Blood Atonement

This book is copyrighted material.  It may be duplicated for educational purposes only and only in its entirety.

Kevin Kraut



Table of Contents

Pioneer Publishing
1067 E Cumorah Dr
Genola, UT  84655


At Calvary the Savior of the world hung upon a cross between two thieves. Said one of the malefactors, `We receive the DUE REWARD OF OUR DEEDS: but this man hath done nothing amiss.’ All three were making an atonement for sin–with their blood.

Blood is the only element in nature that has a repulsive appearance. God intended it to be that way. This aversion is meant to keep man from shedding any blood except in compliance to God’s law. Blood carries both the elements of life, and the corruptions of the body. Shedding blood can mean death or atonement, and therefore can be sinful or sacred.


I am indebted to many good friends who have contributed much encouragement and assistance in the completion of this volume. It is with special appreciation that I acknowledge Hal Jensen for rescuing me from numerous press problems; Merle Graffam for contributing many illustrations; and Fred Collier for his help in the final production.



Chapter                                                                                                 Page


1             ANIMAL SACRIFICES ……………….5

2             LIFE OF THE BODY ……………….13

3             SACRIFICE AND THE SACRAMENT ……..19

4             TESTAMENTS AND TESTATORS ………..27



7             DEATH AND ATONEMENT …………….67

8             MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE ……….95

9             ORRIN PORTER ROCKWELL ………….121

10          THE DANITES …………………..142

11          THE CONTROVERSY ……………….164

12          CONCLUSION ……………………198



Blood, in the scriptures, is ascribed with a sacredness which belongs to life itself. It is, therefore, the essence, or the life of the body. When blood is shed, it often represents the sacrifice of life.

Blood has also become a mystical part of many religious ordinances among Hebrew, Christian, and some Pagan religions. Because sacrificial blood has been incorporated into both sacred and vile practices of men’s religion, it is necessary to understand the reasons why men have used blood atonement as a part of their articles of faith. By searching into the pages of ancient scriptures, and in the light of contemporary religion, the reason, purpose and scope of blood atonement become more clear and understandable.

Christians must first come to a realization that man’s salvation was established before the creation of this earth. It was then that the fall of man and his eternal redemption, was predicated upon the principle of atonement, by the shedding of blood. The life, death and the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ was planned before He was born. It was `…the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (I Peter 1:19-20) that caused Christ to be called the `Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ (Rev. 13;8)

Thus, nearly two thousand years ago, the eternal destiny of every man rested upon that solitary life of Christ as He hung upon a cross at Calvary. Eventually every man will be obliged to recognize that their eternal salvation is predicated upon that sacrifice. In the crucifixion of Christ, He fulfilled hundreds of ancient prophecies, and completed a most sacred and necessary obligation to mankind. The resurrection and salvation of men are dependent upon the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Hence by the fall of one man, Adam, we inherit sin and death; then by the atonement of another, Jesus Christ, we are able to be saved and redeemed from that mortal fall. Christ paid the price of that obligation and thereby became our Savior and Redeemer. This then, is the basic doctrine of blood atonement.


[5]                               Chapter 1


And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Gen. 8:20)

The ordinance of animal sacrifice was first instituted by Adam. Then for nearly four thousand years, righteous men offered these same sacrifices in blood, to commemorate the “Great Sacrifice” of their Messiah, who was to come in the Meridian of time. This Messiah would be their Savior and Redeemer. This ritualistic ordinance of spilling animals’ blood was a recognition of their faith in the blood of that Messiah who would spill His blood for them. These sacrificial animals, placed on an altar of stones, were killed by the shedding of their blood. This was done for a type, or an imitation of the sacrifice of the life and blood of their Savior.

However, it took only a short time for men to make changes in all of the holy ordinances of God, either in ignorance or with deliberate attempt. Cain initiated a change in the type of sacrifice by substituting fruit and vegetables for that of animals. His sacrifice was not accepted by God because it was not a blood sacrifice. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the nature of this change and the reason why God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice.

[6]                           By faith in this atonement, or plan of redemption Abel offered to God a sacrifice that was accepted, which was the firstlings of the flock. Cain offered the fruit of the ground and it was not accepted, because he could not do it in faith, he could have no faith, or could not exercise faith contrary to the plan of heaven.

This ancient and sacred ordinance of blood sacrifice was instituted as a means of guiding men’s faith in the principle of propitiation or atonement. To sacrifice anything contrary to shedding blood would be in violation of the ordinance meant to be a prototype. The Prophet continued:

It must be shedding the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man; for this was the plan of redemption; and without the shedding of blood was no remission; and as the sacrifice was instituted for a TYPE by which man was to discern the great sacrifice which God had prepared; to offer a sacrifice contrary to that, no faith could be exercised, because redemption was not purchased in that way, nor the power of atonement instituted after that order; consequently, Cain could have no faith; and whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. (T.P.J.S. p. 58)

The Prophet indicates that this sacrificial ordinance was institute as a type. Consider the following similarities:

  1. An animal was given as a sacrifice. Christ gave himself as a sacrifice.
  2. The animal was put to death. Christ would be put to death.
  3. The blood of the animal was to be spilled. Christ would have his blood shed.
  4. The animal usually selected was a lamb. Christ was identified as the “Lamb” of God.
  5. The animal was to be without blemish. Christ was without sin.
  6. The lamb was chosen from among the firstlings. Christ was the “First-born”.
  7. The lamb was white, without disfigurement. Christ was without any deformities.

[7]           It was for these reasons that fruit and vegetables were not acceptable to God because they had nothing in common, nor represented, the TYPE” of the great sacrifice of the blood of the Messiah.

The Prophet Joseph Smith continues his explanation of the principle of blood sacrifice by adding:

Certainly, the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type, or explanation of what was to be offered through the gift of God himself; and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great Sacrifice for a remission of sins. (T.P.J.S. p. 58)

Now it becomes more clear and understandable. The doctrine of blood sacrifice is reasonable when considered as an IMITATION of what would become a REALITY. The blood of animals would not atone for sins, but it was done to create faith in the blood of their Messiah or Savior. They recognized by this ordinance, that their hope forgiveness of sins would be made by His atoning blood. Since fruit and vegetables have no blood, there could be no manifestation of the doctrine of blood atonement. Without a blood sacrifice there is no display of faith, no type, nor imitation of the blood sacrifice of the Savior. To conclude with the Prophet Joseph’s teachings:

…the knowledge which he [Abel] had on the subject of atonement, it is evident in our minds, that he was instructed more fully in the plan than what the Bible speaks of, for how could he offer a sacrifice in faith, looking to God for a remission of his sins in the power of the great atonement without having been previously instructed in that plan. (T.P.J.S., p. 59)

It is here that the Prophet indicates that Abel offered a sacrifice which was given to him by special instruction or commandment. He infers that it was also given “more fully than what the Bible speaks of.” If Abel was given proper instruction on the blood sacrifice of animals, it stands to reason that Cain, too, must have been fully instructed in that sacred ordinance. Thus, Cain refused to follow both the instruction and example of that [8] ordinance. Cain (did not obey those commandments therefore, he could not have an acceptable sacrifice, or the proper faith. Because of his rejection of those instructions he became guilty of apostasy and sin, he lost the Spirit of God, then added sin to sin by adding jealousy, covetousness and murder.

Thus we see the necessity of correctly understanding the principles of sacrifice, blood atonement and all the other ordinances connected with them. By shedding the blood of an animal, man participated in a personal and spiritual involvement with the atonement. By visual and emotional feelings the sacrifice brought closer to the great sacrifice of the Messiah and the shedding of His blood.

Sin and atonement were indelibly marked in many of the ordinances and allegories of the Israelites. One of the ceremonies called for two goats to be brought before the priest: (1) one would be killed so that his blood could be “an atonement”, because of the uncleanness in the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins (Lev. 16:16). (2) Aaron would then lay his hands “upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat”. (Lev. 16:21) It was then that the goat would be turned free into the wilderness to illustrate that their sins had been taken away, never to be brought back.

On another occasion when the children of Israel sinned, the Lord sent fiery serpents to afflict them for their transgressions. However, their sins and afflictions would be absolved if only they would look up to a pole on which a serpent of brass had been placed. (Num. 21:8) This was figurative of the Messiah who would come and be placed upon a cross to take away their sins.

[9]           Also, the most famous holy day of the Israelites was marked as the Passover. It, too, was representative of the power of the blood of their Messiah who would save them from destruction.

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons forever. (Exodus 12:21)

Among the laws and ordinances of Moses was the practice of giving “offerings” These included the giving of grain, wine, fruit, salt, bread, gold, etc. There were many kinds of offerings, some of which were included in their tithing. These offerings were made by the will of the person giving the offering. They were usually:

… offered to return thanks to God for his benefits, or to satisfy any one’s private devotion, or for the honour of God only. The Israelites offered them when they pleased, and there was no law that obliged them to it. (Cruden’s Concordance, p. 415)

These offerings were usually given to the priests, to be used by them at their own discretion. They were sometimes called peace offerings, and could be made up of many different kinds of goods. (See Ex. 22:29.) The free-will offering is not to be considered as any part of the sacrifice, nor were they ever offered on an altar. It has been said that an animal was offered for sacrifice or that the animals were considered as offerings and sacrifices, but the altar was the place upon which blood had to be spilled.

The animal sacrifices were used by the priests for food. The animal that was offered for a sacrifice was not entirely consumed by the sacrifice.

It is a very prevalent opinion that the sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed. This was not the case; if you read Leviticus 2:2-3, you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the maintenance of the priests; so that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the altar–but the blood is sprinkled, and the fat and certain other portions are consumed. (T.P.J.S. p. 173)

[10]         Judah was the last tribe of Israel to continue the rituals and ordinances of the law of sacrifice. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement is still the holiest day of the year in the Jewish month, which comes in the autumn of each year. It is also described as the “day of judgment”, and a day of re-dedication. It is a time in which the forgiveness of men’s sins against God, and against their fellowmen, are sought.

The celebration of this, and every Jewish holy day, begins and ends at sundown. The evening service of Yom Kippur begins with the chanting of the “Kal Nidre”, a famous prayer which is a plea for absolution of sin and failure. On the following day the celebration concludes with the blowing of a ram’s horn. This, and many related Jewish holidays stem from the Old Testament scriptures. Atonement and absolution of sins marked a major theme in the sayings of Amos, Isaiah, Hosea, Micah and Jeremiah. It was Isaiah who pled to Israel:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:16-18)

Ever since Adam, the sacrifice of animals was a sacred ordinance. Quite often a calf or cow was used for sacrifice. However, instead of looking forward to the sacred atonement of the Messiah, which the animal was representing, people began to consider the animal as a sacred object. Instead of the calf or cow being a symbol of their God, they began to worship it as their god.

This became a practice in ancient Egypt and the Israelites were indoctrinated with it until they, too, made a molten calf of gold to worship. (See Ex. 32:4) This form of idolatry has been handed down for many generations, and it is still a custom in India, where the cow is “sacred”.

But, the phenomenal powers of apostasy, with all of its various shades, deviations, and alterations, have shown up whenever [11] the gospel has been on the earth. These subtle innovations have made significant inroads into every sacred principle, including the ordinance of blood sacrifice.

(picture of statue with Adam and Eve kneeling at an alter of stones with fruits upon it)

Today, there is a statue found in the Visitors’ Center on Temple Square, which is supposed to represent a sacrifice by Adam and Eve. This is an altar of stones, upon which all sacrifices were supposed to be animal sacrifices. By close examination, it will be seen that the lamb is lying beside this altar–not on it. On top of this altar are fruits and vegetables. This might better represent the sacrifice of Cain, or a fitting representation of the transgressed laws, changed ordinances and broken covenants that have occurred with the Gospel in every dispensation.

In the offering of sacrifices, God has implied that repentance should also be a part of that ordinance. In Isaiah 1:11, Micah 6:6, and many other scriptures, God has inferred that a change should take place in those who make the sacrifice. A sacrifice was not merely an outward observance. Paul noted, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”. (Heb. 10:4) An outward practice of an ordinance, without an inward effect, is only a sham. The fundamental idea of animal sacrifice was to bring men to an understanding of sin and forgiveness–[12] transgression and atonement, which included an understanding of the fallen nature and death of man and his final redemption. In short, blood sacrifices were symbolical of man’s need for God’s mercy and Christ’s mediation.


[13]                              Chapter 2


For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Lev. 17:11)

There is a special significance attached to blood. God refers to blood as the “life” of every living creature. It is considered sacred because the Lord told Moses that “the life of the flesh is in the blood”. He also imposed certain restrictions to blood; one of which was a law forbidding the eating or drinking of blood.

But the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. (Gen. 9:4)

Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings. Whatsoever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. (Lev. 7:26-27)

For these reasons all blood is respected by God–and should be my man. God also made a restriction against the wanton killing of anything with blood. He said:

And woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need. (D.C. 49:21)

And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands. (Gen. 9:11, Insp. Vers.)

[14]         Blood is frequently spoken of in the scriptures as being synonymous with life. In the Old Testament it is referred to 203 times in connection with death, and 103 times in regard to sacrifices. Hence, the term blood is religiously regarded as the means of life or death–an atonement or punishment.

From Old Testament usage the predominant association of blood is with death rather than life, and the “life of the flesh” (Lev. 17:11) can mean life yielded up in death just as readily as life set free for surrender to God. The sacrificial rituals consistently pointed to the seriousness of sin, and the shedding of blood in sacrifice was prescribed as an acceptable substitute for the life of the sinner and an act of atonement by which he could be restored to fellowship with God. (Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1:627)

In the New Testament there are 25 examples, apart from the atonement of Christ, which indicate humans sacrificing their blood–blood often having reference to the “earthly” or the sinful; whereas water is referred to as the means of “cleansing” or baptism. In specific cases where water could not cleanse through baptism, then blood was offered as an atonement, or in some cases shed as a punishment for sins.

Blood was also considered as the element in the body that carried the corruptions of the body, which is one of the reasons for the law in ancient Israel that the body, or flesh, could be eaten, but not the blood.

And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. (Lev. 17:13-14)

Blood is a temporal or mortal element. It is earthly and pertains only to this probation of life. Blood will not be resurrected with the body, as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

When our flesh is quickened by the Spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle. (T.P.J.S., p. 6)

[15]                         Flesh and blood cannot go there [heaven]; but flesh and bones quickened by the Spirit of God, can. (T.P.J.S., p. 326)

This was also taught by Paul the Apostle who said:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (I Cor. 15:50)

Further proof of this was demonstrated by the appearance of Jesus who came to His apostles after His resurrection, telling them to handle him and feel his hands and body. He spoke of “flesh and bones as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39) but made no mention of his having any blood.

President Brigham Young explained in a discourse on the resurrection that the Savior did not receive blood into His veins after it was spilled on Calvary. He also said that other men would not receive blood in their resurrection either.

The blood he spilled upon Mount Calvary he did not receive again into his veins. That was poured out, and when he was resurrected, another element took the place of the blood. It will be so with every person who receives a resurrection; the blood will not be resurrected with the body, being designed only to sustain the life of the present organization. When this is dissolved, and we again obtain our bodies by the power of the resurrection, that which we now call the life of the body and which is formed from the food we eat and the water we drink, will be supplanted by another element; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (Brigham Young, J.D. 7:163)

So blood represents, or carries, the corruptions of the mortal body–but it is also the life of the body. Therefore, blood must be respected; and except for specific reasons, the shedding of any kind of blood has been forbidden. The scriptures regard blood as a sacred possession, and life to the person, or any living creature, that possesses it. For this reason, the Lord has forbidden the wanton shedding of blood:

And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands. (Gen. 9:11, Insp. Vers.)

[16]         However, today we see many people going into the hills to wantonly kill animals or birds for pleasure. As soon as some men get a gun in their hands, they look for something to kill. Such bloodthirsty appetites cause the death of many innocent victims, but it will become a sin to them. In our own dispensation the Lord revealed, “And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” (D.C. 49:21)

Heber C. Kimball understood the reason for respecting the life of all animals, and he explains their nature this way:

I cannot seek a decent horse, neither can Brother Brigham or any other man; for the boys will kill them. Let them rest; they are as good as we are in their sphere of action; they honor their calling, and we do not when we abuse them; they have the same life in them that you have, and we should not hurt them. (J.D. 5:137)

The Prophet Joseph Smith also made comments in his journal upon the life of animals, birds and even reptiles:

In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, `Let them alone–don’t hurt them. How will the serpent ever lose its venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it. Men must become harmless before the brute creation, and when men lose their viscious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger. (Joseph Smith, D.H.C., 2:71)

Other men took heed to this advice; one was an elder by the name of Brother Humphrey.

One day a brother in camp by the name of Solomon Humphrey, who was older than most of the brethren, became very tired through traveling, and lay down on the prairie to rest. He soon fell asleep. At the time he dropped asleep, he had his hat in his hand. When he awoke, he saw a rattlesnake [17] coiled up between his hat and himself, and not more than a foot from his head. Just at this moment some of the brethren came up, and gathered around him, saying: `It is a rattlesnake; let us kill it ‘ but Brother Humphrey said, `No, I’ll protect him; you shan’t hurt him, for he and I have had a good nap together.’ The snake had not hurt him, and remembering Joseph’s advice, he left it to crawl away in peace. (Historical Record, p. 583)

Hence, the preciousness which the Lord has affixed to the blood or life of all living things.

Because life is sacred, and blood represents life, they both should be considered sacred. Shedding blood may be a heinous sin or a sacred sacrifice. It may become a sin or the absolving of a sin. Depending upon the means and purpose for which blood is shed, it may have a sinful or a sacred effect. For these reasons blood has been an important factor in both the religious and profane history of all men.


[19]                              Chapter 3


Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. (I Cor. 5:7)

On the night previous to His crucifixion, Jesus gave bread and wine to His disciples during His last supper. It was on this occasion that He introduced a new ordinance. There in that upper room He passed bread and wine to introduce the sacrament of that last supper and explained the meaning of it.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:27-28)

[20]         The meaning of this was not literal, but figurative. It was not intended to be a cannibalistic ritual, but rather a ceremony that was done “in remembrance” of the sacrifice that He was about to offer all men. This was inferred by another Gospel writer:

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)

The sacrament was initiated for them to remember the covenants they made at baptism when they took upon themselves the name of Christ. For this reason it is administered only to these whose sins have been remitted by baptism.

The bread and wine were not even a necessity for the sacrament. The purpose of this ordinance was for men to eat or drink something for a “remembrance” of the atonement Christ had made. In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord explained:

For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory–remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. (D.C. 27:2)

It was on this occasion of the last supper that Jesus would fulfill the meaning of all the oblations and animal sacrifices that had been offered up during the past 4,000 years. Before the Meridian of time, men performed animal sacrifices in faith on the Messiah who was to come; but after that Great Sacrifice was offered upon the cross, then the sacrament of the last supper was instituted for a remembrance that He had fulfilled that promise. Previously men offered an animal as a sacrifice, but now they were commanded to offer a “broken heart and a contrite spirit”, as synonymous to that offering made by the “Man of Sorrows”, and “acquainted with grief”.

Also, in a covenant with Abraham, God gave him the law of circumcision. This too, was done away at the time of Christ. It had been instituted so that Abraham’s children would physically [21] recognize that they were different from other people. This was not meant to make them feel deprived, but was rather the means of reminding them of the covenant God made with Abraham. It was a promise that they were bound, by a covenant, to administer in the laws and ordinances of the priesthood, just as their father Abraham had done.

The Christian, converted to the highest laws and ordinances of the Gospel, did not necessarily need to be circumcised. They would partake of the sacrament “in remembrance” of those covenants that they were obliged to obey. The higher laws of the Gospel of Christ were to supersede but not to replace the ancient law of the prophets and patriarchs.

The “Last Supper” was in fact a genuine supper. Christ did not pass a small morsel of bread or a little sip of wine; He sat at the table and ate a meal of bread and wine. That supper was designated to be a symbolic ordinance that men would continue–thus attaching their faith and hope in Christ and the sacrifice He made for them on that fateful night. But the sacrifice of Christ did not absolve men from making sacrifices for him; it deepened that commitment. Mankind are obligated to reciprocate. He sacrificed everything for us, so we are of necessity bound to respond by making a sacrifice for Him. He was about to be lifted up on the cross, offering his body as an offering and his blood as a sacrifice for us. He promised mankind that:

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)

The law of sacrifice is not very well understood; yet it is a part of the initiative ordinances in connection with the sacrament. What we do “in remembrance” is not specifically a state of mind–it is a recognition of a commitment, or an obligation. That duty requires sacrifice.

The sacrifices that we can offer to him are but tokens for the sacrifice He made for us. We are fallen and guilty of sin, yet He died to pay our debts; He was innocent but it was our ransom that He paid. The magnitude of His offering is incomprehensible for man to understand. But God, by revelation in our time, has [22] acknowledged a general scope of the great sacrifice offered by Christ for us:

He came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness. (D.C. 76:41)

Joseph Smith spoke of the law or principle of “sacrifice” that has been made by the ancients and that all men must also follow their example. He said:

The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life, he must sacrifice all things. (T.P.J.S. p. 322)

Sacrifices may be required in many different forms, but nevertheless, they are still essential to practical religion and salvation. From the “Lectures on Faith”:

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation, for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (Unpublished Revelations, comp. by Fred Collier, p. 44)

The Apostles of Christ were required to sacrifice many things for the cause of the Gospel. Peter acknowledged the sacrifice of many possessions when he said to Christ, “…we have forsaken all, and followed Thee.” (Matt. 19:27)


[23]         Their sacrifice is no less than that which is required of men today. The Gospel is the same, and so are the sacrifices and the blessings. We must obey the same laws and principles to obtain the same blessings and rewards.

Although Christ came to give a higher law, it did not mean that He did away with the lesser law. He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17) In other words, when a higher law than the carnal commandments was introduced, it was the fulfillment of the law, not its dissolution. When Christ came to the Nephites, He introduced a higher order of law and said, “In me is the law of Moses fulfilled” (3 Nephi 9:17). Christ did not need them to offer up the sacrifices of animals any longer, because He was the “Great Sacrifice”, and was there in person. He commanded the Nephites:

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (3 Nephi 9:19-20)

Hence, when the laws of carnal commandments are replaced by higher laws, then the lesser laws do not continue to function. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the Priesthood of Aaron “administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices.” (T.P.J.S., p. 322) So, when the higher laws are not complied with, then the lesser laws are again in force; hence, they are always a part of the duties of the priesthood. The Prophet explains:

The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. (T.P.J.S., p. 172)

Also the Prophet says, these ordinances are a part of those which were restored in our dispensation:

… the offering of sacrifice, which also shall be continued at the last time; for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been [24] required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation; therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets; then shall the sons of Levi offer an acceptable offering to the Lord. (T.P.J.S., pp. 171-172)

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. (T.P.J.S., p. 173)

But there is a difference between sacrifices prior to the law of Moses and the law of carnal commandments and sacrifices established by Moses. The law and carnal rites and offerings of Moses will not be a part of the law of sacrifice which will be established in the latter days.

It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued. (T.P.J.S., p. 173)

It may be asked by some, what necessity for sacrifice, since the Great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which, if repentance, baptism, and faith existed prior to the days of Christ, what necessity for them since that time? (T.P.J.S., p. 173)

But the Prophet says that these kinds of sacrifices will be re-instituted when the priesthood will function under all of its authority.

We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings. (T.P.J.S., p. 172)

[25]         Jesus referred to the future at the last supper when His mortal mission on earth was nearly finished. He said, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” (Luke 22:18) This was a reversal of the sacrament covenant for His disciples who were to meet often and partake of the sacrament in remembrance of him–but He would not partake of it Himself until His Kingdom was established on earth. This He also longed for, and mentioned the occasion in a revelation to Joseph Smith less than six months after the Church was organized. He said, The hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth.” (D.C. 27:5) Then He added the names of Peter, James, John, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Michael and “all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world” (D.C. 27:14), who will drink of that special sacrament with Him.

It will be at this time that the sacrament, with all its attending sacrifices, will have a more complete fulfillment. On this occasion the Kingdom of God and all of its heavenly laws will be fully established upon the earth.


[27]                              Chapter 4


And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev. 6:9-11)

As a person approaches his final years on earth, he usually leaves a last will and testament. This is a written record of instructions for his children, expressing his desires of how he wants his children to conduct their lives and how he wants his inheritance distributed among them.

[28]         Adam, who is the great patriarchal head over every mortal on earth, also left a will and testament. He, too, was leaving an inheritance which he wished to bestow upon his children, when they proved to be worthy “heirs”. This inheritance contained the right to have “dominion over all the earth,” (Gen. 1:26) and was written in “the book of the generations of Adam” (Gen. 5:1). Those who would receive the right to that inheritance would be known by their obedience to the rules of that testament. Every child of Adam, whether prophet, patriarch, priest, or righteous man, would honor that testament so they could receive a forgiveness of sins, and be worthy to receive a portion of that inheritance of “dominion” on the earth. This was not just a platitude, or philosophical quip, but a genuine promise of an inheritance for real estate, the same as any other will and testament. It is a testament from God, by promise to His children, for a temporal and eternal inheritance of earthly possession and dominion. Jesus verified that promise thousands of years later when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”. (Matt. 5:5)

This legacy of inheritance was a preconceived plan, drawn up by several beings, or personages, before the foundation of this earth. They agreed to establish the rules of conduct for others that they might prove their right to such an inheritance. They also agreed to participate in fulfilling the laws and principles of that testament on the earth for others to see and understand. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the nature of that will and testament as being an everlasting covenant.

Everlasting covenant was made between three person ages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator. (T.P.J.S., p. 190)

Several very revealing items are made in this single statement by the Prophet:

  1. These three personages were Gods. This agrees with I John 5:1 which reads, “There are three that bear record in heaven, [29] the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The everlasting covenant” to which these three agreed upon was the Gospel covenant which would save mankind from the fall”. Furthermore, they all three agreed to administer, or participate in it “on the earth”.
  2. The first God is God the Father, who also had a “dispensation of things to men on the earth.” This was the first dispensation–the introduction of that “covenant” to men on earth. The keys and authority that He would establish in that covenant or Testament would prevail until God, the second, would establish a New Testament. It was “new” because He would be the “Redeemer”, and would fulfill part of the old or original Testament. No mortal could be resurrected until God, the second, would come to unlock that barrier by the power of His blood.
  3. It is clearly defined that “God the first” was Adam, because he gave the first ordinances and principles “to men on the earth.” Christ came to be God the second, the Redeemer”, as was clearly taught by the Prophet in the following statements:

The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26,27,28. (T.P.J.S., p. 157)

The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority. (T.P.J.S., p. 157)

He [Adam] is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. (T.P.J.S., p. 157)

Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family. (T.P.J.S., p. 157)

[30]                         It was Adam to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth.” (T.P.J.S., p. 167)

  1. And then “God the third, the witness or testator”, was in reality the witness of the first two Gods. To clarify or define this third God, or Holy Ghost, the Prophet explained in another statement:

I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit; and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. (T.P.J.S., p. 370)

This is the only clear and understandable definition of what, or who, the Holy Ghost is. Churchmen, doctrinarians and philosophers have contradicted each other over this definition for thousands of years, but here in one sentence is the clear definition. The Holy Ghost is a personage and a God; but it is also a spirit of power and intelligence (which nearly all ministers have defined as the other two Gods.) The Prophet also explained the earthly mission of the personage of God the third:

I shall read the 24th chapter of Matthew, and give it a literal rendering and reading; and when it is rightly understood, it will be edifying.

I thought the very oddity of its rendering would be edifying anyhow–“And it will be preached, the Gospel of the kingdom, in the whole world, to a witness over all people: and then will the end come.” ***

The Savior said when these tribulations should take place, it should be committed to a man who should be a witness over the whole world: the keys of knowledge, power and revelations should be revealed to a witness who should hold the testimony to the world. ***

All the testimony is that the Lord in the last days would commit the keys of the Priesthood to a witness over all people. ***

[31]                         John saw the angel having the holy Priesthood, who should preach the everlasting Gospel to all nations. God had an angel–a special messenger–ordained and prepared for that purpose in the last days. Woe, woe be to that man or set of men who lift up their hands against God and His witness in these last days:… (T.P.J.S., pp. 364-365)

If Adam would have been mortal as other humans, he could and should have atoned for his transgression as other men. If he sinned as other men, then his sin would have been his own, but it fell upon every one of his children. But Adam could not atone for that transgression with his own blood; therefore, Christ had to atone for it and became God, the Redeemer. It took the blood of a God to atone for the transgression of a God. The Gospel “covenant” was established by Adam, but it did not become fully in force until the blood of Christ was spilled.

Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. (Heb. 9:18-20)

Christ sealed up both the New and the Old Testaments by the shedding of his blood. Paul wrote:

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise, it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Heb. 9:15-18)

In our own dispensation, Joseph Smith became a witness of testator to the re-establishment of that “covenant” on the earth. He became a “witness” or “testator” to “God the first” and “God the second, the Redeemer”; and therefore had to seal that [32] testimony with his own blood.

To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith, the Patriarch. *** He lived great and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. *** The reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; *** They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage Jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador, for their religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen. (D.C. 135:1,3,5,6,7)

With the broad seal affixed to the gospel by the shedding of blood, there is a judgment against those who reject it, but salvation to those who accept it. Joseph Smith, as Testator and Witness, brought about this effect with his martyrdom.

Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned (D.C. 136:39)

However, Joseph Smith was not alone in holding the keys of this dispensation. Oliver Cowdery also held those keys in conjunction with Joseph. Oliver was with Joseph during every major part of the restoration; he also witnessed the Angel Moroni; John [33] the Baptist; Peter, James and John; and also the grand bestowal of all the keys of former dispensations by Moses, Elijah, Abraham, and Jesus Christ. (See D.C. 110.)

But Oliver became disaffected and left the Church; however, he always defended his testimony of those manifestations. Because of his leaving the Church, those keys had to be committed to someone else. This brought about a strange set of events which required Hyrum to die by the shedding of his blood along with that of Joseph Smith.

Thus, we see, Hyrum Smith became a president of the Church with Joseph Smith, which place Oliver Cowdery might have held had he not wavered and fallen from his exalted station. I am firmly of the opinion that had Oliver Cowdery remained true to his covenants and obligations as a witness with Joseph Smith, and retained his authority and place, he, and not Hyrum Smith, would have gone with Joseph Smith as a prisoner and to martyrdom at Carthage.

The sealing of the testimony through the shedding of blood would not have been complete in the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith alone; it required the death of Hyrum Smith who jointly held the keys of this dispensation. It was needful that these martyrs seal their testimony with their blood, that they “might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.” (Doc. of Sal. 1:219)

Hence, the righteous are rewarded for the loss of their lives by having their blood shed–the greatest price they can pay for a righteous cause–and the wicked are condemned for the deed. At the day of final judgment the murderer must face the person or persons he killed. Those who were murdered in this life will bear testimony of their death against their murderers.

When people become so wicked that they deserve to die, God warns them, gives them a chance to repent. They must have a testimony given to them from the servants of God; then in the day of judgment they will be left without excuse. When the wicked die after being warned, they cannot claim they had no chance to repent. Hence, the servants of God who preach and warn them [34] are free from the blood of that people. Paul the Apostle knew this when he wrote:

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:25-27)

A record of his warning against them was also recorded:

And he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. (Acts 18:4-6. See also Ezekiel’s revelation from God 33:1-8.)

In 1832 the Lord revealed to the Church that the Elders had not yet fulfilled their labors of warning the wicked:

Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation. (D.C. 88:85)

Then 48 years later, the Lord said that their labors had been sufficient to warn the wicked.

Have you not gone forth in My name–and warned them of the judgments which are to come? You have done this year by year for the whole generation, as men count time. Therefore, your garments are clean of the blood of this generation and especially of this nation. (Rev. of 1880, Unpublished Revelations, Collier, 1:24)

It is by blood that men are condemned or cleansed. It is upon blood that the ordinances are established and the promises of the “covenent” are fulfilled. Through the blood of the testaments and the testators men are justified or condemned. Through the shedding of blood, men may lose or inherit eternal glory.


[35]                              Chapter 5


As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears. (Jer. 26:14-15)

When innocent blood is shed, it is called murder. But, when the wicked have their blood shed, it is called an execution. A person guilty of a capital crime should receive capital punishment; then justice has been served. However, if an innocent person is murdered, then, according to the scriptures, his “blood cries from the ground for vengeance”. When innocent blood is spilled, retribution must be made; for justice has been robbed and demands satisfaction.

[36]         According to the scriptures, every innocent man who has been murdered, has blood that cries from the ground for “vengeance”. That blood remains in a constant appeal to God for justice–and the Promise is that it will be reconciled somewhere in the eternal scales of justice.

In every instance of an innocent victim who dies by the hand of a murderer, a just compensation must be met by the murderer. This justice may come in the form of an execution, war, persecution, or pestilence; but until that justice is met, their blood cries to the Lord for “vengeance”. Consider the following scriptures:

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said, I know not; Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. (Gen. 4:9, 10)

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his [the Lord’s] people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deut. 32:43)

The Book of Mormon also described this “vengeance” that must eventually come upon those who shed “innocent blood”.

Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer. (Mormon 8:41)

For behold, they murdered all the prophet of the Lord who came among them to declare unto them concerning their iniquities, and the blood of those whom they murdered did cry unto the Lord their God for vengeance upon those who were their murderers; and thus the judgments of God did come upon these workers of darkness and secret combinations. (Alma 37:30)

And now, my beloved brethren–for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings. (Alma 60:10)

[37]                         And again, it is expedient that thou shouldst forbear; for if thou shouldst slay thy son, he being an innocent man, his blood would cry from the ground to the Lord his God, for vengeance; to come upon thee; and perhaps thou wouldst lose thy soul. (Alma 20:13)

And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance. Therefore, thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore, this people must abide by the law. (Alma 1:13-16)

The question may arise as to just what “innocent blood” means, or to whom it refers. Is it a person who is innocent of any crime that would demand capital punishment? Is it a person who has been baptized and is considered spiritually innocent? Or is it a person who has received higher ordinances in a temple and been washed clean and is innocent of the blood of that generation? Can a child or a baby be considered someone who has innocent blood? In trying to answer these question, the following information should be considered.

Abortion has been considered a form of murder by some; to others it is only a legal means of birth control. Some organizations regard it as a wise measure to prevent the mistake of overpopulation, or for a rightful measure of women’s liberation. In some instances, it is an excuse for material gain and prosperity.

In the Soviet Union, tens of thousands of women pay five Rubles (about $6.00) for an abortion. One Russian mother claimed that she didn’t know of any woman who had not had an abortion. In this country, the Supreme Court, members of the medical profession, and most of the citizens, are claiming that abortion is legal and moral–and this from a people that consider themselves a “Christian” nation. In the State of New York there are more abortions than there are babies who are allowed to be born. Civil law is not opposed to the measures which prevent pregnancies, yet people demand legislators, doctors, and hospitals to correct their own childbearing mistakes.

[38]         It was Pharaoh and Herod that killed all the male babies under two years of age; and it was considered a horrible and unspeakable crime. Yet, in our own country each year we are killing little boys and girls by millions more that Pharoah or Herod ever did.

The same Supreme Court that has legalized baby abortion has also ruled against capital punishment for murderers. They consider capital punishment as “cruel and unusual” for a murderer, but it is considered legal and moral if a baby is given capital punishment–but what is the baby guilty of? The legal system in this country kills babies with national approval; but protects murderers from a similar fate. But executing a murderer (who is destroying society) is not “unusual”; neither is an execution cruel which occurs in a split second. The Supreme Court approves of the death or execution of babies and that kind of butchery is not considered “cruel or unusual.”

Such reversals in legislation not only raise the question of morality, but of sanity. Our nation is killing the innocent, and protecting the guilty.

We have become a corrupt nation, offering human sacrifices to the false gods of overpopulation, women’s liberation and wealth. How much longer will the innocent blood of these babies cry for vengeance upon this nation before retribution is made? It cannot become much worse to be as bad as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah or as Noah saw the world.

But to affirm more substantially what the Lord has said about shedding innocent blood, we read that it is often a means of condemning the wicked.

For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore, ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter unto the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 60:13)

He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight. (Psalms 72:13)

[39]         Sometimes innocent women and children become witnesses by shedding their own blood. From the Book of Mormon came a very vivid description of just such an event.

And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene. Therefore, let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: the Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day. (Alma 14:10-11)

He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence; and precious shall their blood be in his sight. (Psalms 72:13-14)

Sometimes innocent women and children become witnesses by shedding their own blood. From the Book of Mormon came a very vivid description of just such an event.

And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene. Therefore, let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: the Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day. (Alma 14:10-11)

[40]         Among those who also had innocent blood are the prophets of God who have been killed throughout the world’s history. In the Book of Mormon the Lord once sent fire and destruction upon the people so that “the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.” (3 Nephi 9:11) It was the worst destruction that ever came upon that people.

Jesus also warned the Jews of the calamity that was going to befall his generation, and told them the reason why it would happen:

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you All these things shall come upon this generation. (Matt. 23:34-36)

From the “Lost Books of the Bible” comes the story of the death of Zacharias the priest, and the retribution that befell those guilty of his murder. It reads:

However, Zacharias was murdered in the entrance of the temple and altar, and about the partition; but the children of Israel knew not when he was killed. Then at the hour of salutation the priests went into the temple, but Zacharias did not according to custom meet them and bless them; yet they still continued waiting for him to salute them; and when they found he did not in a long time come, one of them ventured into the holy place where the altar was, and he saw blood lying upon the ground congealed; When, behold, a voice from heaven said, Zacharias is murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped away, until the revenger of his blood come. (The Protevangelion, p. 37)

The vengeance which befell those guilty of Zacharias’ murder is recorded in both the Jerusalem and Babylonish Talmud. The blood of the prophet and priest Zacharias was not “wiped [41] away” until 94,000 people were slain. The crime of murdering this prophet resulted in “seven evils that day: they murdered a priest, a prophet, and a king; they shed the blood of the innocent; they polluted the court; that day was the Sabbath; and the day of expiation.”

In our own dispensation many Latter-day Saints have died by the hands of murderers and assassins. That blood also cries from the ground for vengeance”. Even before Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed, the Lord spoke of destructions that were coming upon all nations so

…that the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the Saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies. (D.C. 87:7)

Then after Joseph Smith and his brother were killed, the Lord said:

For they killed the prophets, and them that were sent unto them; and they have shed innocent blood, which crieth from the ground against them. (D.C. 136:36)

On his way to the Carthage Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life, I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me, “He was murdered in cold blood.” (T.P.J.S., p. 379)

Many years later in a revelation, the Lord said:

The blood of my servants Joseph and Hyrum and of mine Apostles and Elders which has been shed for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, cries from the ground for vengeance upon the nation which has shed their blood. But their blood shall speedily be avenged and shall cease to cry unto me, for the hour of God’s judgment is fully come and shall be poured out without measure upon the wicked. (Rev. 1880)

[42]         Brigham Young explained the nature and consequences of shedding the innocent blood of a prophet:

Joseph was murdered–murdered at sunlight, under the protection of the most noble government that there existed, and that now exists, on our earth. Has his blood been atoned for? No! And why? A martyr’s blood to true religion was never atoned for on our earth. No man or nation of men, without the Priesthood, has power to make atonement for such sins. The souls of all such, since the days of Jesus, are “under the altar,” and are crying to God day and night, for vengeance. And shall they cry in vain? God forbid! He has promised He will hear them, in His own due time, and recompense a righteous reward. (Contributor 10:5)

The shedding of innocent blood, or the killing of a prophet, can never be completely atoned for because the life taken cannot be returned. The shedding of innocent blood can be classed as one of the worst of all sins, for the Prophet Joseph said, “The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood, or be accessory thereto.” (T.P.J.S., p. 301) This shows that many apostates, too, have turned against their brethren in the priesthood, and have shed innocent blood or been accessory thereto and thereby have committed an unpardonable sin.

The worst and most horrid example of a people suffering the “vengeance” of innocent blood were those who were responsible for the death of Christ. The Jews, by shedding the blood of their Messiah, suffered the wrath of God for nearly two thousand years. They even asked for it.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see ye to it.” Then answered all the people, and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt 27:24-25)

The Jews, thinking to pacify or absolve Pilate, so that he would grant them the privilege of killing Christ, asked for the blood of Christ to be upon them and their children. God took them at their word and granted them their request.

[43]         Within forty years the nation of the Jews was destroyed. According to history, over a million Jews died within a few days in a battle against the Romans. Their beautiful temple was destroyed, and not one stone remained upon another–according to the prophecy of Christ. Those who were left alive were taken to Rome and sold as slaves, and a few were scattered to the winds into many other nations. The Jews lost their national heritage, their priesthood, their genealogy, their priests, and their sacrifices. For nearly 2,000 years this curse has befallen a race of people as an evidence of who Christ really was, and of what a curse can befall a people who are guilty of shedding “innocent blood”.

In these last days, when the blood of the innocent has been shed without retribution, we may witness the destruction and the vengeance of God upon this generation much the same as it was in the days of Noah. This was the prophecy of Christ concerning His second coming. (Matt. 24:37) The day is not far when “the Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people” against our generation. He will remove many worldly great men of the earth and replace them with the weak and simple who are obedient to Him.

The mighty man, and the man of war the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. (Isa. 3:2-4)

To cleanse this wicked generation that has slain the blood of prophets, priests and innocent women and children, He will avenge their blood and, “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.” So devastating is this war that there will be seven women left where only one man remains.

John the Revelator asked the Lord how long it would be before the righteous blood was avenged. The Lord answered:

It was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev. 6:11)

[44]         Thus we see the terrible vengeance that comes upon a nation or people who shed innocent blood. This nation, like so many of those in the past, has much innocent blood upon the land and the day is not far hence when God shall come “out of his hiding place” to vex the nations, for their crimes and abominations so that the blood of the innocent will no longer cry for vengeance.


[45]                              Chapter 6


Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezek. 18:4)

Men’s laws should conform with the laws of God, but they seldom do. There have been but few times in history that God has been able to convince man to obey His laws. It would do well for society to look into the scriptures to understand the reason, the evidence, and the purpose for many of God’s laws especially those relating to capital punishment. Perhaps it might be asked, “Who has the right to dictate or administer capital punishment But by the same reasoning we might ask, “Who is truly authorized to set free a murderer?” The answer is evident in the scriptures; hence, their value as a guide for the establishment or abolishment of capital punishment.


There is an abundance of references to the law and the practice of capital punishment in the Old Testament. That law was instituted from the very beginning and continued throughout to the New Testament. One of the first laws that God instituted among men was capital punishment. It read:

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man. (Gen. 9:6)

This law was reiterated by Moses, and it never was repealed by divine decree because it is an eternal law.

[46]         Under Moses the Lord administered many strict laws and severe punishments, “to keep sin from Israel”. In the pagan civilizations there were only a few crimes that warranted capital punishment, but in Israel there were many. Moses gave 15 laws that called for capital punishment. Some of these were as follows:

Murder …. Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:12; Dt. 19:11-13

Kidnapping …. Ex. 21:16; Dt. 24:7

Adultery …. Lev. 21:10; Dt. 22:22

Rape . . . . Dt. 22:23-27

Sodomy …. Lev. 20:13

Animal Cohabitation …. Lev. 20:15

Death by Negligence . . . . Ex. 21:28-29

Incest …. Lev. 20:11,12,14

Whoredom …. Dt. 22:21

Others will be taken up in another chapter.

Some argue that capital punishment is barbaric. Quite the contrary! It is among savages that killing, murder or even cannibalism are tolerated; so when society allows murderers and killers to go unpunished, then they have become barbaric. Capital punishment is the means of cleansing society by purging out those who would destroy that society. The more intelligent a people become, the more responsible they are to obey law. The greater the light and intelligence a society has, the more severe its punishment, for transgressing that light or intelligence.

The crime of murder was a capital offense; constantly reiterated in the Old Testament. This law was clearly revealed to Moses, who wrote:

Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall surely be put to death. (Num. 35:30-31; see also Num. 36:16-21)

[47]         The reason for the law of capital punishment was clearly explained in the following verse:

And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Ex. 21:23-25)

This is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted scriptures in the Bible. It merely reflected the principle that when a man committed a crime, then his punishment should be equal to the crime. In other words, when a man commits murder today, in some states he may be out on the street murdering again within seven years. If a man steals $100,000, would it be justice to fine him $700? A man who robs another man of his life, should pay with his own. Punishment should be equal to the transgression of the law.

Also, it should be understood that retribution was not immediately taken up by the victim. It was first brought to the court and the judges in Israel made their decision on the manner of retribution. In most instances the injured party received a just compensation. In the case of murder, the relatives or the nearest of kin to the victim, had the right of participating in the execution. Execution for murder was by stoning to death, and those who were the nearest of kin had the privilege of casting the first stone.

The sixth commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill,” which many argue is a law against capital punishment. However, it should read, “Thou shalt not murder.” A subsequent commandment stated, “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” (Ex. 21:12) This indicates that, “Thou shalt not kill” means “Thou shalt not murder.” In Leviticus 24:17 it reads, “He who kills a man shall be put to death,” and in Numbers 35:30 it is written, “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses…” Then in Deuteronomy 19:4-6,10, the Lord gives a clear understanding between accidental killing and murder.

[48]         Again, to clarify the distinction of intent to murder, the Lord said:

But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hands of the avenger of blood, that he may die.” (Deut. 19:11-12)

There is a great difference between a person who murders and another who executes. Moses killed an Egyptian (Ex. 2:12), which was either murder or else an act of retribution or execution. Yet Moses came in glory to visit Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matt. 17:3) Hence, those who administer the law as executioners are not guilty of murder, nor are they guilty of sin.

From the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation of the Bible we find this verse: Thou shalt not suffer a murderer to live.” (Ex. 22:18) This was another scripture that was mistranslated by the King James translators. They translated that verse to read, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” This was an error that caused the death of many innocent women in the early days of this country’s history.

Capital punishment is not something that cheapens society or is morally wrong. It is a deterrent to crime, a cleansing of society, and a just retribution for those who abuse and destroy life. From Genesis to the present time, life has been esteemed as the most precious and sacred gift to man, and he that violates that sacredness must pay the supreme penalty.

Many of our “Christian” brothers have opposed capital punishment because they believe that God is not such a “savage” or so “barbaric” as to cause men to die for a punishment. Both scripture and reason prove otherwise. Consider the following texts and see how God dealt with some of His wicked children.

And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. (Gen. 38:7)

And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. (I Sam. 25:38)

[49]                         And the thing which he (Onan) did displeased the Lord wherefore he slew him also. (Gen. 38:10)

And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. (Lev. 10:2)

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. (Gen. 19:24)

Even angels were sent by the Lord to destroy a people or individuals:

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand, and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (II Kings 19:35)

Since we have seen how God himself has killed the wicked who have sinned against Him, we ask the question, Does the Lord ever require His servants to kill or execute others for Him? ” Yes, many times. In one instance the Lord turned away His anger because Israel stoned Achan, the thief:

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. (Joshua 7:25)

Elijah also demonstrated the true God of Israel by bringing fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice. False prophets tried this same thing and failed–so the price they had to pay was death.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (I Kings 18:37-40)

[50]         And to sanction what Elijah did to the false prophets, the scripture affirmed: “And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” (Ibid., 46)

In some cases the Lord required not only the death of the wicked person himself, but added condemnation to his servants, wives, children, animals and all that they had:

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (I Sam. 15:2,3)

When men live above the law, there is no misery of punishment. A righteous society would have no capital punishment–even though it was a firm and applicable law. Only when people destroy other members of society, then the law must purge them out of that society for its own protection. If it is justifiable to kill enemies of war who threaten to destroy your nation, then it is justifiable to do the same to individuals who pose the same threat from within.

In continuing with Old Testament accounts, one of the most miraculous stories is of Israel’s deliverance as accomplished by the Lord through the boy, David. David became a legal executor for God to save Israel:

Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom thou has defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. Therefore David ran, and stood [51] upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. (I Sam. 17:46,47,49,51)

It is hardly in the nature of a boy to kill a man and cut off his head. Yet David came in the name of the Lord and accomplished the deliverance of Israel by killing Goliath.

And again, when the chosen people of God pled for deliverance and they were worthy of it, God chose the means to destroy the wicked, as the following example portrays:

But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer Ehud, the son of Gera, a Benjaminite, a man lefthanded; and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length: and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab; and Eglon was a very fat man. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly; And the halt also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. (Judges 3:15,17,20-22)

Sampson, another deliverer, came to save Israel, and was commissioned by God to administer capital punishment upon a great number of people. Thus, it is evident that the Lord often brings about bloodshed to avenge, to deliver, to punish and to atone.

Corruption and sin were reasons for the wrath of God to come upon Israel. By killing the guilty, many times wickedness was turned away. The scripture says, “So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel,” after capital punishment was administered.

[52]         Centuries later these laws demanding the death penalty for transgressors were still being taught and administered by the prophets. From the Prophet Ezekiel:

If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, and that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbor’s wife, hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all those abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. (Ezek. 18:10-13)

Later the Lord repeated the law to Ezekiel by saying:

And the righteous men, they shall judge them after the manner of adulteresses, and after the manner of women that shed blood; because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands. For thus saith the Lord God; I will bring up a company upon them, and will give them to be removed and spoiled. And the company shall stone them with stones, and dispatch them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire. Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness. (Ezek. 23:45-48)

It must be remembered that all civilizations or societies grow or fall according to their obedience or disobedience to moral law. Blessings or punishments are predicated upon the same unchangeable law throughout the eternities.


The law of capital punishment was believed and practiced by the Jewish people as long as they had their nation. The story is given in the Apocrypha (during the time between the Old and New Testaments) about Andronicus, a man of Jewish nobility who was not exempt from punishment for the crime of murder:

And being kindled with anger, forthwith he took away Andronicus his purple, and rent off his clothes, and leading [53] him through the whole city unto that very place, where he had committed impiety against Onias, there slew he the cursed murderer. Thus the Lord rewarded him his punishment, as he had deserved. (II Maccabees 4:38)

Some suppose that when Christ came, He did away with the Old Testament law of capital punishment. But He said that He did “not come to destroy the law.” If anything, the punishment for sin was more severe, because the laws were more exacting. Just because a man claimed to be a Christian did not give him the right to get away with murder. Forgiveness of sin is a personal matter, but transgression against the law is quite another. This will be mentioned further in the concluding chapter. True law is, in reality, the legal directive of God, and no one else has any right to change or interfere with the law that God has given. The Apostle James condensed this into a short sentence by saying: There is one law giver, who is able to save and to destroy.” (James 4:12) Instead of doing away with capital punishment, Jesus showed that offending one of his disciples was a capital offense.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6)

Both Mark and Luke also mentioned this same example in Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2. And Jesus added that these offenses would come but “woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” (Matt. 18:7) He then explained the principle that men must forgive each other of all these offenses–but that does not do away with the law. Men are still accountable to the law and subject to punishment. Moral principles of right and wrong at the time of Jesus were just as much a part of moral law at the time of Moses–and so the punishment for their infractions must be the same.

The Jews were continually attempting crafty ways to prove that Jesus did not uphold the law of capital punishment; but to their chagrin, they never produced any evidence. One trap the [54] Jews set for Jesus was the case of a woman caught in adultery–used as the most common argument against capital punishment. Dr. Talmage explains this attempted snare:

To Jesus they presented this statement and question: “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou?” The submitting of the case to Jesus was a prearranged snare, a deliberate attempt to find or make a cause for accusing Him. *** The question of the scribes and Pharisees, “But what sayest thou?” may have intimated their expectation that Jesus would declare the law obsolete perhaps they had heard of the Sermon on the Mount, in which many requirements in advance of the Mosaic code had been proclaimed. Had Jesus decided that the wretched woman ought to suffer death, her accusers might have said that he was defying the existing authorities; and possibly the charge of opposition to the Roman government might have been formulated, since power to inflict the death penalty had been taken from all Jewish tribunals; and moreover, the crime which this woman was charged with was not a capital offense under Roman law. Had He said that the woman should go unpunished or suffer only minor infliction, the crafty Jews could have charged Him with disrespect for the law of Moses (Jesus the Christ, pp. 405-406)

Udney Jacobs elaborated on this case, explaining why Jesus did not pronounce a judgment upon the woman.

Again, adultery by the law of God was punishable with death. This would be a divorce with a lasting witness. With our eyes upon the law of God, we can by no means admit the common and erroneous understanding of this matter. Some may have supposed, no doubt, that Christ in the case of the woman who was accused before him of adultery, softened, or entirely dis-annulled this law. If he entirely disannulled this law, then there is no law, against adultery; for he did not enact a substitute; and no Gentile legislature has a right to meddle with the law of Jehovah. *** Christ did not act in the capacity of a legislator, but an illustrator of the law, a teacher, a servant. It was incompatible with his mission, to even act as a judge in legal matters, hence he would condemn no sinner. It was not consistent for him who came to redeem sinners from the condemning power of the law with his own blood that he [55] should condemn them by the law. The Jews knew this to be his profession; hence, they brought the woman before him, thinking to entrap him in this case. But with what wisdom he frustrated their designs, is manifested. “Stone her,” he said. “I do not teach the violation of the law, but let him who has not violated it cast the first stone.” None but the Son of God, situated as he was, could have escaped from this trap. *** Therefore, he condemned no man, neither did he condemn the woman, but told her to go in peace, and sin no more. If he had repealed the law which stood against her, such an act of which she was accused would henceforth have been no sin. (“Little Known Discourse”, p. 2-3)

The true Christian will never interfere with laws established to punish the wrongdoer, as mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Romans:

Therefore, he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. . . for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:24)

The disciples of Christ were not silent on the subject of capital punishment either. They added:

. . . who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, . . . (Romans 1:32)

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. (Romans 8:13)

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15)

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death. . . . (I John 5:16)

[56]         The words of Jesus on loving one’s enemies, turning the other cheek, and walking the second mile, were not propaganda to change the laws established by Moses. He merely meant to induce people to have more tolerance of injustice and be willing to endure. He did not mean that stealing, adultery, and murder would be tolerated by the law, nor annulled by the law. To lower moral standards of justice is not the provision of mercy. Mercy is mighty to save, but not to rob justice.

Only by repentance, obedience to principles of righteousness, and faith in the law of reward and punishment, can a man obtain redemption. Jesus infers that the proportion of our reward comes by the degree of our compliance to the laws of the gospel. The statement, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7), indicates that those who have no mercy, will not receive it. This is also underwritten in the text, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12)


The law of capital punishment for murder was clearly identified with the early writings of the Nephites. It read, “Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die.” (2 Nephi 9:35) And again, “If a man murdered, he should die.” (Alma 42:19)

Sin was as grievous with the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, as it was with the Israelites in the Old Testament. It follows then that punishment for sin should be the same. All of the laws of God are instituted with blessings or punishments affixed no matter when they are given. The law of God is always the same.

One of the Nephite leaders was a prophet-king who taught them the law and the subsequent punishments that were attached to disobedience of that law.

Therefore, thou art condemned to die, according to the law which hast been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide the law. (Alma 1:14)

[57]         Alma also taught that it was not a sin for men to defend their lives, their homes and their country by bloodshed.

And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore, for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion. (Alma 43:47)

And now, behold, we will resist wickedness even unto bloodshed. We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land. (Alma 62:10)

There are certain inalienable rights given to men from God that are as precious as life itself. These must or should always be defended–even if it requires bloodshed.

Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. (Alma 61:14)

The Nephites considered freedom so precious that “. . .whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law.” (Alma 62:10)

The Nephites considered capital punishment a deterrent and they reasoned:

Now if there was no law given–if a man murdered, he should die–would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin, men would not be afraid to sin. (Alma 42:19-20)

The Book of Mormon is another evidence that the law and punishments were consistent with those taught in the Bible.


The Lord gave further light concerning capital punishment to Joseph Smith; and it was no surprise that the law was not [58] changed from any previous dispensation. The Lord revealed: And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die. (D.C. 42:19)

It should be remembered, however, that the Church is not obligated to administer the law of capital punishment. That belongs to the “laws of the land”, or the kingdom or government of God, depending upon which presides. The Lord revealed:

And it shall come to pass, that if any persons among you shall kill, they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the laws of the land; for remember that he hath no forgiveness; and it shall be proved according to the laws of the land. (D.C. 42:79)

In a written statement of belief by Joseph Smith, he also emphasized this same idea:

We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery. theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment. (D.C. 134:8)

Notice that punishment should be “according to the nature of the offense,” or equal to the crime. Also, punishment is made for even their “tendency to evil among men.”

Capital punishment is a deterrent. If it were not, then why do even hardened criminals fear it the most? Why does nearly every criminal sentenced to death seek to have it changed to life imprisonment? When the punishment is increased, then fear of the punishment is increased proportionately.

Those who seek to abolish capital punishment may site some state with a low murder rate and no capital punishment. But who can say that if they had capital punishment, the murder rate would not be even lower?

[59]         For those interested in statistics–in the past 20 years, over 40 states have had capital punishment. And some of those who abolished it, later placed it back into law. Also, the majority of all nations employ capital punishment. Without a just compensation for crime, we would turn our society into a jungle.

In too many cases, a murderer who spends his “life” sentence in prison, is released to murder again. This is proof that prison is not a deterrent for them. Paul Harvey said that in the past 186 men who were executed, “not one of them ever committed another crime, therefore capital punishment is a deterrent to crime.” Shaw once said that hanging the wrong man will deter as effectively as hanging the right one. But it is not the purpose of execution to alone be a deterrent–it is justice and the administration of a punishment equal to the crime. Someone once said that the best law is the one that prevents crime, not just punishment to the criminal; and the next best law is the one that punishes crime so that it will not happen again.

No one can deny that the execution of a murderer is horrible, but neither can they deny that murder is even more horrible. When the sacredness of life is violated, then justice by man and God demands retribution.

A judge once said, “The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.”

  1. Edgar Hoover wrote in favor of the death penalty:

It is my opinion that when no shadow of a doubt remains relative to the guilt of a defendant, the public interest demands capital punishment be invoked where the law so provides.

Who, in all good conscience, can say that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the spies who delivered the secret of the atomic bomb into the hands of the Soviets, should have been spared when their treachery caused the shadow of annihilation to fall upon all of the world’s peoples? What place would there have been in civilization for these two who went to their deaths unrepentant, unwilling to the last to help their own country and their own fellowmen? What would have been the chances [60] of rehabilitating Jack Gilbert Graham, who placed a bomb in his own mother’s luggage and blasted her and 43 other innocent victims into oblivion as they rode an airliner across a peaceful sky? (F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin, Vol. 29)

Psychiatry and moral liberalism go hand in hand. The truth is that many of the “cured” are safe while under the control of guards, doctors and prison; but once they are out on the streets of a competitive society, they usually revert back to their former self-expressions.

I happen to think that if a person of adult body has not been endowed with adequate controls against irrationally taking the life of another, that person must be judicially painlessly, regretfully killed before that mindless body’s horrible automation repeats. (Jacques Barzun, Dean of Faculties of Columbia Univ., The American Scholar, Vol. 31, p. 181)

If a zoo keeper would open the gates of the wild animals to prey upon citizens, it would be less serious than to turn a wild criminal loose upon society. The animal acts for food, or in self-defense, but a murderer usually pre-meditates for many unjust reasons.

Those who plead the most for the abolishment of capital punishment should visit the scenes of the crimes of the murderers. Those “bleeding hearts” who have so much compassion for the murderer should see and realize who and what they are trying to save.

Misguided compassion does not wipe away the crime or the guilt. We should show more compassion for the victim than for the bestial criminal. Those who plead for the “rehabilitation” of murderers should first plead for the widows, the orphans, and the families of the victims, and show them compassion. At least in some European countries a murderer is made to labor for the benefit of the victim’s dependents.

Some argue that capital punishment brutalizes society. But the opposite is really true–murder brutalizes society. It is the murderer who cheapens society, and capital punishment is the guarantee against this brutalization.

[61]         Most of these abolitionists are the very ones that honor the laws that spend half the national income for weapons of war. They say nothing about the constant research in developing new weapons of destroying mankind. They vote for political parties that intend to arm their country with every conceivable weapon of destruction. As our country stands today, it is hardly the time or place to argue abolition of capital punishment for humanitarian reasons. As for the clergymen who join the fight against capital punishment, they are usually found in uniform blessing the troops and their weapons for a bloody victory.

Every day police shoot at, or kill, bank robbers. Do these abolitionists cry and petition the police to put down their weapons or stop such murder? They overlook the robber who gets killed, but try to stop capital punishment of a murderer.

The opponents of capital punishment seem to be satisfied with any form of prison term for criminals, as long as it avoids execution. They speak of the sanctity of life, but do not concern themselves with its quality. Consider the criminal who is sentenced to life in a prison. He has nothing in his life to look forward to except living in an iron barred cage, like a confined animal. Here in a little cell, with only the association of the most degraded and corrupt of society, he lives with foul minds and immoral misfits. It soon becomes a nightmare. One police officer told me that he has seen grown men in tears, on their knees, pleading to be sent to a different prison. When Joan of Arc was sentenced to “life” in prison, she chose to be burned at the stake. Many men sentenced to life in prison would rather be executed.

Then consider the man who spends 20 or 30 years in a prison and is released. What jobs are available for him? When he finds his wife gone away with someone else and his children grown and gone, what does life and society mean to him? With such a hopeless future, wouldn’t death have been better? Life in prison implies that taking his life is too severe, but making him endure a second degree death–an intolerable life in a cage–is a better choice. And they call that more humane?

The Christian or Hebrew should be the foremost supporter of the death penalty. Not only does the law of God sustain and [62] demand it, but so do most of the states. The Bible is the main advocate of righteous laws and the most austere law against crime and wickedness. Lawmen, whose experience with crime and the law, agree with capital punishment. Policemen who are brought into constant contact with the criminal are among the foremost authorities on the subject, and they advocate capital punishment more than any other group or class of people.

The primary support today for the death penalty comes from law enforcement groups, that is, from the police and from prosecutors. Central to their position is the belief that society has a right to exact retribution from law breakers and that the best way to do this with murderers and other vicious criminals is through capital punishment. They also defend the view that the death penalty is the only effective deterrent.

A secondary line of defense issues from some theologians of the more Bible-centered persuasion. Whereas police officers rely mainly on their personal experiences with criminals to support their claims, these theologians rest their case mainly on Biblical exegesis and dogma. (The Death Penalty in America, pp. 120-121)

Some of the arguments used against capital punishment are that: (1) It is not a deterrent; (2) It is cruel and unusual; (3) It is discriminatory; and (4) Life is too sacred to destroy. Reason and research, however, will prove the following:

  1. Capital punishment is a deterrent.

The purpose of any punishment is to act as a deterrent. It follows then that the more severe the punishment, the greater the deterrent effect. This can be simply demonstrated in comparing the punishment of a 10-year sentence in one area to a 10-day sentence for the same crime in another area. Or, if there is no punishment for a crime, it logically follows that that crime would increase. Certainly, the more severe the punishment, the more effective the deterrent.

Too often the people who do studies on capital punishment are the people who are attempting to create statistics that can be used against an anti-death penalty. They overlook, avoid, and refuse to accept the simple, logical or most common evidences [63] that prove that capital punishment is a deterrent. They ignore much of the demographic evidence. Some of these statistics were taken after 1965 when almost all states had a death penalty on their law books but were forbidden to use it, and so no death penalty was carried out. Thus, in reality, there was no death penalty at all. Such studies do not prove anything.

Tautology is the interviewing of murderers to determine if capital punishment was a deterrent to them. The investigators should interview those people who did not commit murder to see if it had been a deterrent to them. It is only evident that those who commit murder are not affected very much by a law that is opposed to murder.

Years ago Japan had one of the worst narcotic problems of any nation in the world. In trying to solve this problem, they passed a law of capital punishment for anyone caught selling narcotics. Then they enforced the law and executions began. In a very short time Japan had one of the least problems with narcotics of any nation.

It is very obvious that when capital punishment is administered, the victim is deterred from ever committing another crime.

  1. Capital punishment is not cruel and unusual.

Many arguments are presented to condemn capital punishment because it is “cruel and unusual”, using a clause that is inserted in the Constitution. But the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution, believed in capital punishment and administered it many times. The clause about cruel and unusual punishment had reference to the kind of lingering punishment that they were acquainted with in England–cruel tortures and unusual forms of punishment, which were indeed very cruel and very unusual. They saw nothing cruel and unusual with a swift execution for a capital offense. What is cruel and unusual about a deserved instantaneous execution?

  1. Capital punishment is not discriminatory.

In New York, since 1930, 71% of the people executed were [64] black and 23% were white. Discrimination has been claimed because of the high proportion of blacks being executed in comparison to whites. But the disproportionately high number of murderers were black; therefore, there would naturally be a disproportionately higher number of blacks to be executed. Discrimination, by such statistics, is not a reason to eliminate capital punishment. If more blacks than whites are caught stealing, is it a reason to stop sending people to jail for robbery?

Statistics are often dug up by the abolitionists of capital punishment by comparing one state to another. But such records are not valid because different states have varying populations, beliefs, ethnic and social backgrounds. Only statistics of the same state under different laws can be evaluated as to effect and deterrent factors.

  1. Life is sacred and must be protected.

Some murderers are oblivious to law or the sacredness of life. Consider the case of Stanley Haas. Stanley was from Pennsylvania and was, convicted on a rape case, and sentenced to jail. During his escape, he was stopped by a policeman whom he shot and killed. He then took a woman and her young daughter and killed them. He took another hostage, eventually killing him. He was later recaptured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. But because of the decision in the Furman vs. Georgia case, the death penalty was set aside. During that time he killed two additional people in prison: one inmate and a sergeant of the guards. Why should his life be spared? What are the reasons for saving people in a society that they are destroying? If war is justifiable homicide, does it stop with individuals?

Who in their rational thinking would spare the life of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer who committed mass murder of the most monstrous kind by executing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children? To show his disrespect for the sacredness of life, he used the skins and tattoos of many of his victims to make lampshades.

In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled against capital punishment in the United States. It was not being administered in very [65] many states anyway, and was enforced in only about 10 per cent of all murder cases. After this ban on capital punishment, criminals boasted about having no fear of being executed. A few states that had previously abolished capital punishment soon reinstated it. They reasoned, after careful study, that it was a just and proper law for capital crimes and gave the following reasons:

  1. It would prevent murderers from murdering again.
  2. It would protect other innocent victims of being murdered.
  3. It would act as a deterrent to other potential killers.
  4. It would give society an increased safety and freedom.
  5. It would conform to the will of the majority of the people who want or demand a firm punishment for the destroyers of their society.
  6. It would establish a people or a nation on a higher, not lower, standard of living. Strict law is not an indication of a savage society.
  7. Capital punishment is a law of God, and any people who obey His law will receive His blessings.

