Mormonism and Blood Sacrifice

A local TV station in Indianapolis ran a story earlier this month (16 October 2015) headlined, “Suspect harrassing Mormon Church elder allegedly had goal of blood sacrifice.” Journalist Derrik Thomas explained,

“A prominent local attorney, who is an elder in the Mormon Church, has been harassed, and fears for his safety and the safety of his family.

“The suspect accused of harassing Elder Paul Sinclair is a former member of the Mormon Church…

“In court documents, a witness told detectives that one goal [suspect Lee] Baker had was to kill an elder on temple grounds as a blood sacrifice.”

Lee-Kathy-BakerLast July Lee Baker was engaged in Christian outreach during the Indianapolis Indiana Mormon temple open house. It was during the outreach that he met and spoke with Paul Sinclair, as well as many other Latter-day Saints.
I don’t know Lee Baker well, but I have met him, and his wife Kathy, and I have observed him engaging in evangelism on the streets of Manti. I have heard his testimony of being brought out of Mormonism to new life in Christ. I have witnessed his expressions of love for the lost Mormon people. Nothing I have ever observed would suggest that this accusation against Mr. Baker has any foundation in truth.

But what, then? I haven’t seen the court documents to which the news story referred, which means the information I have is merely hearsay. Nevertheless, I’ve been pondering this sensational accusation against Lee Baker and wondering where it could have come from. I have a few ideas.

The setting was a Mormon temple. Mr. Baker was there as a Christian evangelist. Is it possible that Lee was misunderstood as he was explaining the differences between the purpose of a Mormon temple vs. the purpose of the biblical temple? Unlike Mormon temples, the Old Testament temple was a place of sacrifice, often involving the blood of animals. Animals were continually killed on temple grounds as provisional atonement for the sins of the people. It could perhaps be said, then, that the purpose of the biblical temple was to kill animals as a blood sacrifice. Could Mr. Baker’s explanation of the biblical temple have been terribly misunderstood?

Perhaps it was an explanation of Mormon temple rituals that led Mr. Baker’s accuser to form such a strange idea of what Lee said. Before 1990 Mormons who participated in the LDS temple Endowment ceremony pantomimed graphic penalties of throat slitting, having their hearts torn out, and disembowelment; they agreed to be killed by these gruesome methods if they ever revealed the secrets of the temple. Perhaps Mr. Baker’s explanation of what he was required to do when he went through the temple as a Mormon was so shocking that his words were misinterpreted.

It could be that Mr. Baker was misunderstood as he discussed the doctrine of blood atonement as taught by early Mormon Church leaders. This doctrine states

“But 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 in his power lies — for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:134)

As earlier Mormon Church leaders put it,

“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…” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:53)

“I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty…This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:220)

“But if the Government of God on earth, and Eternal Priesthood, with the sanction of High Heaven, in the midst of all his people, has passed sentence on certain sins when they appear in a person, has not the people of God a right to carry out that part of his law as well as any other portion of it? It is their right to baptize a sinner to save him, and it is also their right to kill a sinner to save him, when he commits those crimes that can only be atoned for by shedding his blood…We would not kill a man, of course, unless we killed him to save him.” (Jedediah Grant, Deseret News, July 27, 1854, 2)

“…if they are covenant breakers we need a place designated, where we can shed their blood… Brethren and sisters, we want you to repent and forsake your sins. And you who have committed sins that cannot be forgiven through baptism, let your blood be shed, and let the smoke ascend, that the incense thereof may come up before God as an atonement for your sins, and that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.” (Jedediah Grant, Journal of Discourses 4:50-51)

ShedBloodBecause Mr. Baker left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism brands him a “covenant breaker.” Based of the teachings of early Mormon leaders, if anyone should fear being killed as a blood sacrifice on Mormon temple grounds, it would be Mr. Baker, not the people he is trying reach with the Gospel of Christ. Nevertheless, it’s possible that someone hearing Mr. Baker explain the early Mormon doctrine of blood atonement could have misunderstood.

Maybe Mr. Baker was merely retelling the story of Jesse Hartly. As told by Mr. Hartley’s widow:

“I married Jesse Hartly, knowing he was a ‘Gentile’ in fact, but he passed for a Mormon, but that made no difference with me, although I was a Mormon, because he was a noble man, and sought only the right. By being my husband, he was brought into closer contact with the members of the Church, and was thus soon enabled to learn many things about us, and about the Heads of the Church, that he did not approve, and of which I was ignorant, although I had been brought up among the Saints; and which, if known among the Gentiles, would have greatly damaged us. I do not understand all he discovered, or all he did; but they found he had written against the Church, and he was cut off, and the Prophet required as an atonement for his sins, that he should lay down his life. That he should be sacrificed in the endowment rooms; where human sacrifices are sometimes made in this way. This I never knew until my husband told me, but it is true. They kill those there who have committed sins too great to be atoned for in any other way. The Prophet says, if they submit to this he can save them; otherwise they are lost. Oh! that is horrible. But my husband refused to be sacrificed, and so set out alone for the United States: thinking there might be at least a hope of success. I told him when he left me, and left his child, that he would be killed, and so he was. William Hickman and another Danite, shot him in the canyons; and I have often since been obliged to cook for this man, when he passed this way, knowing all the while, he had killed my husband. My child soon followed after its father, and I hope to die also; for why should I live? They have brought me here [to Green River], where I wish to remain, rather than to return to Salt Lake where the murderers of my husband curse the earth, and roll in affluence unpunished.” (as told to Mary Ettie V. Smith, Mormonism: its rise, progress, and present condition, 310-311)

This is a story of an apostate Mormon elder who was killed on temple grounds (the Endowment House) as a blood sacrifice. It’s quite easy to imagine that a Mormon could hear this story and misconstrue the whole thing.

