In a manuscript written in 1839, Reed Peck said that Joseph Smith claimed he had a revelation in which Apostle Peter told him that he had killed Judas: "He [Joseph Smith] talked of dissenters and cited us to the case of Judas, saying that Peter told him in a conversation a few days ago that himself hung Judas for betraying Christ..." (The Reed Peck Manuscript, p. 13).
Although this doctrine was kept secret at first, when the Mormons were settled in Utah they began to teach it openly. On December 13, 1857, Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency, preached in the Tabernacle that
Judas lost that saving principle, and they took him and killed him. It is said in the Bible that his bowels gushed out; but they actually kicked him until his bowels came out.... Judas was like salt that had lost its saving principles—good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.... It is so with you, ye Elders of Israel, when you forfeit your covenants.... I know the day is right at hand when men will forfeit their Priesthood and turn against us and against the covenants they have made, and they will be destroyed as Judas was (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, pp. 125-26).
President Brigham Young, who at first denied the doctrine of blood atonement, became one of its greatest advocates:
There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would atone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world.
I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine, but it is to save them, not to destroy them.... I know there are transgressors,
who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further; I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.
It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. As it was in ancient days, so it is in our day... There are sins that can be atoned for by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days, and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, of a calf, or of turtle doves, cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man. That is the reason why men talk to you as they do from this stand; they understand the doctrine and throw out a few words about it. You have been taught that doctrine, but you do not understand it (Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 53-54; also published in the Deseret News, October 1, 1856, p. 235).
Since this sermon was published in the official organ of the Mormon church there can be no doubt that blood atonement was a doctrine of the church.
J. M. Grant, who was a member of the First Presidency under Brigham Young, made some very strong statements concerning blood atonement:
Some have received the Priesthood and a knowledge of the things of God, and still they dishonor the cause of truth, commit adultery, and every other abomination beneath the heavens,... they will seek unto wizards that peep,... get drunk and wallow in the mire and filth, and yet they call themselves Saints,... there are men and women that I would advise to go to the President immediately, and ask him to appoint a committee to attend to their case; and then let a place be selected, and let that committee shed their blood.
We have those amongst us that are full of all manner of abominations, those who need to have their blood shed, for water will not do, their sins are of too deep a dye.
You may think that I am not teaching you Bible doctrine, but what says the apostle Paul? I would ask how many covenant breakers there are in this city and in this kingdom. I believe that there are a great many; and if they are covenant breakers we need a place designated, where we can shed their blood (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 49-50; also published in Deseret News, Oct. 1, 1856).
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, page 54. Brigham Young teaches the doctrine of "Blood Atonement."
Crimes Worthy of Death
When we look into the early Mormon publications we find that there were many crimes that the Mormon church leaders taught were worthy of death. The following is a list of those crimes:
Murder. Joseph Smith has been quoted as saying: "In debate, George A. Smith said imprisonment was better than hanging. I replied, I was opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground, and let the smoke thereof ascend up to God; and if ever I have the privilege of making a law on that subject, I will have it so" (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 296).
The early Mormons believed in beheading and incorporated this into their laws in Utah: "In accordance with the law of Utah, the doomed man was given his choice of three methods of execution—hanging, shooting or beheading" (A Mormon Chronicle, The Diaries of John D. Lee, p. xix).
In footnote 143 on page 129 of the same book, we read: "Even the law of territorial Utah, as we have explained in the Introduction, allowed John D. Lee, or any other man condemned to death, to elect to be beheaded as a means of saving his immortal soul by the shedding of his blood."
Although we do not hear of murderers having their heads cut off in Utah today, the law still allows the murderer to be shot so that his blood can flow and atone for his sin. Joseph Fielding Smith stated:
... the founders of Utah incorporated in the laws of the Territory provisions for the capital punishment of those who wilfully shed the blood of their fellow men. This law, which is now the law of the State, granted unto the condemned murderer the privilege of choosing for himself whether he die by hanging, or whether he be shot and thus have his blood shed in harmony with the law of God; and thus atone, so far as it is in his power to atone, for the death of his victim. Almost without exception the condemned party chooses the latter death (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 136).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie once explained: "As a mode of capital punishment, hanging or execution on a gallows does not comply with the law of blood atonement, for the blood is not shed" (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 314).
