Mormonism and the Bible/Old Testament practices/Cursing of enemies
Critics charge that Joseph Smith focused on Old Testament ideas and concepts, such as the "cursing of enemies." Critics appeal to New Testament prohibitions of cursing enemies (e.g., Romans 12:14, and then argue that restoration scriptures or remarks by Church leaders are inconsistent with the Christian command to "bless, not curse."
If the critics wish to condemn anyone who calls God's judgment down on the wicked, they will also condemn every prophet in the Old and New Testament, and a large proportion of the Christian preachers, missionaries, and ministers throughout history.
Their stance is hypocritical—they condemn Heber, George A., Joseph, and others not because they pray that God's judgment will come upon the wicked and vindicate the righteous not because they truly hold such actions to be always and everywhere wrong, but because they have decided already that these men are neither righteous nor prophets.
The critics ignore that the New Testament command not to curse has some marked exceptions.
Jesus Pronounced a Curse
For example, Jesus cursed a fig tree that had leaves (implying that its fruit would be present, since figs appear before the leaves) but no fruit.
- Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! (Matthew 21:18-20)
Jesus was pronouncing a curse, then, on hypocrites—those who "claim" to have worthy characteristics, but this is only a facade.
Curse ideology among apostles
Peter described a sinful group whom he declared to be "cursed":
- 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children. (2 Peter 2:14)
Paul too was emphatic that false teachers were "accursed":
- But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
Paul likewise told the Cornithians:
- 22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Anathema means "a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction," "any imprecation of divine punishment," or "a curse; execration." (The Greek word is "anathema" (Ανάθεμα)—"bind under a great curse.")
The Doctrine and Covenants contains a cursing—but, significantly, the command comes from God. The critics are, to be sure, not willing to grant that the Doctrine and Covenants is divine scripture. They must, however, concede that Joseph and other members believed they were obeying God's command to curse; they did not take that right upon themselves:
- And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them; And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies (DC 103:24-25).
Significantly, this instruction was given after mobs drove the Saints from their homes and lands in Missouri with scenes of arson, rape, and murder. Ostensibly committed to justice, religious freedom, and the rule of law, their enemies demonstrated that they had only the hypocrisy of fig leaves—but no fruit.
Curses Pronounced in the Kirtland Temple
Critics charge that the Saints cursed their enemies in the Kirtland Temple, citing George A. Smith:
- Some of the brethren thought it was best to apostatize, because the spirit of cursing was with men who had been driven from Missouri by mob violence. Yet every word that they prophesied has been fulfilled. They prophesied that the bones of many of those murderers should bleach on the prairie, and that birds should pick out their eyes, and beasts devour their flesh. Men who have traversed the plains of Mexico, California, Nebraska, and Kansas, have often seen the fulfilment of that prophecy in the most marvellous manner. We have seen their names upon trees, on the heads of old trunks, and bits of boards; the names of men that I knew, and I knew just as well, in the Kirtland Temple, what would be their fate, as I know now. But that tried us, some of us were awfully tried about it. The Lord dared not then reveal anything more; He had given us all we could swallow; and persecution raged around us to such an extent that we were obliged to forsake our beautiful Temple, and flee into the State of Missouri.
George A. says nothing about cursing in the temple. He indicates that some prophesied the death of persecutors and apostates (often the same people) and that God fulfilled this prophecy in a miraculous way. The critics misrepresent this source.
Prayers for their enemies
The critics also neglect to mention the prayer offered in the Kirtland Temple for their persecutors, praying that his judgment come upon them (DC 109:27-34) but asking that repentance come to them if possible:
- 47 We ask thee, Holy Father, to remember those who have been driven by the inhabitants of Jackson county, Missouri, from the lands of their inheritance, and break off, O Lord, this yoke of affliction that has been put upon them. Thou knowest, O Lord, that they have been greatly oppressed and afflicted by wicked men; and our hearts flow out with sorrow because of their grievous burdens. O Lord, how long wilt thou suffer this people to bear this affliction, and the cries of their innocent ones to ascend up in thine ears, and their blood come up in testimony before thee, and not make a display of thy testimony in their behalf? Have mercy, O Lord, upon the wicked mob, who have driven thy people, that they may cease to spoil, that they may repent of their sins if repentance is to be found; But if they will not, make bare thine arm, O Lord, and redeem that which thou didst appoint a Zion unto thy people. And if it cannot be otherwise, that the cause of thy people may not fail before thee may thine anger be kindled, and thine indignation fall upon them, that they may be wasted away, both root and branch, from under heaven; But inasmuch as they will repent, thou art gracious and merciful, and wilt turn away thy wrath when thou lookest upon the face of thine Anointed. (DC 109:47-53, (italics added))
Kill the mob
Critics also report with disapproval George A. Smith's prayer that God would kill the mobbers:
- We were a pious people in those days; but, notwithstanding our piety, our neighbours soon talked of mobbing us. They had already tarred and feathered the Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon, and they threatened us with mobbing and expulsion. As I remarked, we were then very pious, and we prayed the Lord to kill the mob.
