon, we say that the natural man (someone who just follows the natural course of self gratification) is an enemy to God.
    Mankind is naturally drawn to sin, but we also have the seed of divinity. We are capable of doing so much good as well.
    If we do look at all that God has done for us, perhaps we may think that free agency is impeded. But the fact of the matter is that we do have choice. Many argue how a God could let any of the death, destruction, disease, and depravity exist in this world. Because of the actions of single men, millions have been slaughtered. How could there have been an apostacy? Because, even though God does have a general knowledge of each and every one of us, He still had to let us chose. It is part of His plan. Joseph received no more influence than he had asked for. He did not receive his first vision until after much study and prayer.

  2. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    I am sorry I misunderstood that your belief on human nature, I guess the true question is why are we able to do “good?” If God is influencing us is He not impeding upon our free agency, because as can be seen in the world simply having the choice between right and wrong does not make us choose righteous actions, in fact we rarely see this unless it serves our higher goal. It seems to me that with one hand you are saying we must rely upon God to do good then with the other you are saying that we must invoke the grace of God by our own merit, eg. do good before God does good in us, for us, and through us.
    Also on a side note you said “God still had to let us chose.” This makes me wonder if God is bound by something outside of Himself which would in fact make Him less than God.

    Lautensack

  3. Jacob5 says:

    Well let us consider this, where does religion come from?
    There are two forces at play in our lives temptation from Satan, and the teachings and light and knowledge from God. Both are placed before us.
    Temptation works on our most base, carnal desires and uses small enticings of if it feels good do it.
    God works by the scriptures He has given us along with the influence of the Holy Ghost.
    However we do make the final choice. It will not be a good enough reason to simply say the devil made us do it.
    God will force no man to heaven. He will teach us what we need to know and let us govern ourselves. Like I said, there is only one who wanted to force mankind to do good always, and we know what happened to him.
    For your final comment, I would ask, do you believe that there are laws that God follows? If not, then that means we have chaotic God who is ever changing. If so, then I say that free agency is one of those laws. Just as it is a law that God cannot lie, or do anything that is not good. He is who He is because He follows laws many of which are beyond our comprehension. There are two laws also that bring in the atonement. These are the law of justice and the law of mercy. It is justice that says all mankind must pay for their sins, and the law of mercy that allow for Christ to pay the price of those sins.

  4. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you or you me, but I do not see the answer to my question in your response. Why is it we are able to do good? I see you say that we are influenced by both God and the Devil, but you also say that humans are not generally good. Therefore is it not reasonable to infer that unless God acts in our lives, with greater influence than the Devil, we will never choose Him? Or is there something intrinsic to humans that allows them to do good without God? This is what I mean when I ask “why are we able to do good?”
    As for your comment on God being chaotic and ever changing, is it your position then that your God is not changing, contrary to historical Latter Day Saint beliefs?

    Lautensack

  5. Jacob5 says:

    We members of the LDS church believe in what we call the Light of Christ. This is the general understanding of right and wrong. Pretty much an affect of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Although this does not open up to some of the higher commandments it still gives people a basic understanding of good and evil. This is what we call a conscience. Just as Satan uses temptation to entice us to sin. God uses the Holy Ghost to entice us to do good. Both influences are at play. We choose which we will do, chose to follow tempation or the Holy Ghost.
    As I explained the law of entropy, we just like water tend to flow with the easiest course. But when we choose to do good that also helps us. We feel the joy of following the commandments.
    Let me ask you, and you don’t have to answer directly, to think about how you felt when you did accept Christ? Now, after that point, did you become a perfect person that did not commit sin anymore? Then you also feel what it is like to sin against God. Here you now have the experiences of doing both good and evil, yet had God or Satan directly made you do such? No, you learned what your choices are and you made a decision. A repentent man would choose to follow the commandments in the future, whereas a natural man would continue to drift to the more base and carnal ways of life.
    As for your second question. It may seem appearant that with so many men making statements on so many different things that there is so much inconsistency, but I will say this. The basic doctrines and ordinances are still in place. Baptism is the same today as it was at the beginning. We still teach that it is through the atonement of Christ that we are saved. We still teach that you have to follow Christ’s commandments to show your faith in Christ. We teach that marriage between a man and a woman is an eternal principle. The root doctrines are still there and established. They have never changed.

  6. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    Your argument makes no sense, men know right from wrong, I agree, men will not do what is right unless influenced by God, I agree, therefor when the Devil and the Holy Ghost equally influence people some will choose right and some will choose wrong? That argument makes no sense to me, it means that there is something intrinsically good in the man who does good and innately evil in the one who does not. If this is not the case then is God not influencing the man who does good more than the one who does not?

    As to my conversion I would say that God was directly involved in my conversion, and He converted me by breaking the bondage of my will and thus I chose to follow Him when He freed me from the bondage of sin. I was oh so happy living in my sin and thinking myself much more highly that I ought to. Yet when I was bought and paid for by my Master, with His own blood. In the mist of blood and tears He saved me from my sin and His wrath against it. So yes while I do choose to love and follow Him, it is because He first loved me and laid His life down as a propitiation for me.

