It is true that the blood of the son of God was shed for sins yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. There are sins that must be atoned for by the blood of the man .........Brigham Young



The concept of "Blood Atonement" in Mormonism is vastly different from that just described and has been articulated by the Mormon Church for more than a hundred years. The Mormon teaching states:

 There are some sins for which the blood of Christ cannot atone and a man's own blood must be shed if he is to find forgiveness.

This doctrine is pervasive in Mormonism. It has been taught since at least the 1850's by Presidents and Apostles of the Mormon Church. It is the doctrine Kert Howard and Thomas Clark discussed with James wood in his jail cell. In Mormonism's distinctive, enigmatic way, the doctrine of Blood Atonement is both taught and denied.

Brigham Young taught the doctrine of Blood Atonement to the Saints in Utah on September 21, 1856:

 It is true that the blood of the son of God was shed for sins yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. There are sins that must be atoned for by the blood of the man.1

That very same day, his second counselor, Jedediah M. Grant, said to the same crowd:

 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.

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.2


President Heber C. Kimball also taught the doctrine. Just before Christmas in 1857, he addressed the congregation, speaking in the Tabernacle at Salt Lake City. He told them that the original Apostles actually kicked Judas to death-kicked him until his bowels gushed out:

 They "kicked him until his bowels came outI know the day is right at hand when men will forfeit their Priesthood and turn against us and against the covenants they have made, and they will be destroyed as Judas was."3

He also said the reason there were no unclean women in the church was because "We wipe all unclean ones from our midst; we not only wipe them from our streets, but we wipe them out of existence."4

Many other similar examples could be given from Mormon history. But what of the present? What is the position of the Mormon Church today?



Blood Atonement continues to be practiced among the so-called fundamentalist Mormons. These are breakaway-usually polygamous-groups, mainly located in Utah. Frequent news stories describe someone getting a "revelation" to spill the blood of a group member in order to cleanse his sin. Many of these people are tried in state courts and convicted of murder.

Do I think the Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City routinely practice or order Blood Atonement? No, but they have failed to set the record straight. By failing to do that, they allow the practice to continue among the so-called Mormon fundamentalists. And they allow Mormon Stake Presidents, Bishops, lawyers, and judges to carry the hellish seed of that doctrine in their hearts. Ultimately their sin stirs itself-as it may have done in James Wood's case-to pervert justice.

The Mormon Church needs to own up to Blood Atonement. They need to admit the Church taught and practiced Blood Atonement. Then they need to repent of the doctrine and condemn the specific teaching of it in the past.

But they do not do that. Instead, they deny it was ever taught or practiced. And they try to cover up and explain away the doctrine, without ever really decrying it.

For example, The Church today has a "position paper" on Blood Atonement which they provide in legal cases where this issue is raised-as they did in the James Wood case. The paper attempts to give us the impression that the Church never has practiced or taught Blood Atonement, other than in a theoretical way. But the paper does confirm that the only hope for a murderer is in having his own blood shed. It just won't work now, the Church says-it must wait until the Church and the State are one Theocracy. Then Blood Atonement can work again, as it did in the distant past.

There is a wealth of evidence that Mormons, including Brigham Young, believed in and participated in this ungodly doctrinal aberration. The infection of it continues to haunt the Church today. It is a ghostly rumor always circulating about the Church. Mormon fundamentalists return to it again and again. In fact, in the past decade, potential jurors in every Utah capital homicide were asked whether they believed in the Mormon concept of Blood Atonement.5 Utah is the only state that offers those condemned to death by the state the option of being shot, so their blood can literally be spilled. Utah murderers like Gary Gilmore and Gary Bishop believed the Mormon doctrine required their lives for forgiveness of sin.

In addition, the Utah brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, in a ritual resembling early Mormon Blood Atonings, did slit the throats of their sister-in-law and her fifteen-month-old daughter, "upon command of the Lord."

Blood Atonement needs to be faced by the Mormon Church and dealt with in a straightforward way. Until then, the blood of its victims lays at the Church door.

1 Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 54.

2 Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 49-51.

3 Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 126.

4 Heber C. Kimball, Journal of dDscourses, Vol. 7, p. 19.

5 Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Concept of Blood Atonement Survives in Utah Despite Repudiation," Salt Lake Tribune (November 5, 1994) D-1.