The Salt Lake Tribune for January 28, 1968, reported: "Japanese District and Family Court Judge Hiroshige Takasawa, after more than a year of research studies of Utah's 'unique' form of capital punishment, has found 'evidence that present
laws stem from early Mormon philosophy of blood atonement.' "
As long as the Mormon church teaches the doctrine of blood atonement there is probably little chance of Utah using a gas chamber or electric chair for the condemned murderer.
Adultery and Immorality. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie once lamented: "Modern governments do not take the life of the adulterer, and some of them have done away with the supreme penalty where murder is involved—all of which is further evidence of the direful apostacy that prevails among the peoples who call themselves Christians" (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 104).
Brigham Young proclaimed:
Let me suppose a case. Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands....
There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it ... (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247).
Heber C. Kimball, who was a member of the First Presidency, reflected:
These are my views, and the Lord knows that I believe in the principles of sanctification; and when I am guilty of seducing any man's wife, or any woman in God's world, I say, sever my head from my body (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 20).
But they cannot whore it here; for, gentlemen, if there is anything of that kind, we will slay both men and women. We will do it, as the Lord liveth—we will slay such characters. Now, which would be the most worthy to be slain—the woman that had had her endowments and made certain covenants before God, or the man that knew nothing about it? The woman, of course (Ibid., vol. 6, p. 38).
... our females ... are not unclean, for we wipe all unclean ones from our midst: we not only wipe them from our streets, but we wipe them out of existence ... so help me God, while I live, I will lend my hand to wipe such persons out: and I know this people will (Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 739; also printed in the Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 19).
Apostle George A. Smith adds: "The principle, the only one
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, page 247. Brigham Young claims that the blood of Christ cannot atone for certain sins and therefore those who commit these sins must have their own blood shed.
that beats and throbs through the heart of the entire inhabitants of this Territory, is simply this: The man who seduces his neighbors wife must die, and her nearest relative must kill him!" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 97).
Stealing. The following statement appeared in the Mormon publication Times and Seasons: "President Joseph Smith said,... I want the elders to make honorable proclamation abroad concerning what the feelings of the first presidency is, for stealing has never been tolerated by them. I despise a thief above ground" (Times and Seasons, vol. 4, pp. 183-84).
Brigham Young taught that thieves should have their throats cut:
President Young then spoke against thieving,... said he, I should be perfectly willing to see thieves have their throats cut; some of you may say, if that is your feelings Brigham, we'll lay you aside sometime, well, do it if you can; I would rather die by the hands of the meanest of all men, false brethren, than to live among thieves (History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 597).
If you want to know what to do with a thief that you may find stealing, I say kill him on the spot, and never suffer him to commit another iniquity... if I caught a man stealing on my premises I should be very apt to send him straight home, and that is what I wish every man to do.... this appears hard, and throws a cold chill over our revered traditions ... but I have trained myself to measure things by the line of justice.... If you will cause all those whom you know to be thieves, to be placed in a line before the mouth of one of our largest cannon, well loaded with chain shot, I will prove by my works whether I can mete out justice to such persons, or not. I would consider it just as much my duty to do that, as to baptize a man for the remission of his sins (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pp. 108-9).
Apostle Orson Hyde said: "It would have a tendency to place a terror on those who leave these parts, that may prove their salvation when they see the heads of thieves taken off, or shot down before the public ... I believe it to be pleasing in the sight of heaven to sanctify ourselves and put these things from our midst" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 73).
Using the Name of the Lord in Vain. In the journal of Hosea Stout, Brigham Young is recorded as saying: "... I tell you the time is coming when that man uses the name of the Lord is used the penalty will be affixed and immediately be executed on the spot ..." (Journal of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, p. 71; p. 56 of the typed copy at Utah State Historical Society).
For Not Receiving the Gospel. Brigham Young once proclaimed:
"The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall ask, 'Are you for God?' and if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 226).
For Marriage to an African. Brigham Young said: "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).