    As for your second answer, I was not speaking of Doctrine, though that flows from the question, I was speaking of the Snow Couplet, “As man is God was, as God is man may become.” Do you deny that your God does change in this manner or not? That was the question I was getting at, because to say that because my God is not ruled by anything outside of Himself and therefore must be changing, we must wonder about your Deity, who though ruled by external laws is also ever changing (progressing), or is He not?

    Lautensack

  7. Jacob5 says:

    I don’t think it is a matter of being enately good or evil. We are put on this earth and given physical bodies. With these bodies we are tested. They have emotions, fatigue, disease, death, etc. We are also given one of the most important gifts, procreation. Now as I explained about the natural man, it is one who gives in to temptations of carnal desires. But, as you said, God does also influence us through the Holy Ghost. This enspires us to do acts of good, strive to become noble in our acts and thoughts. Otherwise, if there were no feelings of joy or happiness when following His will, who would ever desire to do good. Yet it is a difficult thing to always do good because we are constantly being pulled down by natural desires as well.
    Now, as I have explained that, we all do have our own characteristics. Some do fall short of the mark, some don’t even try to hit it, and some work hard all there lives to try to be the best person they can (regardless of religion). This is well ensampled in the dream of Lehi. Some didn’t follow Christ at all. Some begin to follow Christ and were eventually led away by other diversions. Some took hold of Christ, turned away from the diversions and made it to the end, but eventually succumbed to derission and slander (I am sure you have seen those in your faith who after accepting Christ fell away). And finally there were those who stayed true their whole lives (which does not mean they were perfect, but repented and followed the commandments as often as they could).
    God knows each and eveyone of us and He knows what we are capable of. And, while he knew that He would lose many of us, He still had to give us the choice, the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. This was another sacrifice He gave. Instead of keeping us all in heaven with Him where it would be sure that we would be with Him but without any progression, He sacrificed our possible loss so that we would be given a chance to progress, gain a body.

  8. Jacob5 says:

    As for your second answer. I would have to say no. They way you phrase it makes it sound that if God ever existed in a way that meant he had to go through tests and trials and progress as we do, it seems as if He is a changing God.
    If I say that God is the law, and the law is God, do you disagree?
    Let us consider a supreme court judge. They learn about the law and progress in their knowledge. Now, granted even though the supreme court is a group of men and not one man, we still assume that the supreme court is the formost knowledge on constitutional law. Now you can chop up a justice’s life and simply pick a point and say, well he wasn’t always a justice becuase look at him now, but there is no refutiating that he is still a justice.
    There was also a time when we were not yet created as spirit children of God, yet would you use that to refudiate that He is our Father?
    My point is God is eternal, and even though there was a time when in His line of progression He may have not had the total experience in a past point as he does now, is obsured, and our church does not teach that. It is an idea created by others to misrepresent our churches belief. We believe He is God and Eternal. He is the Father. He is the Law. He is the creator of all that we see and cannot see which yet does exist.
    The comment you use does not denegrate God but teaches us that we, AS HIS CHILDREN, can follow the same course as He has.
    Finally let me propose this question. We do know that God is perfect. I will say, if we are made clean in the blood of Christ, then would that not mean our sins are washed away? What then is a man who has been washed of sin, is he not sinless? If a man is made sinless, even if it took an atonement to get that way, what is that man if he is not made perfect? It is said that our sins will no longer be remember. Then what becomes of a sinless perfect man? Yes he would be able to life with the Father again, but what next? I will wait.

  9. Michael P says:

    Jacob, so you disagree with the comment, As men God once was, and as God man might become?

  10. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    As to your first post of men being choosing God or not, is it not fair to say that if two men are equally exposed to the Spirit, and one chooses God then other rejects Him, that it was something in the first that was meritorious in his choice, therefore negating Grace? If that is the case, then how can you suggest that there was not something intrinsically good within the one who chose God that is not within the one who does not, be it something as simple as the former being more in tune to the spiritual than the latter?

    My position on the Law is that it flows from the Holiness of God, and is in fact subject to God’s will. Thus with a God who’s nature and essence are unchanging and immutable, the Law is held to the unchanging standard of God’s nature.

    As to your theology of the eternal progression of God, are you denying and renouncing Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet theology, an official position held by your Church? I understand that your focus is not on God but man, however with couplet theology we cannot have one without the other. Your justice argument is invalid as no justice claims to be perfect.

    I believe that we were created, and that does not refute the fact that God is God, nor does it denote change in His nature. Let me use you as an example, if you become exalted it must be fair to say that your nature changed from a sinful one to one of perfection correct?

    In Christian theology we are declared righteous, justified, not made perfect, if that were the case once converted we would never sin again. It is when we enter into eternity we will be made perfect with all the believers from the past as Heb 11:40 states. However taking your view prescribed in your previous post will not all men be exalted to the same level if all sins have been washed away by the atonement of Christ? Will not even the sins of unbelief and failure to adhere to the “Laws and Ordnances of the Gospel” be forgiven unto perfection and thus exaltation?

