Blood Atonement and Capital Punishment

133 Primary Sources

Feb 9, 1831

The Lord gives the Church "the law" in Kirtland, OH, including instructions on how to treat murderers.

Nov 12, 1838 - Nov 29, 1838

RP recalls that JS approved of SR's speech on apostates, and that JS said Peter hung Judas Iscariot.

Mar 4, 1843

In discussing a US Naval mutiny in the news, Joseph says he prefers shooting or throat cutting as a means of execution to hanging.

Mar 4, 1843

In discussing a US Naval mutiny in the news, Joseph says he prefers shooting or throat cutting as a means of execution to hanging.

Mar 22, 1845

BY indicates that murders should be killed to obtain a lower kingdom.

Oct 29, 1845

WS tells of BY condoning the death of AH and extra-judicial killings in Iowa.

Dec 13, 1846

Brigham says that thieves should have their throats cut and then should be thrown in a river.

Dec 20, 1846

Richards records that Brigham said execution by beheading is the law of the Lord for repeated sinners.

Mar 3, 1849

Lee records a possible reference to blood atonement at a Council of 50 meeting.

Jan 23, 1850

GAS wrote the early criminal code for the Saints in what is now Utah.

Jan 19, 1851

Utah Territorial Legislature passes execution by firing squad, hanging, and beheading.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham says those in mixed-race marriages should have their blood shed as an atonement.

Mar 27, 1853

BY describes a dream wherein he kills two ruffian apostates.

Mar 12, 1854

Jedediah M. Grant laments that there is not a more pure theocracy where state-sanctioned executions could take place.

Mar 12, 1854

Grant teaches that there are certain sins that cannot be atoned for except by the blood of the sinner.

Jul 16, 1854

Heber C. Kimball requests beheading if he ever seduces a woman.

Feb 18, 1855

Brigham states that the killers of Joseph would benefit from death to atone for their sin.


Brigham Young says he would kill a cheating wife and her lover, so they could atone for their sins not covered by Christ's blood.

Jan 16, 1856

Parley P. Pratt says that fornicators have forfeited their right to life based on Paul's teachings in 1 Corintians 5:5.

Mar 2, 1856

BY says that soon those not on the Lord's side will be hewn down.

Sep 21, 1856

BY claims men have come to him requesting blood atonement for themselves.

Sep 21, 1856

JMG advises some to go have their blood shed by a committee appointed by BY to atone for their sins.

Sep 21, 1856

WW records a short synopsis of a BY sermon on blood atonement.

Oct 29, 1856

Brigham Young instructs Isaac C. Haight that an unnamed man guilty of fornication should be rebaptized, not killed for blood atonement.


Heber C. Kimball states that adulterers are worthy of deaeth.


John Hyde says the penalty for adultery amongst endowed LDS is death.


JH asserts that CM would have been killed for blood atonement had the Indians not killed him first.


Hyde asserts that Vaughan and Monroe were killed for adultery. Blood atonement is mentioned in the same paragraph.


John Hyde asserts that Howard Egan killed James Monroe for adultery, but then Howard Egan failed to have himself Blood Atoned for adultery with his own wife.


Hyde asserts that Bolton will someday be killed for blood atonement.

Feb 8, 1857

BY says adultery technically requires the shedding of blood, but currently can be forgiven without taking life.

Feb 8, 1857

BY asks if the Saints love each other enough to shed their blood if necessary to save their souls.

Mar 5, 1857

Brigham Young tells Isaac C. Haight that remission and pardon are promised to all that repent of their sins.

Mar 19, 1857

Farr vaguely (and approvingly) mentions the Parrish-Potter murders.

Apr 4, 1857

Brigham says to Bishop Philo T. Farnsworth that sinners should confess and forsake their sins.

May 31, 1857

Samuel Pitchforth gives his account and commentary of the Thomas Lewis castration.

Aug 16, 1857

HCK says traitors to God must have their blood shed or be damned.

Nov 25, 1857 - Nov 26, 1857

Brown speaks obliquely about his involvement in the Aiken murders of 1857 and describes the aftermath.


Smith (through Green) recounts the words of a widow who said that apostates were killed in the endowment house and her husband had been killed by Danites.

Mar 16, 1859 - Aug 30, 1859

John Cradlebaugh reproduces 8 affidavits, 1 court record, and 1 confession from his inquiry into the Parrish-Potter murders in an appendix to a published speech given to the US House of Representatives.

