Blood Atonement

An image below of what blood atonement is/was not, though such depictions were common misrepresentations:

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Brigham Young taught this principle in the early days in Utah.  Brigham was overzealous in some of his preaching, and this appears to be one of those areas.  However, don’t forget this concept was never carried out.  Not once.

But even Brigham provided two caveats to this idea:  1)  this practice would only occur in a pure theocracy, similar to what was practiced in the Old Testament, and 2) the murderer or sinner would have to volunteer for the punishment.

Even the Old Testament contains laws on the books that were never enforced.

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Future leaders repudiated blood atonement ideas that were making bad publicity for the LDS Church around the time Utah as hoping to be added to the Union.

From Wikipedia:

In Mormonismblood atonement is a controversial doctrine that taught that some crimes are so heinous that the atonement of Jesus does not apply. Instead, to atone for these sins the perpetrators should be killed in a way that would allow their blood to be shed upon the ground as a sacrificial offering.

The doctrine is no longer accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church),[1] but it was significantly promoted during the Mormon Reformation, when Brigham Young governed the Utah Territory as a near-theocracy. Sins that Young and other members of his First Presidency mentioned as meriting blood atonement included miscegenationapostasy, theft, murder, fornication, and adultery.

Young taught that the doctrine was to be a voluntary choice by the sinner, and only to be practiced under a complete theocracy (which has not existed in modern times)[1]. Young considered it more charitable to sacrifice a life than to see them endure eternal torment in the afterlife. In a full Mormon theocracy, the practice would be implemented by the state as a penal measure.

Repudiation of allegations of the practice by the LDS church in 1889

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The practice of “blood atonement” was formally denied and repudiated by the church in a statement issued in 1889:

MANIFESTO OF THE PRESIDENCY AND APOSTLES “SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 12th, 1889. To Whom It May Concern: In consequence of gross misrepresentations of the doctrines, aims and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the ‘Mormon’ church, which have been promulgated for years, and have recently been revived for political purposes and to prevent all aliens, otherwise qualified, who are members of the ‘Mormon’ church from acquiring citizenship, we deem it proper on behalf of said church to publicly deny these calumnies and enter our protest against them.

We solemnly make the following declarations, viz.: That this church views the shedding of human blood with the utmost abhorrence. That we regard the killing of a human being, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime, which should be punished by shedding the blood of the criminal after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land. We denounce as entirely untrue the allegation which has been made, that our church favors or believes in the killing of persons who leave the church or apostatize from its doctrines. We would view a punishment of this character for such an act with the utmost horror; it is abhorrent to us and is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles of our creed.

The revelations of God to this church make death the penalty of capital crime, and require that offenders against life and property shall be delivered up and tried by the laws of the land.’’ We declare that no bishop’s or other court in this church claims or exercises civil or judicial functions, or the right to supersede, annul or modify a judgment of any civil court. Such courts, while established to regulate Christian conduct, are purely ecclesiastical, and their punitive powers go no further than the suspension or excommunication of members from church fellowship.

[Signed]: WILFORD WOODRUFF, GEORGE Q. CANNON, JOSEPH F. SMITH, Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LORENZO SNOW, FRANKLIN D. RICHARDS, BRIGHAM YOUNG, MOSES THATCHER, FRANCIS M. LYMAN, JOHN HENRY SMITH, GEORGE TEASDALE, HEBER J. GRANT, JOHN W. TAYLOR, M. W. MERRILL, A. H. LUND, ABRAHAM H. CANNON, Members of the Council of the Apostles. JOHN W. YOUNG, DANIEL H. WELLS, Counselors.[59]

 

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LDS Church general authority B.H. Roberts responded to Young’s statements, stating:

“The doctrine of “blood atonement,” then, is based upon the scriptural laws considered in the foregoing paragraphs. The only point at which complaint may be justly laid in the teaching of the “Reformation” period is in the unfortunate implication that the Church of the Latter-day Saints, or individuals in that church, may execute this law of retribution.