Wilford Woodruff, who became the fourth president of the Mormon church, recorded in his journal an address delivered by President Brigham Young in 1852. In this address we find the following: "And if any man mingle his seed with the seed of Cane [sic] the ownly [sic] way he could get rid of it or have salvation would be to come forward and have his head cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground it would also take the life of his children..." ("Wilford Woodruff's Journal," January 16,1852, typed copy; original located in LDS church archives).
Mormon writer Lester E. Bush, Jr., admits that in this address Brigham Young taught that "miscegenation required blood atonement (offspring included) for salvation ... " (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1973, p. 26).
According to the "Excerpts From The Weekly Council Meetings Of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles," this doctrine was still being taught in 1897. In the report for December 15, 1897, we read:
President Cannon said he had understood President Taylor to say that a man who had the priesthood who would marry a woman of the accursed seed, that if the law of the Lord were administered upon him, he would be killed, and his offspring, for the reason that the Lord had determined that the seed of Cain should not receive the priesthood in the flesh ... ("Excerpts From The Weekly Council Meetings Of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles, Dealing With The Rights Of Negroes In The Church, 1849-1940," as published in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 582).
On August 22, 1895, in this same source, George Q. Cannon taught the same doctrine: "President Cannon remarked that the Prophet Joseph taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood ... and that any white man who mingled his seed with that of Cain should be killed, and thus prevent any of the seed of Cain's coming into possession of the priesthood."
For Covenant Breaking. Jedediah M. Grant, who was second counselor to Brigham Young, preached:
I say, that there are men and women that I would advise to go to the President immediately, and ask him to appoint a committee to attend to their case; and then let a place be selected, and let that committee shed their blood.
We have those amongst us that are full of all manner of abominations, those who need to have their blood shed ... I would ask how many covenant breakers there are in this city and in this kingdom. I believe that there are a great many; and if they are covenant breakers we need a place designated, where we can shed their blood.... I go for letting the sword of the Almighty be unsheathed, not only in word, but in deed ... you who have committed sins that cannot be forgiven through baptism, let your blood be shed, and let the smoke ascend, that the incense thereof may come up before God as an atonement for your sins, and that the sinners in Zion may be afraid (Deseret News, October 1, 1856, p. 235; also Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 49-51).
On another occasion Jedediah M. Grant exclaimed:
What disposition ought the people of God to make of covenant breakers ... What does the Apostle say? He says they are worthy of death .... Putting to death transgressors would exhibit the law of God, no difference by whom it was done; that is my opinion.... people will look into books of theology, and argue that the people of God have a right to try people for fellowship, but they have no right to try them on property or life That makes the devil laugh, saying, I have got them on a hook now; ... has not the people of God a right to carry out that part of his law as well as any other portion of it? It is their right to baptize a sinner to save him, and it is also their right to kill a sinner to save him, when he commits those crimes that can only be atoned for by shedding his blood.... We would not kill a man, of course, unless we killed him to save him....
Do you think it would be any sin to kill me if I were to break my covenants? ... Do you believe you would kill me if I broke the covenants of God, and you had the Spirit of God? Yes; and the more Spirit of God I had, the more I should strive to save your soul by spilling your blood, when you had committed sin that could not be remitted by baptism (Deseret News, July 27, 1854).
Heber C. Kimball, the first counselor to Brigham Young, stated: "... if men turn traitors to God and His servants, their blood will surely be shed, or else they will be damned, and that too according to their covenants" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 375).
For Apostasy. Brigham Young threatened: "I say, rather than
that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath my bowie knife and conquer or die. (Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.) Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. (Voices, generally, 'go it, go it.') If you say it is right, raise your hands. (All hands up.) Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 83)
On another occasion Brigham Young explained:
Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved ... and suppose that he is overtaken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say "shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?"
All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?
I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil ... I have known a great many men who left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them, the wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbids this principle's being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.
This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind (Deseret News, February 18, 1857; also reprinted in Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 219-20).
Heber C. Kimball counseled: "... when it is necessary that blood should be shed, we should be as ready to do that as to eat an apple ... we will let you know that the earth can swallow you up, as it did Korah with his host; and as brother Taylor says, you may dig your graves, and we will slay you, and you may crawl into them" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, pp. 34-35).