Mar 29, 1859 - Apr 9, 1859

Cradlebaugh reproduces 5 affidavits from his inquiry into the murder of Henry Jones and his mother.

Apr 6, 1859

Cradlebaugh says the evidence shows the Parrish murders were done because they were leaving the church, the Deseret News editor (Carrington) strongly disagrees.

Apr 26, 1859

John I. Ginn speaks of his interactions with the Aiken party before their murders.

May 30, 1859

John Cradlebaugh reproduces 1 affidavit from his inquiry into the murder of the Aiken party.

Jul 4, 1859

JMS gives his account of the Parrish murders and puts some of the blame on BY.

Aug 28, 1859

HC Kimball says those guilty of shedding innocent blood must pay the atonement for that sin.

Dec 1860

PM details the Parrish murders and asserts that they were influenced by the rhetoric of Church leaders.


Brigham Young says that the penalty for inter-racial sexual relations is death.

Apr 6, 1866

Brigham, while denying involvement in Brassfield's death, appears to condone it.

Apr 12, 1866

DN gives its report of the killing of Brassfield.

Dec 15, 1866

Dailey Union Vedette reports on the killing of Coleman and the jury's findings in the case.


J. H. Beadle alleges that blood atonement murders have occurred in the endowment house.


J. H. Beadle describes the endowment, and asserts that its penalties were for atoning for sins.


An anonymous "eye-witness" in Utah reports on a speech by Grant.


TBH Stenhouse gives his version of the Parrish-Potter murders and the murder of Henry Jones and his mother.


Young speaks of men saying they desire death if they apostatize from the Church.


AE Young blames Brigham Young for the conditions of many murders in Utah due to his teachings during the Mormon Reformation.


Stenhouse quotes an anonymous source detailing a speech by Jedediah M. Grant.


T. B. H. Stenhouse tells a story about a woman consented to be killed for adultery.


TBHS alleges a "John G. . . . n" had himself secretly killed for blood atonement.


Ann Young says that Jesse Earl was killed to atone for his sins.


Ann Eliza Young gives her embellished version of the murder of Harry Jones and his mother.


Ann Eliza Young says Thomas Lee was castrated for courting a young woman Warren Snow wished to take as a plural wife.


Ann Eliza Young says the Parrish brothers were killed for apostasy.

Sep 20, 1876

Jury convicts Lee of murder for the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Oct 10, 1876

Jacob Boreman passed the death sentence on John Doyle Lee who chooses to be shot as his method of execution.


In MMM statement, John Doyle Lee says his death will not atone for those who perished.


JDL speaks of how church members justified violence on orders from church leaders.


Lee states Brigham Young thinks disobedience to him is worthy of being killed for blood atonement.


JDL says the members of the church wanted him to die to atone for their sins.


Lee discusses the procedure for determining if blood atonement was necessary.


John D. Lee's final confession says he cannot atone for the sins of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.


Lee says that Erwin Hodges was killed to protect Brigham Young, with Young's approval.


JDL alleges that RA was killed to atone for adultery so the bishop could marry his wife.


John D. Lee gives his version of Thomas Lewis's castration.

Apr 30, 1877

Deseret News interview with Brigham Young that discusses blood atonement.

Apr 30, 1877

BY states that church leaders have no authority to order executions.

May 6, 1877

Brigham indicates that Joseph's death was a kind of blood atonement.

Oct 11, 1878

William Skeen shares his hearsay account (from Sylvanus Collett) of the Aiken murders.

Sep 28, 1879

Salt Lake Tribune exposes endowment's oath against US Government and its people.

Nov 17, 1880

C Penrose asserts "blood atonement" is only legal capital punishment for murder.


John Doyle Lee asserts a failed attempt to kill William Laney for blood atonement.

May 10, 1882

Charles W. Penrose states that murders should be executed by the shedding of blood, but that the LDS do not believe in "blood atonement" as commonly understood.

Jul 4, 1883

Charles W. Penrose says it is justice that those who shed blood have their own blood shed.

Jan 1884

Taylor says executions atone for sins, but should be performed by officers of the law; church courts can only withdraw membership.


In a letter to Lee, Stokes says he thought two of his men were killed for blood atonement while trying to arrest Lee.