However, we live in a time when capital punishment occurs less and less frequently. Among some states and nations there are no crimes that warrant capital punishment, as noted by Bruce R. McConkie:

Modern governments do not take the life of the adulterers and some of them have done away with the supreme penalty where murder is involved–all of which is further evidence of the direful apostasy that prevails among the peoples who call themselves Christians. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 104)

Both the Old Testament and Book of Mormon administered capital punishment upon the wicked according to the law of God. The New Testament did not change or destroy that law, and it should still be in effect today. Capital punishment is not an indication of a savage society–it is a means of protecting society [66] from savages. It does not destroy society–it is a means of purifying society. God determined it that way.

More than ever before in this nation, we need laws that protect the innocent–not the criminals!


[67]                              Chapter 7


So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood it defileth the land; and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. (Num. 35:33)

There are some crimes committed against the laws of man which are so serious that they are punishable by death, or capital punishment. Some sins against the laws of God are also serious enough to warrant the same punishment. Crime is against civil law, but sin is an ecclesiastical offense. In some instances a religious sin can be more serious than a civil crime. Murder is considered a crime in society, and also a sin against the law of God.

However, sometimes a sin against God is not a crime against society, such as swearing or profanity, or not keeping the Sabbath Day holy. And, conversely, there are times when a crime against society is not a sin against God; for example, exceeding the speed limit on the highway, plural marriage, or fishing without a license. Yet there are also certain transgressions which break both the laws of God and the laws of man. Murder is one of these evils, along with robbery, rape, assault, etc.


Jesus became known as the great “sacrifice” for sin. His blood was shed for all IF they would repent or refrain from sins [68] that were unforgivable. He came to save men from their sins, not in them. Paul wrote:

If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing…. (Heb. 10:26-29)

Paul is saying that those who sinned against the law of Moses “died” by the hands of two or three witnesses, but, those who oppose and transgress against the Gospel of Christ are guilty of a more serious sin. Paul also wrote that–

. . .almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb. 9:22)

Note he is saying that “almost” all sins are purged with blood. There are some sins so grievous that even the atonement by the Savior will not cleanse them from the sin. Murder is one of those sins. Nothing will bring back the life of the victim. It is a sin beyond the power of redemption. John the Apostle revealed that “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him,” (I John 3:15) which indicates that this sin is beyond the power of forgiveness. In the latter days the Lord revealed the same doctrine by saying:

And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come. (D.C. 42:18)

The Prophet Joseph added that “The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood, or be accessory thereto”. (T.P.J.S., p. 301) Hence, the blood of the Savior cannot atone for shedding innocent blood. It is a civil crime, and a religious sin, beyond the ability of a person to rectify.

[69]         Joseph Fielding Smith added:

And men for certain crimes have had to atone as far as they could for their sins wherein they have placed themselves beyond the redeeming power of the blood of Christ. (Doc. of Sal. 1:136)

Murder is an unforgivable sin, but sinning against the Holy Ghost is an unpardonable sin. To sin against the Holy Ghost places the person into both an unforgivable and unpardonable condition. A murderer will receive a pardon for his sin but will not be forgiven. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that, “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness.” (T.P.J.S., p. 339)

The reason that murder is unforgivable is because the killer has taken something he cannot repay–he cannot restore the life of the murdered person.

Peter, when preaching to some who had participated in the crucifixion of Christ, said they had “killed the Prince of Life” and wished they had done it “through ignorance.” His only advice to them was to repent and be converted to the gospel so that their “sins might be blotted out.” (See Acts 3:14-19) He did not say their sins would be “forgiven” as both he and John the Baptist were preaching before, the reason being that they were guilty of murder. Peter understood the difference between “forgiveness and blotted out”. Sins which are “blotted out” mean they are pardoned but not forgiven. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained this:

“What shall we do?” Peter says, I would ye had done it ignorantly,” speaking of crucifying the Lord, etc. He did not say to them, Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins;” but he said, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19) This is the case with murderers. They could not be baptized for the remission of sins, for they shed innocent blood.” (T.P.J.S., p. 339)

[70]         And again,

Because they were murderers, and no murderer hath eternal life. Even David must wait for those times of refreshing, before he can come forth and his sins be blotted out. (T.P.J.S., p. 188)

Most modern ministers claim while Jesus was on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” that He was asking God to forgive all those who were murdering him. The true meaning of this was clarified in the Inspired Translation of the Bible by Joseph Smith:

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (meaning the soldiers who crucified him), and they parted his raiment and cast lots. (Luke 23:35, Insp. Trans.)

Hence, the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him were ignorant of who Christ really was and what they were doing. They were executioners doing their duty, and not murderers. But the Jews, who had plotted and conspired for His death, had asked that “his blood be upon us and our children’s children”. These Jews then continued to murder Christ’s disciples and to kill all of the Apostles. Even if we believe that Christ asked God to forgive those murderers, God didn’t pay any attention to what He said, because soon they were all torn asunder by the sword, sold as slaves and lost their nation. For 2,000 years that innocent blood has been crying for vengeance upon that people. Only within the past few decades has that blood on their “children’s children” begun to be lifted.

It has been stated by many Protestant ministers that the thief on the cross went to heaven that same day–but heaven and paradise are as different as night and day. Paradise is the spirit prison, or the place where ALL the spirits of mankind go at death, as the Prophet Joseph explained:

I will say something about the spirits in prison. There has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” King James’ translators make it out to [71] say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was “This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits; then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries. And Peter says he went and preached to the world of spirits (spirits in prison, I Peter, 3rd chap., 19th verse) . . . (T.P.J.S., p. 309)

Some believe it is charitable and forgiving to prevent the capital punishment of a murderer. Yet even charity, prayers, and supplications cannot bring forgiveness to the man guilty of murder. Joseph Smith said:

If the ministers of religion had a proper understanding of the doctrine of eternal judgment, they would not be found attending the man who forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country, by shedding innocent blood; for such characters cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing. The prayers of all the ministers in the world can never close the gates of hell against a murderer. (T.P.J.S., p. 189)

And from Brigham Young:

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. (J.D. 4:53)

Many ministers and law makers have a false benevolence or sympathy which would not only rob justice, and promote crime, but throw murderers back into society rather than to purge society.


Aside from the practice of death as a punishment for crime, there is also the principle of atonement by the manner in which a person dies. Punishment may be administered for crime, but atonement may apply for sin.

For a man to atone for his sins by the shedding of his blood does not mean that it is a substitution or replacement of the atonement made by Christ. This is the point which anti-Mormons usually misunderstand. There are many ways a man may make an atonement for crime. To illustrate, a man robs a bank but later he feels remorse and returns the money and pays extra for the inconvenience of all concerned. He has made an atonement for his crime. Again, if he robs the bank but is caught and sent to prison for two years, he is atoning for his crime. Then again, if he is shot trying to rob the bank, he has more than atoned for his crime. Suffering punishment and reparation can be a form of atonement.

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

There never was any sin committed, big or small, that has not been atoned for, or that will not have to be atoned for. (Doc. of Sal., Vol. 1:123)

Here are some simple facts of religion which should be understood by the modern Christian. The more good you do in this life, the more reward you are promised. The more evil you do, the greater will be the punishment. This is the law of justice–in any court or under the law of God. The more you absolve your crime or sin, the less the punishment you must pay. Nearly all men are “saved” by the atonement of Christ, but that does not mean that justice is robbed or that men do not repay insofar as they have the ability to do so. A man guilty of many murders who says on his death-bed, “I believe in Jesus,” is not going to suddenly inherit heavenly bliss and have all his sins forgiven.

Society may demand a retribution for murder: 7 to 20 years in prison, death by hanging, electric chair, gas, etc. The question now is, “Does it matter how a man should die for a capital crime?” [73] The Bible says yes. The law given in Genesis has never been repealed wherein the man that sheds the blood of another must have his blood shed:

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man. (Gen. 9:6)

Why did God say that “his blood be shed”, rather than just put to death? Was it more clearly explained when God told Moses that it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11; see also Heb. 9:22)

If a murder is committed and the murderer goes unpunished, that innocent blood not only cries for vengeance, but it defiles the land. Herein lies one of the great mysteries of blood atonement as indicated by Brigham Young. The Lord revealed to Moses this doctrine by saying.

So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood it defileth the land; and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel. (Num. 35:33-34)

When society makes a murderer pay for his crime by shedding his blood, then their law corresponds to the punishment originally commanded by God. The state of Utah is the only state in the Union that permits a man to have his blood shed for capital punishment.

Brigham Young explained a little of this doctrine by saying:

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. As it was in ancient days, so it is in our day; and though the principles are taught publicly from this stand, still the people do not understand them; yet the law is precisely the same. 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, of a calf, or of a turtle dove cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man. that is the reason why men talk to you as they do from this stand; they understand the doctrine and throw out a few words about it. You have been taught this doctrine, but you do not understand it. (J.D. 4:53-54)

[74]         Men sentenced to capital punishment have usually been free to choose their manner of death. If they understood blood atonement, they would choose to have their blood shed as a partial, if not complete, atonement for their capital crime or sin.

Again it must be repeated that this kind of atonement does not replace the atonement of Christ. Christ’s atonement is for the salvation of mankind; men’s individual atonement is for personal recompense. A man’s atonement is to repay an injustice, not for the salvation that is offered by the blood of Christ.

Many of the modern merchants of Christianity believe in an instantaneous salvation. To illustrate: A robber goes into Henry’s Donut Shop and robs him of $500. Later the robber regrets his crime and he goes to the sheriff and says, “I know that you are all powerful, sheriff, and by your grace you can forgive me. I am sorry for my sins and I believe in your love and mercy.” The sheriff says, “That’s all I need to hear. All your sins are forgiven, including the $500 you took from Henry.” The sinner goes away innocent and happy. Meanwhile, Henry hears about what happened. He is furious because the robber is absolved of his crime, yet never returned the $500. Henry says, “What kind of a sheriff do we have? He knows nothing about justice he is in league with the robber!”

In Mormonism, the robber must first pay back the obligation of his sin with whatever means that amounts to the value of $500. Then he can be forgiven.

Others also refer to this atonement by criminals or sinners:

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 atone 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 blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf…. (J. Fielding Smith, Doc. of Sal., 1:134-136)

[75]                         . . . 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 have their own blood shed to atone for their sins. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 87)

. . . what is needful for the salvation of the soul where one’s sins place him beyond the reach of vicarious means of salvation–then it is the shedding of the sinner’s own blood that must here be referred to. (B. H. Roberts, Comp. Hist. Church, 4:129)

Another commentary from the editor of the Millennial Star gives background and further understanding into this doctrine of atonement and retribution.

. . . it was in the councils of eternity, when the Father made proposals concerning the salvation of man, when he should sin on earth; Jesus offered to redeem all who would repent, and keep a celestial law; Lucifer, a younger brother, offered to save all; Jesus’ offer was accepted by the Father, and Lucifer’s proposition appeared so plausible, so much more liberal, noble, benevolent, and kind-hearted, that one-third part of the sons of God believed it and joined Lucifer’s standard.

That was what made division in heaven, and war followed; Lucifer, with one-third of the spirits of heaven, which he drew around him by his sophistry and false philanthropy, declared war against Jesus, and the two-thirds that rallied round his standard to maintain the truth; and they fought until Lucifer and his followers were overcome, and cast out of heaven, even unto the earth, and were cursed with this curse, even that they should not receive unto themselves bodies on the earth, like the two-thirds who maintained their integrity, and fought by the side of Jesus.

This curse came through imbibing and exercising a false spirit, a sympathizing spirit, a spirit that will sympathize with misery or punishment, when misery is justly due by punishment. Lucifer made his followers believe that he was a far more tender-hearted and merciful being than Jesus, and got all he could to help him sympathize for the miseries that must follow the abominable crimes of man on the earth, and they went it for salvation anyhow, right or wrong; they were so good, so holy, and so benevolent they could not do otherwise.

[76]                         There are multitudes of just such benevolent souls on the earth at the present day. Men may lie, steal, swear, get drunk then murder and shed innocent blood, for which there is no forgiveness in this world nor the world to come, and for which as good a man as King David, “a man after God’s own heart.” was thrust down to hell, and there will remain till he has paid the uttermost farthing; and yet there are men in abundance on the earth who are possessed of the same holy benevolence with their father Lucifer, who will pray over them, exhort them to repentance, petition the governor to pardon them, and do all in their power to save them from the punishment decreed by the laws of heaven; they are so sympathetic, have so much kind-hearted feeling, so full of Christian benevolence, disinterested benevolence, they would save the rascals from punishment if possible; they cannot bear to have their poor fellow creatures suffer so much, it is too bad. Such conduct is the disinterested benevolence of which the world is so full, and boasts so much.

But what is the benevolence of heaven, the sympathy of the Holy Ones in such matters? Down to Hell where David went; down to hell ye murderers, ye whose sins cannot be pardoned; ye have taken the blood of your fellows, and ye can’t restore it; therefore howl ye for hot wrath is upon you, and he that sitteth in the heavens will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. Your destruction cometh like the whirlwind, and no power can stay it.

Herein is the benevolence of God manifested; when there is no more hope of a man, instead of keeping him in the midst of the children of men, to commit further outrages, and mar the peace of his kingdom, he thrusts him down to his own place to howl out his lamentations, and work his passage to the last milestone; while the disinterested benevolence of the priests of Baal would pray him into heaven, in spite of the decrees of heaven, with all his unpardonable sins upon his head, if they had the power. (Mill. Star 14:278)


Although atonement by the shedding of blood might be a doctrine and principle of the Church, it is not to be administered by the Church. This is left to the government, whether it be man’s government or God’s. It is a religious doctrine but a political law. [77] If states or government do not choose to adopt this law into their penal codes, then they are not administering law as close to the laws of God as they should.

The Lord gave this directive concerning the capital punishment of a murderer.

And it shall come to pass, that if any persons among you shall kill, they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the laws of the land; for remember that he hath no forgiveness; and it shall be proved according to the laws of the land. (D.C. 42:79)

Many years later, in 1890, the First Presidency of the Church confirmed this in a statement by saying:

We solemnly make the following declarations, vis: That this Church views the shedding of human blood with the utmost abhorrence. That we regard the killing of human beings, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime which should be punished by the shedding the blood of the criminal, after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land…. The revelations of God to this Church make death the penalty for capital crime, and require that offenders against life and property shall be delivered up to and tried by the laws of the land. (First Presidency, Mill. Star, 52:33-34)

President Joseph Fielding Smith posed this question and then answered it:

Is it the prerogative of the Church to inflict the punishment? No! The Lord has given commandment that all offenses worthy of death shall be handled by the courts of the land as declared in the Doctrine and Covenants. (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 1:189)

When the Israelites were in Egypt, they had to endure the laws of the Egyptians or suffer the consequences. However, when they went into the wilderness, they became subject to the more severe laws of God for Moses brought them a theocratic government. So they were subject to both civil and religious laws. Many men were put to death for ecclesiastical sins. This was God’s method of cleansing His people and purifying or sanctifying Israel.

[78]         Heber C. Kimball made a comparison of the Mormon society in his day to that of ancient Israel:

We read in the Bible that the Lord told Joshua to sanctify Israel; for, says he, “there is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel.” And on the morrow they sanctified themselves by stoning to death Achan, the son of Carmi, who stole the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment. They also stoned to death his wife and his children, his oxen and his asses, and burnt them with fire, together with his tent, the silver, the gold, and the garment, in the valley of Achor.

Thus all Israel put to death the transgressor and sanctified themselves before the Lord. Would it not be an excellent course to pursue with this people, to sanctify them to the fullest extent of the word? There are individuals in these valleys who profess to be Latter-day Saints; but do they by their works make their profession honorable? No, their works and their profession are very dissimilar indeed. I think it would be an excellent thing for this people to be sanctified from such persons, and have them cleansed from our midst, by making an atonement. (J.D. 7:17)

God made very stern punishments for sin in Israel. Each sin was a transgression against the knowledge of their deliverance by God through miraculous manifestations. Their sins were more deserving of punishment than when they lived in Egypt. Ecclesiastical sins were no more tolerable than civil crimes, and many men died for religious sins in Israel, such as:

Smiting a parent …. Ex. 21:15-17; Lev. 20:9

Idolatry …. Lev. 20:1-5; Deut. 13; 17:2-5

Blasphemy…. Lev. 24:15-16

False Prophecy…. Deut. 18:10,11,20

Sorcery…. Ex. 22:18

Profaning the Sabbath …. Ex. 31:14

Blood atonement, incorporated with capital punishment, should still be in vogue by society today as anciently. The Prophet Joseph concluded:

In debate, George A. Smith said imprisonment was better than hanging. I replied, I was opposed to hanging; even if a [79] 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. (H.C. 5:296)

When the Mormon people were driven out into the wilderness of the West, they still adhered to this principle. When laws were formed and their government established, they made these considerations.

. . . the founders of Utah incorporated in the laws of the Territory provisions for the capital punishment of those who willfully shed the blood of their fellow men. This law, which is now the law of the State, granted unto the condemned murderer the privilege of choosing for himself whether he die by hanging, or whether he be shot, and thus have his blood shed in harmony with the law of God; and thus atone, so far as it is in his power to atone, for the death of his victim. Almost without exception the condemned party chooses the latter death. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doc. of Sal., 1:136)

It is noteworthy to consider during the past decade the states in America that follow the pattern of capital punishment as outlined by God:

No death penalty …. 11 states

Hanging …. 10 states

Lethal gas …. 12 states

Electrocution …. 23 states

Shooting …. 1 state (Utah)

When the children of Israel were led into the wilderness, Moses was their prophet and leader. He gave them both civil and religious laws to obey, and he prescribed the punishments for both.

Likewise, when the Mormons were led out here into the wilderness and Brigham Young was their prophet and leader, he gave them both civil and religious laws to obey. He prescribed the punishments that should be administered for both.

Brigham Young was both prophet of the Church and governor of the Territory. He was the political and religious head over the people in this Great Basin Kingdom.


Nearly all anti-Mormons have put up a howl against the principle of capital punishment by bloodshed. But it is interesting to consider this law as described by leading authorities, on certain crimes punishable by bloodshed:

(1) murder

(2) being a traitor or covenant breaker

(3) adultery and whoredom

(4) thievery and robbery

(1) Murder

. . . we regard the killing of human beings, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime which should be punished by the shedding of blood of the criminal, after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land. (Mill. Star 52:33-34)

If a man has shed innocent blood, he will have to pay the atonement, or he never can atone for his sin; therefore, at the day of judgment he will be judged according to men in the flesh, and condemned according to the law. (H. C. Kimball, J.D. 7:236)

Suppose the shepherd should discover a wolf approaching the flock; what would he be likely to do? Why, we should suppose, if the wolf was within proper distance, that he would kill him at once with the weapons of defense which he carries; in short, that he would shoot him down, kill him on the spot. If the wolf was not within shot, we would naturally suppose he would set the dogs on him; and you are aware, I have no doubt, that these shepherd dogs have very pointed teeth, and they are very active, very sensitive to know when the flock is in danger. It is sometimes the case, perhaps, that the shepherd has not with him the necessary arms to destroy the wolf, but in such a case he would set his faithful dogs on him, and by that means accomplish his destruction.

Is this true in relation to the shepherd, and the flock, and the dogs? You can all testify to its truth. Now was Jesus Christ the good shepherd? Yes. What the faithful shepherd is to his sheep, so is the Savior to his followers. He has gone and left on [81] earth other shepherds who stand in the place of Jesus Christ to take care of the flock. When that flock is out on the prairie, and the pasture range extending broad and green before them, and completely cleared of wolves, is not that sanctified and cleansed, when there is nothing to hurt or destroy them? I ask if one wolf is permitted to mingle with the flock, and unmolested proceed in a work of destruction, will he not go off and tell the other wolves, and they bring in a thousand others, more wicked and ravenous than themselves? Whereas, if the first one should meet with his just deserts, he could not go back and tell the rest of his hungry tribe to come and feast themselves upon the flock.

Now don’t say that Brother Hyde has taught strong things, for I have only told you what takes place between the shepherd and the flock, when the sheep have to be protected.

If you say that the Priesthood or authorities of the Church here are the shepherd, and the Church is the flock, you can make your own application of this figure. It is not at all necessary for me to do it.

It is all the same to me whether they want to destroy the flock, or destroy, steal, and carry off the property of the flock. If you steal my team, which is my means of living, you might just as well kill me at once. It is like this–“brother, I will not disturb, molest, or harm you, or any of the rest of your brethren; but we will take you out on the bleak and comfortless prairie, and leave you there to starve or freeze to death, and take possession of your property.” You might as well destroy us at once as to take us where we would starve. It would be much better to take our heads off at once than to subject us to a lingering death. Says the Apostle to the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer–“The time will come when grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and even of yourselves will men arise speaking perverse things to draw disciples after them.” (Orson Hyde, J.D. 1:72-73)

(2) Traitors and Covenant Breakers

Traitors or covenant breakers can be found in any organization or country. When men make an oath to obey certain rules or laws, then they are, above all else, obligated to abide by them; and disobedience to that oath would require a more rigid punishment. Consider a crooked policeman, dishonest banker, murdering doctor, politician’s graft, immoral clergyman, and many others who turn from their oaths.

[82]                         . . . for if men turn traitors to God and His servants, their blood will surely be shed, or else they will be damned, and that too according to their covenants. (Heber C. Kimball J.D. 4:375)

I say, that there are men and women that I would advise to go to the President 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 blood shed, for water will not do, their sins are of too deep a dye.

You may think that I am not teaching you Bible doctrine, but what says the apostle Paul? I would ask how many covenant breakers there are in this city and in this kingdom? 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. * * *

I go in for letting the sword of the Almighty be unsheathed, not only in word, but in deed.

You can scarcely find a place in this city that is not full of filth and abominations. . . .

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. (J.M. Grant, J.D. 4:49-51)

The Prophet Ezekiel gave little hope for traitors and apostates, when he wrote:

But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked men doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. (Ezek. 18:24,26)

Jesus told his disciples they were the salt of the earth, and [83] then he added that if the salt “has lost its savor” then “it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13). This was strong doctrine. He is warning them that if His disciples turn traitors to His cause, that their punishment was not only to be “cast out” but also “trodden under the foot of men”.

Two different and conflicting stories of the death of Judas are written in the scriptures, but Sidney Rigdon explained what really happened:

Sidney Rigdon took his text from the fifth chapter of Matthew, “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost his savour wherewith shall it be salted, it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and be trodden under foot of men.” From this scripture he undertook to prove that when men embrace the gospel and afterwards lose their faith, it is the duty of the Saints to trample them under their feet. He informed the people that they had a set of men among them that had dissented from the church and were doing all in their power to destroy the presidency, laying plans to take their lives, etc., accused them of counterfeiting, lying, cheating and numerous other crimes and called on the people to rise en mass and rid the country of such a nuisance. He said it is the duty of this people to trample them into the earth and if the country cannot be freed from them any other way, I will assist to trample them down or to erect a gallows on the square of Far West and hang them up as they did the gamblers at Vicksburgh and it would be an act at which the angels would smile with approbation.

After this speech by Rigdon, Joseph Smith in a short speech sanctioned what had been said by Rigdon, though said he, I don’t want the brethren to act unlawfully but will tell them one thing. Judas was a traitor and instead of hanging himself was hung by Peter, and with this hint the subject was dropped for the day having created a great excitement and prepared the people to execute anything that should be proposed. (Reed Peck Manuscript, p. 6-7)

Although it is written that Judas “hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5), we also read that “his bowels gushed out.” (Acts 1:18) What sort of hanging was that? How could he be hanged about the neck and his “bowels” gush out? This is a conflicting story [84] which was clarified by Heber C. Kimball, when he said:

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

I will suffer my bowels to be taken out before I will forfeit the covenant I have made with Him and my brethren. Do you understand me? Judas was like salt that had lost its saving principles good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the foot of men. It is just so with you men and women, if you do not honour your callings and cultivate the principles you have received. It is so with you, ye Elders of Israel, when you forfeit your covenants. (J.D. 6:125-126)

Another clear portrayal of the suffering of those who have not kept their serious covenants is written in Acts where they fell dead “at the feet” of the Apostles:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have [85] buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. (Acts 5:1-11)

In the next few verses we read that the Sadducees “were filled with indignation”, and “laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.” I’m sure the apostles did not get thrown into prison for merely preaching or healing the sick. Ananias and his wife had lied to God and to the Apostles; consequently their sin was a sin unto death. When men make a “vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.” (Deut. 23:21)

Jesus was told of Galileans who had been killed by Pilate and their blood had been shed. Jesus said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) Then He spoke of 18 sinners upon whom the tower in Siloam fell “and slew them”; again saying “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Then He gave them a parable in which a man had a vineyard, and left it for the gardener to take care of. When one of the fig trees wasn’t bearing fruit, the owner told the gardener, “And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luke 13:9) This parable and another about a stone falling on the unfruitful and “grinding them to powder,” were told by Matthew: “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” (Matt. 21:45)

(3) Adultery and Whoredom

It is not so much polygamy that they are opposed to, but they hate this people because they strive to be pure, and will not believe in whoredom and adultery, but declare death to the man who is found guilty of those crimes. (Brigham Young, J.D. 7:146)

….Let me suppose a case. Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be [86] received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart and I would do it with clean hands. . . .

There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it; and the judgments of the Almighty will come, sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for breaking their covenants. (Brigham Young, J.D. 3:247)

It is believed in the world that our females are all common women . . . but they are not unclean, for we wipe all unclean ones from our midst: we not only wipe them from our streets but we wipe them out of existence. And if the world want to practice uncleanness, and bring their prostitutes here, if they do not repent and forsake such sins, we will wipe the evil out. We will not have them in this valley, unless they repent; for, so help me God, while I live, I will lend my hand to wipe such persons out; and I know this people will. (Pres. Heber C. Kimball, J.D. 7:19)

. . . They know, that if they have any connections out of the marriage covenant, they not only forfeit their lives by the law of God, but they forfeit their salvation also. (Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 42)

….The principle, the only one that beats and throbs through the heart of the entire inhabitants of this Territory, is simply this: The man who seduces his neighbor’s wife must die, and her nearest relative must kill him. (George A. Smith, J.D. 1:97)

These are my views, and the Lord knows that I believe in the principles of sanctification; and when I am guilty of seducing any man’s wife, or any woman in God’s world, I say, sever my head from my body. These have ever been my feelings from the days of my youth. This is my character, and the character of President Brigham Young. It was the character of Joseph Smith and of Jesus Christ; and that is the character of the Apostles of Jesus, and that must be sustained by this people. (Heber C. Kimball, J.D. 7:20)

The law is very strict; and in this congregation there are men and women who, with uplifted hands to heaven, before the [87] Father, the Son, and all the holy angels, made solemn covenants that they never would do thus and so. For example, one obligation is, “I will never have anything to do with any of the daughters of Eve, unless they are given to me of the Lord.” Men will call God to witness that they never will transgress this law, and promise to live a virtuous life, so far as intercourse with females is concerned; but what can you see? A year will not pass away before some few of them are guilty of creeping into widows’ houses, and into bed with the wives of their brethren, debauching one woman here, and another there. Do we enforce upon them the strict penalty of the law? Not yet. I hope their conduct arises from their ignorance, but let me transgress my covenant, and the case would be different. I want to live as long as I can, on the earth, but I would not like to live to violate my covenants; I would rather go behind the vail before doing so. (Brigham Young, J.D. 3:246)

There are some things that Brigham has said he would do; but has never happened to do them; and that is not all, he prays fervently, to his Father and God that he may never be brought into circumstances to be obliged to shed human blood. He never has yet been brought into such a position. Still, let me find a dog in my bedroom I would not say that he would be very safe; I hope he will never get there. If I should find a dog in my buttery, or in my bedroom as some have, I fear they would give their last howl. I hope and pray they never will come there. If they jump my claims here, I shall be very apt to give them a pre-emption right that will last them to the last resurrection. I hope no man will ever venture so far as to tempt me to do such a thing. (Brigham Young, J.D. 11:281)

An example of this law, in the days when it was given anciently, is found in the writings of Moses:

And when Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Be-[88]hold, I give unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the Covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Num. 25:6-8, 10-13)

The law of God to Moses was death for those caught in adultery. It read:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Lev. 20:10)

Again in Deuteronomy that law continues:

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. (Deut. 22:22)

Jesus never at any time gave a commandment that did away with the law or punishment of those guilty of adultery. If He would have done away with the punishment for breaking that law, then He would be abolishing or destroying the law, which He said He would not do. (Matt. 5:17) If Jesus would have said that adulterers should not be punished, as many Christians assert, He would be tolerating or allowing people to revel in such abominable practices. But, Jesus said that men should not even commit adultery in their minds.

The purpose of such stringent laws and commandments was to sanctify and purify the people of Israel. All sexual restrictions were given with punishments for the disobedient. Fathers were specifically directed to preserve their daughters from becoming harlots, “lest the land fall into harlotry and the land become full of wickedness.” (Lev. 19:19) Even a priest’s daughter who was found “playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Lev. 21:9) The rapist who might find a girl and “force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.” (Deut. 22:25) Incest was intercourse between persons closely related to each other and constituted a capital crime. (Lev. 20:14)

[89]         It is inconceivable that anyone could believe that these laws governing society were righteous under Moses, but considered evil or done away by Christ. Tolerance or intolerance of sin indicates the measure of a person’s righteousness or unrighteousness.

(4) Thievery and Robbery

If you want to know what to do with a thief that you may find stealing, I say kill him on the spot and never suffer him to commit another iniquity…. if I caught a man stealing on my premises I should be very apt to send him straight home, and that is what I wish every man to do, to put a stop to that abominable practice in the midst of this people.

I know this appears hard, and throws a cold chill over our revered traditions received by early education. I had a great many such feelings to contend with myself, and was as much of a sectarian in my notions as any other man, and as mild, perhaps, in my natural disposition, but I have trained myself to measure things by the line of justice, to estimate them by the rule of equity and truth, and not by the false tradition of the fathers, or the sympathies of the natural mind. If you will cause all those whom you know to be thieves, to be placed in a line before the mouth of one of our largest cannon, well loaded with chain shot, I will prove by my works whether I can mete out justice to such persons, or not. I would consider it just as much my duty to do that, as to baptize a man for the remission of his sins. That is a short discourse on thieves, I acknowledge, but I tell you the truth as it is in my heart. (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:108-109)

At the same time my feelings are these the best way to sanctify ourselves, and please God our Heavenly Father in these days, is to rid ourselves of every thief, and sanctify the people from every vile character. I believe it is right; it is the law and practice,of our neighboring state to put the same thing in execution upon men who violate the law, and trample upon the sacred rights of others. It would have a tendency to place a terror on those who leave these parts, that may prove their salvation when they see the heads of thieves taken off, or shot down before the public. Let us clear up the horizon around us; and then, like the atmosphere after the thunder storm has spent its fury in the tops of the mountains, becomes purified; [90] and a calm sunshine pervades the whole. I believe it to be pleasing in the sight of heaven to sanctify ourselves and put these things away from our midst. (Orson Hyde, J.D. 1:73)

Achan was a thief in Israel and held back part of the spoils of war. God told Joshua that his sin was bringing a curse upon Israel which needed to be remedied. Joshua took him, his children and all he possessed to the valley of Achor and said, “why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day.” (Josh. 7:25), and they stoned and burned them.


What are the spiritual or the ecclesiastical results that are to be expected from the doctrine of atonement? This is best explained by President Brigham Young:

You are aware that when Brother Cummings came to the point of loving our neighbors as ourselves, he could say yes or no as the case might be, that is true. But I want to connect it with the doctrine you read in the Bible. When will we love our neighbor as ourselves? In the first place, Jesus said that no man hateth his own flesh. It is admitted by all that every person loves himself. Now, if we do rightly love ourselves, we want to be saved and continue to exist, we want to go into the kingdom where we can enjoy eternity and see no more sorrow nor death. This is the desire of every person who believes in God. 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 overtaken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which 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 what would say, shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods.” (J.D. 4:219)

[91]         And further:

Now take the wicked, and I can refer to where the Lord had to slay every soul of the Israelites that went out of Egypt, except Caleb and Joshua. He slew them by the hands of their enemies, by the plague, and by the sword, why? Because He loved them, and promised Abraham that He would save them. And He loved Abraham because he was a friend to his God, and would stick to Him in the hour of darkness, hence He promised Abraham that He would save his seed. And he could save them upon no other principle, for they had forfeited their right to the land of Canaan by transgressing the land of God, and they could not have atoned for the sin if they had lived. But if they were slain, the Lord could bring them up in the resurrection, and give them the land of Canaan, and He could not do it on any other principle. (Brigham Young, J.D. 4:220)

Paul the Apostle knew and understood this principle. He refers to it as the destruction of the flesh to save the spirit.