Mrs. Brooks remarked that John D. Lee "had seen many cases, among them that of Nephi Stewart, wherein a man was ruined financially and his life endangered by a public announcement that he had been cut off the Church" (John D. Lee, p. 293).
For Lying. Brigham Young made this statement in 1846: "I ... warned those who lied and stole and followed Israel that they would have their heads cut off, for that was the law of God and it should be executed" ("Manuscript History of Brigham Young," December 20, 1846, typed copy; original in LDS church archives).
For Counterfeiting. On February 24, 1847, Brigham Young declared: "I swore by the Eternal Gods that if men in our midst would not stop this cursed work of stealing and counterfeiting their throats should be cut" ("Manuscript History of Brigham Young," February 24,1847, typed copy).
For Condemning Joseph Smith or Consenting to his Death. Norton Jacob quoted Brigham Young as saying: "A man may live here with us and worship what God he pleases or none at all, but he must not blaspheme the God of Israel or damn old Joe Smith or his religion, for we will salt him down in the lake" (Quest for Empire, p. 127).
Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of the church, once admitted that he was about to stab a man with his pocket knife if he even expressed approval of the murder of Joseph Smith. Apostle Abraham H. Cannon recorded the following in his journal under the date of December 6, 1889:
About 4:30 p.m. this meeting adjourned and was followed by a meeting of Presidents Woodruff, Cannon and Smith and Bros. Lyman and Grant.... Bro. Joseph F. Smith was traveling some years ago near Carthage when he met a man who said he had just arrived five minutes too late to see the Smiths killed. Instantly a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Bro. Smith and he asked how this man looked upon the deed. Bro. S. was oppressed by a most horrible feeling as he waited for a reply. After a brief pause the man answered, "Just as I have always looked upon it—that it was a d—d cold-blooded murder." The cloud immediately lifted from Bro. Smith and he found that he had his open pocket knife grasped in his hand in his pocket, and he believes that had this man given his approval to that murder of the prophets he would have immediately struck him to the heart ("Daily journal of Abraham H. Cannon," December 6, 1889, pp. 205-6; see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 403, for an actual photograph from the journal).
Blood Atonement in Actual Practice
Although the doctrine of blood atonement was openly proclaimed and put into practice in the 1850s, so many gentiles came to Utah that the church leaders found it impossible to continue the practice. Mormon writer Klaus J. Hansen noted:
In 1888, apostle Charles W. Penrose observed that "Because of the laws of the land and the prejudices of the nation, and the ignorance of the world, this law can not be carried out, but when the time comes that the law of God shall be in full force upon the earth, then this penalty will be inflicted for those crimes committed by persons under covenant not to commit them." However, shortly after the Mormons established the government of God in Utah on what they believed to be a permanent basis, they attempted to enforce the doctrine. Brigham Young insisted that there were "plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain in order to atone for their sins" (Quest for Empire, p. 70).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie claims that blood atonement was not actually practiced but feels that it is a true principle: "... under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the law of God is that men must have their own blood shed to atone for their sins..." (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 87).
As we have already shown, Joseph F. Smith was such a firm believer in the doctrine of blood atonement that he almost killed a man at Carthage. His son Joseph Fielding Smith taught the doctrine, although he could not face the fact that it was actually practiced in early Utah. In his book Doctrines of Salvation he stated:
Just a word or two now, on the subject of blood atonement ... man may commit certain grievous sins —according to his light and knowledge—that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone—so far as in his power lies—for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail.... Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressor beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf.... And men for certain
crimes have had to atone as far as they could for their sins wherein they have placed themselves beyond the redeeming power of the blood of Christ (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 133-36).
After expressing a belief in the doctrine of blood atonement, however, President Smith turned right around and said that it was never actually practiced by the Mormon church. This claim is certainly far from the truth. In our book The Mormon Kingdom, volume 2, we documented the fact that many people lost their lives in early Utah because of the doctrine of blood atonement. One example is found in the Confessions of John D. Lee:
... the sinful member was to be slain for the remission of his sins, it being taught by the leaders and believed by the people that the right thing to do with a sinner who did not repent and obey the Council, was to take the life of the offending party, and thus save his everlasting soul. This was called "Blood Atonement."...