Heber J. Richards says that apostates should be killed only if they request it.

Nov 23, 1889

Deseret Weekly reports on hearing in federal court about the existence of an Oath of Vengeance.

Dec 7, 1889

Baskin says that blood atonement for apostates must be a doctrine of the church.

Dec 14, 1889

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve denies the church condones death for apostates.

Mar 22, 1890

Jenson notes that Hancock was convicted of the murder of Jones.

Mar 9, 1891

Wilford Woodruff teaches Blood Atonement is for murder, and not adultery or apostasy.

Apr 1892

WBS says that blood atonement was introduced in Nauvoo after the martyrdom.

Apr 1892

William Smith asserts he left Nauvoo in 1845 in fear of blood atonement.

Sep 6, 1902

The Brooklyn Citizen reports on William Hooper Young's notebook with "blood atonement" references.

Sep 21, 1902

The New York Times reports the words "blood atonement" were found on a notebook owned by William Hooper Young.

Sep 23, 1902

B. H. Roberts discusses blood atonement and William Hooper Young.

Oct 4, 1902

Miss Ella Knight asserts that blood atonement still exists in Utah at the turn of the 20th century.

Feb 4, 1903

The New York Times reports on the relationship of "blood atonement" to William Hooper Young's murder trial.

Feb 7, 1903

The Democrat and Chronicle reports that blood atonement will not be discussed in the trial of William Hooper Young, despite newspaper reports saying otherwise.


JFS discusses firing squads in Utah and blood atonement.


Joseph F. Smith declares that some sins place one beyond the blood of Christ, and require one's blood to be shed so far as possible.

Feb 9, 1906

Salt Lake Tribune reprints Walter Wolfe's account of the endowment ceremony from the Congressional hearings on Reed Smoot.


Frank J. Cannon and George L. Knapp say that Jedediah M. Grant taught blood atonement zealously.


FJC and GLK explain the doctrine of blood atonement.


FJC and GLK says that HCK l taught blood atonement, but never enacted it.


Frank J. Cannon (with George L. Knapp) asserts that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was the logical result of the blood atonement doctrine.


Frank J. Cannon (with George L. Knapp) asserts that Orrin Porter Rockwell and the SLC police killed three men for blood atonement in 1862.


Charles Penrose opines that hanging is inadequate a punishment since no blood is shed.


Charles W. Penrose says that blood atonement cannot be performed now because the law will not permit it, but someday that will change.


B.H. Roberts gives an overview of blood atonement issues in his History of the Church.


Joseph Fielding Smith teaches that Joseph Smith taught the doctrine of blood atonement, but denies the practice of killing apostates.

Jun 1956

Howard Clair Searle details the long-term effects of the Mormon Reformation.


McConkie teaches the doctrine of blood atonement.

Jan 1958

Gustive O. Larson lists a "verbally reported case" of formal blood atonement.

Jan 1958

Gustive O. Larson gives an overview of the Mormon Reformation of 1856-7.


Martin R. Gardner says the rhetoric from Church leaders in the 1850's was "excessive," and it later subsided.


Paul H. Peterson says Brigham's rhetoric was calculated to bring about results.


Paul H. Peterson calls much of Brigham Young's words in the mid-1850's "rhetorical devices."


USL removes firing squad as a method of execution in Utah.


Polly Aird talks about Church leaders' "harsh rhetoric" in the mid-1850's.


Richard E. Turley Jr notes that many scholars think John Doyle Lee's autobiography was sensationalized by his lawyer, William Bishop.

Jun 18, 2010

2010 official Church statement on blood atonement.


John Turner says that Brigham Young used rhetoric to prod Mormons to repentance.


Alma details punishable crimes in Nephite society under the reign of the judges.


God commands Noah that man's blood should only be shed in capital punishment cases.


God instructs Noah that capital punishment is required of murderers.


Alma condemns Nehor to death for murdering Gideon.


The Bible describes different means how murder can occur, and prescribes the death penalty for those cases.


Amulek speaks of how the law requires the life of murderers.


Jacob pronounces woes on sinners, including murderers, who should die.

May 2014

Blood atonement is alluded to in the Church's Gospel Topics essay on 19th century violence.


USL reinstates firing squad as a possible method of execution if lethal injection is unavailable.


George A. Smith and Amasa Mason Lyman were said to have preached against blood atonement in 1859.