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Cor. 5:4)

Many anti-Mormons and ministers have groveled over this doctrine for over 100 years as if it were “so horrible.” But let’s look at the capital punishment laws of the various states during their short history. The following crimes have been committed for which men have paid with their life:

Murder, kidnapping, treason, perjury in a capital case resulting in the death of an innocent person, train robbery, armed assault by a life term prisoner, carnal knowledge of a female under twelve, rape, forcing a woman to marry, arson of a prison by a convict, attempt on the life of a president or a foreign ambassador, bombing, machine gunning, armed robbery, dynamiting, arson, castration, desecration of a grave, insurrection, abortion causing the death of the woman, causing death by mishandling a poisonous reptile, lynching, assault to rob, carnal knowledge if victim is mentally deficient, assault on a chief of state, aggravated assault to commit rape, forcibly freeing a capital offender, train wrecking, burglary, causing death in a duel, carnal knowledge by using drugs, [92] assault with intent to kill, gathering or delivering information to aid the enemy during wartime, assault while disguised, destruction of vital property by a group in wartime, attempted rape, kidnapping of a female to coerce her into prostitution, aggravated robbery, armed bank robbery, taking the victim of a crime as a hostage, using a machine gun while committing any crime, statutory rape.

The following infractions of federal laws also resulted in capital punishment:

Aircraft piracy, supplying heroin to a minor, espionage violations of the Atomic Energy Act, mutiny, sedition, forcing a safeguard, improper use of countersign, spying, misconduct in the presence of the enemy, desertion, aiding the enemy, willful disobedience of a superior, misbehavior while on duty.

The above listings are included on pages 48 through 52 of The Death Penalty in America.

What would anti-Mormons say if Utah should also put people to death for “desecrating a grave”, “abortion causing the death of the woman”, “burglary”, or “assault while disguised”? How much uproar would there be if we executed everyone guilty of “supplying heroin to a minor”, “willful disobedience of a superior”, and “misbehavior while on duty”, as the federal law prescribes?

Another illustration of blood atonement is given in the Book of Mormon. Nephi went to the house of Laban asking for the plates upon which were written the law and their genealogy. But Laban refused to relinquish them. Later Nephi returned as he “was led by the spirit”, and found Laban drunk on the ground. The spirit told him he “should kill Laban.” This was repulsive to Nephi, and he said, “Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.” But the power of revelation came to him again saying, “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.” (I Nephi 4:12-13) Nephi did then “obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.”

[93]         Now Laban had once been a noble man, and this is why he had possession of the records. He had turned to wickedness and therefore became a candidate for execution, and blood atonement, according to the voice of the Lord. His sword, once used in honor and for the defense of the work of God, was as precious as the records and therefore was preserved. That sword was preserved throughout the thousand year history of that people and was found beside the records that Joseph Smith received. That sword will again someday be brought forth in honor, along with more sacred records. If Laban had not been deserving of death, then that sword would have been used for a sinful purpose, and would have innocent blood on it. Such a sword would never have been associated with sacred records. When Nephi shed the blood of Laban, he did him a favor by making him atone for his sins. Strange as it may sound, it is a Bible and Book of Mormon doctrine.

How many people in our society today would pay with their blood for the following crimes listed by the Prophet Ezekiel?

If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to anyone of these things; and that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbor’s wife, hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. (Ezek. 18:10-13)

How many bankers would escape the firing squad if Ezekiel were the prophet over our country today, since they live by usury and take increase?

From the Zondervan Encyclopedia comes this clear illustration of atonement by shedding blood:

The shedding of blood in sacrifice was prescribed as an acceptable substitute for the life of the sinner, and an act of atonement by which he could be restored to fellowship with God. (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1:627)

[94]         This renders the fact that the act (of sacrificing an animal) restores a person to fellowship with God. It is no less true pertaining to the sacrifice of a man who has shed his own blood, when he has sinned too severely against the law. If killing a dove, a lamb or a heifer would bring men back into favor with God, how much more would this act of personal sacrifice be acceptable, especially when the law of God has often prescribed that kind of punishment?

To reiterate the law of blood atonement as God has commanded:

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be

shed; for in the image of God made He man. (Gen. 9:6)

This was the law of God in the beginning. It was not changed by Moses. It was not changed by Jesus. It was not changed by the Mormons.

Some say this law of blood atonement is barbaric, but if the enforcement of this law produces a society in which “the land has been cleansed” and there are no more capital crimes, then how can it be a barbaric law!


[95]                              Chapter 8


I fear, and I regret to say it, that with certain parties here there is a greater anxiety to connect Brigham Young and other church dignitaries with every criminal offense, than diligent endeavor to punish the actual perpetrators of crime. (Bancrofts History of Utah, p. 56; statement made by Jacob Forney, Supt. of Indian Affairs)

One of the most pathetic incidents in the history of the Utah Territory occurred in the fall of 1857 near Cedar City, Utah. It was an atrocious act of violence known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Anti-Mormons and apostates have sent world-wide a billowing mass of pages on this incident in their effort to destroy Mormonism or cast aspersion upon its doctrines. In their determination they have sometimes written the most absurd and wild fantasies imaginable. B.H. Roberts in his History of the Church wrote:

Anti-“Mormon” writers have been determined to fasten the crime upon the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or at least upon her leaders; and also, as a rule, holding that in some way “Mormon” doctrine and “Mormon” church policy was responsible for the crime. On the other hand, church people who in all good conscience, and justly, resent this imputation against their church and its leaders, have been naturally slow to admit all the facts that history may insist upon as inevitable. (C.H.C. 4:139)

[96]         Massacres between the whites and Indians were not uncommon. Just two years before the Mountain Meadows Massacre, on September 2, 1855, General William Harney sent troops against an Indian settlement and wiped out 80 Indians–men, women, and children. It was this act that gave him the famous nickname of “Squaw Killer”. (See Massacres of the Mountains, by J. P. Dunn, Jr.)

Most of the anti-Mormon writers use the Mountain Meadows Massacre as an illustration of the blood atonement doctrine. This is inaccurate, however, as will be illustrated by relating a brief summary of that incident.

On May 1, 1857, the Fancher party left Stiffler Spring, Arkansas, for California. As the emigrant train moved along the countryside, it added new members for mutual protection against the many trials of the long trek. It grew to forty wagons of over 100 people (mostly families from Arkansas and Missouri) and several thousand head of horses and cattle. Alexander Fancher had made two previous trips, so he was familiar with the route.

When the train reached St. Joseph, Missouri, a band of “Missouri Wildcats” joined the caravan. They were some of the roughest elements of an already rough country, and caused several families to leave the original party–which was now nearly 150 in number.

The Wildcats poisoned several springs along the trail in Missouri, an act that should have called for some rebuke from the wagon master; but it was either just merely tolerated or went unnoticed. The Fancher party was generally of upright conduct and language, so the Wildcats from Missouri were not only an affront to them, but would be a primary influence in the fatal catastrophe to come.

Stenhouse, in his books Rocky Mountain Saints and Tell It All, confirms that these two parties were traveling together. Eli Kelsy came with the company from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake City and said “the train was divided into two parts the first a rough-and-ready set of men–regular frontier pioneers, the other a picked community, the members of which were all more or less connected by family ties”. P. K. Jacoby, who traveled with this [97] wagon tram to Fort Bridger, said he left it because it had so many “antagonistic elements” in it. He said others decided to leave for the same reasons.

Finally, Captain Fancher ordered the Missourians to advance ahead at a safe distance from the emigrant train. This procedure was followed all the way to Utah, according to Eli B. Kelsey, who joined the party in its last leg of the journey. He described the Wildcats swearing vengeance against the Mormons, and warned Captain Fancher “that it was easy to provoke a difficulty; the whole country was excited over the news of the invading army.” (Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 427)

The Fancher train passed through Emigration Canyon and into Salt Lake City on August 5th. They camped on the west bank of the Jordan River, where they stopped to purchase supplies. It was here that Charles C. Rich arrived and told Fancher to avoid the southern route to California. Captain Fancher turned down the suggestion, which was one of the worst mistakes he made on the trip.

When the train left, they traveled through Provo, Payson, and finally reached Fillmore. The Missourians were leading the way, and were becoming more and more enraged at the Mormons for not selling them additional supplies of grain, etc.–only small amounts of perishable items. It must be remembered that a federal army was on its way out here and food was a vital ingredient to survival–the Mormons had little to spare. Brigham Young explained the reason for the Mormons not selling grain:

Counsel and advice were given to the citizens not to sell grain to the emigrants to feed their stock, but to let them have sufficient for themselves if they were out. The simple reason for this was that for several years our crops had been short. and the prospect was at that time that we might have trouble with the United States Army, then en route for this place, and we wanted to preserve the grain for food. The citizens of the territory were counseled not to feed grain to their own stock. No person was ever punished or called in question for furnishing supplies to the emigrants, within my knowledge. (Affidavit of Brigham Young at Lee’s Trial, Deseret News, Aug. 4,1875)

[98]         Historian B. H. Roberts added:

….everything was in a state of chaos in Utah; an army was within the borders of the territory on the east, the purpose of which was not clearly known; the territory was under martial law by proclamation of the governor de facto, Brigham Young; and the people were making preparations for the destruction of their settlements and another flight into the wilderness. (C.H.C. 4:167)

When they were unable to satisfy their demands for supplies, the Missourians vent their feelings on the Mormons. In Fillmore the Wildcats were saying that the U.S. troops would kill every “damned Mormon in Utah–they hoped they could do so and that they would like to help them to do the job.” (Letter from John A. Ray to “The Mountaineer”, dated Dec. 4, 1859) They certainly were not trying to make friends or influence any Mormons.

One of these Wildcats wrote in a letter to a friend: “Fire and sword, tar and feathers, are the only arguments that can be used against Mormonism.”

As rough as they sounded, they couldn’t have been all bad. One fellow said that they named their two leading oxen, “Brigham” and “Heber”.

In Fillmore they “threatened the destruction of the town” and boasted of their depredations on the Mormons when they had been in Missouri and Illinois. Laban Morrill and Joel White later testified in the second trial of John D. Lee that some of the emigrants had even boasted that they had “killed old Joe Smith.” Bancroft quotes John D. Lee as saying that they also boasted of having “the very pistol with which the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered and had threatened to kill Brigham Young and all the apostles.”

All their trumpeting and bellowing were not enough to ruffle the Mormons who were used to it. As the adage goes, “sticks and stones may break bones, but names can never hurt.” Nearly every wagon train through Utah gave vent to their emotional feelings towards Mormonism, and this wagon train didn’t create [99] much of a stir either. It was not until they were near Fillmore that trouble began. Bancroft, the noted historian and non Mormon, wrote:

Toward the end of August they [Wildcats] arrived at Corn Creek, some fifteen miles south of Fillmore, where they encamped for several days. In this neighborhood, on a farm set apart for their use by the Mormons, lived the Pahvants [Indians], who, as the saints allege, the emigrants attempted to poison by throwing arsenic into one of the springs and impregnating their own dead cattle with strychnine. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 547)

This has been well documented and others have also testified of the same fact. George A. Smith, a member of the Legislative Council of the territory, made a report that included this incident:

While camping at the sink of Corn Creek, fifteen miles beyond Fillmore, they poisoned the springs and the body of an ox which had died. The carcass of the ox was eaten by a band of Piedes from the desert, who were on a visit to the Pahvantes.

I was informed, by the people living at Meadow Creek, the nearest settlers to Corn Creek, that a considerable number of cattle also died from the poisoning of the water. Some of these cattle were fat and the owners “tied them up” to save the tallow. A son of Mr. Robinson, of Fillmore, was poisoned from the handling of the meat, and died. (History of Brigham Young Manuscript, Aug. 17, 1858, p. 929)

This account agrees with John D. Lee’s statement to Indian agent Jacob Forney in which he said that “about 20 Indians and some cattle died from drinking the poisoned water, and Indians from eating the poisoned meat.”

Another statement about Corn Creek was later written by Thomas Waters Cropper, who was 15 years old at that time and was living in Fillmore.

In company with several other boys I was up on the benches when we saw the unusual sight of an emigrant train. We ran down to where they were. . . . They dared us to ride one of their wild steers and I got on it, and it dashed into Cattelin’s Mill Pond, which caused them a lot of merriment. . .


There appeared to be two companies of them joined together for safety from the Indians. One company which was mostly men called themselves the Missouri Wild Cats. I heard one of them make the brag that he helped to mob and kill Joe Smith, and he further said, “I would like to go back and take a pop at Old Brig before I leave the territory.” They moved on over to what was known as the Big Spring on the Corn Creek Sloughs. A lot of the Kanosh Indians came to their camp to beg and trade. One man insisted on examining an Indian’s bow and arrows, but the Indian refused and jabbed an arrow into the man’s breast. The man whipped out a revolver and shot the Indian dead.

They poisoned the spring and a number of cattle died around the spring. The Indians ate some of the meat and several Indians died from the effects. (Mountain Meadows Massacre, by Juanita Brooks, p. 47)

And from another source: The company there [at Corn Creek] poisoned the most of an ox, which they gave the Pah Vant Indians to eat, causing four of them to die immediately, besides poisoning a number more. The company also poisoned the water where they encamped, killing the cattle of the settlers. This unguided policy planned in wickedness by this company, raised the ire of the Indians, which soon spread through the southern tribes, firing them up with revenge till blood was in their path, and as the breach, according to their tradition was a national one, consequently any portion of the nation was liable to atone for that offense. (Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 254-255)

Bancroft later reported other depredations in his History of Utah:

Isaac C. Height [major in Nauvoo Legion under Col. Dame] said that they had burned fences and destroyed growing crops, poisoned water springs, and raped some of the Mormon women. They also boasted of reaching California to raise enough of an Army to come back and kill every G-d Mormon, man, woman and child they could find in Utah. (p. 549)

In Beaver there were more difficulties with the company and the Indians. William Ashworth related an intervention by a [101] Bishop to keep peace between the two:

. . . a man from the camp came through the sage brush. He had a gun and was apparently hunting rabbits. There were some strange Indians in town, and one of them fired a shot at this man, but did not seem to hurt him, as he turned and ran back towards the camp.

This incident caused quite a commotion in the town. The bishop and a number of the other men were gathered to learn the cause of the trouble. They met the Indians who were from Corn Creek, this seemed to be the headquarters for the Indians in that part of the country. The Indians said, “The men of the Mericats (Americans) while encamped at Corn Creek, poisoned a mule that had died, and also a spring, and the Indians had been made sick by eating the mule and drinking the water, and they were heap mad!”

Bishop, who was pretty well versed in Indian lore, sympathized with them, but told them they must not harm the emigrants, as there were lots of innocent women and children in the company, but with all the reasoning and persuading the Indians were determined to revenge themselves. (“Autobiography of William B. Ashworth”, Typescript copy in B.Y.U. Library)

One of the Missourians openly boasted of his participation in the Haun’s Mill Massacre, another claimed he was carrying the gun that killed Joseph Smith, and another admitted to the responsibility for the death of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Just before the caravan had left Arkansas, Apostle Pratt had been killed by a mob of men in that State. Bancroft gives this account:

His [Pratt’s] path was barred by two of McLean’s friends until McLean himself with three others overtook the fugitive, when he fired six shots at him, the balls lodging in his saddle or passing through his clothes. McLean then stabbed him twice with a bowie-knife under the left arm, whereupon Parley dropped from his horse, and the assassin, after thrusting his knife deeper into the wounds, seized a derringer belonging to one of his accomplices, and shot him through the breast. The party then rode off, and McLean escaped unpunished. * * * Pratt lived long enough to give instructions as to his burial and the disposition of his property. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 546)

[102] These boasts were only irritants, but cattle tramping through the grain fields, killing chickens and stealing really aroused the Mormon’s anger. To destroy crops, which is the only means of livelihood for many of these people, was near kin to destroying the people themselves.

At Parowan news of the emigrants and their hostilities preceded them, such as the poisoned springs in Millard County. Therefore, the gates were closed, and they refused to do business with the emigrants. By now the Indians were up in arms.

On September 4, 1857, the train reached Cedar City, which at that time was a large outpost but fast becoming a city. Less than a thousand people were in the area. Again the train was told they could not buy any goods. In retaliation the Missourians rode into the middle of the town and shot at the citizens, wounding several. Some of the buildings were broken into and robbed. The town grainery, or Bishop’s Storehouse, was also broken into and robbed. On their way out of town one of the Missourians waved a gun over his head and said that it was one that had killed “Joe Smith and had one bullet left for Old Brigham.” (San Francisco Daily Bulletin, March 24, 1877) When the camp settled for the night, three miles from Cedar City, they tore down fences for firewood, and allowed several hundred cattle to feed on the unharvested crops.

The whole city was riled up over the lawlessness, and they were clamoring for a military arrest of the Missourians. A Stake High Council met in Parowan on Sunday, September 6th, and several resolutions were considered:

  1. To allow them to continue to California with the hope that they would not create any more trouble.
  2. To treat them as enemies of war and deal with them in that


  1. To send word to Brigham Young and wait for his decision in how to handle the situation.

[103] By evening the final decision was to send word to Brigham Young for advice, as suggested by Elias Morris, the youngest member there. The next day John Haslem started for Salt Lake City to meet with Brigham Young. James Haslem later testified in court that:

Between five and six o’clock on Monday, September 7, 1867, he was ordered by Isaac C. Haight to start for Salt Lake City and with all speed deliver a letter or message to Brigham Young. He arrived at 11 a.m. on the following Thursday, and four hours later was on his way back with the answer. As he set forth, Brigham said to him: Go with all speed, spare no horse flesh. The emigrants must not be meddled with, if it takes all Iron County to prevent it. They must go free and unmolested.” (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 567)

William Barton, who was present at the Parowan meeting, said that after that agreement was made, another strange “council” meeting took place. In his own words:

The council then dismissed but later with some occasion a consultation of three consisting of I.C. Haight, Wm. H. Dame and another man was held by the east gate of the Parowan fort wall. The three sat upon a pile of bark hence known in certain circles as the “Tan Bark Council.” Right there and then the whole program was changed and it was decided to destroy the whole company. Bro. Barton saw the three in consultation himself but heard not what we said, but Isaac C. Haight afterward told Barton that that was the decision and Haight said to Barton afterward “There is when we did wrong and I would give a world if I had it, if we had abided by the decision of the council, but alas it is too late.” (William Barton, Mountain Meadow Massacre File, Church Historian’s Office)

John D. Lee, a local resident at this time, later made a similar statement that agreed with Barton’s, by saying that Haight had met with Colonel Dame, also of the Nauvoo Legion, and they had concluded that “This emigrant camp must be used up.”

It seems that Haight and Higbee came to Parowan for a meeting with Dame. A young boy taking care of the horses said the men came out of the house and walked over to the stable [104] and there mentioned what “the council decided,” whereupon another said, “I don’t care what the council decided. My orders are that the emigrants must be done away with.” Higbee was a messenger and when he came to Lee the report was, according to him, “It is the orders of the President [Haight], that all the emigrants must be put out of the way. President Haight has counseled with Colonel Dame or had had orders from him to put all of the emigrants out of the way; none who are old enough to talk are to be spared.” (“Confessions of John D. Lee” p. 232)

However, originally one of John D. Lee’s first orders from Major Haight and Col. Dame was–

Compromise with Indians if possible by letting them take all the stock and go to their homes and let Company alone but on no conditions you are not to precipitate a war with Indians while there is an army marching against our people. As Indian Farmer and a Major in the Legion, I trust you will have influence enough to restrain Indians and save the Company. If not possible save women and children at all hazards. (Wm. H. Dame, Col. Commanding Iron Military District, Mountain Meadows Massacre, p. 88)

Lee later wrote an explanation for the reason that they got involved and took part with the Indians rather than the emigrants.

When I reached the camp, I found the Indians in a frenzy of excitement. They threatened to kill me unless I agreed to lead them against the emigrants, and help them kill them. They also said they had been told that they could kill the emigrants without danger to themselves, but they had lost some of their braves, and others were wounded, and unless they could kill all the “Mericats” as they called them, they would declare war against the Mormons and kill every one in the settlements. (“Confessions of John D. Lee,” p. 226)

It should be noted that the whites in this area were outnumbered by Indians at about a four-to-one ratio. To keep friendly with them was difficult even in better times.

Lee was satisfied that the Missourians should pay for their crimes, and seemed eager to initiate war upon the train, and bragged that he had “Indians enough around him to wipe the [105] whole of them out of existence.” (Elias Morris to Andrew Jenson, Feb. 2, 1892) Lee left Cedar for Harmony to make pow-wow with the Indians over the matter. Haight also sent Samuel Knight and Dudley Leavitt to Santa Clara to confer with the Indians there.

The entire caravan had reached Mountain Meadows late Monday evening. It was a hot September and there was not much water along the way. According to one report, the Missourians wanted to go on their own and not lose so much time with the slow moving Arkansas travelers.

On the morning of September 8th, Indians, moved towards the camp to make war. On the way they found and killed ten emigrant herdsmen before they could get back to the safety of their party. About this time, John D. Lee was to join the Indians,, disguised as one of the war party. The wagon train formed a circle and dug in with as many rocks, boards and dirt as could be hastily gathered for additional protection. The battle soon became a standoff with both sides suffering losses. By noon the Indians could see no advantage in continuing their attack, so they fell back in retreat with their dead and wounded. Lee wanted to recruit more Indians for the war and left for the Santa Clara Valley. On his way he met Sam Knight and Dudley Leavitt who told him that the Santa Clara Indians could not be persuaded to join the fight.

Meanwhile, back at the emigrant camp, the survivors were desperate for water, food, medical supplies, and military support. Three men volunteered to seek help from the Mormons at Cedar City. Young William Aiden, who left the company with two others to get help from the Mormons, was shot from his horse. His companions were wounded and followed by Indians until they, too, were killed.

Haight called a council of war with his militia, declaring that the Arkansas party was to be destroyed. So Major John M. Higbee left the fort with about 25 men in this company, the party doubling in size as it journeyed to the meadows, with new recruits volunteering or commanded to join their ranks.

On the morning of September 11, William Bateman, with a white flag of truce, rode up to the Arkansas wagon train. Bateman told Fancher that further fighting with the Indians would [106] only lead to calamity. He said that the Nauvoo Legion was prepared to escort the emigrants through the Indians’ territory. One stipulation, however, was necessary before they could expect any help–they must all surrender their arms and ammunition to the Militia. Fancher said he would have to give it serious consideration.

Later that afternoon, John D. Lee came to the camp with a flag of truce and entered their hasty fortress. Lee said he saw many dead and wounded from the Indian attack.

I sat down on the ground in the corral, near where some young men were engaged in paying the last respects to some person who had just died of a wound. A large, fleshy old lady came to me twice and talked while I sat there. She related their troubles–said that seven of their number were killed and forty-six wounded on the first attack; that several had died since. She asked me if I was an Indian Agent. I said, “In a sense I am, as the Government has appointed me Farmer to the Indians.” (San Francisco Daily Bulletin, March 24, 1877)

Lee reiterated to them the dangers of trying to fight the Indians without the aid of the Militia. Fancher finally agreed to Lee’s arrangement and surrendered their arms.

Lee directed the emigrants to proceed in two main groups. The Iron County Militia [Nauvoo Legion] separated the men from the women and children, the men walking in the rear of the column flanked by the armed military.

One of the men involved in the Massacre, Daniel S. MacFarlane, made a written statement in 1896 concerning his part in the affair:

When we reached “the meadows”, the Indians were still fighting the Immigrants.

About this time Lee got an express from Col. Wm. H. Dame telling him to treat the Indians in some way and let the Immigrants go and the natives take part of their stock and go to their homes. When we came to where Lee was, he and Klingon Smith were talking to some of the chiefs who seemed very much excited. .. .

Higbee asked Lee what the Indians were saying. He answered, “They say–I [Lee] told them we were at war with the Mericats, and you sent for all of us to come and bring our [107] warriors and help you fight them, and now you want us to take part of their stock and go home and let them go and you know some of our men have been shot and my warriors are mad and their blood is up.

“Some of you want to take their part. We will fight you as well as them if you don’t help us to get them out of their Fort.”

Lee said further that himself and Klingon Smith had talked the matter over and come to the conclusion, under the circumstances, that we had to make our appearance of helping them or we must fight them and the latter we cannot think of doing.

John M. Higbee said, “Is there no way that the women and children can be saved?” Lee said, “The Indians agreed not to molest the women and children if he [Lee] would get the men out so they could get at them.” Then Higbee said. “Is there no way to satisfy the Indians and save the Immigrants.” Klingon Smith said, “No we have got to do as Lee says.” Then Lee spoke up in an important slurring manner and said, `If any of you are too big cowards to appear to help the Indians, you need not shoot nor anything else. Only form a line, single file and march down to where I will call a truce and get the men out of their Fort and I will send the women and children ahead. The Indians will let them past a half a mile or more, then the Indians will rush past you when the signal is given and take the men.” Lee then said to Higbee and Klingon Smith, “You will see that my orders are strictly obeyed.” So the line was formed and marched down to the road and up as he directed. After women and children had passed a half mile or more. Then Klingon Smith gave the word “Halt,” signal agreed upon by Lee and Smith. When Klingon Smith fired his gun, our men dropped to the ground. The Indians rushed past them yelling and like a tornado, they pounced upon their helpless victims and all was over in a few minutes, and still as death, and not till then did we realize that treachery had been practiced when only a few small children had been saved.

No one knew of the treachery beforehand unless Lee and Smith. Perhaps they did not as Lee said it was the young bucks and the old ones could not stop them. (Mountain Meadows Massacre, Brooks, pp. 91-92)

After the massacre was all over, the letter arrived from Brigham Young to Isaac Haight which read:


In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements, we must not interfere with them until they are first notified to keep away, you must not meddle with them. The Indians we expect will do as they please, but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of. If those who are there will leave, just let them go in peace. (Sept. 10, 1857, “Mountain Meadow Massacre File”, Church Historian’s Office)

The letter would have to be answered. Brigham Young must be informed of what had transpired at Mountain Meadows. John D. Lee was nominated to report the whole tragedy to Brigham Young in person.

However, news of the catastrophe reached Brigham Young before Lee arrived. When Brigham heard of it, he broke down in sobs. He knew the impact of such adverse news from the Territory under which he had jurisdiction. The slaughter of over 100 people was horrible even in the wild west.

On his way to Salt Lake Lee stopped in Fillmore where he met Jacob Hamblin and related to him the grisly massacre story of the Fancher Wagon Train. Jacob remembered President Young stating that “They have a perfect right to pass; when I want Martial Law proclaimed, I will let you know.”

When Lee reached Church headquarters, he reported the massacre and the extent of the losses of the emigrants. But, it is evident that he did not inform President Young that any whites had a part in it. Wilford Woodruff; who was there when Lee made his report to Young, said that when he [Lee] “found it out, he took some men and went and buried their bodies.” (Woodruff Journal, Sept. 29, 1857)

A year later Brigham Young commented on his knowledge of the white man’s participation in the massacre:

It is reported that John D. Lee, and a few other white men, were on the ground during a portion of the combat, but for what purpose, or how they conducted themselves, or whether, indeed, they were there at all, I have not learned.

It is supposed that there were upwards of two hundred warriors engaged in this massacre. A large number of the emigrants were killed with arrows, the residue with bullets, [109] the Indians being armed with guns, as well as bows and arrows. (History of Brigham Young, Aug. 17, 1858)

Two years later Brigham Young wrote a letter to Col. Thomas L. Kane concerning this event in which he said:

Occasionally I perceive, from papers East and West, that the massacre of the Mountain Meadows still elicits more or less notice and comment, a good share of which is not very credible either to candor or veracity. Neither yourself, nor anyone acquainted with me, will require my assurance, that had I been apprised of the intended onslaught at the meadows, I should have used such efforts for its prevention as the time, distance, and my influence and facilities would have permitted. The horrifying event transpired without my knowledge, except from after report, and the thought of it ever causes shudder in my feelings.

The facts of the massacre of men, women and children are so shocking and crucifying to my feelings, that I have not suffered myself to hear any more about them than the circumstance of conversation compelled. (Dec 15, 1859, B. Young Papers, Church Historian’s Office)

The whole affair was now a matter of fear for the consequences to those involved. Everyone who had a hand in it wanted to avoid being accused, while everyone in political positions wanted to downplay it for the reprisals against their office. But neither care nor secrecy prevented the inevitable.

The Indians began to tell smatterings of their participation in the massacre. They claimed that John D. Lee told them of the bad things that the wagon train had done and persuaded them to attack it. They had made three attacks, but could not overcome the emigrants until Lee went in and told lies to get them to give up their weapons. The news of the massacre reached California within a few weeks and created no little stir. In San Francisco, on October 12, 1857, the newspapers were crying for the whole country to rally together and “crush out this beastly heresy” of Mormonism. The editorial appealed for the government to employ people to exterminate the Mormons.

[110] Soon the whole nation was aroused and clamoring for retribution. The Mormon community sank to a unprecedented low in its morale. Many of those who were involved in the attack moved away. Isaac C. Haight moved to Toquerville; Nephi Johnston went into the Zion National Park area; while others left for Salt Lake City. Cedar City diminished in size.

The Utah Territory fell beneath a dark cloud of suspicion and sorrow. No one knew the lament and mourning that stung the Mormon people. And all this because of the wild actions of a few. But Mormonism, not unlike other religions or organizations, knew how much affliction and grief can come from a few.

It was such a devastating period that everyone seemed at a loss of what to do. Even the Government, with its military occupation of Utah, left the matter alone. Nearly a year after that tragic day, Judge Cradlebaugh finally decided to make an official inquiry into the events. It was then that Henry Higgins and Richard Cook came to the Federal Attorney General and told him that there were whites also involved in that massacre along with the Indians.

Probably the most extensive report came from Jacob Forney, who went on a secret mission for the Government to gather information. It was April 14, 1859, when Forney arrived at Mountain Meadows. He wrote:

I walked over the ground where it is supposed they were killed the evidence of this being unmistakable from skulls, and other bones and hair laying scattered over the ground. There they are busied, as near as I can ascertain, 106 persons, men, women and children; and from one to two miles further down the valley, two or three who, in attempting to escape, were killed, partly up the hill, north side of the valley, and there buried; and three who got near the Vegas or Muddy, in all 115. (Deseret News, May 11, 1859)

Forney continued on the California Trail to the settlement of Santa Clara. The whole trip was an uninformative search for any new evidence of what took place. He began his return and stopped at the Jacob Hamblin ranch where he picked up most of the surviving children who had originally been taken captives by the Indians, and later gathered up by Jacob Hamblin and distributed to homes of Mormon settlers where they had lived for over a year.

[111] Hamblin accompanied Forney to Harmony where they found another child, Charley Fancher, who was staying with John D. Lee. Forney told Lee that the Federal Government was going to conduct an investigation into the massacre to find out if the Mormons were involved. Lee denied knowing anything about the massacre, or where any of the possessions could be found. Forney continued his journey back to Salt Lake City, whereupon he learned that Congress had appropriated $10,000 for the expenses of returning the children back to Arkansas to their nearest relatives. On June 26, 1859, 15 children were escorted by the Army back to Fort Leavenworth, where they were transported to various relatives. By now the United States Attorney General, Jeremiah S. Black, took up the inquiry and wrote an open letter that was published in the Deseret News. The letter was addressed to Alexander Wilson:

I need not say that you are to make no distinction between Gentile and Mormon, or between Indian and white man. You will prosecute the rich and the poor, the influential and the humble with equal vigor, and thus entitle yourself to the confidence of all.

This crime, by whomsoever committed, was one of the most atrocious that has ever blackened the character of the human race. The Mormons blame it upon the Indians, and the accusation receives some color from the fact that all the children who survived the massacre were found in the possession of Indians; others, among them a judge of the territory, declared their unhesitating belief that the Mormons themselves committed this foul murder. All the circumstances seem, from the correspondence, to be enveloped in mystery. (Des. News, June 29,1859)

Federal troops came from California to the site of Mountain Meadows to gather information about what had taken place. Cedar City had reduced in size considerably, and it was difficult to gather information from anyone. A rough monument was raised over the massive grave.

[112] Cradlebaugh, the judge, was approached one night by an unidentified person who admitted having had a part in the destruction of the wagon train. He revealed the identity of about 25 other men who had been involved. A search was then put out for Lee, Haight and others by the deputy marshals. But at this juncture of the investigation, President Buchanan sent word that the Army was no longer to participate in the affair. Judge Cradlebaugh reluctantly submitted to the order, knowing that this would mean the termination of his investigation in that part of the territory. The judge and federal troops left for Camp Floyd. As the column of soldiers traveled down the road near Nephi, Isaac Haight, J. M. Higbee, M. D. Hambleton watched from the hillside until they were well out of sight. But as fate would have it, the troops had been divided into two detachments; and when these three fugitives headed south, they ran directly into the second column. They were arrested near the Sevier River, handcuffed and kept under watch all night. However, a peculiar twist occurred the next morning. It seemed that the troops were only interested in examining the horses as if they were suspicious of who the rightful owner might be. Not knowing who they had in their hands, the expedition freed the three prisoners. Haight later wrote in his diary:

After daylight they examined our horses and found them all right, and let us go on our way, and right glad we were to get away from them, as some of our bitterest enemies were in camp, among which was Judge Cradlebaugh. (Sept. 29, 1859, Isaac Haight Diary)

Judge Cradlebaugh left Camp Floyd for Carson City, where he arrived on June 4th to begin again his inquiries into the Mountain Meadows Massacre. His efforts faded and so did the investigation.

Brigham Young had been replaced as governor of the territory, so he could no longer press charges. He was, however, very anxious to get the whole affair cleared up and the guilty parties brought to justice.

Brigham Young sent George A. Smith to the new Governor Cumming for an interview concerning the “Mountain [113] Meadows Massacre,” and assure him that all possible assistance would be rendered the United States courts to have it thoroughly investigated. * * * He also urged upon Governor Cumming the propriety of an investigation of this horrid affair, that, if there were any white men engaged in it, they might be justly punished for their crimes.