The most deadly sin among the people was adultery, and many men were killed in Utah for that crime.
Rosmos Anderson was a Danish man.... He had married a widow lady somewhat older than himself, and she had a daughter that was fully grown at the time of the reformation. The girl was very anxious to be sealed to her stepfather, and Anderson was equally anxious to take her for a second wife, but as she was a fine-looking girl, Klingensmith desired her to marry him, and she refused. At one of the meetings during the reformation Anderson and his step-daughter confessed that they had committed adultery, believing when they did so that Brigham Young would allow them to marry when he learned the facts. Their confession being full, they were rebaptized and received into full membership. They were then placed under covenant that if they again committed adultery, Anderson should suffer death. Soon after this a charge was laid against Anderson before the Council, accusing him of adultery with his step-daughter. This Council was composed of Klingensmith and his two counselors; it was the Bishop's Council. Without giving Anderson any chance to defend himself or make a statement, the Council voted that Anderson must die for violating his covenants. Klingensmith went to Anderson and notified him that the orders were that he must die by having his throat cut, so that the running of his blood would atone for his sins. Anderson, being a firm believer in the doctrine and teachings of the Mormon Church, made no objections, but asked for half a day to prepare for death. His request was granted. His wife was ordered to prepare a suit of clean clothing, in which to have her husband buried, and was informed that he was
to be killed for his sins, she being directed to tell those who should enquire after her husband that he had gone to California.
Klingensmith, James Haslem, Daniel McFarland and John M. Higbee dug a grave in the field near Cedar City, and that night, about 12 o'clock, went to Anderson's house and ordered him to make ready to obey the Council. Anderson got up, dressed himself, bid his family good-bye, and without a word of remonstrance accompanied those that he believed were carrying out the will of the "Almighty God." They went to the place where the grave was prepared; Anderson knelt down upon the side of the grave and prayed, Klingensmith and his company then cut Anderson's throat from ear to ear and held him so that his blood ran into the grave.
As soon as he was dead they dressed him in his clean clothes, threw him into the grave and buried him. They then carried his bloody clothing back to his family, and gave them to his wife to wash, when she was again instructed to say that her husband was in California. She obeyed their orders.
No move of that kind was made in Cedar City, unless it was done by order of the "Council" or of the "High Council." I was at once informed of Anderson's death.... The killing of Anderson was then considered a religious duty and a just act. It was justified by all the people, for they were bound by the same covenants, and the least word of objection to thus treating the man who had broken his covenant would have brought the same fate upon the person who was so foolish as to raise his voice against any act committed by order of the Church authorities (Confessions of John D. Lee, 1880, pp. 282-83).
Gustive O. Larson, professor of church history at Brigham Young University, admits that blood atonement was actually practiced:
To whatever extent the preaching on blood atonement may have influenced action, it would have been in relation to Mormon disciplinary action among its own members. In point would be a verbally reported case of a Mr. Johnson in Cedar City who was found guilty of adultery with his step-daughter by a Bishop's Court and sentenced to death for atonement of his sin. According to the report of reputable eyewitnesses, judgment was executed with consent of the offender who went to his unconsecrated grave in full confidence of salvation through the shedding of his blood. Such a case, however primitive, is understandable within the meaning of the doctrine and the emotional extremes of the Reformation (Utah Historical Quarterly, January 1958, p. 62, note 39).
Although many Mormons continue to believe in blood
atonement as a doctrine, it is not practiced by faithful Mormons today. Some of the polygamous cults which have broken off from the Mormon church still strongly advocate the doctrine of blood atonement. The Deseret News for September 29, 1977, reported that a "polygamist cult leader" by the name of Ervil LeBaron "has been linked to more than a dozen deaths and disappearances in the West...."
As we indicated earlier, the idea that murderers should be shot so that their blood can flow to atone for their sins was an outgrowth of the blood atonement doctrine. A grim reminder of this doctrine was found in the Salt Lake Tribune on January 17, 1977: "UTAH STATE PRISON—A last-minute court decision cleared the way today for the execution of Gary Mark Gilmore, 36, and moments later the condemned killer was shot to death here by a firing squad."