- It was but a little time before the Saints were driven out of Jackson county, Missouri, the printing press destroyed, men tarred and feathered, women ravished, and men, women, and children scattered to the four winds of heaven, all in consequence of our religion.
In the face of rape, murder, and expulsion, all the Saints did was pray to God to "kill the mob." George A. does not say "kill the mobbers," or ask that their neighbors die. They only wish for the persecution to stop; "our neighbours soon talked of mobbing us," and the members prayed that the mob would be done away.
If the critics insist on reading this as a plea for God to kill the mobbers, the Saints must at least be credited with leaving judgment and the meting out of justice to the Lord.
Cursing the President
Critics describe Heber C. Kimball cursing the U.S. president. They do not reveal that all the statements which they collect were made during the war, when the U.S. army invaded Utah based on false rumors about the Saints' actions:
- There is a poor curse who has written the bigger part of those lies which have been printed in the States; and I curse him, in the name of Israel's God, and by the Priesthood and authority of Jesus Christ; and the disease that is in him shall sap and dry up the fountain of life and eat him up. Some of you may think that he has not the disease I allude to; but he is full of pox from the crown of his head to the point of its beginning. That is the curse of that man; it shall be so, and all Israel shall say, Amen. [The vast congregation of Saints said, "Amen."] He is laying plans to destroy us, and is striving with his might to stir up the Government of the United States and the President to send troops here to bring us into collision and destroy this pure people—man, woman, and child. May God Almighty curse such men, [Voices all through the congregation: "Amen!"] and women, and every damned thing there is upon the earth that opposes this people. I tell you I feel to curse them to-day. [Voice: "And they shall be cursed."]. Yes, they will be; and the Devil shall have full possession of every man and woman that raises the tongue to sympathise with those poor curses.
- Will the President that sits in the chair of state be tipped from his seat? Yes, he will die an untimely death, and God Almighty will curse him; and he will also curse his successor, if he takes the same stand; and he will curse all those that are his coadjutors, and all who sustain him. What for? For coming here to destroy the kingdom of God, and the Prophets, and Apostles, and inspired men and women; and God Almighty will curse them, and I curse them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to my calling; and if there is any virtue in my calling, they shall be cursed, every man that lifts his heel against us from this day forth.
- And may God Almighty curse our enemies. [Voices: "Amen."] I feel to curse my enemies: and when God won't bless them, I do not think he will ask me to bless them. If I did, it would be to put the poor curses to death who have brought death and destruction on me and my brethren—upon my wives and my children that I buried on the road between the States and this place.
- And the President of the United States, inasmuch as he has turned against us and will take a course to persist in pleasing the ungodly curses that are howling around him for the destruction of this people, he shall be cursed, in the name of Israel's God, and he shall not rule over this nation, because they are my brethren; but they have cast me out and cast you out; and I curse him and all his coadjutors in his cursed deeds, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Holy Priesthood; and all Israel shall say amen.
- ...I feel, in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ and my calling, to curse that man that lifts his heel against my God and his cause and kingdom; and the curse of God shall be upon him: the angels of God shall chase him, and he shall have no peace. The President of the United States and his coadjutors that have caused this thing shall never rest again, for they shall go to hell.
Heber declares that his cursing is done out of his apostolic role—just as Peter, Paul, and even Jesus could declare curses against the ungodly, the adulterer, the hypocrite, or the anti-Christian, so Heber felt justified in calling for God's judgment upon liars, those who stirred up military action on false pretenses, murderers, and those who used political or military means to crush the Church.
- [note] Dictionary.com Unabridged, based on the Random House Dictionary (Random House, Inc. 2009), s.v. "anathema." off-site
- [note] Strong's number G331.
- [note] George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 2:216.
- [note] George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 5:107.
- [note] Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:32.
- [note] Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:133.
- [note] Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:95.
- [note] Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 6:38.