Governor Cumming replied that President Buchanan had issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the “Mormon” people, and he did not wish to go behind it to search out crime.

Brother Smith urged that the crime was exclusively personal in its character, and had nothing to do with the general officers of the territory, and, therefore, was a fit subject for an investigation before the United States courts.

Mr. Cumming still objected to interfering, on account of the president’s proclamation.

Brother Smith replied substantially as follows: “If the business had not been taken out of our hands by a change of officers in the territory, the Mountain Meadows affair is one of the first things we should have attended to when a United States court sat in southern Utah. We would see whether or not white men were concerned in the affair with the Indians. (Jacob Hamblin, by James Little, pp. 56-57)

Rumors continued of the Church’s involvement in this atrocity. However, Bancroft said that they were ungrounded.

Though there may have been cause for suspicion, there was no fair color of testimony, and there is none yet, that Brigham or his colleagues were implicated in the massacre. Apart from the hearsay evidence of Cradlebaugh and of an officer in the army of Utah, together with the statements of John D. Lee, there is no basis on which to frame a charge of complicity against them. (Bancroft, History of Utah, (p. 560)

Six years after the massacre, Brigham Young was still decrying the slow process of convicting those who were responsible for the deed. Little did he know that it would continue for seven more years when he said:

Nearly all of that company were destroyed by the Indians. That unfortunate affair has been laid to the charge of the whites. A certain judge that was then in this Territory wanted [114] the whole army to accompany him to Iron County to try the whites for the murder of that company of emigrants. I told Governor Cumming that if he would take an unprejudiced judge into the district where that horrid affair occurred, I would pledge myself that every man in the regions round about should be forthcoming when called for, to be condemned or acquitted as an impartial, unprejudiced judge and jury should decide; and I pledged him that the court should be protected from any violence or hindrance in the prosecution of the laws; and if any were guilty of the blood of those who suffered in the Mountain Meadow massacre, let them suffer the penalty of the law; but to this day they have not touched the matter, for fear the Mormons would be acquitted from the charge of having any hand in it, and our enemies would thus be deprived of a favorite topic to talk about, when urging hostility against us. (JD. 10:110)

Reporters, sectarian ministers, and anti-Mormons have never yet portrayed the Mountain Meadows Massacre in as bad a light as that which the Mormon people viewed it. To have even the name of an individual Mormon connected with that gruesome act is enough to bring sadness to any other Mormon.

Most murderers on death row have claimed membership in some church, but to criticize or condemn their church for the act of crime that he committed is not a reasonable argument. If everyone in that church was a murderer then there would be some reason to believe that the church was responsible. We can’t blame Catholicism for Hitler and Mussolini, nor the Jewish people for Stalin and Lenin, yet the anti-Mormon element blame Mormonism for what Lee, Haight and a few others did at Mountain Meadows.

There are many justifiable and substantial reasons why Brigham Young or the Church would not become involved with such a massacre:

  1. Brigham would not have taken the risk of annihilation of such a large caravan of people with the United States Army on its borders.
  2. He would not have made statements like he did to Van Vliet two days before the Massacre, if he knew that it was going to take place. [115]
  3. To try to wipe out over a hundred people with so many Indians and whites involved and think that it would be kept a secret is beyond reasonable thinking.
  4. To make an act of aggression or war against the “Gentile” people was not in the program of the Mormons. Their policy is never aggression–always defense.
  5. To sanction the slaughter of innocent women and children has never been in the doctrine or history of the Mormon people.
  6. Brigham Young would not have been as insistent as he was for the Government to make an investigation if he were the principle executor of that order.
  7. Of all the people that Brigham Young could have massacred, and probably thought ought to have been, he wouldn’t have picked an emigrant train that was almost out of the territory.

Eighteen years after the massacre the government finally took action in the case. The first grand jury was impaneled and a joint indictment for conspiracy and murder was made against John D. Lee, William H. Dame, Isaac C. Haight, John M. Higbee, Philip Klingensmith, and some others. Lee, in hiding, was captured in a hog pen at Panguitch. Court opened on the 12th of July, 1875.

Lee had promised to make a full confession and turn State’s evidence. In court Lee “detailed minutely the plan and circumstances of the tragedy” and admitted that Haight and Higbee played a major part, and, as Bancroft noted, he “said nothing as to the complicity of the higher dignitaries of the church.” The district attorney refused to accept his confession so the case was brought to trial on the 23rd of July. The jury was out of court for three days on this occasion and failed to agree.

A second trial was held in Beaver City between the 13th and 20th of September, 1876. The court room was packed with spectators anxious to see if Brigham Young was implicated.

Attorney Howard said that he could produce evidence that would show that Brigham Young had not known of the matter [116] until after it was over, and that Lee had misrepresented the facts of the massacre. All of the lawyers agreed that it was Lee being tried not the Church. Furthermore, they were not prosecuting anyone else who had been innocently lured into that situation on the Meadows.

Nephi Johnson testified that he saw the massacre from atop a nearby hill and saw Lee and Klingensmith as the “dominating” people in the affair.

Samuel Knight testified that he had seen Lee kill a woman. Samuel McMurdy said that he saw Lee shoot one of the women, and two or three of the sick or wounded who were in the wagons. But the testimony that was the most persuasive was that of Jacob Hamblin. Hamblin testified that his Indian boy, Albert, told him about two girls who had hidden in the bushes and were discovered and killed by Lee and the Indians. Also he had shown Hamblin the bodies of the two girls, which were some distance from the rest.

Hamblin concluded his statement that he had heard the story of the death of these two girls himself, from Lee, when he was on his way to Salt Lake City to report the massacre to Brigham Young.

Lee wrote to his wife from jail in Beaver on September 21, 1876, and said that “Old Jacob Hamblin, the fiend of Hell, testified against me about. . . an Indian chief, who brought the girls to me and wanted to know what was to be done with them. That I replied that they was too old to live and would give evidence and must be killed. . . The old hypocrite thought that now was his chance to reek his vengeance on me, by swearing away my life.” (Journals of John D. Lee, p. 242)

On September 20, the case was given to an all-Mormon jury, who took three and a half-hours to bring in a verdict of guilty.

While in prison, Lee wrote an account that was to be published many times:

I soon learned that Col. Dame, Judge Lewis of Parowan,

and Isaac C. Haight, with several others had arrived at the

Hamblin Ranch in the night, but I do not know what time they

got there.


After breakfast we all went back in a body to the Meadows, to bury the dead and take care of the property that was left there.

When we reached the Meadows we all rode up to that part of the field where the women were lying dead. The bodies of men, women and children had been stripped entirely naked, making the scene one of the most loathsome and ghastly that can be imagined.

Knowing that Dame and Haight had quarreled at Hamblin’s that morning, I wanted to know how they would act in sight of the dead, who lay there as the result of their orders. I was greatly interested to know what Dame had to say, so I kept close to them, without appearing to be watching them.

Colonel Dame was silent for some time He looked all over the field, and was quite pale, and looked uneasy and frightened. I thought then that he was just finding out the difference between giving and executing orders for wholesale killing. He spoke to Haight and said:

“I must report this matter to the authorities.”

“How will you report it?” said Haight.

Dame said, `I will report it just as it is.”

“Yes, I suppose so, and implicate yourself with the rest?” said Haight.

“No,” said Dame. “I will not implicate myself, for I had nothing to do with it.”

Haight then said, “That will not do, for you know a d–d if I will stand it. You are as much to blame as any one, and you know that we have done nothing except what you ordered done. I know that I have obeyed orders, and by G-d I will not be lied on.”

Colonel Dame was much excited. He choked up, and would have gone away, but he knew Haight was a man of determination, and would not stand any foolishness.

As soon as Colonel Dame could collect himself, he said: “I did not think there were so many of them, or I would not have had anything to do with it..”

I thought it was now time for me to chip in, so I said: “Brethren, what is the trouble between you? It will not do for our chief men to disagree.”

Haight stepped up to my side, a little in front of me, and facing Colonel Dame. He was very mad, and said:

“The trouble is just this: Colonel Dame counseled and ordered me to do this thing, and now he wants to back out, and [118] go back on me, and by G-d he shall not do it. He shall not lay it all on me. He cannot do it. He must not try to do it. I will blow him to hell before he shall lay it all on me. He has got to stand up to what he did like a little man. He knows he ordered it done and I dare him to deny it.”

Colonel Dame was perfectly cowed. He did not offer to deny it again, but said:

“Isaac, I did not know there were so many of them.”

“That makes no difference,” said Haight, “you ordered me to do it, and you have got to stand up for your orders.” (Confessions of John D. Lee, pp. 245-247)

Historian Juanita Brooks, in her extensive and well documented account of this calamity, tends to absolve John D. Lee of much that was brought against him, and justly so. If Lee was to be executed, then there were others who should have gone with him. But within the same month as the massacre, Lee was told by Brigham Young that there was innocent blood of women and children spilled. Lee countered that:

He did not think there was a drop of innocent blood in the camp, for he had two of the children in his house, and he could not get but one to kneel down in prayer-time, and the other would laugh at her for doing it, and they would swear like pirates. (Wilford Woodruff Diaries, Sept. 29, 1857)

He was either justifying the action of the Indians or subconsciously pacifying his own conscience, but in either case he was mistaken.

Who should we blame for the tragedy? (a.) The wagon train for killing the Indians and getting them on a warpath? (b.) The Mormons for aiding the Indians in the Massacre? (c.) The Gentiles for bringing the Mormons to such a frenzy because of their mobs, assassinations, drivings and further pushing an Army at them? (d.) Lee because he betrayed the company and lured them into the massacre? (e.) Brigham Young because all of this happened under his jurisdiction of the Territory? (f.) Or, Col. Dame and Major Haight for giving the final plan and executing order? Everyone usually settles for one or the other, but the truth of the matter is that the responsibility probably rests upon them all to a greater or lesser degree.

[119] A common accusation against the Mountain Meadows Massacre is that it is the result of the Mormon doctrine of blood atonement. This is a false assumption for numerous reasons. For proper compliance to that doctrine, it should be justified by law, executed by a court, approved by authorities, guilt proven, etc., etc. Other factors involved make it unacceptable because Indians instigated it, men and women who knew nothing of what it was about were killed, as well as children who were innocent of any crimes. For a Mormon act of blood atonement, it was completely out of order. There may have been a few men in that camp that deserved capital punishment, but certainly not the whole caravan.

To conclude, Lee was sentenced to death, with sentence to be carried out on the 23rd of March, 1877, on the Mountain Meadows Massacre site. Strangely enough Isaac C. Haight, William Dame, and all the others who engaged in this affair escaped a similar fate. Lee was allowed to choose the mode of execution–and said, “I want to be shot.”

A few days before his execution, Lee finished his “Confession” in which he wanted to “throw the burden of the crime on his accomplices, especially on Dame, Haight, and Higbee,” and to incriminate Brigham Young and the high council. However, just before being executed he said, I used my utmost endeavors to save them (the wagon train) from their sad fate. I freely would have given worlds, were they at my command, to have averted that evil.” However, on at least three occasions he could have– but didn’t.

Lee was taken out to the Mountain Meadows by the United States Marshal, William Nelson, the district attorney and a military guard. Some rough pine boards were nailed together for a coffin near a dug-out grave site. Asked if he had anything to say, he replied:

I have but little to say this morning. It seems I have to be made a victim; a victim must be had, and I am the victim. I studied to make Brigham Young’s will my pleasure for thirty years. See now what I have come to this day. I have been [120] sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner. I cannot help it; it is my last word; it is so. I do not fear death; I shall never go to a worse place than I am now in. I ask the Lord my God, if my labors are done, to receive my spirit. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 570)

The marshal stepped forward and placed a handkerchief over his eyes, and released his hands from the manacles, which was his last request. He sat upon his own coffin and said, “Let them shoot the balls through my heart. Don’t let them mangle my body.” The command to shoot was given and Lee fell back on his coffin.

Bancroft said that “God was more merciful to him than he had been to his victims.” And,

Over that spot the curse of the Almighty seemed to have fallen. The luxuriant herbage that had clothed it twenty years before had disappeared; the springs were dry and wasted, and now there was neither grass nor any green thing, save here and there a copse of sagebrush or of scrub oak, that served but to make its desolation still more desolate. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 569)

The last victim of Mountain Meadows was then buried, but the specter of that tragedy lives on.


[121]                             Chapter 9


But having been the vortex of controversy while he lived, it seems, somehow, only fitting that the same would be true after his passing Rockwell’s past has been distorted to incredible extremes by writers on two continents who transformed his name into a synonym for terror. (Harold Schindler, Preface to Orrin Porter Rockwell)

Orrin Porter Rockwell was a scout, pioneer, frontiersman, and a deputy marshal. His life and career became widely known by friend and foe throughout his colorful life. Only the wild west could contain such a man–a man desperately needed in that era of time. His was an adventurous life, and an antagonistic one, as every lawman well knows.

Lawless gunmen feared him; citizens were comforted by his presence. If he had not been a Mormon, he would have been considered not only as one of their best friends, but as one of the most famous western heroes in America.

[122] The Wells Fargo Company hired him many times to protect their stage lines from outlaws, or to capture one who had robbed them. The railroad often employed him for the same reasons. Private shippers and freighters relied on Porter’s uncanny skill at finding rustlers and thieves He gave little thought to a person’s religious or social status when he was employed to capture some criminal.

Tourists, journalists, or people needing a lawman, were always inquiring, “Where is Porter Rockwell?” He became a notorious gunfighter that would have filled an extensive television series with plenty of saga and lore. Writers would have little need to look for fiction for fill-in.

Porter was described as a medium-sized man with a forehead partly bald but had long grizzly hair. His eyes were steel blue with shaggy eyebrows but gave him a rather aboriginal look. Nearly everyone agreed that he was jovial and good natured, but he possessed a devil-may-care outlook on life. Few doubted his fearlessness or his uncanny ability to follow a trail like a bloodhound. At first look, he had a powerful and sometime fearful appearance, but his nature was gracious and respected, often bursting out in jovial laugh. His strength and tremendous endurance in capturing criminals was a matter of record.

Like other notable men of their time, Porter filled an important and noteworthy position on the rugged frontier of the Utah Territory. It is doubtful if any other person of the time could have filled the needed and necessary part that destiny had marked for him.


While Porter was a young boy of sixteen, he became one of the Church’s first converts. Even at that young age, he was ardently fond of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and often worked to scrape together a few pennies which he contributed towards the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Porter was a comparatively young man through all the scenes of mobbing, driving, plundering and murder that were brought upon the Mormon people. It was then that these formidable impressions gave him a respect for law and order and a [123] dispassionate hatred of cruel and wicked acts of men. From New York where the church began, to the vast territory of Utah, Porter learned many lessons and had some of the most varied experiences of any other man in the Church.

Porter witnessed the vile and mean nature that can infuse itself into the character of some men both by his seeing what they do to others and by suffering their indignities himself. For example, a band of Missouri raiders, stripped to the waist and smeared with paint like Indians, came looking for Porter at his mother’s home one night:

Visibly shaken by the sight which confronted her, Mrs. Rockwell told the raiders she was home alone with the children. Hot words passed between several men in the party. “We’re wasting time. Pull the house down, and let’s be on with it!” shouted one. “No! We’ll catch him on our way back,” snapped another, apparently the leader. With a final insult to Rockwell’s mother, and his sister Electra, the marauders vanished into the night.

Both Porter’s home and that of his father were surrounded by whooping riders. Quickly, in the manner of men experienced in their work, they looped ropes over the eaves of the two squat log buildings and tying the ends to saddle pommels, spurred their horses forward. A wrenching crack, like a breaking limb, and the father’s cabin was unroofed, its bare walls standing shamefully, obscenely, violated in the moonlight. No sooner had the sound died away than the second roof came crashing to the ground. Luana Rockwell, frightened nearly out of her wits, huddled in a corner of the dwelling while Missourians pulled her possessions from the house. Next door Electra implored the men not to destroy their household goods.

A knife flashed from its scabbard, blade glittering. “Get the hell from under foot, or it’s this across the throat!” hissed a painted figure. (Orrin Porter Rockwell, Shindler, p. 28)

As Porter endured, with many other Saints, the constant mobbing, moving, and persecutions, he became uncompassionate towards these ruffians who plundered without being touched by the law. He soon became affected by the tears and cries of his people and “turning the other cheek” soon was eliminated from Porter’s mental and emotional character. It was not so much who was suffering, or who was guilty–Porter considered the committing of cruel or heartless acts among the worst of all evils. Many [124] assassins trying to get Joseph Smith ran into Porter, Joseph’s bodyguard. It was a peculiar twist in men’s minds that caused them to interfere with others who wanted to worship differently.

Men in high political office, such as Lilburn W. Boggs, governor of Missouri, not only failed to give protection to the Mormons, but signed an order to have them expelled from the State. When Boggs was shot, he swore out a complaint against Joseph Smith as the instigator and Porter as the trigger man. When Joseph heard about it, he said that if Porter had gone to do the job, he wouldn’t have missed! Porter was arrested nearly a year later and was taken to Independence, Missouri, on the charge of attempted murder of Governor Boggs. When he arrived, a crowd gathered, and someone brought a rope with the intention of hanging Porter. A tree was selected and Porter was brought up to it. However, something happened and after some consultation it was decided not to hang him. He was taken to trial and they could not find sufficient evidence to bring a verdict against him; but for some reason, he spent the next nine months in jail anyway.

His wrists were chained to his ankles as if he were a dangerous animal. In ragged clothes without an opportunity to shave or cut his hair, it was not long until he must have resembled some wild creature. Nine months of hair growth on a man like Porter presented quite a show and he must have enjoyed it for he never volunteered to cut it off the rest of his life. Port had a flair for the dramatic. (Porter Rockwell, the Mormon Frontier Marshal, p. 26)

Porter finally escaped from jail with a mob chasing after him. He traveled as far as 25 miles a night, not stopping at any homes for fear of being betrayed. He walked for eleven days in winter weather without adequate clothing or shoes, and finally arrived in Nauvoo, December 24, 1843. At the Mansion House, Joseph Smith was having a reception and entertaining guests on Christmas Eve. In walked Porter among the socialites, looking like a spectacle from a dungeon–which he was. It was Porter’s way of having fun; he wanted to see how long his identity would be a secret. To make his presence more repugnant he acted like a drunk. Someone commented to Joseph about this unsavory visitor, and so he went over to usher out the uninvited guest. As [125] Joseph put his hand on the drunk man’s shoulder, he caught his eye and recognized Porter, quickly grasping and hugging his long departed friend. Tears of happiness flooded the faces of both men.

It was about this time that Joseph promised Porter that if he would never cut his hair, he would never die at the hands of his enemies. It was another prophecy–and a slim chance of being fulfilled.

On the evening of June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith came to Porter asking him if he would be willing to go on a long journey out west. Rockwell said he would go with him anyplace. They left the next morning on a little boat across the river onto the Iowa side, with Hyrum and Willard Richards. They were going out west, and the rest of the Saints could follow. Porter had to get some other things needed for the journey, but when he returned he had a message from Emma. She indicated that many of the Saints were accusing Joseph of cowardice by running away to leave the others to face the mobs. Joseph replied that if his life was of no value to his friends, it was of no value to him.

There was a moment of deep contemplation. Joseph turned to Porter and asked, “What shall I do?” to which Port replied, “You are the oldest and know what is best.” Joseph decided to go back to Nauvoo to face the charges. On the way, Joseph walked beside Porter and said, “It is of no use to hurry, for we are going back to be killed.” When Joseph was in the Carthage Jail, he sent word to Porter to stay in Nauvoo and avoid being captured again.

Later Porter met Francis M. Higbee on the street in Nauvoo and accused Francis of trying to take the life of the Prophet. There were some heated words, a scuffle in the street, and both Higbee’s hat and a letter concealed inside fell to the ground. Porter picked it up and took it with him–reading that 70 members of a mob were across the river preparing to make a raid on Nauvoo that night. It was just enough warning that the Saints could make a quick defense. Higbee, the apostate, had aligned himself with the mobbers, which seemed to be the natural course for all apostates thereafter.

[126] During the fateful afternoon of June 27th when Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed, Porter went to the upper room of the Mansion House to get his hat. When he opened the door, he saw Governor Ford of Illinois tallying to some of the militia officers. He was standing behind a chair and bringing his hand down on the chair, he said, “The deed is done by now.” Everyone looked as surprised to see Porter come in as he was to see them there. The full impact of what was said didn’t hit Porter until later that afternoon when he heard the news of the Prophet’s death. Ford had deliberately left Carthage to expose Joseph to a mob to do their murderous killing.

Porter left Nauvoo for Carthage, but on the way he saw a Mormon rushing towards him on a buckboard with a gang of men after him. He shouted to Porter that he had just witnessed the massacre at Carthage and the mob was now after him. Port and Belnap dismounted and fired at the mob, which quickly turned them back in the direction from where they had come.

Returning to Nauvoo, Porter came to the house where the Prophet’s son, Joseph, was standing in the doorway. He looked at him and began to sob, “Oh, Joseph, they have killed the only friend I ever had.” His statement was similar to that of Lyman Wight, who had been referred to as a “wild ram of the mountains.” When he heard of Joseph’s death, he bellowed, “The only man who could control me is dead.”

Porter was, like Joseph Smith, usually sought by the law for some trumped-up charge by anti-Mormons. The whole affair was never considered very seriously by Porter, and in spite of the seriousness of it all, he never lost his sense of humor.

One day a posse was sent to arrest Rockwell. During the day some of these men were having their noon meal at the Nauvoo Mansion while others were outside keeping a vigil for Porter. The news spread that another hunt was on for Port and a large crowd had gathered. Presently a carriage was driven rapidly up to the Mansion House. The driver climbed down and opened the door, and a woman stepped out. She was dressed in a black draw with a bonnet, and had a veil covering her face. She went through the crowd and up the stairway into the house. After a few minutes she returned and entered the carriage again and was hurriedly driven away. It was soon [127] circulated among the Mormons that it was Porter–he loved antics of this kind. (Porter Rockwell, The Mormon Frontier Marshal, pp. 52-53)

Joseph Smith’s death did little to prevent mobs and cutthroats from their constant devilry against the Mormon people. These mobocrats would join together, as though they were engaged in some form of sport, and attack Mormon homes in the night. House burning was a familiar game to them, and they dubbed themselves “Wolf Hunters.”

During this time a new sheriff had been appointed in Hancock County. He was an honorable man who respected the law and believed that law was intended to protect everyone–even Mormons. On September 10, 1845, the “Wolf Hunters” came to an area called Green Plains where they began burning homes, eventually totaling about 125. The new sheriff, Jacob Backenstos, made a proclamation for this outrage to stop or he would get a posse and stop it. The mobs continued their nefarious deeds in spite of the warning, and Backenstos could find no one who would help him in a posse. He went to Nauvoo where he obtained a number of volunteers, and they soon threw the “Wolf Hunters” into a neutral position. But with other tactics, they turned on the Sheriff and he was forced to leave or die. But even his leaving was not enough–they laid plans to kill him anyhow. As Backenstos was leaving in a buggy, he noticed that a mob was following him. He speeded up his departure with the mob close behind. At this time Porter and a friend, John Redding, were seated on an old railroad crossing when they heard the buggy approaching. They turned to see Backenstos approaching and yelling for help. Port replied, “let them come. We have rifles and revolvers.” The Sheriff shouted for the mob to halt, but they came right on, with guns raised. The Sheriff told Porter to shoot. He raised his gun and took aim and fired at the leader, resulting in the death of Frank Worrell. The mob turned and left, later to come back for the body. Worrell had been an officer of the Carthage Greys, one of the fake guards at the Carthage Jail when Joseph was killed. Why this incident was allowed to remain without action being taken for eight months is not known. But finally another arrest order was out for Porter. He was taken in [128] and placed in jail for another four months. When his trial carne up, there was no conviction because no one testified against him.


Porter left to join the pioneers going west on August 16, 1846.

From this crucible of 1700 miles in twenty years there emerged in the Mormon Church the poets, the musicians, the philosophers, the preachers, the prophets, the cynics, the agnostics, the organizers, the apostates, the meek, the critics, and Porter Rockwell. (Porter Rockwell, the Mormon Frontier Marshal, p. 16)

On March 12, 1849, in the first public election held in the Great Salt Lake Valley, Porter Rockwell took office as the deputy marshal for the provisional State of Deseret.

Men used for building up God’s kingdom are not always missionaries like Paul or Alma. God often uses a Joshua, a Gideon or a Sampson; and Porter fell into this camp. He was never called as a missionary, and there are few records of his Church activities. His labors occupied so much of his time, he did not enjoy a family life as most men. Neither was he found active in the Church for the same reason.

Porter’s talents were important in developing the western frontier. Nursemaiding wagon trains, protecting settlements from Indians and outlaws, regaining stolen cattle or goods, capturing killers and outlaws, and establishing law and order were as important as any other efforts in God’s kingdom.

Both Porter’s home and business were mostly riding in a saddle. He was one of the first to enter the Valley, and made many similar trips to help other settlers who followed. He made several trips to California to buy cattle, horses or wheat. On another occasion he went to California to escort some of the Mormon Battalion men to Utah. His wagon train was also the first to make the southern route from California. Rockwell was empowered to make contracts, and purchase and transport goods for the Church. He was not a literate person, but there were only a few at that time who were. Often he would escort missionaries [129] across the frontier. When mail service had become a near disaster, it was Porter who took the run from Salt Lake City to Ft. Laramie to help it become a success.

Porter Rockwell and two other riders frantically rode into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1857, with the alarming news that a Federal Army Train with 400 wagons was on its way to Utah. They were coming out west to put down a “Mormon Rebellion.” The whole story, like many others that had aroused animosity in the East, was hatched up by the pen of one man. Judge W. W. Drummond wrote a false report to President Buchanan, who acted upon this rumor rather than obtain the facts for himself. It would prove to be one of the most costly and embarrassing episodes of Buchanan’s entire life and career.

Brigham Young attempted to make preparations for the worst, because an Army of misinformed soldiers could easily lead to a situation that would get out of hand. He wanted no bloodshed, but he would put up a defense.

Liars have reported that this people have committed treason, and upon their representations the President has ordered out troops to assist in officering the territory. We have transgressed no law, neither do we intend to do so; but as for any nation coming to destroy this people, God Almighty being my helper, it shall not be. (Mormonism, Americanism, and Politics, R. Vetterli, p. 403)

The first thing Brigham did was to send Apostle Samuel Richards to Washington, D.C., with an appeal for the President to thoroughly investigate the rumors before bringing any acts of war against the Mormon people. Bancroft said that the Government’s Expedition was the best equipped Army Force assembled in the United States. President Buchanan justified his actions this way:

Almost as soon as Buchanan became President, the conflict over slavery began to assume dangerous proportions, and throughout his administration he was in terror of being forced to Civil War. By sending troops to Utah, Buchanan wished to demonstrate to the Southern states that the Federal Government would not countenance rebellion. Buchanan said: “This is the first rebellion which has existed in our territories; and [130] humanity itself requires that we should put it down in such a manner that it shall be the last.” (Works of James Buchanan, Vol. 10:154)

Reports came back to the Mormons that the Army intended to make war. It could mean more devastation than any mob had ever caused. One report said:

The United States are sending 2500 infantry, besides Col. Sumner’s dragoons, which are to rendezvous in Great Salt Lake City this winter, 100 teamsters, the worst description of men, picked up on the frontiers, which are more to be dreaded than the soldiers. They are making great calculations for “Booty and Beauty”. (Parowan Historical Record, Aug. 7, 1857)

On the other hand, Brigham Young was taking a much milder approach to the situation. He wanted no war nor bloodshed. “Blockade the road, set fire to their trains, burn the whole country before them, keep them from sleeping, BUT TAKE NO LIFE,” Brigham ordered. What a different attitude than that of the president of the United States. Who was the warmaker? Who proposed to shed blood? Who acted in haste, without reason or responsibility and was taking a “savage” stand against innocent people?

The Mormons were preparing for the strangest war in military history. It demonstrated the regard the Mormons had for the lives of men–even soldiers. They were not, as a people bloodthirsty savages, nor were they the kind who would sanction a Mountain Meadows Massacre or establish bands of marauders to reek vengeance upon unsuspecting innocent people. This war portrays by their attitude and their actions that not only was the U.S. Army wrong for its offensive action, but also the army of authors, apostates and anti-Mormon elements that had howled so hard and for so long.

Porter Rockwell, Bill Hickman and Major Lot Smith acted as a guerrilla force, independent of the large force of the Nauvoo Legion.

One of the first actions of the campaign was a strange incident involving Porter Rockwell that became a humorous tale often told around the campfire of both sides.


Orrin Porter Rockwell was a Mormon meteor for night riding, and he sped eastward on the emigrant trail for Fort Bridger, ahead of Lot Smith, with a cruising party, reaching Pacific Springs while the remnant of Colonel Alexander’s 10th Infantry were there with the beef cattle and the corn train, according to Captain Ginn. Rockwell adroitly crept behind the night guard and stampeded the mules.

For the moment it seemed as if the disappearing mules had suddenly recognized their ancestry as tracing to Balaam’s ass; but when the wild clatter of hoofs ceased about three miles down the road, the stable call was ordered by the buglers. The mules heard the call, recognized it as a call to feed, and came galloping back, bringing with them the entire Mormon mount with empty saddles. (Jim Bridger, by J. Cecil Alter)

But this wasn’t the end of that story. It appears that Rockwell and his merry band of men sought another camp to steal some horses. They came near the camp of the 10th Infantry and saw some 15 horses all saddled and bridled as though they were ready for an alert or a maneuver. They stole them successfully and rode back to the Big Sandy. In the morning they were surprised to learn they had stolen the horses from another Mormon Scouting group.

But soon the events would turn about to their favor. Near Ham’s Fork the government had a large herd of cattle. Gathering a hundred men, the Mormon raiders headed for a huge cattle rustling venture that could turn the tide of the war. Without beef for winter, the Expedition could face starvation. When they reached the herd, they found only a few men guarding the cattle, so the Mormon brigade roared down the slopes with war hoops that would have frightened any Indian camp.

The boys then gave a shout, such as imported steers never heard before, and the latter started away pell mell, trodding many of the poorer under their hooves and killing half a dozen of them. The guards were frightened as badly as the cattle and looked pale as death. (Contributor 4:48)

As the Mormon force passed by some of the sentries, Rockwell turned in his saddle and shouted to the one of them that he knew: “You, Rupe! When you get to camp, tell Colonel Alexander [132] that we’ve stopped playing games. We’ll kill every damned blue coat in his command unless he turns our men loose. Do you hear me, Rupe?”

Lot Smith laughed at Porter and related: “The guards then started for camp. They were the worst frightened men I ever saw. They ran the three teams until some of the cattle dropped dead, but they never stopped until they got within the lines!” (Contributor 4:49)

From here the little band of warriors racked up several more victories, capturing the enemies’ wagon trains, taking what they wanted, leaving just enough supplies for their prisoners and then burning their wagons. On one of these raids, they overtook a camp with none other than “Wild Bill Hickok” and “Buffalo Bill Cody”. It was Cody that later told the whole embarrassing affair and penned:

. . . the strange horsemen had surrounded us. They were all armed with double-barrelled shot guns, rifles and revolvers. We also were armed with revolvers, but we had had no idea of danger, and these men, much to our surprise, had “got the drop” on us, and had covered us with their weapons, so that we were completely at their mercy. The whole movement of corraling us was done so quietly and quickly that it was accomplished before we knew it. (The Great West, by Charles Neider, p. 225)

The Army soldiers were put on rations. Occasionally a Mormon command would send in some salt or other necessary provisions to sustain them until Spring. Of this incident Senator Sam Houston spoke to the Senate by saying:

An act of civility was tendered by Brigham Young, and you might, if you please, construe it under the circumstances rather as an act of submission. He sent salt to the troops, understanding it was scarce there, and was selling at seven dollars a pint. As an act of humanity, thinking at least that it could not be regarded as discourteous, he sent a supply of salt for the relief of the encampment intimating to the commander that he could pay for it, if he would not accept it as a present. What was the message the military officer sent him back? I believe that the substance of it was that he would have no intercourse with a rebel, and that when they met they would fight. They will fight, and if they fight, he will get miserably [133] whipped. That was the time to make peace with Brigham Young. . . but instead of that, he sent them a taunt and a defiance. (Congressional Globe, 35th Congress, 1st Session, Vol. XXIV, p. 874)

General Van Vleit and Colonel Kane decided to take measures themselves to settle things peaceably. They came to Salt Lake City to confer with Brigham Young. Both were reasonable men of good understanding. They could see there was no rebellion and no necessity for troops among the Mormons. They took their message back to General Johnston who was in charge of the Army Expedition. Johnston refused any cooperation or peace ventures. He came out here to fight and that was what he was going to do. Kane actually challenged Johnston to a duel. But nothing occurred any worse than a broken gun over a fence and a lot of shouting. However, the irony of this occasion would again be repeated. Johnston would eventually rebel against the United States in the Civil War, an act of which he falsely accused the Mormons; and Colonel Kane would be a general for the Union fighting against him.

The new governor of the Territory, Alfred Cumming, came into the valley escorted by Mormons. Reaching Farmington, he was met by a host of Mormons and a band playing “The Star Spangled Banner.” In Salt Lake City he was overwhelmed by the reception given him. “Where is the rebellion?” he commented cheerfully. When he asked to see the records of all territorial documents–which had been reported burned–he was given complete access to them. To his surprise everything was in order! The whole expedition had been in vain!

Cumming wrote a letter to General Johnston and another to President Buchanan.