Fortunately, however, the suggestions seemingly made in the overzealous words of some of these leading elders (seems like Roberts is hinting at Brigham Young here) were never acted upon. The church never incorporated them into her polity. Indeed, it would have been a violation of divine instruction given in the New Dispensation had the church attempted to establish such procedure.

As early as 1831 the law of the Lord was given to the church as follows: “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.”[59]

 

Dennis Prager talks about capital punishment for premeditated murder in this video below.  Additionally, he enlightens on other Jewish laws that helped introduce much more humane legal practices.

Islamic Origins

U of Utah scholar discusses the current scholarship on the topic.

Two key points:

#1) No sources appear on Islam till 200 years after Muhammad was said to have died.  That is, the Koran as we know it today wasn’t written during the time Muhammad was claimed to have lived.

#2) Islam was hugely influenced by Christian roots present in Arabia before the Koran was written.  According to the Koran, Muhammad was surrounded primarily by pagans.

History of the King James Bible

This Christian scholar has valuable insight.  I especially appreciated his discussion of the earliest documents.  Like any book or scroll that is opened repeatedly, they wear down.  They eventually are replaced by copies that are identical (or very, very, very close).

Broader history of the entire bible.  This guy is always fun.

LDS Youth with SSA and suicide

LDS critics often charge that our faith and its policies precipitate and trigger suicide.

To properly speak on this topic, one should understand quite a lot.   I’ll link a few articles below that only skim the surface, but will begin to inform readers of at least a few of the many associated variables.

Engaging in this complex issue with unsupported allegations — often done by LDS critics — is highly irresponsible.

This entire blog, written on 1/31/16, is worth reading:

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

Key paragraph:

“None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.” But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

 

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Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

Other paragraphs make the point that depression and suicide are extremely complex.  No one factor triggers suicide.

 

Two additional links related to suicide data:

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  1.  University of Utah research shows high altitude linked to depression and suicidal thoughts: 

“People with depression tend to have less efficient energy utilization in certain parts of their brain, like the prefrontal cortex,” said Brent Kious, a U. psychiatry professor and the review’s lead author. This energy roadblock, he said, means people have a tougher time overcoming negative emotions.

It turns out other mountainous states have similarly high suicide rates, with Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico also in the top five and Alaska ranked second, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend has earned the Intermountain West a morbid nickname: the suicide belt.

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The U. researchers reviewed several U.S. studies that found suicide rates increased with altitude. One that examined nearly 9,000 suicide deaths in 2006 across 15 states found the suicide rate at high altitudes was three times higher than for those living near sea level. Another study noted a “threshold effect,” where suicide rates increased dramatically between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Salt Lake City’s altitude is 4,265 feet.

Scientists in other countries have discovered similar associations, the U. review found. Suicide rates in Andalusia, a mountainous region of Spain, were higher than the country’s average, a finding correlated with high altitude. In Saudi Arabia, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among depressed patients at a high-elevation psychiatric hospital was more than five times higher than at a sea level one.

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These studies have piled up in recent years, Kious said, including several conducted by researchers at the U.  One 2015 study showed how exposure to altitude led to more depression-like behavior in female rats. After a week of thin air, the rats were less likely to struggle in a swim test.

 

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#2  Ben Shapiro points out recent spike in youth suicides with lack-of-faith connection

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide is in the midst of a precipitous and frightening rise. Between 2006 and 2016, suicides by white children between ages 10 and 17 skyrocketed 70%; while black children are less likely than white children to kill themselves, their suicide rate also jumped 77%. And as The Blaze points out, CNN reported last year that “the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 rose to a 40-year high in 2015.”

 

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“It’s not just young people. According to Tom Simon, a CDC report author, “We know that overall in the US, we’re seeing increases in suicide rates across all age groups.” As of 2016, suicide levels were at 30-year highs.