The sensational accusation against Lee Baker has more foundation in Mormonism than in evangelical Christianity. What I know about Mr. Baker is that he longs to see Mormons come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And he knows that Jesus is the One who has already made the only sacrifice that can save sinners (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10).

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 Early Mormonism, Mormon History, Mormon Temple and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Mormonism and Blood Sacrifice

  1. falcon says:

    This is one of the strangest, weird, crazy things I’ve ever heard.
    Like Sharon, I don’t know Lee and Kathy Baker but I’ve watched enough interviews of him and presentations by him to say that this is totally out of character. It makes no sense. I’ve been looking for more information on this but haven’t been able to find much. It’s my understanding that Lee Baker has been counseled not to speak out at this time. I think, given the precarious position he is in, that that is wise counsel.
    Who could even come-up with such a bizarre notion that someone wants to sacrifice an LDS on a temple grounds? I think Sharon may be on to something here. I do know this. Lee is a very effective evangelist for Christ to the Mormon people. Think of the broader implications here if the LDS church decides to come against those who are bringing the Gospel of Christ to those trapped in the maze of Mormonism?
    I remember talking to the man who runs the Christian outreach center in Nauvoo. He was telling me about going out to the local pageant in the evening and witnessing to Mormons. He said that a couple of groups not associated with his outreach would come out and basically yell and scream at the Mormons. It was his impression that the LDS higher-ups sort of liked this because 1) it made Christians look like idiots and 2) it could reinforce the idea the LDS have about being persecuted.
    I know the Christian community is in prayer for Lee and we need to continue because this is a spiritual battle.

  2. falcon says:

    It’s my understanding that one of the really bad things a Mormon can do is “bear false witness”. I have the sense that this is what is happening in the Lee Baker case. If the LDS who is going after Lee is doing this, it’s a very serious matter. But my guess is that he is feeling perfectly justified in doing so. After all Lee is an apostate Mormon and is now counted as an enemy of the restored gospel.

  3. Mike R says:

    Falcon,

    I agree this is a bizarre story , it will interesting to learn more and to see just what is going on .

    Speaking of bizarre , Mormon leaders with their counterfeit gospel have taught some strange things about God , but also about salvation , and Brigham Young’s preaching about atoning for certain sins is an example .

  4. falcon says:

    Mike,
    I wonder if this LDS who’s bringing these charges has thought a head to the possible implications if he is having to take the stand. And what if Lee Baker testifies in his own defense and all of the weird and wacky world of Mormonism is exposed in court. I think if we just take a look at some of the issues that Sharon brought up in her article were examined, it might prove embarrassing for the “modern” LDS religion.
    Think about it. How would the boys who sit in the big chairs in the tall building in SLC like a daily examination of all of this in the daily newspaper and in the other media. I would say it would all be fair game if they start bringing up the charge as it currently is stated. The PR department of the LDS church would have to weigh their desire to get Lee Baker off of the spiritual battle field with whether they’d like Mormonism exposed.
    I’m guessing cooler heads will prevail and a phone call will be made or a visitor from SLC will appear.

  5. Mike R says:

    The first thing that crossed my mind when I read this thread was that some prominent Mormon decided to embarrass and thus hamper the outreach of the Christians who were ministering at the Mormon temple open house . I think I’ll stick with that assumption for now . But hopefully we’ll know the full truth about this incident some time in the near future .

  6. Tommeltj says:

    Yeah, after reading the story and the above comments, I can’t help but wonder if someone isn’t taking a cue from the Scientology playbook. “Suppressive Person” is the worst label you can get as a former Scientologist, and there are more than a few stories of accusations of assault, murder and child pornography (a favorite, apparently) that have been dealt with by former members. I do doubt that it’s anything that organized in this case, but can’t help but wonder if someone heard one of the stories Sharon relates and decided to run with it just to get Mr Baker out of their hair for a few months, or permanently.

  7. falcon says:

    “In court documents, a witness told detectives that one goal [suspect Lee] Baker had was to kill an elder on temple grounds as a blood sacrifice.”

    Think about this. Lee Baker is being accused of plotting a murder. First of all does anyone know how difficult it is for one human being to kill another (human being)? It’s perhaps the most difficult thing in the human behavioral set to do. Even in a fit of rage, it’s not all that easy. Now think about plotting and scheming not only to kill someone but to sacrifice them. That would be in the almost zero probability category. So just playing the odds here, it’s not just highly unlikely but like no chance at all.
    Do the LDS really want to play this game? They will be exposed as fools but it does allow them to collect their favorite feeling which is to feel persecuted and put-upon. Am I going out on a limb here on Lee Baker’s behalf? I’ll take that chance. But the whole deal does sound very Mormon doesn’t it?

