The practice of blood atonement is the Mormon belief that only the shedding of our own blood can atone for the sin of murder. Brigham Young taught that, “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” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247). Young preached this doctrine multiple times throughout his life:
“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” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 53).
“Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved . . . 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?’” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 219).
He said that he would even kill his own wives if he found them in bed with other men:
“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 received into the Kingdom of God. I would at once do so, in such a case; and under the 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” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247).
Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith confirmed this belief:
“Man may commit certain grievous sins – according to his light and knowledge – that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone – so far as the power lies – for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 133).
But today, the leaders of Mormonism reject the doctrine of blood atonement:
“In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives. However, so-called ‘blood atonement,’ by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.”
The modern leadership of Mormonism is right to reject blood atonement because it contradicts 1 John 1:7 which tells us that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, including murder:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
But in rejecting blood atonement, Mormonism has condemned the prophets of their church who taught blood atonement as a doctrine coming from divine inspiration. So, which group of leaders are Mormons supposed to believe? Because the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself, it is logically impossible for both the historical leadership of Mormonism and the leadership of Mormonism today to both be speaking on behalf of God. Dismissing the many statements on blood atonement as “emotional oratory” as if Young really wasn’t serious about the necessity of the shedding of blood to atone for one’s own sin is disingenuous and can’t be taken seriously by anyone who cares about authorial intent. If this was merely “emotional oratory,” then why was blood atonement not only taught, but also practiced?