A few years back, the trendy explanation was economic volatility — the market crash of 2007-2008 had supposedly created a culture of despair, cured only by suicide. But the economy is booming, and has been growing steadily since 2009. There are those who blame the rise in drugs as well, particularly opioids — but according to a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drinking, smoking and drug use may be at the lowest levels “seen in decades,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

There seems to be a crisis of meaning taking place in America. And that crisis of meaning is heavily linked to a decline in religious observance. As The Atlantic observed in 2014, citing a study in Psychological Science:

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The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and the perceived meaning in its citizen’s lives, meaning that it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning. They analyzed other factors—education, fertility rates, individualism, and social support (having relatives and friends to count on in troubled times)—to see if they could explain the findings, but in the end it came down to religion.

Suicide is complex.  Please understand the data before demagoguing.

Who is Sam Young?

Like other prominent LDS critics, Sam Young has followed a typical pattern.  Loss of faith, general disruption, laser focus on a single topic, heightened disruption, then excommunication.

Please read and listen to a few linked sources below.

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The Interpreter Radio Show hosts discussed Sam Young’s recent protests, bishops’ interviews debate, Sam’s loss of faith (over 4 years ago), and possible objectives.

One caller (erroneously) claimed he’d face child abuse charges for what LDS bishops do.  The hosts and a 2nd caller responded well.

Interpreter Radio Show — September 16, 2018

A guest blogger at the Millennial Star had followed Sam Young’s activities for the last few years.  At least since 2014.  He shares his insights below in this post:  What is Sam Young’s True Cause?

The Millennial Star

The Pseudonymous George Rasmussen pointed out on 7/31/18 many details in Sam’s background and apostasy timeline.   A little background on a typical pattern for LDS people to lose faith.  One common way is to become undisciplined in personal study and to combine that with listening to faith-undermining sources.

Image below is of (excommunicated former member) John Dehlin.  From the intro to the podcast for which he’s the primary host:

“Mormon Stories Podcast is a podcast principally hosted by John Dehlin featuring interviews with scholars and others especially on Mormon topics.”

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“In October 2015, Young began participating in the Mormon Stories Podcast Community on Facebook to work through his issues with the Church. That infamous page was started by Young supporter and friend, (prominent excommunicated podcaster) John Dehlin.”

Exploring, celebrating and challenging Mormon culture through stories

“The group is primarily populated by thousands of disaffected former or soon to be former members of the Church. Over the course of 2015, he says that he became more and more disillusioned with the Church. But, in February 2016 he made the choice to “follow Christ.” He did this in spite of the fact that he acknowledges that he doesn’t know if Christ really exists.

In order to understand Sam Young, one must recognize the perspective he set forth on May 19, 2016. In this post, he complained that he wasn’t be afforded his full rights as a citizen of the Church. “Jesus wants me to be an active part of the governance of His church…. In my church, I am a citizen not a subject!” On May 26, 2016, he expanded this by stating that, “Jesus values me and my opinion as an equity partner in his earthly organization.” I have seen him complain on countless occasions that based on his historic service in callings and his contributions of tithing that he should be afforded meaningful input and influence on Church teachings and practices.”

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“At his most recent stake conference, Young exulted in the opportunity to sit front and center to vote opposed to the 12 with Elder Christofferson in attendance, and then complained that members of his stake didn’t seem enthused at his action. He complained bitterly online about how the congregation didn’t pat him on the back for his bravery.”

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“In late 2016, I was surprised to learn that Sam had a temple recommend and was using it (occasionally). I had been watching his posts in the Mormon Stories groups for more than a year at that time and was shocked. He had shared his disbelief in all of the Church’s truth claims, and was candid that he was only in the Church due to family concerns. He clearly didn’t sustain the brethren and prophets, seers and revelators, and described Christ and the atonement as a fairy tale. He loudly cheered when his wife would do things that signaled baby steps away from the Church. He spoke about removing his garment, he spoke of breaking the word of wisdom; he applauded those leaving the Church.

