Thursday, October 06, 2011

Letter to the Editor (Blood Atonement)

Last week I featured a quote from LDS prophet Brigham Young on our whiteboard, the doing of which drew forth criticism from a student in the Statesman. I’d like to take the opportunity and respond to his criticism.

For those who have observed us preaching on the patio the last nine semesters, we hope that you will have noticed that we have sought to only discuss Biblical and LDS theology and challenge students to think about their sin, the atonement of Christ, and the grace of God more deeply. We believe it is the gospel, not Mormon history, that is of utmost importance. I have never once written on the whiteboard anything of a non-theological nature, and last weeks quotation was no exception. In Brigham Young’s quote, I wanted to highlight the fact that he taught the doctrine of “Blood Atonement”: that is, there are certain sins which the blood of Christ cannot atone for, and that one’s own blood must be shed in order for forgiveness to take place. Young states this clearly three paragraphs down from the featured quote (JOD 3:247). This is appalling to Christian theology.

Nor can it be argued, as my critic has tried, that this teaching of Blood Atonement is “the exact same principle” as found in the episode with Phineas in the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of Phineas, Phineas was executing capital punishment, not redemption, by cutting the sinners off from the kingdom of God as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In the case of Brigham Young, Young is advocating the slaying of sinners as a means of redemption, that they might be “received into the kingdom of God.” There is not the slightest notion in the Bible that men can atone for their own sins by death. Death is always the great punishment of God against sin, and it is Jesus Christ alone who atones for our sins by dying in our place and bearing our punishment. Under the New Covenant, Jesus teaches us, not to kill sinners, but to forgive them, just as He loved us and freely forgave us through His redemption.

I agree that we must have honesty and integrity, but this goes for the LDS Church too. To say you are Christian but then to deny the central teaching of Christianity is in truth the real offense.