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Ask A Mormon: What’s the church’s stance on capital punishment?

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Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online or fill out the form below. 

Q. Hi Emily! So happy to have you here at FAVS! My question is: does the LDS church have an official stand on capital punishment? Is there also a general belief system you could speak to on executions from a Mormon point of view? Thanks!

A. Thanks so much for submitting the very first question for “Ask a Mormon”!

The official statement from the church regarding capital punishment is brief: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment.”

Individual Mormons will run the gamut on this, as well as many other political, social and civil issues. Personally, I am uncomfortable with the idea of capital punishment because I’m hesitant to advocate such a final, permanent punishment when there’s the possibility of error. I have LDS friends who support the death penalty; I have LDS friends who are adamantly opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances. Frankly, you can find scriptural support for both positions.

If you start digging into statements by past LDS leaders, you’ll find some harsh quotes from the frontier era that suggest the shedding of blood is necessary in order for people to “atone” for certain sins. This is not doctrinal. The only “blood atonement” Mormons believe in is the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.

Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online or fill out the form below. 

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Emily Geddes

About Emily Geddes

Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University.

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4 comments

  1. How would you respond to these passages in OT & NT?

    Genesis 9:5-6
    “And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. 6 If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.”

    &
    Romans 13:4
    “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

  2. I would say that the cultural and social context of both the Old and New Testaments is very different from ours today, thousands of years later.

    Here and now, punishment for crimes is the purview of the civil government, not religious organizations, and it is up to the civil governments – and the people whom the governments represent – to make determinations regarding capital punishment.

    If you’re asking about my personal stance, I would simply point to the number of people on death row who have been found to be wrongfully convicted (a quick google search yields more than 100 in the United States in the past twenty years). I am uncomfortable with the death penalty in light of these stories; the idea of an innocent person being executed is horrific.

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