I have been everywhere recognized as the Governor of Utah; and I have been universally greeted with such respectful attention as are due the representative of the executive authority of the United States.

I have been employed in examining the records of the Supreme and district courts which I am prepared to report upon as being perfect and unimpaired.

I have also examined the legislation records and other books belonging to the secretary of state, which are in perfect [134] preservation. The books and records have been kept in a most excellent condition. (House Executive Documents, 36th Congress, Vol. 2:72, 93)

The war was soon over. All the reports, testimonies and witnesses against the Mormons became a worthless pile of lies and falsehoods. All the work of the apostates, Mormon-haters, and vicious enemies of Brigham Young fell to the dirt where they belonged. How disappointing to all those who wanted the United States to declare war upon the Mormon people.


From 1848 until his death in 1878, Porter acted as a deputy marshal peace officer of the Utah Territory, to keep law and order within the broad range of land that it covered. For the next 30 years he came into contact with every kind of peculiar people that lived or passed through the territory. To perform his duties in that office, he brought many men into the courts for trial and prison; but he also had to kill many men, as other marshals and deputies often, of necessity, had to do. Notwithstanding the reports of his critics, there is no proof that he ever wantonly killed anyone.

The Utah Territory had its share of outlaws and desperados just like the Montana, California, and Texas territories of the west. Crime was common and life was often cheap in these rough wilderness lands. It was the duty of such men as Porter to meet or challenge the lawbreakers in order to bring law and peace to those who wanted it. Porter is said to have “carried on his duties with no more or less callousness and hardness than was necessary in any other region,” and correctly so.

Porter was a two-gun man, and he could use either with astounding accuracy. His skill as a tracker was said to excel that of the Indians. His courage in facing an enemy was enough to “unman his opponents” and many were brought into this showdown. Some of the men who came out West were wanted elsewhere, most commonly for stealing horses. In those days, a horse thief anywhere was considered unworthy to live; and after they were caught, they seldom did. The nearest tree was the closest department of justice. The Utah Territory was not too [135] much different, and to steal a man’s horse, in most cases, resulted in death for the thief. Porter spent most of his time and energy in chasing and capturing horse thieves.

But after the Johnston Army incident, there was another torrid flow of anti-Mormon literature thrown at the Church. It came from both apostates who left the Church and from gentiles who sought to break the Church either monetarily or religiously. Some of them went to such extremes that even their own contemporaries had to shake their heads at such ridiculous material. In most of these books and newspapers, Porter Rockwell was named the “Destroying Angel”, and they declared that his job was to destroy the gentiles or any Mormons who were out of harmony with Brigham Young.

Rockwell is the main character in Charles Kelly’s and Hoffman Birney’s 1934 edition of Holy Murder. In the same year the book was published, a review came out in the New Republic magazine which declared the book as a worthless piece of junk as far as actual history as concerned. For instance, in this book they relate the story of a man who was on a mission for the Church; and during his absence, his wife became guilty of an immoral act. When the husband returned, Porter assisted him with the atonement that had to be performed. They took her out behind some nearby trees where the most brutal details of her death were described. They even printed the names and places involved. But when the facts behind the story came to light, it was discovered that the woman had lived 12 years longer than Porter, and when she died, it was from a fall off a carriage.

Most of these books were filled with minute details and complete conversations, word for word, that went on between parties–sometimes between only two people–yet no records, nor letters or papers are ever produced for authenticity.

Once a man by the name of Fitz Hugh Ludlow came to Utah to write his impressions of the Saints and about Porter Rockwell as the “Destroying Angel.” Porter was always amused with the stories of “Mormon horns” and his part as the “Destroyer”. When he saw Ludlow straining for hints of truth to the rumor, he would play it up. On one occasion Porter warned Ludlow and his party that they had better stop at his place before they left. Porter threatened them that he would take their horses away and put [136] them in his stable; then he would force them into the house where he would inflict upon them the penalty of a real Mormon dinner. They would be compelled to eat pancakes and sausages. After that, they would be released if they insisted, or they would have to suffer such torture longer. Their release was, of course, only on the condition that they would return again.

“My, but we are savage people–we Mormons really torture’em awful.” With that Porter shook Ludlow’s hand, jumped on his horse, and rode off.

Ludlow appraised Porter as a religious fanatic and said he operated without rationality. His personal life perhaps showed threads of irrationality–much the same as everyone else in greater or lesser degree but Porter was a peace officer, a deputy sheriff, and he had great respect for the law and very dim view of the criminal. His harsh life represented the balance of such a character. Ludlow marked him as a man of ordinary intelligence, amiable, polite, graceful in manner, with a dash of aristocracy.

Nicholas Van Alfen in his book Porter Rockwell, the Mormon Frontier Marshal, quoted Jules Remy and Julius Brenchly who, in 1860, described the inner side of Porter:

A man full of heart and greatness, capable of the grandest devotion, ready to sacrifice himself in behalf of anyone who gained his esteem, without regard to sect or person, whether Jews, Pagan, Moslems or Mormons. If the blood of heroes, can be inferred from the expression of his face and the qualities of his heart, they thought one would swear there were traces of a lofty origin in Porter. If there was a perilous service to be rendered, a crime to be avenged, or a sacrifice to be made for the oppressed, Porter was ever at hand. (pp. 138-139)

A great many instances, of Porter’s brush with criminals could be listed, but only a few are necessary here. Most critics of Rockwell claim that he was the avenging angel to destroy the gentiles. But no matter what Porter did or who was involved, it seemed that they made Porter out to be in the wrong. To illustrate:

Sam Bennion was a 20-year old boy who had been employed as a scout or guard for the overland stage. He finally earned enough money to purchase a beautiful well-bred mare. When his father went with the horse to a meeting in Murray, he came out [137] and found the horse gone. Porter was called for, and he and three others began to track the animal. They continued south and then over into Cedar Valley into Camp Floyd, and from there to the Faust Mail Station. They arrived at four o’clock in the morning and Porter asked Sam Bateman to check the stable and see if the horse was there. It was; so the men waited and shivered in the cold until 10:00 in the morning. The door opened up and H. J. Faust, the station owner, came out and Porter told him, “Go back in and tell them to come out with their hands up.” He did, but it was several minutes before the door opened again. A large man appeared with a pistol in his hand it was Lot Huntington, a Mormon. He came from one of the most respected families in the Territory, and was good looking, adventurous and well known. But to Porter the law was, the law, and it fell on Mormon and non-Mormon alike. This was not to be a situation much different from many others in the future or the past. There was no bargaining or compromise because of who he was or who his folks were. Porter looked upon him as a horse thief, and he was there to make an arrest. They both knew each other and both were fearless. Porter demanded that he throw down his gun and be taken in to face the law. Lot turned and made a dash to the stable and jumped on “Brown Sal,” the stolen horse. As he came out, he raised his gun, but Rockwell pulled the trigger on his gun first, and Huntington fell dead. The two others that were with Huntington came out and surrendered. Porter brought them in to Salt Lake City and turned them over to the police. A short time later, Porter heard gunfire and ran to where he heard the shots. The police were near the bodies of the two men, and one said, “They tried to escape.”

This event, of course, disproved many reports of the apostates and critics because the facts were evident that Porter shot a Mormon and brought two others in to the law. Porter was not just shooting gentiles as they had claimed. They would have to change their tactics–and they did. The anti-Mormon Stenhouse wrote:

All the bad and desperate Mormons, were not brought to judgment, but the pretext alone was wanting for carrying more extensively into execution the general (police) programme. [138] Resistance to an officer, or the slightest attempt to escape from custody, was eagerly seized, when wanted, as the justification of closing a disreputable career, and in more than one case of this legal shooting, there is much doubt if even the trivial excuse was waited for. The Salt Lake police then earned the reputation of affording every desperate prisoner the opportunity of escape, and, if embraced, the officer’s ready revolver brought the fugitive to a “halt”, and saved the county the expenses of a trial and his subsequent boarding in the penitentiary. A coroner’s inquest and cemetery expenses were comparatively light. (Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 419)

These anti-Mormon elements would have screamed much louder if the criminals would have been gentiles. And surely they would have been much happier if the criminals would have escaped the Mormons.

William A. “Bill” Hickman became an apostate of no minor consequence. His efforts to crush Mormondom, and destroy Brigham Young, were among the heaviest assaults ever plotted by the apostates and the anti-Mormon element. In 1871 Hickman conspired with a federal marshal, who was attempting to bring about the downfall of Brigham Young and the Mormon hierarchy.

Marshal Sam Gilson spoke earnestly and convincingly to the man he had spent weeks attempting to contact. What the lawman wanted was a full confession of the outlaw’s misdeeds. He especially wanted knowledge of a major crime which could be linked to the Mormon hierarchy. In return, Gilson promised to use his influence in the informer’s behalf. The marshal’s impassioned arguments eventually prevailed, and the desperado nodded his assent. (Orrin Porter Rockwell, by Shindler, p. 352)

Thus, Bill Hickman became involved in the plot of revenge against Brigham Young, as most apostates were doing. Gilson went through the formalities of arresting Hickman on the charge of murder and took him to Camp Douglas. For the next two weeks Hickman wrote his famous confession which was later used by the federal courts to indict Brigham Young and other Church leaders. On October 28, Daniel H. Wells and Hosea Stout were arrested for complicity in the murder of Richard Yates during the Utah War of 1857. William Kimball was arrested for being an [139] accessory to the murder of the last member of the Aiken Party, and Brigham Young was also named in that indictment. Hickman was listed as co-defendant.

Three months later the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in the Engelbrecht Case which set aside all of the legal proceedings in Utah on all cases in Utah for 18 months prior to that time. This would make null and void the indictments against about 140 people, including those against Young, Wells, Stout, Kimball, and even Hickman himself.

If blood atonement were always being committed upon “the apostates” as some claimed, why didn’t Brigham Young send Porter to atone William Law, who was the leader of the mob that killed Joseph Smith? He was the worst of all the apostates, yet he lived to an old age and died a natural death.

Why didn’t Porter get sent around the valley and wipe out all the apostates who were constantly writing and preaching against Mormonism? The most vicious slanders written against Mormons came from the pens of men who lived among the Mormons all their lives.

If blood atonement were practiced upon those Mormons on the inner circle who were betrayers or apostates, why didn’t Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball have Porter blood atone their own two sons who apostatized and left for California?

Some anti-Mormons say that blood atonement was a Mormon doctrine and was administered as a penalty for apostasy. Why did Porter administer it upon murderers, horse thieves, and bank robbers who were often gentiles? He was functioning in his office as a marshal, not as an administrator of blood atonement. Conversely, if Mormons believed in “atoning” the gentiles, why did Porter shoot down so many of the Mormons?

The whole fabric of the critics was woven with inconsistency, fable and rumor.

If Porter shot a man in self-defense, no one should dispute his innocence. If he shot a horse thief who resisted arrest, then the law also justified his actions. If a man is shot when committing a murder, a rape or some other atrocious crime, the law contends that it is a justifiable homicide. If Porter Rockwell did all of these, then he stands an innocent as any other man who did them. If he [140] did these things a thousand times, he is still justified as such as if he had done them only once.

The American public has watched on television Mat Dillon shoot outlaws on “Gunsmoke” every week for nearly 20 years with contented approval. They do not condemn their hero because they saw all the facts and incidents that led up to the villain’s being killed. This is the missing segment in many of the clashes that marshals have with criminals. Such conditions existed with Porter and many other gunfighters throughout the old west.

Once, in a court, the judge asked Porter how many men he had killed. After a little thought, he admitted that he didn’t know–but knowing the concern of the court he quickly added: “I never shot a man that didn’t deserve it!”

On June 11, 1878, less than a year after the death of Brigham Young, the newspapers carried the news of the death of Orrin Porter Rockwell. After attending the theatre in Salt Lake City with his daughter, Mary, he began to have a series of heart attacks. He passed away with little suffering at age 65. For nearly all of those years he was sought for by mobs, gunmen or killers, but according to the promise of Joseph Smith he outlived nearly all those who wanted to put him to death. He died peaceably on his own bed.

Porter was one of the first converts when the Church was organized; and when he died, he had been a member longer than anyone else. He was not only a distant cousin to Joseph Smith but was also a distant cousin to Abraham Lincoln.

Although Porter was not the usual sort of “family man”, he did have four wives and 15 children; however, his work demanded most of his time.

Whatever may be said of Porter, perhaps no one had a more profound insight into his real character than the Prophet Joseph Smith, who wrote in August 1842:

There is a numerous host of faithful souls I could wish to record in the book of the Law of the Lord; but time and chance would fail. I will mention therefore only a few of them, as emblematic of those who are too numerous to be written. But there is one that I would mention, namely Orrin Porter Rockwell, who is now a fellow wanderer with myself, an exile from [141] his home, because of the numerous deeds and the infernal, fiendish dispositions of the indefatigable and unrelenting hand of the Missourians.

He is an innocent and noble boy; may God almighty deliver him from the hands of his pursuers. He is an innocent and noble child, and my soul loves him. Let this be recorded forever and ever. Let this be the blessing of salvation and honor to his portion. (Mill. Star, 19:756)


[142]                             Chapter 10


Danite meeting today–a great ingathering of the brethren. After considerable preaching, as usual, and a vast expenditure of breath in expounding to the dupes, the High Priesthood up in the middle of eleven men, and with their hands uplifted, administered the oath, and initiated them into the band of warriors, and sons of thunder. The whole band of warriors was organized into companies of tens, twenties, fifties, hundreds, etc. The whole were placed under the command of a Brigadier General, with his under officers, Colonels, Majors, etc., accompanied with a band of music. (William Swartzell, Mormonism Exposed, pp. 25-26)

By 1838 Missouri became a hotbed of persecution for the Mormons. They were being burned, beaten and buried–and their troubles were only increasing. They sought for help from local residents, from county and state officials, but with little success. From out of this chaos and calamity came the “Danites.”

The exact date of the organization of the Danite Band is not known probably because it was just a gradual and mutual effort of the Mormons to protect themselves from mobbers and outlaws. It was in existence by the summer of 1838 when so many depredations against the Mormons were occurring. Mutual ef-[143]forts for defense and cooperative projects for protection had existed from the first early plunderings by mobs. However, there is nothing illegal or immoral in individuals or citizens forming a means of self-defense against any destructive force, whether natural or human.

Probably the most complete report we have on the Danite organization came from Sidney Rigdon, who claimed that he was not a member of that organization (and he probably wasn’t), but evidence indicates that he was aware of it and probably sanctioned its activities. Rigdon wrote:

At this time things began to assume an alarming aspect both to the citizens of Daviess and Caldwell counties. Mobs were forming all around the country, declaring that they would drive the people out of the state.

This made our appeals to the authorities more deeply solicitous as the danger increased, and very soon after this the mobs commenced their depredations, which was a general system of plunder, tearing down fences, exposing all within the field to destruction, and driving off every animal they could find.

Some time previous to this, in consequence of the threatenings which were made by mobs, or those who were being formed into mobs, and the abuses committed by them on the person and property of the citizens, an association was formed, called the Danite Band.

This, as far as I was acquainted with it, (not being myself one of the number, neither was Joseph Smith) was for mutual protection against the bands that were forming and threatened to be formed for the professed object of committing violence on the property and persons of the citizens of Daviess and Caldwell counties. They had certain signs and words by which they could know one another, either by day or night. They were bound to keep these signs and words secret, so that no other person or persons than themselves could know them. When any of these persons were assailed by any lawless band, he would make it known to others, who would flee to his relief at the risk of life.

In this way they sought to defend each other’s lives and property; but they were strictly enjoined not to touch any person, only those who were engaged in acts of violence against the persons or property of one of their own number, or one of those whose life and property they had bound themselves to defend.


This organization was in existence when the mobs commenced their most violent attempts upon the citizens of the before-mentioned counties; and from this association arose all the horror afterwards expressed by the mob at some secret clan known as Danites. (D.H.C. 3:453-4 see also Times and Seasons 4:271)

The first attempt to organize this protective and defensive clan occurred in June of 1838 at Far West, Missouri. That effort was soon abandoned, but the second attempt was more successful a month later at Adam-ondi-Ahman.

The term “Danites” indicated that an actual organization existed. It was soon revealed that it not only had a purpose and mission, but was a structure with leaders and officers. Some called it the “The Brothers of Gideon”, or “The Big Fan”. Others knew it as the “Daughters of Zion”. Jared Carter was originally its commander and had a brother by the name of Gideon, which may have accounted for the first name. John Corrill wrote of it as “The Big Fan” which had its connotation from the scripture that wheat must go through the fan to drive out the chaff. Sampson Avard, the founder of the society, usually called it by the name of “The Daughters of Zion”, which also was derived from the scriptures which read:

And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.

Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.

Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. (Micah 4:8, 10, 13)

The term “Danites” is the name by which it became best known, and it, too, was taken from the Bible. The Danites were [145] the children of one of the sons of Jacob, or of the tribe of Dan. “. . . in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in” and “a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth”. These were the children of Dan who were “six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war”, who established a city and named it Dan. (See Judges 17 and 18.)

With the re-organizations that occurred, probably from the times that it had to be reactivated or new members recruited, the name probably changed with each stage of development.

The principal objective of this organization was one of protection, or defense, and if necessary to capture, overthrow and destroy the arms, plans, or movements of any forces that threatened the Mormon people. This was all to be done according to justification by the laws of the land, upon directives from the heads of the Church. Although it was a physical force, a marshaling of arms, and was military in form, it was not an outlaw terror force, as many had painted it out to be. When Avard and Corrill apostatized, they said they were of “the opinion” and “I think” the organization was to drive “dissenters” out of the county. Avard’s testimony in court clearly established that the major purpose of the Danite organization was to “defend ourselves against mobs”. Such marshaling of arms and men was not uncommon in the history of Mormonism as demonstrated by the 210 armed men who went to Clay County to aid their brethren against attacking mobs; or the 500 men who went from Kirtland to Missouri; not to mention the Nauvoo Legion or the Mormon Battalion.

General Alexander Doniphan told Joseph Smith to organize the Latter day Saints in an effort to hold off the lawlessness of the Missouri mobocrats. They were to represent a militia in Caldwell County under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel George M. Hinkle. Joseph understood the careful employ of such an action and therefore was “very careful in all their movements to act in strict accordance with the constitutional laws of the land.” (D.H.C. 3:162) Soon there were 100 men gathered in the public square or Far West, ready to march to Adam-ondi-Ahman, for the purpose of repelling “the attacks of the mob”. This sort of civilian militia and home-guard was already organized in Daviess County. Lyman Wight described this order:


The county having been settled, the governor issued an order for the organization of the county and of a regiment of militia; and an election being called for a colonel of said regiment, I was elected unanimously, receiving 236 votes in August, 1837; we then organized with subaltern officers, according to the statutes of the state, and received legal and lawful commissions from Governor Boggs for the same. (D.H.C. 3:440)

Wight and Hinkle were officers for this militia, and each man held an official commission as, Colonel from Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, commander of all the State’s troops. These groups were soon called the “Armies or Israel” by many of those who belonged to them. They were subdivided by smaller units of tens and fifties.

Sampson Avard got up some men to also form a militia with the same purpose as the “Armies of Israel”. There was nothing wrong with this “home defense” group, and it was the express wish of the Governor of Missouri that they have this kind of force on this Western Frontier. Neither was there any objection from the presidency of the Church. Avard was accomplishing much towards these objectives and gaining many members in this mutual protection society. There were other objectives besides just fending off mobs–they helped to rebuild homes, plant gardens, fight fires, ward off Indians, etc.

The readiness and preparedness of each Danite was explained by Swartzell, who said:

Every Danite must hold himself in readiness, at a moment’s warning, by day or by night. Each one of you must be equipped with a gun, or a cow-skin, or a pistol, etc., according to your different stations; each one of you is to have on hand, one pound of powder and one hundred bullets. (Mormonism Exposed, p. 23)

Avard’s purposes in organizing the Danites were honorable in defending the Saints and protecting their rights as citizens under the Constitution of the United States. However, as conditions became worse for the Mormons, the Danites grew in numbers and power; then Avard saw a chance for personal aggrandizement by unscrupulous ends.

[147] Avard began to encounter some difficulty explaining why members of the First Presidency of the Church had not made appearances at his meetings. When they did come by, Peck said that Avard did not explain to the Presidency what his teachings had been in that society.” He does mention that they had been to Avard’s and that what they had done– organizing and protecting the Saints–had been approved”. It was his teachings and objectives that had turned his whole efforts into chaos and disrepute.

The Prophet explained that the purpose of the society and its name were originally for protection:

The Danite system. . . never had any (official) existence. It was a term made use of by some of the brethren in Far West and grew out of an expression I made use of when the brethren were preparing to defend themselves from the Missouri mob, in reference to the stealing of Micah’s images (Judges 18). If the enemy comes, the Danites will be after them, meaning the brethren in self-defense. (D.H.C. 6:165)

Avard probably saw an advantage or opportunity to use the name and the objective of defense to establish such a clan, even though Joseph Smith did not know of it until much later.

The Danite band was supposed to have a Constitution which was also secret and supposedly read in the home of Sidney Rigdon, and approved by all who were to participate in that organization. Avard first explained it and then read the eight articles:

Whereas, in all bodies laws are necessary for the permanency, safety, and well-being of society, we, the members of the Society of the Daughters of Zion, do agree to regulate ourselves under such laws as, in righteousness, shall be deemed necessary for the preservation of our holy religion, and of our most sacred rights, and the rights of our wives and children. But, to be explicit on the subject, it is especially our object to support and defend the rights conferred on us by our venerable sires, who purchased them with the pledges of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And now, to prove ourselves worthy of the liberty conferred on us by them, in the providence of God, we do agree to be governed by such laws as shall perpetuate these high privileges, of which we know ourselves to be the rightful possessors, and of which privileges wicked [148] and designing men have tried to deprive us, by all manner of evil, and that purely in consequence of the tenacity we have manifested in the discharge of our duty towards our God, who has given us those rights and privileges, and a right, in common with others, to dwell on this land. But we, not having the privileges of others allowed unto us, have determined, like unto our fathers, to resist tyranny, whether it be in kings or in the people. It is all alike unto us. Our rights we must have, and our rights we shall have in the name of Israel’s God.

Art. 1st. All power belongs originally and legitimately to the people, and they have a right to dispose of it as they shall deem fit; but, as it is inconvenient and impossible to convene the people in all cases, the legislative powers have been given by them, from time to time, into the hands of a representation composed of delegates from the people themselves. This is and has been the law, both in civil and religious bodies, and is the true principle.

Art. 2d. The executive power shall be vested in the president of the whole church and his councilors.

Art. 3d. The legislative powers shall reside in the president and his councilors together, and with the generals and colonels of the society. By them all laws shall be made regulating the society.

Art. 4th. All offices shall be during life and good behavior, or to be regulated by the law of God.

Art. 5th. The society reserves the power of electing all its officers, with the exception of the aids and clerks which the offers may need in their various stations. The nomination to go from the presidency to his second, and from the second to the third in rank, and so down through all the various grades. Each branch or department retains the power of electing its own particular officers.

Art. 6th Punishments shall be administered to the guilty, in accordance to the offense; and no member shall be punished without law, or by any others than those appointed by law for that purpose. The Legislature shall have power to make laws regulating punishments, as, in their judgments, shall be wisdom and righteousness.

Art. 7th. There shall be a secretary, whose business it shall be to keep all the legislative records of the society, and also to keep a register of the names of every member of the society; also the rank of the officers. He shall also communicate the laws to the generals, as directed by laws made for the regulation of such business by the Legislature.


Art. 8th. All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General, given through the Secretary of War; and so all officers shall be subject to their superiors in rank, according to laws made for that purpose. (Senate Document 189, pp. 5-6)


In his pamphlet “Mormonism Exposed”, William Swartzell gave an account of a Danite meeting:

Some talk of a meeting–for what purpose I do not know–it is called a Danite meeting. It was held in a grove, in the woods, adjoining brother White’s house, where a number of benches were made out of trees split in two. Sentinels, armed with pistols, swords, and guns, were posted on the outskirts of the grove, while the Daranites, as they were called, occupied the centre. Just as these things were going on, brother Higby asked me if I could eat strong meat. I answered him that I could, if the meat had a good scent. The answer deprived me of being then let into the secret, or being admitted to the meeting. (Mormonism Exposed, p. 17)

The oath and covenant of this Danite order according to Avard was as follows:

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I do solemnly obligate myself ever to conceal and never to reveal the secrets of this society called the Daughters of Zion. Should I ever do the same, I hold my life as the forfeiture. (Senate Document 189, p. 2)

Swartzell said it was like this:

Now I do solemnly swear, by the eternal Jehovah, that I will decree to bear and conceal, and never reveal, this secret, at the peril of committing perjury, and (enduring) the pains of death, and my body to be shot and laid in the dust. Amen. (Mormonism Exposed, p. 21)

Another part of their oath was certain signs and tokens that were made for “mutual protection” by which a fellow Danite might call for help without using his voice. According to John D. Lee, it was after this manner:

When the sign was given, it must be responded to and obeyed, even at the risk or certainty of death. That Danite that [150] would refuse to respect the token, and (did not) comply with its regulations, was stamped with dishonor, infamy, shame, and disgrace, and his fate for cowardice was death.

The sign or token of distress is made by placing the right hand on the right side of the face, with the points of the fingers upwards, shoving the hand upwards until the ear is snug up between the thumb and fore-finger…. (Confessions of John D. Lee, p. 57)

But as in every organization, there are a few who bring discredit upon all. Such was the ultimate end of Doctor Sampson Avard. Through his actions, the Church experienced another disastrous misfortune. Avard began to seize on the opportunity of stealing from the Gentiles for his own personal advantage. He even attempted to use the Danite organization for his force. Said Avard to his company:

Know ye not, brethren, that it soon will be your privilege to take your respective companies and go out on a scout on the borders of the settlements, and take to yourselves spoils of the goods of the ungodly Gentiles? For it is written, the riches of the Gentiles shall be consecrated to my people, the house of Israel; and thus you will waste away the Gentiles by robbing and plundering them of their property; and in this way we will build up the kingdom of God, and roll forth the little stone that Daniel saw cut out of the mountain without hands, and roll forth until it filled the whole earth. For this is the very way that God destines to build up His kingdom in the last days. (D.H.C. 3:180)

Avard’s “spoils of war” speech gained little or no enthusiasm, and it began to forge a new division and dissension among the Mormon people. Prior to this, the Mormon concept had always been to capture the mind and heart of men by the principles of religion; but now Avard wanted their wealth and possessions by dishonesty and plunder.

The Prophet said that Avard was smooth, flattering, and winning,” which gave him the influence that he gained among the Mormon people. Also by his smiles and flattery, persuaded them to believe it, and proceeded to administer to the few under his control, an oath, binding them to everlasting secrecy to everything….” (D.H.C. 3:179)

[151] Finally the power he was generating became a toxic stimulus for his ego, and Avard said:

If our enemies swear against us, we can swear also. Why do you startle at this, brethren? As the Lord liveth, I would swear to a lie to clear any of you; and if this would not do, I would put them (the enemy) under the sand as Moses did the Egyptian; and in this way we will consecrate much unto the Lord and build up His kingdom; and who can stand against us? And if any one of this Danite society reveals any of these things, I will put him where the dogs cannot bite him. (D.H.C. 3:180)

Whether anyone was to consider the militia of the Mormons as Danites or by any other name, its organization was legal; and, as the Prophet said, was for good and righteous purposes. What Avard did was wrong and was denounced by the Prophet; therefore, that band was short-lived. The organizational militia that Joseph sustained had an honorable objective and mission, and was legal and law abiding according to the Constitution. Avard had a secretive, well-guarded band that was just the opposite.

….while the evil spirits were raging up and down in the state to raise mobs against the “Mormons,” Satan himself was no less busy in striving to stir up mischief in the camp of the Saints: and among the most conspicuous of his willing devotees was one Doctor Sampson Avard, who had been in the Church but a short time, and so, although he had generally behaved with a tolerable degree of external decorum, was secretly aspiring to be the leader of the people. This was his pride and his folly and . . . to form a secret combination by which he might rise a mighty conqueror, at the expense and overthrow of the Church. (D.H.C. 3:179)

The actions of Avard and his band of Danites created much trouble and persecution for the Church and its leaders. The two groups (Joseph’s and Avard’s) were organized, or at least functioned, for two different purposes: one for the defense and protection of the Saints and the other for pillage and plunder of all who opposed or denounced the Mormons. Avard protected his members by the threat of severe penalties for revealing any of the Danite secrets; Joseph’s militia was open, and with the knowledge and consent of the State.

[152] Further differences between Avard’s group were clearly evident when the list of the officers of each were named. Reed Peck said that Robinson was a colonel, Dibble a lieutenant colonel, Brunson a major, Carter a captain general, Lott a major general, and Avard a brigadier general. (See Reed Peck Manuscript.) The “Armies of Israel” were reported to have Wight a commander-in-chief, Brunson a captain, Hinkle a commander-in-chief at Far West, Patten a captain, and Joseph Smith a commander in chief of the whole force according to Avard. However, when George M. Hinkle gave testimony to the judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Missouri; he accidentally exposed Avard’s lies when he said that the organization of the Danite band took “all power out of their hands” in the Far West Militia. He was exposing the two groups. Hinkle discovered that the Danite band had functions that were different and in some cases superseded the jurisdiction of the local militia.

Confusion soon resulted between the militia and the Danites. Enemies of Mormons classified them as one and the same. To prevent this, Joseph made a statement that “these companies of tens and fifties got up by Avard were altogether separate and distinct from those companies of tens and fifties organized by the brethren for self-defense in case of attack from the mob.” (D.H.C. 3:181)

But the distinction of the two was lessened by the fact that many of the Danites belonged to these “Armies of Israel” camps, and their functions were primarily for the same purpose.

Then on November 2, 1838: “About this time Sampson Avard was formed by the mob secreted in the hazel brush some miles from Far West, and brought into camp, where he and they were “Hail fellows well met,” for Avard told them that Daniteism was an order of the Church, and by his lying tried to make the Church a scape-goat for his sins.” (D.H.C. 3:193)

Avard had hundreds of men sworn to secrecy. But when he was caught, he squealed like a pig. Not only was he willing to expose everything that he had been involved in, but he added many colorful and extended lies for his one-time enemies. Avard, of course, tried to save his own skin by saying the Danites and militia were the same, which obviously the enemies of the Mormons wanted to hear. He sold this information to his captors [153] for the promise to go free of the crimes which he had perpetrated. He created a mess and then blamed it on the Mormons.

The Prophet Joseph warned the Saints that Avard had made an evil force out of his organization and that no one should have any connections with it. Said he:

Let no one hereafter, by mistake or design, confound this organization of the Church for good and righteous purposes, with the organization of the “Danites,” of the apostate Avard, which died almost before it had existed. (D.H.C. 3:182)

And again later he said:

I would suggest the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenant or oaths, by penalties or secrecies; but let the time past or our experiences and sufferings by the wickedness of Doctor Avard suffice and let our covenant be that of the Everlasting Covenant, as it is contained in Holy Writ and the things that God hath revealed unto us. Pure friendship always becomes weakened the very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy. (D.H.C. 3:303)

Many men were involved with the rascality and crimes of Dr. Avard, while others had done much the same on their own. The Church was under the necessity to separate these perils from their midst. This was done in a Conference at Quincy, Illinois. Brigham Young presided and gave a “statement of the circumstances of the Church at Far West.”

After the conference had transacted various other business, Elder George W. Harris made some remarks relative to those who had left us in the time of our perils, persecutions and dangers, and were acting against the interests of the Church; he said that the Church could no longer hold them in fellowship unless they repented of their sins, and turned unto God.

After the conference had fully expressed their feelings upon the subject, it was unanimously voted that the following persons be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, viz: George M. Hinkle, Sampson Avard, John Corrill, Reed Peck, William W. Phelps, Frederick G. Williams, Thomas B. Marsh, Burr Riggs, and several others. (D.H.C. 3:284)

So on March 17, 1839, Avard was excommunicated from the Church.


When a knowledge of Avard’s rascality came to the Presidency of the Church, he was cut off from the Church and every means proper used to destroy his influence, at which he was highly incensed, and went about whispering his evil insinuations; but finding every effort unavailing, he again turned conspirator, and sought to make friends with the mob. (D.H.C. 3:181)

The most damaging insults and lies thrown against Joseph Smith because of the Danites were those given in the 5th Judicial Circuit, later to be printed as Senate Document 189. Nearly all of these testimonies were “apostates” from the Church. It was a peculiar court session. Over 40 persons testified in behalf of the State, but only seven persons were permitted to testify for Joseph Smith.

Nov. 13, 1838: Dr. Sampson Avard was the first brought before the court. He had previously told Mr. Oliver Olney that if he (Olney) wished to save himself, he must swear hard against the heads of the Church, as they were the ones the court wanted to criminate; and if he could swear hard against them, they would not (the court or mob) disturb him. “I intend to do it,” said he, “in order to escape, for if I do not, they will take my life.”

This introduction is sufficient to show the character of his testimony and he swore just according to the statement he had made, doubtless thinking it a wise course to ingratiate himself into the good graces of the mob. (D.H.C. 3:210)

Several points must be made concerning the Danite organization. Since there were Mormons who were members, it must be determined just how far up the ranks the responsibility went, or who should take the blame for what occurred.

