Question: Were apostates secretly put to death by "blood atonement" during the administration of Brigham Young?


Question: Were apostates secretly put to death by "blood atonement" during the administration of Brigham Young?

Despite a number of rhetorical statements in the late 1850s, there is no evidence that anyone was "blood atoned" at the orders of Brigham Young

Brigham Young spoke of a doctrine called "blood atonement." Despite a number of rhetorical statements by LDS leaders in the late 1850s, there is no evidence that anyone was "blood atoned" at the orders of Brigham Young or any other general authority. Contemporary claims for such actions uniformly come from anti-Mormon books and newspapers with lurid titles such as The Destroying Angels of Mormondom[1]and Abominations of Mormonism Exposed.[2]

The First Presidency issued an official declaration on the matter of killing apostates, as a form of blood atonement, in 1889. This declaration reads, in part:

Notwithstanding all the stories told about the killing of apostates, no case of this kind has ever occurred, and of course has never been established against the Church we represent. Hundreds of seceders from the Church have continuously resided and now live in this territory, many of whom have amassed considerable wealth, though bitterly opposed to the Mormon faith and people. Even those who made it their business to fabricate the vilest falsehoods, and to render them plausible by culling isolated passages from old sermons without the explanatory context, and have suffered no opportunity to escape them of vilifying and blackening the characters of the people, have remained among those whom they have thus persistently calumniated until the present day, without receiving the slightest personal injury.

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.[3]

Notes

  1. "Achilles" [pen name for Samuel D. Sirrine], The Destroying Angels of Mormondom; or a Sketch of the Life of Orrin Porter Rockwell, the Late Danite Chief, (San Francisco, 1878).
  2. William Hall, The Abominations of Mormonism Exposed (Cincinnati: I. Hart & Co., 1853), {{{pages}}}.
  3. Official Declaration, 12 December 1889, signed by the First Presidency (Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith), the Quorum of the Twelve (Lorenzo Snow, Franklin D. Richards, Brigham Young Jr., Moses Thatcher, Francis M. Lyman, John Henry Smith, George Teasdale, Heber J. Grant, John W. Taylor, M.W. Merrill, A.H. Lund, and Abraham H. Cannon), and counselors (John W. Young and Daniel H. Wells).