Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Cutting off from the earth

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Brigham Young and "cutting people off from the earth"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 233 (hardback and paperback)

Brigham "confirmed that the term 'cutting off' from the earth had been previously used, and would continue to be used, as a euphemism for killing."

Author's Sources


Endnote 37, page 562 (hardback); page 560 (paperback)


Question: When Brigham Young talked of "cutting off" from the earth, was he using a euphemism for killing?

Brigham's rhetoric was certainly charged, but his intent seems to have been to awaken people to a sense of their sinfulness

One critic of Mormonism claims that Brigham Young "confirmed that the term 'cutting off' from the earth had been previously used, and would continue to be used, as a euphemism for killing." [1] He cites Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:53. to support his claim.

Brigham's rhetoric was certainly charged, but his intent seems to have been to awaken people to a sense of their sinfulness, and to impress upon them the need for continued obedience and rededication to God, as well as the seriousness of repeated violations of their covenant relationship. While one cannot rule out the possibility that misguided fanatics (or those determined to justify murder for selfish reasons) used the rhetoric of blood atonement as justification for violent acts, this does not seem to have been the leaders' intent. Despite this, nineteenth-century anti-Mormon polemic loved invoking the idea of blood atonement to paint the Mormons as bloodthirsty fanatics.

Church leaders were attempting to stir people to repentance and reformation from spiritual sin during this period of time

This address, commonly cited in discussions of blood atonement was given during the so-called Mormon Reformation. Church leaders were attempting to stir people to repentance and reformation from spiritual sin and lassitude. Brigham's remarks, in context, read:

Will you spend your lives to obtain a seat in the kingdom of God, or will you lie down and sleep, and go down to hell?

I want all the people to say what they will do, and I know that God wishes all His servants, all His faithful sons and daughters, the men and the women that inhabit this city, to repent of their wickedness, or we will cut them off.

Thus, Brigham describes unrepentant sinners that will be "cut...off."

He continues:

I could give you a logical reason for all the transgressions in this world, for all that are committed in this probationary state, and especially for those committed by men.

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.

Brigham now describes being "cut off from the earth"

The critic wishes us to conclude that this means that the Saints (or the Church leaders) will be the ones to "cut off" such people, because of Brigham's previous line about how "we will cut them off." Yet, his next line further contextualizes this idea:

Of all the children of Israel that started to pass through the wilderness, none inherited the land which had been promised, except Caleb and Joshua, and what was the reason? It was because of their rebellion and wickedness; and because the Lord had promised Abraham that he would save his seed.

They had to travel to and fro to every point of the compass, and were wasted away, because God was determined to save their spirits. But they could not enter into His rest in the flesh, because of their transgressions, consequently He destroyed them in the wilderness.

Brigham presents examples of those have been thus "cut off from the earth," such as the children of Israel after they left Egypt

Brigham presents examples of those have been thus "cut off from the earth"—the children of Israel who wandered for forty years in the desert (Numbers 14:1-39). Yet, these sinners were not killed by the fellow Israelites or by God—they were simply "wasted away...[and] destroyed in the wilderness"—they were not permitted to enter into the promised land, or the Lord's rest.

Brigham continues:

I do know that there are sins committed, of such a nature that if the people did understand the doctrine of salvation, they would tremble because of their situation. And furthermore, I know that 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; and though the principles are taught publicly from this stand, still the people do not understand them; yet the law is precisely the same. 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.

Brigham's emphasis is again upon those who would voluntarily choose to submit to loss of life as an expression of contrition

Brigham's emphasis is again upon those who would voluntarily choose to submit to loss of life as an expression of contrition or remorse for grave sins which they have committed, especially those in severe and repeated violation of covenants made with spiritual knowledge (such as the children of Israel, who had seen many miracles, repeatedly lapsed back into sin and been forgiven, only to again distrust the Lord).


Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, page 233 (hardback and paperback).