  1. Sidney Rigdon’s involvement.

Rigdon was a member of the First Presidency of the Church. According to his own testimony, he was not a member of the Danites. (See D.H.C. 3:453) Sidney Rigdon’s connection with the Danites was a matter of speculation. Testimony has been presented both for and against his affiliation with it. Rigdon made many rash statements and was a burden to Joseph Smith because he would create more trouble than ease it. In 1832 Rigdon [155] was dragged over ice-crusted ground by his enemies and from then on he was given to peculiar mental problems. (See Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon Leader by Daryl Chase, p. 101)

Avard claimed that he “had received his authority from Sidney Rigdon” (D.H.C. 3:181) to use the Danites to “waste away the Gentiles by robbing and plundering them of their property.” If Rigdon didn’t have a part of the Danites, he probably would have sanctioned anything they did or intended to do. By 1839 Rigdon was all but out of the Church, and his attitude was so bitter towards his enemies that he claimed he had suffered more than Christ. He told Brigham Young that “Jesus Christ was a fool compared to him in sufferings.” (Times and Seasons Vol. 5:666)

Whatever part Rigdon played or approved of with the Danites, must be attributed to his bitterness against his persecutors. He did suffer about as much as a man could endure, and this was certain to foment acrid feelings at the least.

In any case, Rigdon was not acting or speaking for the presidency of the Church in his relationship with the Danites.

  1. Joseph Smith’s affiliation with the Danites.

From most evidence or testimony, it appears that Joseph gave expression to the word “Danite” by name in a speech. This was adopted to the group under command of Avard.

Joseph may well have approved of Avard’s initial efforts and perhaps the organization established by Avard. Also the initial intention and purpose of defense and assistance of the order would probably have been approved of by Joseph Smith. But when the organization took on plundering and raiding, then Joseph could not have sanctioned its actions; neither did most of the men who were members of that order.

Testimony in court by others confirm the fact that Joseph Smith did not want anything done by the Mormons that was unlawful. Such testimony even came from some of his enemies.

In court John Corrill said that he heard Joseph Smith: “. . . relating the oppressions the society had suffered, and they wanted to be prepared for further events; but said he wished to do nothing unlawful, and, if the people would let him alone, they would preach the gospel and live in peace.” (Senate Document 189, p. 12)

[156] Reed Peck gave testimony that he heard Joseph Smith say that in reference to stealing “he did not approve of it.” Burr Riggs also said that, “I never heard Jos. Smith Jr., say that he would disobey the laws of the country.”

  1. Who wrote the Constitution of the Danites, and when was it ever read to its members?

No one could give any testimony of who wrote the Danite Constitution. It was given to General Clark, who in turn sent it to Governor Boggs. It could have been manufactured and given to State authorities to bring trouble upon the Mormons. This was probably so because some of those who were supposed to have been there to hear it read–and approve of it–gave their own testimony that they knew nothing about it. John Corrill was one who claimed this:

I have learned of late that a constitution was formed, savoring all the spirit of monarchy and adopted by the leaders and some others of this society; but I conclude that few knew about it, for I never heard one lisp on the subject, until after Avard exposed it after he was arrested. (Senate Document 189, p. 32)

Others testified that there was no constitution which Dr. Avard “said was introduced among the Danites”. This testimony came from Alanson Ripley, William Huntington, Joseph Noble, Heber C. Kimball and others.

  1. The validity of Dr. Sampson Avard’s testimony.

Avard was a commander in the Caldwell County Militia (the “Armies of Israel” defense militia), but was later removed from that office. Said Avard:

I once had a command as an officer, but Joseph Smith, Jr., removed me from it, and I asked the reason, and he assigned that he had another office for me. (Senate Document 189, p. 3)

Here according to his own testimony, he was dropped from the Caldwell Militia, yet he had sworn that the Danites and the “Army of Israel” were one and the same.

The new office that Avard was given was a surgeon for the “Armies of Israel” military forces–quite a difference from being general.

[157] In a petition to the court, five men testified that:

The testimony of Dr. Avard concerning a council held at James Sloan’s was false. Your petitioners do solemnly declare that there was no such council; that your petitioners were with the prisoner (Joseph Smith) and there was no such vote or conversation as Dr. Avard swore to. (D.H.C. 3:280)

Joseph saw in his character the desire to “be the greatest of the great and become the leader of the (Mormon) people.” Elias Higbee said he was a “man whose character was the worst I ever knew in all my associations or intercourse with mankind.”

In October 1837 Avard’s license as a high priest in the Kirtland Stake was revoked. He had gone to Canada and presented false credentials to John Taylor, the presiding elder, and claimed the presidency of the Church there. The Prophet rebuked Avard for this and because of it, he lost his license. (See Life of John Taylor, pp. 42-44)

Lyman Wight gave another evidence of Avard’s character and ambitions:

He was a man whose character was perfectly run down in all classes of society, and he being a stranger, palmed himself upon the Mormon Church, and in order to raise himself in the estimation of he Church, invented schemes and plans to go against mobocracy, which were perfectly derogatory to the laws of this State and of the United States, and frequently endeavored to enforce them upon members of the Church, and when repulsed by Joseph Smith, he would frequently become chagrined. At one time he told me that the reason why he could not carry his plans into effect was that the First Presidency of the Church feared he would have too much influence and gain the honor which the First Presidency desired for themselves. At one time he said to me that he would “be damned” if he did not carry his plans through. More than once did he raise a conspiracy against them (the Presidency) in order to take their lives, thinking that he might then rule the Church. Now when he was brought before the court, he swore that all these treasonable purposes (which he had sworn in his heart to perform) originated with us. (Lyman Wight’s Journal, Nov. 12, 1839)

[158] In court, Avard’s statements about Joseph Smith and the Church were just what the Missourians wanted to hear. The result was a prison term for several leading members of the Church and also months in a dungeon for Joseph Smith. From prison Joseph wrote:

We have learned also since we have been prisoners that many false and pernicious things, which were calculated to lead the Saints far astray and to do great injury, have been taught by Dr. Avard as coming from the Presidency, and we have reason to fear that many other designing and corrupt characters like unto himself, have been teaching many things which the Presidency never knew were being taught in the Church by anybody until after they were made prisoners. Had they known such things, they would have spurned them and their authors as they would the gates of hell. Thus we find that there have been frauds and secret abominations and evil works of darkness going on, leading the minds of the weak and unwary into confusion and distraction, and all the time palming it off upon the Presidency, while the Presidency were ignorant as well as innocent of those things. . .which those persons were practicing in the Church in their name. * * *

Is not all manner of evil of every description spoken of us falsely, yea, we say unto you falsely. We have been misrepresented and misunderstood, and belied, and the purity and integrity and uprightness of our hearts have not been known–and it is through ignorance–yea, the very depths of ignorance is the cause of it; and not only ignorance, but on the part of some, gross wickedness and hypocrisy also; . . . and would bring great trouble and sorrow upon our heads; and in fine, we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin.

* * * Remember that whatsoever measure you mete out to others, it shall be measured to you again. We say unto you, brethren, be not afraid of your adversaries; contend earnestly against mobs, and the unlawful works of dissenters and of darkness. (D.H.C. 3:231-233)

* * *

[159] As mentioned, the original object for the organization of the Danites was to aid the Saints by expulsion of the dissenters and apostates from among them. The second objective was brought on by necessity which was to protect the Mormons against all the mob violence that was being thrown at it. The third phase came in under Avard, which was to plunder, rob or harass their enemies. He was never punished by the law for his actions in this organization, nor did he ever suffer for the misery he caused others.

On the other hand, the “Armies of Israel” were created by order of General Alexander Doniphan and were later called Danites through the maligning testimony of Avard. Both of these groups were broken down into tens and fifties. Both even had some of the same members.

Avard had secretive means and threats to protect himself and his designs. He taught his men that the First Presidency approved of all his actions and that they were to obey instructions without question. To oppose his orders was to disobey the orders of the First Presidency, he said.

Avard’s skill in using the Mormons’ principles for his own purposes was best demonstrated when he persuaded them to consecration for the Kingdom of God. Scriptures were used by him to his own objectives. Oaths, signs and tokens, and passwords were incorporated with the inclusion of a “Constitution” to make it all appear more sacred and exclusive. The Danites were no longer in existence from the day that Avard became a turn-coat to his own establishment. It would be foolish to continue with something that the law had cracked down upon, including putting Mormons in jail. The Mormons already had a legal and larger company of men in arms.

When William Law and others were conspiring against the Prophet’s life in the year 1844, extra guards had to be put around the leaders of the Church. Some then claimed that “the organization of the `Danites’ had been revived,” which was “stoutly denied.” (C H.C. 2:223)

Although the Danites were short-lived, their name and terror continued to be a part of “Mormonism” as the gentiles were wont to tell. But perhaps to good purpose, for it was the lawless and the criminals who feared and shuddered at the name of “Danites.”


The people of Utah are charged with having committed terrible murders and robberies. “Danites” or “Destroying Angels” are talked about by sensational writers and believed in by the uninformed. Now, what is the fact? Utah stands head and shoulders above every other Territory in the United States so far as the crime of murder is concerned. You cannot find a Western Territory or State within the United States where there has not been a hundred per cent more murders, lynching and lawlessness than can be found in the annals of Utah. Take the State of California, the State of Nevada, and all the surrounding Territories, and it will be found that there has been less violation of law, fewer murders and less lynching in Utah than in any one of these from the beginning. There is no man that knows anything about the history of the western States and Territories for the last thirty years but knows this to be absolutely the fact. But because a few horse thieves and murderers have per chance been summarily dealt with by officers of the law–who were the appointees of the United States, and acting under the authority of the parent government and the laws of the Territory–the whole people of Utah are accused of being murderers. (Joseph F. Smith, J.D. 24:12)

Years later the haunting influence of the Danites still shadowed the Mormons. To many, the Danites were to be feared and avoided, and many a traveler through the Utah Territory had been previously told of gruesome and grizzly stories of the Danites. “Watch out for the Danites” was as common as “watch out for the Boogy Man”.

Brigham Young used the term “Danite” as a word of warning to all the lawless rascals that either lived in the Territory or were passing through. On one occasion he said:

There have been men here who have had their plans arranged for robbing; and I will take the liberty to say that, when we find them, “judgment will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet.” Those are my feelings, and I express them plainly, that the good and honest may be able to pass from the Eastern States to California, and back and forth, in peace. And when a “Mormon” unlawfully disturbs anybody, I say, let him be overtaken by a “Vigilance Committee.” And when mobocrats come here, they will find a “Vigilance Committee.” Now, listeners, send that to the States, if you wish. I want the people in the States to know that there are a few poor curses here, and also to know that we do not want a gang of [161] highwaymen here. And I say to all such characters, if you come here and practice your iniquity, we will send you home quick, whenever we can catch and convict you. I wish such characters would let the boys have a chance to lay their hands on them. If men come here and do not behave themselves, they will not only find the Danites, whom they talk so much about, biting the horses’ heels, but the scoundrels will find something biting their heels. (J.D. 5:6)

Brigham used an oppressive or autocratic language when talking to sinners and the lawless–not in the usual exhortation of the evangelists, but it had its potent effect and the results were proof of its worth. Brigham gave this illustration:

Look at St. Louis. More murders have been committed there in almost any few days than have been committed in this Territory since it was organized. It is customary there to have murders committed almost daily; but we, above all other people, ought never to have such a crime committed in our midst; and we never have had so far as the Latter-day Saints are concerned. (J.D. 5:6)

The Danites were said to have numbered up to 400 members at one time, according to John Corrill. It is amazing that such a formidable group could have been so secret, especially to so many of the Mormon people. Many of the Twelve Apostles knew nothing about their organization until after it was brought to light by Avard. Even John Taylor, who was living in Far West in 1838, was not aware of their existence or their deeds. As late as 1870 he declared: “I have heard a good deal about Danites, but I never heard of them among the Latter-day Saints. If there was such an organization, I was not made acquainted with it.” (Des. News, 1870)

William Smith, brother to the Prophet, is suspected of having dictated the writing of a long article on the Danites. Brigham Young said of William:

He [William] defies the United States to send a Governor here that can do anything with the “Mormons,” except himself. He declares that no man can go to Utah but a man who is well acquainted with the “Mormons,” and one who has as much influence among them as Brigham Young; and presents himself as the man. He also tells about the Danites, and asserts [162] that they are in every town and city throughout the whole of the United States, and that their object is not known by the people; that they are all over the world; that there are thousands of them; and that the life of every officer that comes here is in the hands of the Danites; that even the President of the United States is not safe; for, at one wink from Brigham, the Danites will be upon him and kill him. After all this, he says that no man can go there; and when he gets through with his story, sufficiently so to expose who he is, he says, in purport, I can go there; and if you do not believe me, try me; and if you think I cannot, give me the right to go there with a good large army. (J.D. 4:345)

William Smith, like so many other anti-Mormons, taught that Mormons were terrible killers, yet they themselves wanted to destroy the Mormons.

The critics of Mormonism have always used every tactic which they have charged against the Mormons. Their only intent is to destroy the religion of the Latter-day Saints. In that desire they use the testimony of men like Avard, and other apostates, to “prove” that Mormonism is wrong. Regardless of what the facts may be, they will not give up clinging to a false testimony of a traitor. If they had lived in the days of Christ, they undoubtedly would have believed the testimony of Judas Iscariot and assisted state officials to destroy Christ and his religion. Certainly, Judas must have come up with a preponderance of evidence and proof to have convinced the judges and citizens of both the Roman and the Jewish nations to destroy Christ and persecute the Christians!

Mormonism, being the same Gospel of Christ, has also developed the same apostates and their false testimonies.

How ironic that the man who organized the Danites was also the one who destroyed them! But the rumors, stories and charges of the Danites still throw a terror into the unsuspecting investigator of Mormonism.

The Mormons have felt like Mosiah, who languished over how much iniquity one man can cause. In the beginning, Sampson Avard and his Danites had a just cause; but as he turned to criminal activities and objectives, he brought trouble to himself and to Mormonism. Whatever worthy intentions he had or favorable deeds he had done, they were overshadowed by the crimes he committed. Although he espoused an honorable religion, when [163] he turned to wickedness, he abandoned and turned traitor to his own faith. Like Judas, who caused death and destruction upon Christ and His disciples but not the destruction of Christianity, neither could Avard cause the overthrow and breakup of Mormonism.

Yet, even today, most anti-Mormon publications usually say something about the secret band of the Danites. Their books are filled with stories and pictures of the most horrid nature, all pawning off the idea that this is Mormonism–Danitism–or blood atonement. But the cry and clamour of deceptive critics are only tools of illusion to persuade people from investigating, or being converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.


[164]                             Chapter 11


. . . for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord. (Jer. 25:31)

The controversy between the world and the Mormon religion is well known. As soon as the doctrines of Mormonism were revealed, the other religions of the world began to contend against them. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34) Mormonism, being the same gospel that Jesus taught, created the same opposition and the same sword. Because of their beliefs and practices, thousands of Mormons have had their blood shed by their enemies.

The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the controversy that has existed and still exists between those doctrines revealed to Joseph Smith (among which is blood atonement) and those of the non-Mormons. The following quotations and illustrations show that the original doctrines of Mormonism and the doctrines of the rest of the world are still unreconciled.


The majority of this nation have participated in or have in some way sanctioned mobbings, rioting, burning their own cities, killing their own unborn offspring, and even murdering when the price was high enough. In such a fallen condition, they think that the Mormons are wicked and deceived. They are quick to believe and accept anything that is slanderous or unfavorable about the Mormons. Brigham Young explained:

You can imagine what you please of the stories you have read about the people of Utah from the pens of every lying scribbler who has been here. Imagine what you please, but write this down, publish it in your little papers, that a Saint will never do wrong if he knows it. If a man will do a wrong thing willfully, he is not a Saint. When you hear of Brigham Young, and of his brethren who are in the faith of the holy Gospel, doing this wrong and that wrong, wait until you find out the truth before you publish it to the world.

We have been asked a good many times, “Why do you not publish the truth in regard to those lies which are circulated about you?” We might do this if we owned all the papers published in Christendom. Who will publish a letter from me or my brethren? Who will publish the truth from us? If it gets into one paper, it is slipped under the counter or somewhere else; but it never gets into a second. They will send forth lies concerning us very readily. The old adage is that a lie will creep through the keyhole and go a thousand miles while truth is getting out of doors; and our experience has proved this. (J.D. 13:177)

[166] How the world looks at Mormonism:

(picture of white sheep in circle glaring at black sheep in middle of circle)

But maybe it’s the other way around:

(picture of black sheep in circle glaring at white sheep in middle of circle)

[167] This nation prides itself on its computerized technology, splitting the atom, and sending men to the moon. But newspaper headlines illustrate that morality is degenerating as fast as science is advancing:

Found Guilty


Rape Suspects Face Trial

Robbery Suspect Gets New Trial Date

Woman Strangled – Jury Says Magna Man Is Guilty in Slaying

Prison Term Given In Sexual Abuse

Burglar Sentenced

Rising Crime Rates

Rape Suspect Seized

Terror Groups To Advance

3 Witnesses Describe Sniper Shootings

In Deaths of 2

Gunshot in … Kills Utah Salesman

Police Note Theft Rise

Slay Conviction



[168] America, like the other nations, suffers from its own fallen and corrupt delusions, but their viciousness and moral depravity runs deeper than most people are willing to believe. The Associated Press released an article in Chicago that illustrates how far the moral conscience of Americans has eroded:

Many Claim They Would Kill if the Price is Right

CHICAGO (AP)–“What is the least amount of money you would take to push a button to kill a person inside a black box–(no one would ever know what you did)?”

A psychologists put that question to 200 persons around Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., in 1975 and to an additional 452 persons interviewed this year in St. Mary’s County, Md.

Their answers, said Dr. Paul Cameron, point to a disregard for the value of human life in American society.

The people interviewed were divided into two groups. Those who acknowledged having deliberately killed someone–usually in military service–or having tried to do so were in one group. Those who had never killed or tried to were in the second group.

Forty-five percent of those who had killed before said they would murder for money, Cameron said. The average price for them was $20,000.

Of those who had never killed or tried to, 25 percent said they would do it and their average price was $50,000, he said.

“Lethality feeds upon itself,” said Cameron, who teaches now at the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He formerly taught in Maryland and did the studies at that time.

Cameron reported on his work recently at the annual meeting of the National Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Guilds in Oak Brook, Ill. He elaborated in a telephone interview.

Cameron said an estimated 20 million persons in the United States have participated in killing humans in various contexts.”

“Their attitudes toward life cannot help but influence our society in a deathward direction,” he said. “Part of the lethal trend toward death is the growing power of the military mind in our society.”

Returning military personnel do not, as Americans tend to think, just come home and “eat apples, bake pies, have children,” Cameron said. They return with a different, more lethal view toward life, he said, and this is passed on to their children.


The Prophet Joseph Smith gave a clear definition of true justice when he said that “We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense….” (D. & C. 134:8) In other words, the punishment should be equal to the crime.

The world, however, has difficulty in administering justice, as seen in these two examples that were published on the same day in the same newspaper:


Washington: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday a man’s life sentence for committing three frauds totaling $229.11 is not cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Constitution.

William James Rummel, 36, who has been imprisoned since 1973, is being held at Angleton, Texas.

His attorney, Scott Atlas, decried the outcome, saying: “It demeans our system of justice if we impose our harshest penalty short of death for nonviolent crimes, while a violent criminal may receive a much shorter sentence.” (Salt Lake Tribune, March 19, 1980)


Quito, Ecuador–Police have recovered the bodies of 21 girls from secret graves after a Columbian fugitive confessed to raping and strangling about 100 girls over the last seven years, police said Tuesday.

Pedro Alonso Lopez, 38, who was arrested two weeks ago in the southern town of Ambato, told police the girls were all aged 13 or under. He said he fled from Columbia in 1973 to avoid arrest for similar crimes there.

Police said Lopez told them he usually made friends with poor girls, most of them street vendors, took them to isolated spots, raped them and then strangled them to death.

Lopez faces a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 19, 1980)

[170] The United States Supreme Court has lately become more concerned for the rights of violent criminals than those of the victims and their families.

For example, in Southern California a girl by the name of Patty Hopkins and her date were approached by two men with guns. The men kidnapped and raped Patty and then forced her into the trunk of a car. One of the men then emptied his gun into the trunk, leaving Patty unable to ever walk again. The man who raped and shot her will be eligible for parole in seven years.

(Cartoon captioned, Supreme Court bans death penalty for rape)


Capital punishment in America came from the English Common Law which was administered to protect society from the most violent criminals. It was a law when the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution were adopted, including the 8th Amendment concerning cruel and unusual punishment which is so often thrown against capital punishment (as in the Furman vs Georgia case in 1972).

For 100 years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, there was not a challenge to the constitutionality of capital punishment. The clause of “cruel and unusual” referred to tortures, barbarity, and atrocious inhuman punishments that have existed in some foreign countries. The men who wrote the Constitution saw nothing illegal or morally wrong with capital punishment.

On January 25, 1980, the attorney generals from 26 of the 36 states with capital punishment statutes, met in Salt Lake City for a first-time seminar on capital punishment. It was to better understand the law and prepare better arguments against organizations that were opposing capital punishment. Utah Attorney General Robert Hansen said, “I think we’re going to have to fight for capital punishment on a philosophical level as well as in the courtroom.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 25, 1980) The next day Attorney Hansen is reported to have said:

All life is not equally valuable. It is the quality of life that is of value and in need of protection. The death penalty does not cheapen life, it increases the value of life and elevates the importance we attach to it.

For the death penalty to have its greatest deterrent effectiveness, it must be a part of our cultural heritage. Systematically applied over time, it would create generational effects which would result in a true deterrent effect against murder. (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 26, 1980)

A fairly recent incident in Japan has proved that capital punishment is indeed a deterrent to crime. A few years ago Japan had one of the worst drug problems of any nation on earth. To [172] solve the ever rising problem, they instituted capital punishment for everyone caught peddling dope. Victims of dope were not punished. Today Japan has one of the least problems with narcotics of any nation in the world.

Deputy Attorney General Deamer also accepts the fact that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime:

Lambasting arguments opposing the death penalty, Deamer said the question of whether capital punishment is a deterrent to crime is moot because no one ever asks would-be criminals who were deterred.

“It only has to deter one person to be effective,” the deputy attorney general said.

He said also that those who claim the death penalty is discriminatory are not looking at the crimes committed. “The Hi-Fi murderers are alleging they are going to be executed only because they are black–but they are not calling to mind the crime committed or that they were convicted by a jury.” (Deseret News, Jan. 18, 1979)

In Utah, Lance and Kelbach have spoken freely about the joy and excitement they got from murdering people, and said that if they were released from prison, they would drive a tank down State Street and kill as many people as possible before they were stopped. Capital punishment would rid the community of such characters. Even a life sentence can be shortened, and the criminal may be paroled after serving only 15 years. Then he would be free to roam the streets to kill again.

In the late 1950’s there were several active anti-death penalty groups trying to abolish the death penalty. From the following table it can be seen that after many states abolished capital punishment, they later restored it, recognizing that it had more merit than fault.

[173]                              TABLE 1


Date of                  Date of                  Date of

State                                       Abolition                               Restoration           Reabolition

Michigan                                               1846a                    —                                             —

Rhode Island                        1852b                    —                                             —

Wisconsin                                              1853                                       —                                             —

Iowa                                                       1872                                       1878                                       —

Maine                                    1876c                     1883                                       1887

Colorado                                               1897                                       1901                                       —

Kansas                                   1907d                    1935                                       —

Minnesota                                             1911                                       —                                             —

Washington                          1913                                       1919                                       —

Oregon                                   1915                                       1920                                       —

North Dakota                       1915                                       —                                             —

South Dakota                       1915                                       1939                                       —

Tennessee                                             1915                                       1917                                       —

Arizona                                  1916                                       1918                                       —

Missouri                                 1917                                       1919                                       —

Puerto Rico                           1929                                       —                                             —

Alaska                                   1957                                       —                                             —

Hawaii                                   1957                                       —                                             —

Delaware                                               1958                                       1961                                       —

a Death penalty retained for treason.

b Death penalty restored in 1882 for any life term convict who commits murder.

c In 1837, the “Maine Law” was passed, providing that no condemned person was to be executed until one year after his conviction and then only upon warrant from the Governor. There seem to have been no executions under this law between 1837 and 1876.

d In 1872, Kansas passed a law similar to the “Maine Law,” and with a comparable effect on executions. See note c above.

Activist “groups” achieved one of their greatest victories when they convinced the Supreme Court to halt any further capital punishments in this country. The attorney general of Utah, Robert Hansen, said, “There has been a feeling we pass laws but don’t carry them out. If we don’t have a respect for the law, we become a government of men, and not a government of law.”

[174] In the early 70’s the Gallup Poll reported that over 65% of the American people favored the death penalty. In Utah it has been reported to be 80%. But in America, as in many other nations, even though the majority of the citizens favor capital punishment, the legislators often reject the majority opinion and implement laws against it, as illustrated in the articles below:

8A The Salt Lake Tribune, Saturday, September 19, 1981

Guillotine Silenced

France Ends Death Penalty

Reuter News Agency

PARIS–The French National Assembly Friday approved a bill abolishing the death penalty, scrapping the guillotine nearly 200 years after it was introduced during the French Revolution.

Deputies adopted the bill by 363 votes to 117, rejecting an amendment put up by opposition Neo-Gaullist members to set a mandatory prison term for murderers.

The bill, one of the planks of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand’s election platform, now goes for a second reading to the Senate, which could hold up implementation but has no power of veto.

Mitterrand, who took office in May, has made no secret of his abhorrence of capital punishment, despite a recent opinion poll showing 62 percent of the French favoring its retention and only 33 percent for abolition.

His bill, which goes further than those of most European countries by its unconditional abolition of capital punishment, means a reprieve for six Frenchmen at present on death row.

Joins 9 Partners

France’s nine European Economic Community partners have all either ended capital punishment formally or allowed it to fall into disuse.

The blade of Dr. Joseph Guillotin’s invention first fell in 1792 during the French Revolution’s reign of terror. Its chilling reputation was assured after King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and hundreds of others were executed.

It was last used in 1977 when immigrant worker Hamida Djandoubi, convicted of torturing and murdering his 20 year-old girlfriend, was executed.

One of President Mitterrand’s first acts after taking office was to commute the death sentence of a 25 year-old man condemned for killing a policeman.

[175]             Rape Poll: 89% Disagree With Supreme Court

Should the Supreme Court have ruled that the death penalty is illegal punishment for rape? YES 10.97% NO 89.03 %

An overwhelming majority of ENQUIRER readers disagree with the Supreme Court that the death penalty for the crime of rape is cruel and unusual punishment and is therefore forbidden by the Constitution.

The readers responded to a poll in our July 26 issue, and the first results show that of 1,441 ballots cast, 1,283 or 89.03 percent voted “no” on the question: “Should the Supreme Court have ruled that the death penalty is illegal punishment for the crime of rape?”

Only 158 readers, or 10.97 percent of those voting, agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision.


Jan. 23, 1979

[176] Not only should there be capital punishment for the most heinous crimes, but also legislation that would compensate the victims or their families.

Interestingly enough, Utah is the only state in the union which permits an execution according to Bible doctrine. It also has had an option for criminals condemned to die in Utah, to choose the manner in which they want to die. For many years it was shooting or hanging, but today it is shooting or drug injection.

Some condemned men never lose their sense of humor, even when faced with capital punishment. It was about 1920 that Joseph Hillstrom, a Communist Socialist better known as Joe Hill, was sentenced to death for killing a grocer. When given a choice of hanging or firing squad, he asked which would cost the State the most money. The reply was hanging because it required building a scaffold, so that was his choice. His last request was that his body be sent to Wyoming because he didn’t want to be found dead in the State of Utah.

Another man who was sentenced to death chose the firing squad as the means of execution. When asked what his last request was, he answered that he wanted to wear a bullet-proof vest.

A few criminals recognize the enormity of their crime, seek for justice, and request death as their punishment. But through the technicalities of the law, over-zealous lawyers, and special interest groups, the just merits of punishment are often circumvented. The Gary Gilmore case is an example. After the capture of Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer, he became fully aware of the enormity of his crime and demanded capital punishment according to the mandates of the law. It was then that of officials spent more time and money avoiding his capital punishment than they did in his capture and conviction. Gary’s stand erupted into a national news item.

[177] Copyright, Nov. 30, 1976

The Salt Lake Tribune, All Rights Reserved

By George A. Sorensen, Tribune Suburban Editor

DRAPER.–In an exclusive interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, condemned murderer Gary Mark Gilmore Monday night reiterated his wish to be executed, saying, “You can’t take someone’s life or do some wrong and then start to sniffle because you are punished.”

Gilmore, sentenced to die for the murder of Bennie Bushnell last July during a robbery at a Provo motel, said he felt the death sentence “is proper.”

He said he does not wish to spend another 18 or 20 years in prison and believes he is “being practical in accepting the sentence.”

Gilmore will appear before the Board of Pardons Tuesday morning. The board was asked by Gov. Calvin L. Rampton to review the court’s death sentence.

Gilmore said he had no prepared statement for the board but will keep his comments “short, brief, simple and to the point.”

“I will ask them to simply accept the sentence given to me by the judge, jury and the (Utah Supreme Court and I hope to make this clear to them,” Gilmore said.

[178] Convicted murderer Gary Mark Gilmore leaves Utah Supreme Court Wednesday after asking that he be allowed to die.

Finally, on January 17, 1977, four bullets ended the life of Gary Mark Gilmore at the Utah State Prison. After a dramatic struggle for execution, Gary became more of a hero for justice than the officials who opposed his request.

[179] All of the prophets of God have sanctioned capital punishment for some civil and even some religious transgressions. True justice, civil or religious, should make punishment equal to the enormity of the crime. Paul the Apostle was one of those prophets who advocated capital punishment, as did Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

[180] But, as a sidelight, it’s all in the perspective of the beholder. Consider the beliefs of Cortez and Montezuma: When Montezuma, the Emperor of Mexico, went to submit himself to Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of his country, it was one of the most dramatic meetings to have ever occurred. During the meeting, Cortes chided Montezuma for his bloody method of executing his enemies and criminals to appease his God. Montezuma retorted to the Catholic victor by saying that he did not think it was as bad as his religious ceremony which consisted of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of his own god! (See Gods, Graves and Scholars, by Ceran, p. 337)

Montezuma II, Emperor of Mexico, rode in a magnificent litter to meet the conqueror of his country, Hermando Cortes.

The Savior spoke very strongly in favor of capital punishment when He said: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27)

Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, though definitely advocating capital punishment, spoke much less severely, and were never recorded to have said that their enemies who did not approve of their reign over them should be brought up and slain before them.


The United States and the Mormons have taken opposite view points on the shedding of blood. The enemies of Mormonism throughout this country generally do not believe in blood atonement, except when it is the blood of the Mormons that is to be spilled.

In 1844, in the state of Illinois, a band of militia, some local ministers and citizens numbering over 200 gathered to shoot Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The nation as a whole, silently, and sometimes vocally, approved of the deed, and of course no one was ever sent to jail or fined for their participation. Therefore, they continued to murder, plunder and drive the Mormons from the United States.

(Death of Joseph Smith depicted)

[182] Other anti-Mormon elements continued to contend against the Mormon people. In 1870 J. H. Beadle wrote a book entitled Brigham’s Destroying Angel. This was supposed to be the life, confessions, and startling disclosures of Bill Hickman, the Danite chief of Utah.

These two men (Beadle and Hickman) in their “unbiased”, “benevolent”, and “Christian” approach, said that “Mormonism is sanctified selfishness” and it “teaches that very little restraint need be put upon the baser passions”–that their Gospel is a “product of mental slavery” and is a “pretense to divine power, blasphemous utterances and contemptible gibberish.” They proclaim that “Mormonism is Mohammedanism Yankeeized,” and that the “Mormon Church cannot peaceably continue in America.” Furthermore, “The Mormon Church is such that it cannot exist under a republican government, or civilized country without constant collision,” and that “the Church must rule the country it occupies or cease to exist.” Their honest opinion was that “while it endures, it is a grievous local tyranny” and that its “doctrines produce terrible effects.” As spokesman for Christian virtues, they observed that “love, forgiveness, kindly charity, must wither in such an air” as that of Mormonism.

Amidst pages and pages of such “fair” and “impartial” statements, they conclude by saying, “Mormons in Utah are essentially a foreign community governed by a few swindling Yankees, holding to just so much of original Mormonism as serves their purpose.” (See the Preface of Brigham’s Destroying Angel)

Beadle was an anti-Mormon with few equals, and anything he could write to damage the Mormons, he was eager to do. Bill Hickman, a renegade and apostate, sold himself for a price. The combination made unique publishing business.

[183] The picture below was printed in 1884 by William Jarman in a book called Hell on Earth. It is a favorite among the anti-Mormons and is still being reproduced to describe Mormon religious ceremonies. It is reprinted in such books today as The Inside Story of Mormonism.

Picture of The Reformation in Utah. Slaying of a woman for betraying endowment secrets (From “Hell on Earth” by William Jarman, 1884)

[184] This picture shows a man standing near the woman getting her throat cut. The man, probably supposed to be the husband, must be there as a witness, and approve of the act, but can’t bear the sight of the deed. To make the picture more revolting, two young children had to be there, but crying and clutching on to their father, they are grieving to see the execution of their mother.

The huge book on the altar, must be a Book of Mormon because no Christian would suppose that such a thing ever occurred in the Bible. The skull on the altar is convincing proof that the whole affair is an evil and superstitious rite.

The men in the background are probably also witnesses, who must be there to approve of the method of execution.