    Lautensack

  11. Ralph says:

    I have given an explanation of God not changing in the LDS belief in regards to the couplet when we had the post a few months ago.

    Think of it like a butterfly, there are various stages of growth and development which it goes through, egg, larva, pupae and adult. All the time it is the same animal, just looks different at each stage.

    We have been called gods in embryo by our church leaders. We have always had the potential to become like our Father in Heaven as we are His children. Now a human has always been a human no matter what stage of life. Your DNA was human since it first came into existance on this earth many thousands of years ago regardless of whether you believe in evolution or not. When you were seperate gametes you were still human; at conception as a zygote you were human; and so on. This is just a stage of development for us. This life is a proving ground for the rest of eternity. we have existed from forever starting as uncreated intelligences and we will live forever as resurrected beings. But only a few of us will reach our full potential and become like our Heavenly Father. But all through this time our fundamental character has never changed – we are the same ‘species’, for want of a better word, from go to woe.

    So yes, the couplet can and does describe an unchanging God.

  12. Michael P says:

    Ralph, are you the same you were as a child? Do you view the world differently than you did when in grade school? Since the likelihood is that you do view it differently, it is also true that you have changed. You say this may be a stage of development, but a stage of development defines a change.

    God is unchangeable, in every sense of the word. Unchangeable means he never grows or develops; he doesn’t need to. He is perfect and always has been. His glory has shown from eternity, and will shine always. So, unlike a butterfly, God is unchangeable.

  13. Jacob5 says:

    Lautensack,
    I am going to go by paragraph.
    P1. We also teach in our church that men are not tested beyond their capability. Although some may feel that it is too much at times, there is still choice on how we deal with the situation. No 2 tests are the same, even though similar events may occur. The wonderful thing about the plan of salvation tho is the law of mercy which allows for repentence. This gives us a chance to repent of our wrong choices (sins)but that along with obedience is th whole point. When we do follow commandments we become more in tune with the Spirit which in turn helps us better follow the commandments, however we still do sin which again does require repentence. But remember, without the atonement, repentence is impossible. Repentence is our giving up our sin to Christ.
    P2. I agree. Like I said God = Law = God.
    P3. I never denied what Lorenzo Snow said. I believe it to be a pretty accurate statement. But there is a perfect justice and that comes from God. If we sin we are damned. Yet mercy through the atonement fulfills the demands of justice, yet allows us to become clean once again.
    P4. I find that to be an accurate statement.
    P5. No, not all men will be exalted. Those who do not chose to follow Christ, or have fallen away from Christ will not receive exaltation. We also believe that all men will receive the fullness of the gospel and be given a choice, whether in this life or the next before the final judgement. The law does in itself exalt man, but first faith in Christ then following His laws and continuing to the end.
    No man will be saved in ignorance.

  14. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    Ok, if men are not tested beyond their capability, and we are morally neutral with though we degenerate without the influence of God, how is it possible that any man chooses God?
    Actually I do not agree that the Law = God, rather the Law flows from God and is subject to Him. It is a subtle difference, but there is a difference.
    I thank you for your honesty in section P4. therefore if you do become exalted would submit to your spirit children that you are from everlasting to everlasting God, and that there is no shadow due to change in you? Or will you differ from God in that manner?
    As for sections P3&p5, what sins did Christ die for? There are three options, Christ died and bore God’s wrath against sin for either, 1)all the sins for all men, 2) some sins of all men, or 3) all sins of some men? Also do you define unbelief and failure to adhere to the Laws and Ordnances of the Gospel sins or not?

    Lautensack

  15. Jacob5 says:

    Lautensack,
    Don’t forget one thing. We are all children of God. He is our Father. With that we have the seed of divinity. We were given physical bodies so we can advance in our progression. We are given scriptures, and we are given the Holy Spirit as I have described with the belief of the Light of Christ.
    For the last part I would ask you if you have read the Book of Mormon. If you have you would have read Alma 11. This perfectly answers your question about what sins Christ died for. for those who follow Christ and submit Him as a little child (following the commandments and repenting) their sins would be cleansed. Whereas for those who reject Christ (after hearing the complete gospel mind you) it will be as if the atonement happened for them. They will be made to suffer for their own sins and they will not have the gift of eternal life (life with God). What all will receive no matter what is the resurrection as physical death comes whether we are repentant or wicked.

  16. Lautensack says:

    And I say unto you that he cannot save them in their sinsl for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
    - Alma 11:37

    Jacob5, I assume you believe this then correct? If we cannot be saved in our sins then how are we saved from our sins, or were you not in your sin when you were saved from your sin?

    You refer to the seed of divinity, yet you also say that we revert to our sinful nature without God’s guidance. Thus I must ask what ultimately causes us to repent, the seed of divinity in us, or the guidance of God outside of us? If it is the former then it is something intrinsically better in the person who repents than the one who does not, if it is the latter then you must submit that God does interfere with our will in some manner.

    Lautensack

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