Question: Was using the name of the Lord in vain a crime that was "worthy of death" among 19th century Mormons?

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Question: Was using the name of the Lord in vain a crime that was "worthy of death" among 19th century Mormons?

Brigham is claimed to have said that "the penalty will be affixed and immediately be executed on the spot," but he does not state what the penalty is

Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner use a second hand quote to "prove" that Brigham Young considered taking the name of the Lord in vain to be worthy of death:

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).

As with any Tanner quote, it is best to see the quote in full context before proceeding further:

If ever we live to see the kingdom of God set up we shall see the judgment poured out upon that man who seeks to overthrow the kingdom, for righteousness shall be put to line. I [Brigham Young] would also caution you against using the name of God in vain; it has been used too much and will be with us; like the ancients of old, they forbade them the frequent use of the same. For I tell you, the time is coming when that man [who] uses the name of the Lord [and] is used, the penalty will be affixed and immediately be executed on the spot. Why should we use it in our private and public conversation--the ancients have given us an example of reverencing they had for the name of the deity by calling the priesthood not after God, but after Melchizedek. It must be held sacred, nor must it be the common practice from this time and hencefor. If we do not purify ourselves we shall be devoured by our enemies. Even if we are gathered into the wilderness He will there destroy them either by famine or by Indians, who will be brought upon us and thereby destroyed.[1]

Notice that Brigham says "the penalty will be affixed and immediately be executed on the spot." Brigham does not state what the penalty is. He is not saying that the person who takes the Lord's name is vain will be "executed on the spot," although that is what the Tanners apparently hope to achieve with this quote.

Brigham's actual words: "Some who do take his name in vain may be called gentleman, but it is a mistake, they are not gentlemen"

It is interesting that the Tanner's had to dig into secondary sources to make their point. There are plenty of primary sources in which Brigham's own words on the subject of "taking the Lord's name in vain" were recorded:

No gentleman takes the name of the Deity in vain. Some who do take his name in vain may be called gentleman, but it is a mistake, they are not gentlemen. A gentleman carries himself respectfully before the inhabitants of the earth at all times, in all places and under all circumstances, and his life is worthy of imitation.[2]

Notes

  1. ā†‘ Diary of Hosea Stout (1810 - 1899)
  2. ā†‘ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:118.