This kind of ceremony has constantly been proclaimed by the anti-Mormon rabble as part of their temple rituals. Similar illustrations became gospel for the Protestant Evangelists, but merely sick humor for the Mormons.

Many other anti-Mormon writers, like Josiah F. Gibbs, used every bit of false information conceivable in their attempts to condemn or accuse the Mormon people. Gibbs wrote a book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and said that he was going to write it. . .

. . . with malice toward none, least of all toward the misguided assassins, and in a spirit of even-handed justice, the attempt will be made to assemble the fragments of causation and history and join them together in a consecutive narration. (The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Gibbs, p. 5)

Then page after page he speaks of Mormonism as consisting of “religion crazed fanatics” whose religion is a “deadening, damning influence to be exterminated.” The Mormon leaders were teachers of “grotesquely exaggerated views of the religious and political mission of Mormonism, and of their own importance.” In his careful and “unbiased” scrutiny of Mormonism he declared that “there is not a devout Mormon on earth who would not commit murder if he were ordered to do so by the chief “prophet” or one of his agents in whom he had confidence. And [185] then, “Add to that combination the fact that those blood atonement executions are to be carried out under the authority of the leader of a religious organization, and not under any civil process….” Gibbs then refers to the “Reformation” period just prior to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, when the Church asked all members to renew their faith by being rebaptized and to repent from their sins. This he says, “. . . was a time of confession, of the `renewal of covenants’ by rebaptism, and the intensification of indescribable fanaticism, frenzy and violence.” Then he proceeds to relate his “unbiased” report of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Had Gibbs, like so many of the anti-Mormons who spew out their venom, lived two thousand years ago, he would probably have gladly helped the Romans pound nails into the fanatical, anti-ecclesiastical, political, rabble-rouser known as Christ.

[186] Thus has the controversy continued between the Mormons and the world. The Saints were mobbed and murdered from New York to Ohio and from there to Missouri. In Missouri General Lukas ordered all the leaders of the Church to be led before a firing squad and shot. Fortunately, the orders were never carried out, but the final toll of murdered Mormons reached over 450 in Missouri. The rest barely escaped with their lives.

From Missouri they settled in Illinois where more robbing, raping, burning and murdering caused 22,000 Mormons to leave in the dead of winter for the wilderness of the west. After a loss in millions of dollars and over 6,000 graves along the route, they established new homes in the west. But in ten years the United States sent an army out to again put down the Mormons. The Government troops offered $100 for each Mormon scalp that the Indians would bring them. These were the acts of the “Christian” people against the Mormons.


Who were the real heroes and villains in the “Old West”? The world in general looked upon some characters as their heroes, but in reality these characters were cowardly killers. Historians are unraveling much of the truth from fiction in the old frontier. Matt Braun, author of 19 books on the wild, wild west, has put together these genuine and interesting facts:

  1. The Fast Draw–an invention of Hollywood; it was exceptionally rare.
  2. The Bounty Hunter–There were no such men. Rewards were usually split among a posse or lawmen.
  3. The Two-gun Man–Many carried two guns, but usually one was used only as a back-up.
  4. Fanning the Gun–Shown so much in movies, was the invention of the dime novelists.
  5. The Noble Gunfighter–a term that was not even used in those times. Both lawmen and outlaws usually shot to stay alive.

But the most interesting facts of history have proved that the wild west heroes were not really heroes at all, as the public have been led to believe. Let’s consider a few examples.

Wyatt Earp–His principal claim to fame was the shootout at the OK Corral. It was an ambush in which Earp and his two brothers gunned down three men and only two were armed.

Bat Masterson–was a sportswriter for the New York Morning Telegraph, and created his own fairy tale about being a western gunfighter. He portrayed himself as a lightning fast gunslinger who had killed 26 men. The truth is that he killed only one man, who was shot in a barroom brawl over a prostitute.

[188]              (Photo of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp)

[189] Billy the Kid–His reputation for killing 21 men (one for each year of his life) is another western fable. In reality, he killed nine men, eight of them gunned down without a chance. Some historians think that his was a pathological case.

(Photo of Billy the Kid)

[190] Jesse James–Often called the “Robinhood” of the west, was really a social misfit who suffered from paranoia. Unlike Robinhood who stole to give to the poor, he stole and his charity ended with himself.


(Photo of Jesse James)

[191] On the other hand, Porter Rockwell, accused of gunning down people unjustly, was really carrying out his duties as a Deputy Marshal of the Utah Territory. He was wrongly labeled as the “leader” of the Danites because of his many shoot-outs with outlaws. But other marshals and deputies all over the west were doing the same thing and being made heroes for it. Since Rockwell was a Mormon, he was condemned when he carried out the responsibilities of his office.

(Photo of Porter Rockwell)

[192] Brigham Young, like Porter Rockwell, was classed by the world as a bloodthirsty, wicked murderer. He often talked about carrying pistols which were loaded and ready to put men in their graves, etc. But this served only to warn or scare many who thought of killing him. He confessed that he had never shed the blood of any man, and his advice to his fellow Mormons was usually the same, as it was given to the Saints on March 21, 1858, in the Tabernacle:

. . . Brother Brigham spoke a little on the rise and persecution of the Church …. Said it was not policy to shed the blood of our enemies, and was better to leave our homes than to be driven from them. (Charles Walker Journal, March 21, 1858)

And again a month later:

Brigham made some good remarks. Said he felt righteously mad enough to go right out to the camp of our enemies and slay them. Said he would have to hold back and let the wicked slay the wicked. Showed that if we spilled their blood there was an atonement, but if we let them kill themselves, they would go to Hell and stay there. (Charles Walker Journal, April 4, 1858)

It is in these statements that Brigham Young shows respect for the doctrine of atonement, knowing that those who are worthy of it, but do not obtain it, are worse off.

Even if Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball or other Mormon leaders would have stood as executioners upon men guilty of capital crimes, it would not have marred their position before God. For example, Moses killed an Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. (See Ex. 2:12.) He was still worthy to be a prophet to Israel. Also, after he died, he came with Elias when Christ was transfigured and “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matt. 17:3) This was one of the greatest moments in the life of Christ; yet Moses, who had killed a man, was there for the occasion. Moses had acted as an executioner, not as a murderer!

Therefore, in justification of Porter Rockwell, he was not guilty of murder, but only acted according to law and justice. The only restriction or limitation placed by God upon someone who [193] has shed blood, is that he cannot build or work upon a temple of God. This is clearly illustrated in the life of David:

And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name. . . . (I Chron. 22:7-10)

Hence, men who have killed others in war, self-defense or who have been executioners are not guilty of murder, nor will they receive the displeasure of God when such acts are justified.


The Mormon Church has never had to perform the kinds of bloodshed that God ordered Israel to do. The Bible is full of divine injunctions to the Israelites to go kill every man, woman, child and animal of the surrounding communities. If you took the worst crime that could be found among the Mormons and multiplied it by a thousand times, it would still not equal the enormity of some of the destructions committed by the children of Israel under the direction of God.

If the Protestant and Catholic ministers and priests of today lived in the days of Moses, Joshua, Sampson, David and other prophets, they would have been just as active in their protests against their doctrine and practice of blood atonement as they are now against the Mormons. They believe God has changed that doctrine, making him a changeable God, but He does not change. (See Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8)

The fallacy in the doctrines of atonement as believed by most modern ministers is portrayed in the following somewhat humorous characterization:

[194] (Cartoon of murderer making last second lip service to repentance)

You’re under arrest for robbery and murder!

Okay! Okay! Just don’t shoot!

If you believe in Jesus you will be saved!

What have I got to lose?

[195]I Believe!

He Believes!


He’s Saved!


I Wish I had been given more time to say “I Believe!”

[196] The Apostle Paul tells us that where there is no law, there is no punishment. Conversely, we can say that where there is a law, there must also be a punishment for disobedience. We can further reason that the greater the laws, the greater the punishments.

Every person who is baptized does so with an oath and to accept and abide by the doctrines and principles of the Gospel. However, ministers and religious leaders soon manhandle the gospel by throwing out parts and pieces and soon preach another gospel. God will be more severe in His judgments against these who claim to be His servants than most others. It is for this reason that He has said that judgments must begin upon His own house first.

God’s judgments will be felt in the political as well as the religious realm. For instance, men in every agency of government, from the president down to the common laborer, must take [197] an oath and swear that they will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign or domestic, so help me God.” Yet, as soon as many men get into office, they begin to reject or overthrow the principles of freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution. They might take those oaths lightly, but God does not. President Wilford Woodruff said that “The Constitution once broken by the rulers of the land, there will be no stopping place until the nation is broken in pieces, and no power beneath the heavens can save this nation from the consequences thereof.” (Mill. Star 41:241) He also saw in vision the destructions that are coming upon this nation and described dead bodies upon dead bodies in Washington, D.C.

Joseph Smith said, “I testify again, as the Lord lives, God never will acknowledge any traitors or apostates. (TPJS, p. 375) Yet traitors and apostates are dominating most Americans today.

In that great day when all mankind shall stand before God in judgment, every man will receive the fruits of his labors on earth. None will escape judgment, for every “idle word” shall be brought into judgment so that every man will be apportioned a just compensation for the deeds done in the flesh. Blessings and punishments will be faultless and no man will be able to complain of injustice that he received too little reward or too much punishment. In that day every man shall understand perfectly the doctrine of blood atonement.


[198]                             Chapter 12


But there is a law given and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. (Alma 42:22)


Through the atonement of Christ, man’s sins are expiated or wiped away. The scope of atonement covers several segments of doctrine.

  1. Through Adam’s fall, all men become subject to death. The atonement provided the way for men to be made alive again.
  2. All mankind have broken the spiritual and moral laws of God and justly are condemned from the presence of God. Atonement provides the means to restore them from that bondage.
  3. Everyone is subject to sin. The law would condemn sinners to be destroyed or they would have to make an atonement with their own blood. But the atonement of Jesus Christ has provided the means of redeeming and giving them a chance for salvation.

[199] Atonement has been described as “at-one-ment”, or an agreement made between man and God. Man, in his fallen nature, is unworthy to dwell in the presence of God, but by means of an atonement, man can be redeemed. However, all men have not sinned to the same degree neither will they be redeemed to the same degree. Paul said that as “one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead”. (I Cor. 15:41-42)

Man cannot earn salvation; it is an offering given through the mercy and grace of God. It is a free gift on certain conditions of obedience, for Paul wrote that Christ “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY him.” (Heb.5:9)

However, one of the greatest fallacies of apostate Christianity today is that mere “belief” or “confessing” Jesus Christ means instant atonement and is all that is necessary for total salvation. But mere belief or vocalizing a word was not enough to obtain the favor of God in the Old or New Testament, and it is not enough now.

If the whole world would say, “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” it would not make them one whit better than they are. Ministers may pound the pulpit about believing and confessing Jesus, but even believers can be just as corrupt as unbelievers. The difference between the righteous and the wicked is the degree of obedience to the laws of God.

There is no salvation until men turn FROM their sins. God cannot provide a saving power to people while they remain IN their sins. When John the Baptist came out of the wilderness to announce the Messiah, he cried for the people to “repent”, not just “believe” in Jesus. Now then, the steps toward obtaining repentance have been explained as:

  1. Recognition of sin
  2. Refraining from it
  3. Reforming or realigning their life
  4. Restoring or reconciling any wrongs
  5. Resigning oneself to obey the law

[200] Here then, is a synopsis of what the scriptures say concerning salvation through the atonement of Christ.

  1. GRACE. We are saved by the grace and mercy of Christ’s atonement, in spite of all our belief, faith, good works, or confessions. (Acts 15:11)
  2. BELIEF. This gives a man his direction. Whatever he may believe in, is the course of life that he will follow. (John 3:16)
  3. FAITH. We are justified by faith because it moves man to action. Through faith a man produces works or action. (Gal. 3:11)
  4. WORKS. By our works, we demonstrate the kind of belief or faith that we have. Belief, faith and works can be good or bad–true or false. And it is by our works that we are judged. John the Revelator spoke of the final judgment and said he saw “the dead, small and great, stand before God. . . and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works”. (Rev. 20:12) And Paul the Apostle said that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor”. (I Cor. 3:8)

These are a few of the principles in the spectrum of the Gospel. They are all required to gain salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

To expand our understanding of the purpose of this mortal life, we may look first to the two trees in the Garden of Eden. They were figurative and were used to illustrate the principle of obedience and disobedience to God’s laws and the freedom of man to make a choice. God could have killed the old serpent easier than man can kill one. God could have smitten the forbidden tree as easy as Jesus smote a tree. But God placed good and evil upon the earth for man to chose, according to his own free agency. Without freedom, and the choice of good and evil, there could be no reward, nor any punishment. Mortality was to be man’s schoolhouse for salvation. The fall of man was pre-destined, just as the atonement of Christ was, for He was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. (Rev. 13:8)


Man is surrounded by physical, moral, scientific and spiritual laws. Each law is absolute with consistent results according to the way they are used. These laws are absolute because God’s laws are all eternal, everlasting, and unchangeable. To every law there is a punishment or a blessing. This applies to the laws of the atonement as well.

Throughout the history of scriptures, there are four main areas in which the doctrine of atonement has been applied. Blood has been shed within these four categories with a special effect or spiritual consequence.

  1. The sacrifice of birds and animals. Atonement for sin was resolved by the shedding of blood of birds and animals as an evidence of their faith in the promised Messiah who was to come and atone for their sins with His blood.
  2. Shedding the blood of criminals. Execution by the shedding of criminals’ blood was (a) to be a just punishment for their crimes; (b) to act as a partial atonement for their sin; and (c) to “keep sin from Israel” and “to keep sin from the land”.
  3. Shedding the blood of prophets and apostles. This had an effect upon the guilty who were the persecutors and murderers of holy men, whereas blood was a “witness” or “testament” against the wicked, bringing judgment against them.
  4. Shedding the blood of Jesus Christ. The basis of the doctrine of blood atonement rests on an “eternal” and pre-destined atonement for all mankind by the shedding of the blood of Christ.

Each of these four categories became a part of the doctrine of blood atonement. In the following pages, each will be carefully considered for the purpose it was administered or why it occurred, as they were not only sanctioned by God, but initiated and directed by Him.

[202] 1. Sacrifice of Birds and Animals

With man’s introduction to the earth, the sacrifice of animals, by shedding their blood, also commenced. It was not a superstitious or pagan rite, but rather an act of obedience to God’s commandment. Blood represented the medium by which all mankind could be saved and brought back into the presence of God.

God gave constant reminders to His children of the importance of blood and the saving principles of atonement that were connected with it. Sin, and the atonement for sin, were imprinted in all the ordinances and rituals of the Gospel.

The children of Israel were commanded to put blood on their door posts to protect them from the death of their firstborn. Who would imagine that blood smeared on a house would protect children from death? Nonetheless, their obedience was rewarded according to the promise.

Again, a bullock and a goat were chosen and the goat was committed to receive the “sins of Israel”. The bullock was killed and his blood would be “an atonement” for Israel, while the goat was turned free. This was to illustrate a principle. (See Lev. 16:20-27)

The ancients practiced many kinds of sacrifices and offerings, including sin, guilt, peace, ordination, freewill, burnt cereal, drink, thanksgiving, votive, and many others.

One of these, called the guilt offering, was commanded in instances when a party had suffered some infraction. It often required a recompense for their personal sin or violation of law. It was to repay for the period of his separation from God, and he had to bring a guilt offering as reparation for what he pledged and had failed to do.

The violation of others’ property rights could be atoned for only by the guilt offering and its 20% fine attending it. Cheating robbery, oppression, false testimony and even the seduction of a betrothed slave girl was considered a violation of property rights. In each case the guilty party confessed his sin, made full restora-[203]tion of the infraction of the law, and then offered the guilt offering. Repentance, restoration and atonement were all clearly illustrated.

Paul said that the blood of bulls and of goats . . . sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.” (Heb. 9:13) But, of course, these “sacrifices . . . can never take away sins” (Heb. 10:11) The sacrifice of Christ by the shedding of His blood, is the only atonement for salvation.

  1. Shedding the Blood of Criminals

Anciently, there were some sins which were called the sins of the “upraised hand,” or as we call them “high-handed sins”. These sins were of such import that they could not be atoned for by the sacrificial ritual. It was in this category that all offenses worthy of death were placed.

Few people recognize the severity of God’s punishments for those who break His laws. He has controlled both the giving and the administration of those laws, and among them were laws governing the principle of capital punishment. In many instances God required the blood of sinners to be shed rather than the blood of animals. And, it is no less reasonable to believe that God would accept the shedding of the blood of a sinner for his crimes, than to believe that He would accept the blood of an animal for a man’s crimes. Vicarious atonement is more difficult to have faith in than the actual atonement by the sinner. The shedding of maws blood was for his crimes, but in no way meant that it seas done for his salvation, for that was accomplished by the sacrifice and atonement of Christ.

God has not and will not require the ordinance of blood sacrifice or atonement, without purpose. Even the sacrifice of Isaac by his father was a sin sacrifice, or blood atonement. Isaac had committed some sin which Abraham viewed as serious enough to require the shedding of Isaac’s blood. Heber C. Kimball referred to His:

But God requires every man and woman to be faithful; and if they have sinned, they have got to make an atonement for that sin, and your trials do not make that atonement. God says [204] that we shall be tried in all things, even as was Abraham of old. He was called upon to offer up his son, and was found willing to offer him up, but, as the sin was not sufficient to require the shedding of his son’s blood, a lamb was provided, and its blood atoned for the sin that Abraham’s son was to be offered up for, and saved the son. (J.D. 4:120)

To illustrate the payment or punishment of crimes in ancient Israel, one only needs to consider their severity. Capital punishment was imposed upon all who broke even the Ten Commandments, as the following references will show:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Idolatry: Lev. 20:2, Deut. 13:6, 17:2-7)
  2. Thou shalt not serve or bow down to any other likeness or images. (False prophets: Ex. 22:18, Lev. 20:6,27, Deut. 13:5, 18:20, I Sam. 28:9)
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. (Blasphemy: Lev. 24:14,16,23, I Kings 21:10)
  4. Remember the Sabbath day. (Sabbath violation: Ex. 31:14, 35:2, Num. 15:32-36)
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother. (Dishonoring parents: Ex. 21:15,17)
  6. Thou shalt not kill. (Murder: Lev. 24:17, 21)
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Adultery: Lev. 20:10, Deut. 22:22; Incest: Ex. 22:19; Unchastity: Lev. 21:9, Deut. 22:21; Rape: Deut. 22:25)
  8. Thou shalt not steal. (Ex. 21:16)
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness. (Deut. 19:16,19)
  10. Thou shalt not covet. (Deut. 27:7)

When Israel became aware of God’s laws and powers, but sinned against them, then it constituted a rejection of God and His covenant with them. Such seemingly minor offenses were [205] indeed major offenses against God. Consider capital punishment for the following transgressions in Israel:

Refusing to eat the unleavened bread. (Num. 9:13)

Eating leavened bread during the Passover. (Ex. 12:15, 19)

Not observing the Day of Atonement. (Lev. 23:29,30)

Eating blood. (Lev. 7:27; 17:14)

Eating sacrifices while unclean. (Lev. 7:20,21; 22:34)

Eating peace offering too late. (Lev. 19:8)

Touching holy things without authority. (Num. 4:15, 18, 20)

Defiling the sanctuary by uncleanliness. (Num. 19:13,20)

Misuse of holy ointment. (Ex. 30:32, 33)

Misuse of perfume. (Ex. 30:38)

Rebellion against authority. (Num. 16)

But the laws of God, given to Israel, were in no way obligatory or binding upon anyone else. Men are only punished or recompensed by the laws which they are obligated to obey. In other words, the laws of the United States are of no effect in Africa–and vice versa.

In our “progressive” society there are many who are so forgiving and kind that they allow for no punishment at all for many crimes. Some of the modern peddlers of Christianity might believe this as being “Christ-like”, but nothing could be further from the truth. If Christ is going to bring every idle word into judgment (Matt. 12:36), surely no one guilty of murder will escape.

Men must first understand the law and its consequences; then if they transgress, they know they must pay the penalty. The greater the knowledge, the greater the penalty. To quote Brigham Young

Brother Wooley has said, the time is not far distant, but it will never come until the inhabitants of the earth, and especially those who have been gathered together, have a sufficient time to be educated in the celestial law, so that each person may understand for himself. Then if they transgress against the light and knowledge they possess, some will be stoned to death, and “judgment will be laid to the line, and righteous-[206]ness to the plummet.” But people will never be taken and sacrificed for their ignorance, when they have had no opportunity to know and understand the truth. Such a proceeding would be contrary to the economy of heaven. But after we receive and understand things as they are, if we then disobey we may look for the chastening hand of the Almighty. (J.D. 3:246)

And again he predicted that this penalty of men having their blood shed for crimes would return:

The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle’s [blood atonement] being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force. (Brigham Young, J.D. 4:220)

Modern Christians condemn the Mormons for their view of blood atonement, but they fail to look into their own theological position and to cleanse their own sanctuary. Adolf Hitler was a Catholic, but for his destruction upon humanity he was never excommunicated from the church. Mussolini nearly bathed his country in blood, but he was never dropped from the ranks of the Catholics. How many Catholics and Protestants were dropping bombs on each other during World War II? Strangely enough, they do not believe in blood atonement or capital punishment, yet they have been destroying each other for centuries. God allows the wicked to destroy each other for not honoring and administering His laws. As Apostle Orson Pratt said:

When the Almighty determines to punish nations for their sins, He not unfrequently accomplishes His purposes through the medium of war. By this desolating scourge, towns, cities, and whole countries have been laid waste; nations, kingdoms, and empires have been overturned; the earth itself has been converted into an immense slaughter-house. The science of human butchery has been studied, systematized, and brought to great perfection. Frightful engines of destruction have been invented, and millions trained, in the most skillful manner, in the art of taking human life. The most bold, wily, maneuvering, wholesale murderer, is applauded as a hero, and titled colonel, or a general, and is respected, honored, and renowned in proportion to the number of victims which he and his co-butchers have been able to slaughter.


War is considered a time-honored institution, calculated to render its martyrs immortal, and insure to them an entrance into the gates of celestial paradise. Under these soul-inspiring thoughts, pretended Christians go to war with pretended Christians. * * *

Christians have gotten sick of this vain world and desire to leave it. About seventy-five millions of them have concluded to have some big meetings, to assist one another in the holy work of getting to heaven by means of steel and gun powder. To strengthen them for the pious and holy work of blood-letting, brain spilling, and such like tokens of Christian love, all are commanded to partake of the holy communion. After these religious preliminaries are concluded, it is to be expected that these Christians will greet each other with a smile of unbounded love, and in their great enthusiasm send each other to heaven by scores of thousands at a time. * * *

O, the soul-chilling horrors of modern Christianity! What a ghastly spectacle for honest men and holy angels to behold! Christians drunk with the blood of Christians! Madly raging, with demoniac yells, brother furiously encounters brother, plunging the deadly steel in each other’s hearts. Shrieking, groaning, writhing, their bodies yield to the grim monster death, and their spirits dragged down to hell, suffer the dreadful vengeance of eternal justice. (Mill. Star 28:409-11)

Hal Lindsey, in his best seller, The Late Great Planet Earth, quoted Jesus who spoke of the last days and that “there will be a great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” (Matt. 24:21) Lindsey also interpreted Rev. 14:20 to mean that this would be a time of great bloodshed. Said he: The Apostle John predicts that so many people will be slaughtered in the conflict that blood will stand to the horses’ bridles for a total of 200 miles….” (Great Late Planet Earth, p. 165)

The pages of history are filled with countless numbers of people who have been destroyed or killed. Why does God allow these things to happen to His children? He loves them, but when they fill their cup with iniquity, He has no other choice than to bring judgment and justice upon them for their crimes and sins. [208] Whether it be one individual or millions, they must learn that there is a penalty affixed to every transgression.

Although times have changed in Utah and the nation, it does not prove that they have become “more civilized”. Law officials, clergymen, and the citizens are crying for more severe penalties for those who commit so many heinous crimes. Some of those who should be in the forefront to expound the law are backing away from it. In Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness he not only failed to mention blood atonement as pertinent to those guilty of murder, but he failed even to make mention of capital punishment. Bruce R. McConkie said:

There simply is no such thing among us as a doctrine of blood atonement that grants a remission of sins or confers any other benefit upon a person because his own blood is shed for sins. * * * There is no such a doctrine as blood atonement in the Church today nor has there been at any time. Any statements to the contrary are either idle speculation or pure fantasy. It is certainly not the current teaching of the Church, and I have never in over 60 years of regular church attendance heard a single sermon on the subject or even a discussion in any church class. (Dialogue 7:1, Letter to Thomas McAffee, Oct. 18, 1978)

Strangely enough Elder McConkie previously had said:

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 blood shed to atone for their sins. Murder, for instance, is one of these sins; hence, we find the Lord commanding capital punishment. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 92)

And again:

As a mode of capital punishments hanging or execution on a gallows does not comply with the law of blood atonement, for the blood is not shed. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 314; 1958 edition)

[209] Those who are obligated to subscribe to the moral or civil law expect to be punished if they break that law. Crime and sin must be punished. That punishment serves society by:

  1. Awarding a penalty in proportion to the crime.
  2. It protects society by containing criminals.
  3. It acts as a deterrent for crime.
  4. It elevates society in safety and protection.
  5. It complies to the laws of God.

The purpose or objective of human government is to function as nearly as possible to God’s laws. By doing so, they receive the blessings of God and the merits affixed to His laws. But the punishments of all just laws should be administered in the following pattern:

  1. Legally constituted authorities are appointed.
  2. Punishment must be in proportion to the crime.
  3. Equitable justice applies to all, regardless of who they may be.
  4. Execution must be done without malice–and with a realization of the merits of that punishment.
  5. Compassion and consideration must be included.
  6. Witnesses and testimony must be sufficient to condemn any criminal.

These procedures show that Mormons do not block or control civil courts with their doctrine of blood atonement. Neither should any civil authorities interfere with the right of a Mormon who wishes to die according to the Biblical doctrine of blood atonement.

To more completely understand this section on “Shedding the Blood of Criminals”, it is important to know that crime and its punishment relate to civil law; however, sin and its atonement relate to religious law. Punishment of a criminal is generally [210] enforced against his wishes; whereas atonement is usually voluntary or accepted by the sinner.

  1. Shedding the Blood of Prophets

It seems strange that God has so often allowed His prophets to be slain for their testimony. Yet, there was a purpose and a reason for it. Jesus mentioned “the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world” with a special recognition. He explained that it would be a witness against the wicked. Paul the Apostle added:

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Heb. 9:16-17)

Jesus made no attempt to save himself from crucifixion, even though it was His own desire to have that cup pass away. He did nothing to save John the Baptist from having his head cut off. Jesus did not offer protection to Peter, but rather told him that he would suffer death in the same manner that He would. He even indicated that all the other Apostles would also die by their enemies, except John. Why? So that their testimony would be sealed with their blood.

Joseph Smith was not an exception. From the very rise of the Church, the Lord hinted that he, too, would be required to lay down his life as many of the ancient prophets had done. Those prophets had known and even prophesied of that event.


One of the most interesting scriptures (and to some Protestant churches, the most important) deals with the Prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the cleansing of the sanctuary. Many of the best ecclesiastical scholars have studied this scripture with particular interest because it refers to events that will precede the second coming of Christ. The Adventists have closely [211] analyzed and interpreted this prophetic timetable and concluded that these events would transpire in the year 1844.

A multitude of other Protestants were also caught up in the signs of the times, believing that 1844 would be the year of the Second Coming of the Savior. Many even sold or gave away their property and possessions and awaited this great “rapture”. Some went to the top of hills or mountains to be close to His appearance. But the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, . . . “whenever you see the [rain]bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant.”

But I will take the responsibility upon myself to prophesy in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come this year, as Father Miller has prophesied, for we have seen the bow; and I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write it down, that it may be remembered. (T.P.J.S., p. 340-341)

Thus, the year 1844 came and passed without any significant fulfillment of the statement of Daniel which said, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days [years]; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (Dan. 8:14) Ellen G. White, the noted writer for the Adventists, wrote:

These prophetic days had been shown to terminate in the autumn of 1844. In common with the rest of the Christian world, Adventists then held that the earth or some part of it was the sanctuary.

But the appointed time had passed, and the Lord had not appeared. The believers knew that God’s word could not fail; their interpretation of the prophecy must be at fault; but where was the mistake? (See The Great Controversy, Chap 23)

[212] The only sanctuary the Bible mentions is the temple that was built by Solomon, and the portable sanctuary built by Moses. While further commented that the “cleansing, both in the typical and in the real service, must be accomplished with blood.”

These scriptures, interpreted according to the Protestants, summarized the following incidents:

  1. A major event would occur in the summer of 1844.
  2. This event would be evidence that the second coming of Christ was nigh at hand.
  3. The sanctuary was a temple of the Lord, which was a part of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
  4. The sanctuary, or temple, contained an inner veil, a holy of holies, and the law of God for His true followers.
  5. The cleansing of the sanctuary must be accomplished as it was anciently–with the shedding of blood!

Since, according to the Protestants’ limited knowledge, none of these things were fulfilled in the summer of 1844, they concluded that they must have taken place in heaven.

As usual, the Protestants fail to accept, or to understand that the fulfillment of so many prophecies are coincidental with Mormonism. It was in the summer of 1844 that the Mormon temple was being completed. It had the inner veil, a holy of holies, and the revealed word of God had been published for the true disciples of Christ. All of this was evidence of the New Covenant of the Gospel.

Also when Joseph Smith, the prophet of this dispensation was killed (as had happened to many former prophets), he sealed his testimony of that New Covenant; and when his blood was shed, the prophesy of Daniel was fulfilled.

[213] 4. Shedding the Blood of Jesus Christ

No event has equaled the profound impact on man or the earth that occurred with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From the fall of Adam to the last person on earth, the crucifixion is an integral part of man’s history.

The atonement of Christ becomes a reconciliation between God and man when men accept it. But, when man sins, then he must make amends–not to appease God’s wrath, nor pay the devil’s due, but to reconcile the debt of breaking a divine law. When this is accomplished, his salvation can be assured because of Christ’s atonement.

Mormons believe in a just reward or a just punishment, depending on one’s obedience or disobedience to the laws of God. There is no instantaneous popcorn salvation. Merely saying a few words does not spring open the heavenly gates to every murderer, whoremonger or reprobate.

All the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah is too overwhelming to doubt. The scriptures show the need for a Savior, the ordinances symbolized His coming, and numerous prophecies were made concerning that event. At the crucifixion over 23 ancient prophecies were fulfilled. All of the rituals and teachings of the Old Testament prepared the people for the teachings and ordinances that Christ would bring.

Many events recorded in the Bible were symbolic of the coming of Christ, such as the circumstances surrounding the lives of Noah and Moses. Noah was surrounded with sin and sinners. By water, wickedness was washed away and the earth was baptized and made new again. Men would learn that they, too, must wash away their sins by baptism through the mercy and atonement of Christ.

The three great religions of the world–Christian, Jewish and Mohammedan–all regard Moses as a great spiritual leader, lawgiver, miracle worker and prophet of God. Jesus would be greater than he. The life of Moses had been predicted by the prophets and so had Christ’s. Pharoah pronounced death to all the young males to prevent Moses from being king over Israel. [214] Herod did the same at the birth of Jesus. Though the mother of Moses sought to save her son by getting him out of Egypt, the mother of Christ took her son into Egypt to save him.

When Moses went up on the mountain to speak with God, he fasted 40 days; and when Jesus went out to be with God, He, too, fasted 40 days.

Moses gave them the word of God and the law. Jesus would give them a higher law.

Moses had the right to become the king over all of Egypt, but was rejected. Christ came to be the king of the Jews, and he was rejected also.

Moses performed over 20 miracles, manifesting the power of God. Christ performed countless miracles in only three years of his ministry.

Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage and sin. Jesus, through His atonement, would lead them into eternal life.

Moses became a shadow of Christ and he also prophesied of Him by saying, “there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, . . ” (Num. 24:17) Again he prophesied that “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken”. (Deut. 18:15)

So similar were the lives of Moses and Christ that the parallels cannot be refuted.

The Old Testament is nothing more than a series of stories, prophecies, and ordinances that point to the coming of Jesus Christ; the New Testament is the fulfillment of those promises. The evidences of these histories combined with the spirit of truth convince men that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and that with the shedding of His blood, an atonement was made.

* * * * *

Jesus became the only perfect being to live on the earth. He fulfilled the requirements of all the laws and was a manifestation of the perfection of the Father. For those who have wanted to see what kind of being God is, they need only look to His Son. Jesus was the legal representative of the Father in authority, and his life demonstrated God’s teachings.

[215] For man to become Christ’s representative on earth, he must exemplify Christ by purging iniquity from his character by guarding his every thought, word, and deed. As Jesus expressed the Father in His life, so should every man seek to reflect the image of Christ in themselves. The world, in general, fail to appreciate and understand the love, the sacrifice and the importance of Jesus Christ but somewhere in eternity men shall come to that realization. As Paul, the Apostle, said:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)

It was through the fall of Adam that sin and death were introduced, but through the atonement of Christ, life eternal and freedom from sin are offered. This world provides many sorrows, but Christ leads men to joy. His blood turns mortality into immortality. In some future day all men will acknowledge and recognize that greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and they will know that Jesus expressed that love for them. More precious than the value of all the treasures on earth, is the gift of atonement that Jesus Christ offered all mankind. Truly He is the Savior of the world.