January 19, 2016

Patrick Mason article in Religion & Politics: Capital Punishment

For Mormons, a Contested Legacy on Capital Punishment

By Patrick Q. Mason
Religion & Politics, January 19, 2016

Over the past century and a half, numerous authors, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Jon Krakauer, have been fascinated—and horrified—by the nineteenth-century Mormon teaching of “blood atonement.” Particularly during the Mormon Reformation of 1856-57, in which leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sought to curtail apparent backsliding and inspire repentance through the use of forceful, often violent, preaching, Brigham Young and others taught that some sins, such as murder, were so grievous that only the voluntary shedding of the sinner’s own blood could satisfy the eternal demands of justice and thus secure the possibility of salvation. Critics of Mormonism, then and now, have made much of this teaching—despite the fact that it was in fact never the consensus view of the church and, contrary to many colorful assertions, did not inspire a theocratic bloodbath in pioneer Utah. (Scholars have disagreed about the role of “blood atonement” in the horrific Mountain Meadows Massacre; I tend toward those who dismiss it as a significant motivating cause.) It seems that the vast majority of Mormons either understood their leaders’ overblown rhetoric about blood atonement to be just that, or they simply rejected it as bad theology…

Read the full article at: http://religionandpolitics.org/2016/01/19/for-mormons-a-contested-legacy-on-capital-punishment/#sthash.KMTQLg9u.dpuf