Blood Atonement in Mormonism

Blood Atonement in Mormonism

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?

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Sunday Meditation – Why We Pray

Sunday Meditation – Why We Pray

“Divine providence does not only ordain what effects shall come to pass, but also by what means, what causes, and in what order they shall flow. God has appointed not only the effect itself, but the means to accomplish it. Prayer is a means to bring to pass that which God has determined shall be. We do not pray out of hope to alter God’s eternal purposes; but we pray to obtain that which God has ordained to be received by our prayers. We ask, that we may be fit to receive what God has from all eternity determined to give by prayer, and not otherwise. Therefore, when we lie under any affliction, or if we are pinched by poverty, prayer is necessary because, as God by his providence has brought these things upon us, so likewise possibly the same providence has also determined not to remove them until we earnestly and fervently pray for our deliverance. Prayer does not incline God to bestow that which before he was not resolved to give, but prepares us to receive that which God will not give otherwise.”

Ezekiel Hopkins

Brigham Young on People Living on the Sun

Brigham Young on People Living on the Sun

Mormonism is known for its strange teachings. One of the strangest beliefs of the early leaders of Mormonism was that both the sun and the moon were inhabited! The belief that the moon and planets of our solar system were inhabited was common in the nineteenth century due to hoaxes and ignorant speculation. For example, Ellen G. White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism, claimed that there were people living on Jupiter. Brigham Young, the successor to Joseph Smith, said in one of his discourses that people lived on the sun:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed ‘the man in the moon,’ and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271).

Young appears to have been following the lead of Joseph Smith who is reported to have taught that the moon was inhabited:

“The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being six feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally near a thousand years. This is the description of them as given by Joseph [Smith] the Seer, and he could see whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see” (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, vol. 2, p. 166).

If you can’t trust Joseph Smith and Brigham Young when it comes to whether there are people living on the sun and moon, why should you trust them when it comes to salvation?

Sunday Meditation – Providence

Sunday Meditation – Providence

“Providence is an act of God, whereby, according to his eternal and most wise counsel, he preserves and governs all things, and directs them all to their ends, but chiefly to his own glory. It is necessary for our hearts to be well established in this truth, that we may acknowledge God with praise for the good that comes to pass, and embrace the bad with patience. Some doubt God’s providence when it can be seen that the wicked flourish, and the godly are often exposed to poverty, contempt, and reproach. Wicked Dives feasted every day, while godly Lazarus starved at this glutton’s gate entertaining the dogs with licking his sores. Did God’s particular care furnish the glutton’s table, and only give scraps to his child? This question has been a problem for all ages. Actually, this is an affirmation, not a contradiction, of God’s providence. The world has always hated God’s children, but God sustains them amidst the rage and hatred of their enemies. Though continually oppressed, they are never rooted out of the world. We see the power and care of Almighty God to keep a bush unconsumed in the midst of fire. When he brings calamity on his own children it is for their trial. What wicked men possess of this world is all that they can ever hope for. The inequality of his providence in this life will be cleared up at the Day of Judgment. Blessings of this life may not be mercies, but snares. O never call Dives’ delicious fare ‘good things’, if it ends in torment! Was it good for him to be wrapped in purple who is now wrapped in flames? Lazarus’ sores are not evil if he now lies in Abraham’s bosom. In that day, all will be made plain. God may bless one by affliction and curse another by prosperity. Nothing is truly good but promotes eternal happiness.”

Ezekiel Hopkins

Becoming a God in Mormonism

Becoming a God in Mormonism

One of the beliefs that makes Mormonism unique among the world religions is its claim that we can become gods one day. Examined more closely, Mormon doctrine teaches not merely that we can become gods one day, but that men and gods share the same nature. They believe we are of the same species as God and that the only difference between us and God is that he has progressed further than we have along the law of eternal progression. As Mormon President Lorenzo Snow put it, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.”

Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20 states:

“And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant . . . Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection . . . and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions . . . and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”

Joseph Smith taught in his famous King Follett funeral discourse that God has not eternally been God and that we can become gods ourselves:

“It is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”

“Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”

In his sermon on the plurality of gods, Smith reaffirmed his belief in polytheism:

“In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through – Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, it sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods.”

Brigham Young expanded this teaching to include the idea that as intelligences we eternally coexisted with God:

“The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself. . . . The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. . . . There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal with our Father in heaven. . . . Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 6-7).

The Mormon publication Achieving a Celestial Marriage, which was required reading for all Mormon couples who wanted to get married in a temple, teaches that we can become gods just as God became God:

“God was once a man who, by obedience, advanced to his present state of perfection; through obedience and celestial marriage we may progress to the point where we become like God. . . If God became God by obedience to all of the gospel law with the crowning point being the celestial law of marriage, then that’s the only way I can become a god” (4-5).

It then adds these shocking words:

“You are an eternal being. You were never created and you cannot be destroyed, but you can advance, progress, and develop by obedience” (5).

