Mormonism and doctrine/Repudiated concepts/Blood atonement/Further Reading

Further reading

Further reading

FairMormon Answers articles

Doctrine taught during the Reformation

Blood atonement

Summary: It is claimed that during the administration of Brigham Young apostates were secretly put to death. They claim this is in line with the teachings of LDS leaders at the time that apostasy was the unforgivable sin, and that the only thing an apostate could do to redeem himself was to give his own life, willingly or unwillingly.

Brigham Young's preaching style

Summary: Critics have often misunderstood or misrepresented Brigham Young's (and others LDS preachers') preaching style

Critical claims related to the Reformation

19th century crimes alleged to be "worthy of death"

Summary: Critics expand to idea of blood atonement to include a long list of crimes that were alleged to be "worthy of death."

Brigham Young: "bowie knife" (JD 1:83)

Brigham Young: "javelin through heart" for adultery (JD 1:108)

Brigham Young: "cut their throats" (JD 2:311)

Brigham Young: "cutting off from the earth" (JD 4:53)

Brigham Young: "killing the evil doers" (JD 3:50}

Brigham Young: "meanest devils" (JD 6:176)

Brigham Young: murder unfaithful Mormons to save souls? (JD 4:219-20)

Brigham Young: dictator? (JD 14:205)

Brigham Young: President of the US?

Brigham Young ordered the Saints to "starve the Gentiles" when the future victims of the Mountain Meadow Massacre arrived

Summary: The order not to trade with immigrants applied to all commodities, and was prompted by the threat of siege due to the imminent arrival of the US Army to Utah. It was not intended to kill immigrants.

Heber C. Kimball used violence and intimidation against non-Mormons or apostates?

Summary: The speech cited as evidence for this claim does not show any evidence of threats of violence or intimidation.


Early territorial officials were threatened by Mormons

Summary: Some early territorial officials claimed Mormons threatened their lives. They made no such claims at the time, however, even when safely back in Washington. The evidence does not support the charge, which was likely made out of animus against the Mormons.

Surveyor general David H. Burr threatened with death

Vengeance hymns

Summary: D. Michael Quinn cites several LDS hymns as evidence that the Saints encouraged vengeance against their enemies. The hymns ask instead for God to revenge them of their wrongs in the coming judgment—they do not anticipate taking matters into their own hands, and in some cases even explicitly rule it out.

Events related to the Reformation

Castration of sinners in Utah?

Summary: I have read about a group of men (LDS) that went around castrating immoral men (who were also LDS) with the express permission of local church leaders. These events supposedly happened during the Brigham Young's administration. It is claimed that Brigham was aware of and approved of this and may have given the order. What can you tell me about this? I read that missionaries who selected plural wives from female converts before allowing church leaders to select from them first were castrated.

Mountain Meadows Massacre

In September 1857 a group of Mormons in southern Utah killed all adult members of an Arkansas wagon train that was headed for California. Critics charge that the massacre was typical of Mormon "culture of violence," and claim that Church leaders—possibly as high as Brigham Young—approved of, or even ordered the killing.

History of the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Summary: In September 1857 a group of Mormons in southern Utah killed all adult members of an Arkansas wagon train that was headed for California. Critics charge that the massacre was typical of Mormon "culture of violence," and claim that Church leaders—possibly as high as Brigham Young—approved of, or even ordered the killing.

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Brigham Young

Summary: Critics make numerous charges and claims against Brigham Young in relation to the Massacre. Most of these are ill-founded or misrepresented.


Summary: Critics charge that Brigham Young blocked prosecution of those who committed the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Was prosecution blocked by the Church?

Summary: It is claimed that actions of the institutional Church and/or local Mormons prevented federal officials from prosecuting those guilty of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Thomas Kane

Summary: Some who use the Mountain Meadows Massacre to attack the Church often mention non-LDS Col. Thomas Kane. Kane was a good friend to the Mormons prior to Joseph Smith's death, and he was also briefly involved in the Massacre issue. There are two issues raised by critics in conjunction with Kane: 1) some blame Kane for helping Brigham Young to cover up the Massacre, 2) some paint Kane as ridiculous, vain, or foolish—this is apparently done on the theory that anyone who likes or helps the Mormons must either be evil or a dupe.

Other personalities involved in Mountain Meadows

Summary: A variety of charges or claims are made about other observers or participants in the events at Mountain Meadows.

Oath of vengeance

Summary: In nearly every anti-Mormon discussion of the temple, critics raise the issue of the "oath of vengeance" that existed during the 19th century and very early 20th century. These critics often misstate the nature of the oath and try to use its presence in the early temple endowment as evidence that the LDS temple ceremonies are ungodly, violent, and immoral.

FairMormon web site

Mormon Reformation (1857) FairMormon articles on-line

External links

Mormon Reformation (1857) links
  • Thomas G. Alexander, "Wilford Woodruff and the Mormon Reformation of 1855-57," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1992): 25-39. (needs URL / links)
  • Russell C. McGregor, "Wild Bill Rides Again: The Tanners on the Danites," (March 1999) off-site
    Analysis of an article about the Danites and Blood Atonement by Jerald and Sandra Tanner.
  • B.H. Roberts, "Brigham's Blood Atonement," Compiled by Sam Katich (November 2002)
    B.H. Roberts reporting of miscellaneous events from the years 1851-1857 that deal with the topic of blood atonement and the 1889 Manifesto of the Presidency and Apostles that denounce the allegations of the practice.
  • Lowell M. Snow, "Blood Atonement," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:131.

Printed material

Mormon Reformation (1857) printed material
  • Davis Bitton, "'I'd Rather Have Some Roasting Ears': The Peregrinations of George Armstrong Hicks," Utah Historical Quarterly 68/3 (Summer 2000): 196–222.
  • Gustave O. Larson, "The Mormon Reformation," Utah Historical Quarterly 26/1 (January 1958): 44–63.
  • Michael Orme, "The Causes of the Mormon Reformation of 1856-57." Tangents III (1975): 15-43.
  • Bruce R. McConkie, "Blood Atonement Doctrine," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 92–93. GL direct linkGL direct link
  • Charles W. Penrose, Blood Atonement, As Taught by Leading Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1884).
  • Paul H. Peterson, "The Mormon Reformation," PhD Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1989, 176–199.
  • Paul H. Peterson, "The Mormon Reformation of 1856-1857: The Rhetoric and the Reality," Journal of Mormon History 15 (1989): 59–87.
  • Howard C. Searle, "The Mormon Reformation of 1856-1857" (M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1956).