Last week The Associated Press reported,
Defense asks for no Mormons on murder trial jury
OGDEN, Utah — An attorney for a man charged with aggravated murder have filed a motion to keep off the jury any members of the Mormon church who might believe that the only way for him to be forgiven by God is to be executed.
Sharon Sipes, a public defender for Riqo Perea, filed the motion in 2nd District Court. She says a belief among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the only way to receive true forgiveness from God after committing a serious offense is to shed one’s own blood.
Sipes says that although the church has indicated blood atonement isn’t part of official doctrine, members widely believe it.
Perea, 21, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in a gang-related 2007 shooting. Perea could face the death penalty. (Wednesday, 11 February 2009)
Mormon leaders unapologetically taught the doctrine of individual blood atonement from the early years of the LDS Church into the twentieth century.
Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith said,
“I am opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground and let the smoke ascend thereof up to God…” (March 1843, Documentary History of the Church 5:296).
LDS Apostle Jedediah M. Grant, second counselor to Brigham Young, taught,
“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” (September 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:49-51).
Mormonism’s second prophet Brigham Young told the Latter-day Saints:
“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 … Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved in the kingdom of our God and our Father and being exalted, one who knows and understands the principles of eternal life, and sees the beauty and excellency of the eternities before him compared with the vain and foolish things of the world, and suppose that he is taken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin he knows will deprive him of the exaltation he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but would say, `shed my blood that I might be saved and exalted with the Gods?’ All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?” (February 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:219).
Joseph Fielding Smith, the man who became Mormonism’s tenth prophet, wrote,
“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… Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf” (circa 1904, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:134-135).
Then LDS Seventy (later LDS Apostle) Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
“But under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the law of God is that men must then have their own blood shed to atone for their sins” (1966, Mormon Doctrine, 92).
BYU professor Robert Millet was once asked about the early LDS teachings on blood atonement. As he tells the story, statements made by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Jedediah Grant prompted the inquiry. Dr. Millet replied,
“I’m aware of those statements. Yes, they were taught, but they do not represent the doctrine of our Church” (2003, “What is Our Doctrine,” The Religious Educator, Volume 4, Number 3, 18).
It’s no wonder at all that many Mormons believe in individual blood atonement and mistakenly suppose it to be an official doctrine of the LDS Church. If it’s true that many Mormons believe this teaching, it’s wise for any defense attorney representing someone charged with a capital crime to choose a jury devoid of Latter-day Saints. While these folks would probably be smart, honest and thoughtful jurors, it could be risky if they agree with Jedediah Grant who said, “We would not kill a man, of course, unless we killed him to save him…” (Deseret News, July 27, 1854).
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)
For further reading:
Blood Atonement – If It Was Never Taught, Why Do So Many Mormons Believe It?