Then, in January, 2017, he turned in his temple recommend. His reasons for doing so were convoluted. He said that he was sacrificing it to build the kingdom of God. It had become a distraction from what he was trying to accomplish in the Church, because members were complaining that he had one, so he gave it up so that he could focus on what he thought was important! At this time, it was that people were leaving the Church because the Church was being mean to them and not giving them a Sunday school class to complain about the things they didn’t like about the Church. I wish I was making this up.”

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“As I mentioned above, through most of 2017, youth interviews were only one of a dozen categories of reasons Young was voting opposed in Church. The first time he ever mentioned it on his blog was on March 19, 2017. It was mentioned a couple of more times as the year progressed, but Young seemed to notice that his audience responded more to these things than they did to his long-winded and convoluted rants about common consent, or to his old, white, straight complaints about homosexual issues. He started focusing on this in October 2017 and put his numerous other complaints on his shelf. He found something with which he could get his 15 minutes, and he started beating that drum; which brings us back to 2018.”

 

Just as John Dehlin has made LGBTQ issues the main thrust of his stated compaints against the Church, I’m not surprised that Sam Young sharpened his focus on something that could get him traction.

 

“As more and more people signed his new petition, and the Church kept not caving, Young decided that he was going to organize a march in Salt Lake City. In a Facebook post that Young later deleted, he updated the demands from his petition to include a call for the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to resign their positions. Unfortunately, his supporters convinced him that this would make him sound more crazy than normal, so he reluctantly backed down, while privately saying that this is what he wanted. He had been voting opposed to the apostles for a couple of years at this point, so this is not surprising in the least.”

Read the entire post above by clicking this link to the Millennial Star blog post.

 

The Prophet Joseph Smith

Insights from Preston Nibley in December of 1958:

Preston discusses Joseph’s poverty, early struggles, and the help he got from others to further the mission of the Church.

YouTube intro:  “Without the Prophet Joseph Smith, the entire state of Utah—not to mention the entire world— would be a different place than it is today. Preston Nibley narrates accomplishments of Joseph’s life and proves that he was a man of sincerity and determination who never wearied of the task of spreading the gospel.

 

Joseph Smith and the Lighter View

Critics love to cite Arrington, ostensibly because Arrington was very open in a period less transparent than now.  Arrington presents Joseph as he really was.

“Although Joseph Smith was raised in an overly pious and sanctimonious society, his jovial nature, sense of humor, and zeal for life show the Saints that this life is for men to have joy.”

This talk was given at BYU in November of 1974:

The Return of Oliver Cowdery

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Opening paragraph of entire article written by Scott H. Faulring:

“On Sunday, 12 November 1848, Apostle Orson Hyde stepped into the cool waters of Mosquito Creek1 near Council Bluffs, Iowa, and took Mormonism’s estranged Second Elder by the hand to rebaptize him. Oliver Cowdery, renowned as one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon and one of six founding members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had spent ten and a half years outside the church after his April 1838 excommunication.

Later that autumn day in 1848, Elder Hyde, president of the Quorum of Twelve and the church’s presiding official at Kanesville-Council Bluffs, laid hands upon Oliver’s head confirming him back into church membership and reordaining him an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. 2 Cowdery’s rebaptism culminated six years of desire on his part and protracted efforts encouraged by the Mormon leadership to bring about his sought-after, eagerly anticipated reconciliation.”

Discovering Truth

What is truth, and how can we know it? President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained: “The ‘truths’ we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these ‘truths’ are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence. …

The thing about truth is that it exists beyond belief. It is true even if nobody believes it” (“What Is Truth?” [Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 13, 2013], speeches.byu.edu). It is good to accept the fact that we simply don’t know all things. We can’t see everything, but our Heavenly Father can.

We have been given the promise that if we will search for the truth, study it out in our minds, and ask with a sincere heart, it will be confirmed to us (see D&C 9:8; Moroni 10:3–5). Heavenly Father is pleased with us when we seek to discover truths. He loves teaching us line upon line, precept on precept. As we strive to learn and have faith in Him, He will bless us to see things as they really are.