Mormonism teaches that God the Father had his own Father and that he had his own Father and so on and so forth. According to Mormon doctrine, God the Father died, was raised to life, and was exalted to godhood by his God.

As Elder B. H. Roberts taught:

“Man has descended from God; in fact, he is the same race as the Gods. His descent has not been from a lower form of life, but from the Highest Form of Life; in other words, man is, in the most literal sense, a Child of God. This is not only true of the spirit of man, but of his body also” (Course of Study for Priests, 1910, p. 35).

Eliza R. Snow, one of the wives of Joseph Smith, put this belief into poetic form:

Adam, your God, like you on earth, has been

Subject to sorrow in a world of sin:

Through long gradation he arose to be

Clothed with the Godhead’s might and majesty.

And what to him in his probative sphere,

Whether a Bishop, Deacon, priest, or Seer?

Whatever his offices and callings were,

He magnified them with assiduous care;

By his obedience he obtained the place

Of God and Father of this human race.

According to Mormonism, we are the product of the union between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Before that, we existed eternally as intelligences as all other beings did. Before we were born into this life, we pre-existed as spirit children on a planet near the star Kolob and the life we now live is our mortal probation to determine whether or not we will be exalted to godhood based on our obedience to the laws and commandments given to Mormons through their prophets.

Originally, Smith taught monotheism in the Book of Mormon but his theology evolved over time so that he was teaching polytheism by the time he wrote the Pearl of Great Price. May these false teachings move us to pray for the salvation of Mormons that they might turn from darkness to light and embrace the true gospel of Scripture.

Sunday Meditation – God Will Dispel the Darkness

Sunday Meditation – God Will Dispel the Darkness

“If Satan cannot defile God’s children, he will disgrace them; if he cannot strike his fiery darts into their consciences he will put a dead fly to their names; but God will one day clear their innocence; he will roll away their reproach. As he will make a resurrection of bodies, so of names. ‘The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away.’ Isa 25: 8. He will be the saints’ vindicator. ‘He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light.’ Psa 37: 6. The night casts its dark mantle upon the most beautiful flowers; but the light comes in the morning and dispels the darkness, and every flower appears in its orient brightness. So the wicked may by misreports darken the honour and repute of the saints; but God will dispel this darkness, and cause their names to shine forth.”

Thomas Watson

Brigham Young’s Adam-God Doctrine

Brigham Young’s Adam-God Doctrine

In honor of the Protestant Reformation, I did a series where I critiqued the theology and history of Roman Catholicism. Now, I am beginning a new series where I will critique the beliefs of Mormonism and contrast them with biblical Christianity.

One of the best pieces of historical evidence which proves that the prophets of Mormonism do not speak for God is that many of the things they taught as doctrine have now been changed. The Book of Mormon has also been changed to hide Joseph Smith’s early belief in modalism before he became a polytheist. Some of the early doctrinal beliefs of Mormonism that are no longer believed by Mormons today include the practice of polygamy, withholding the priesthood from black people, teaching against interracial marriage, forbidding contraception, and the Adam-God doctrine of Brigham Young.

Young taught that:

“When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50-51).

This teaching caused no little controversy among the Mormons. Young responded with an article in the Deseret News where he declared:

“How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which is revealed to them, and which God revealed to me – namely that Adam is our father and God. . . . Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or ever will come upon the earth” (Deseret Weekly News, June 18, 1873, p. 308).

In case you were wondering whether this was simply Young’s opinion or Scripture from God, Young claimed:

“I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom. . . . I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

“I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264).

“I am here to answer. I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).

The origin of the belief that Adam is God did not originate with Brigham Young, but was taught by Joseph Smith as well in the Doctrine and Covenants where he states that the titles Adam, Michael, and the ancient of days are all referring to the same person:

“And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days” (D&C 27:11).

“Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all” (D&C 138:38).

The title “Ancient of Days” is used exclusively in the Bible to refer to God (Dan 7:9, 13, 22). This is the one who bestows a kingdom upon the Son of Man who is Jesus (Mark 14:62).

But today, Mormons no longer follow this teaching of Young. The Apostle Bruce R. McConkie admitted:

“Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel.”

McConkie preached that the Adam-God doctrine was heresy:

“There are those who believe or say they believe that Adam is our father and our god, that he is the father of our spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship. The devil keeps this heresy alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. It is contrary to the whole plan of salvation set forth in the scriptures, and anyone who has read the Book of Moses, and anyone who has received the temple endowment and who yet believes the Adam–God theory does not deserve to be saved. Those who are so ensnared reject the living prophet and close their ears to the apostles of their day. ‘We will follow those who went before,’ they say. And having so determined, they soon are ready to enter polygamous relationships that destroy their souls.”

So, who are Mormons supposed to believe: Brigham Young or the modern leaders of Mormonism? If you can’t trust Young when it comes to who God is, how can you trust him with anything else? If the Mormons living today had been living during the days of Young, they would have taken his view against that of McConkie. But why should the era in which we were born determine the truth?