  8. historybuff says:

    Falcon —

    I think you’re right: a visitor from Salt Lake City will arrive, counsel with that LDS “lawyer” who filed the charges, and the charges will be dropped. The Church can’t afford this kind of humiliation when the facts come out in court and it becomes obvious that the complainant either misunderstood what was happening or got Lee Baker confused with some of the more militant and crude protesters who sometimes show up at these events.

    If it goes to court, one of the first things that will happen will be Lee Baker taking the stand and explaining exactly what he said — on the record. If he was talking about the Mormons’s belief in blood atonement, it would be far too embarrassing for the Church to let the trial continue.

    The one who’s really going to come out of this badly is going to be that “prominent local attorney” — and I seriously doubt that that description is accurate — who filed the bogus charges. The Church will not be pleased with his behavior.

  9. falcon says:

    Really, when you look at this complaint you’d have to say that the person being charged, if true, has to be a psychopath. So will they have Lee Baker undergo a psychological evaluation? If so, will the psychiatrist be called to testify?
    I’d say the person who is behind this attack on Lee Baker has a screw loose. He’s the one that should undergo a psychological evaluation. Is this really where the LDS church wants to be? They have absolutely nothing to gain here.
    I would say that what we’ll next hear is that Lee Baker is being offered a plea agreement. This happens when the prosecution wants to drop the charges but can’t stand the humiliation of doing so. So they’ll come up with some sort of bogus “no contest” plea to harassment or some such other dumb thing.

  10. historybuff says:

    If the prosecutor offers Baker a plea bargain, Baker would be foolish to accept it. Right now, Lee Baker has a platform and the high moral ground. He should accept nothing less than a dismissal of all charges, and even at that he’s probably hoping this goes to trial so he can present his case.

    Again, I’m pretty sure the Mormon Church is not at all pleased that charges were filed.

  11. historybuff says:

    A bit of research reveals that the Mormon Church may be behind these criminal charges, and they may be very serious about it, too, even though it may seem to a reasonable observer that the Church has made a terrible mistake that will expose it to a hugely embarrassing criminal trial that discloses information about the Church’s former blood covenants in the temple and its doctrine of blood atonement.

    It turns out that Paul Sinclair, the complainant in this case, is a former LDS stake president (similar to a Catholic bishop) who was “promoted” by the Mormon Church in April of this year to be an Area Seventy (much like a Catholic cardinal). So he is not some wild-eyed LDS zealot acting as a loose cannon on the good ship Latter-day Saints. He is a high Church official quite probably acting on the Church’s instructions. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/new-general-authorities–young-men-presidency-and-primary-presidency-changes-announced

    He is also an Indianapolis lawyer specializing in labor and employment law, which means he should be extremely familiar with Constitutional law, including the First Amendment and free speech issues. http://www.icemiller.com/people/paul-harrison-sinclair/ This does not look like the work of an independent Mormon fanatic.

    In light of this, it becomes very possible that this entire scenario was engineered by the Church leaders in Salt Lake City to see if they can find a new way to stop Christians from demonstrating at LDS temples and pageants, and even on public streets. Lee Baker was “arrested and charged with 22 counts of stalking, intimidation and invasion of privacy.“ It appears that Baker was also charged with violating a temporary restraining order, even though Sinclair initiated the illegal contact with Baker. http://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/suspect-harrassing-mormon-church-elder-allegedly-had-goal-of-blood-sacrifice

    If the Mormon Church can make these charges stick, and if Christians, the ACLU, and other civil rights organizations stand by and let this happen, it could be a very long and dark period for evangelism and free speech. And the result could even backfire against the Mormon Church if Christians file the same charges against the Mormon missionaries.

    As uncomfortable as Christians may be aligning themselves with the ACLU ( http://www.aclu-in.org/ ), that may be the only rational reponse here. If not, well, Welcome to the Dark Ages…

  12. falcon says:

    This is indeed spiritual warfare.
    But remember Paul saying that his imprisonment had turned out for the greater good of the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So who’s doing the persecuting here. The LDS church definitely has a burr in its saddle when it comes to Lee Baker. He must be a very effective evangelist for Jesus Christ and a person who the LDS church fears in uncovering the truth about this sect.
    Quite frankly, I can’t believe it’s happening but it’s a shot across the bow of Christians and their efforts regarding Mormonism.

  13. historybuff says:

    Lee Baker is an intelligent, effective advocate and one assumes that he knows what he’s doing and that he hasn’t done anything stupid. One must also assume he won’t do anything stupid. Matthew 10:16 That being the case, I would bet that his attorney has already contacted the ACLU and several Christian groups for assistance.

    In fact, there are a number of other free speech advocacy groups that might be interested in filing briefs on Baker’s behalf. For example:
    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faq/frequently-asked-questions-religious-liberty
    http://firstamendmentcoalition.org/about/contact-us/
    http://www.afj.org/our-work

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