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MALCOLM - Why does the Church ‘sit on the fence’ on Capital Punishment?
The Lord has spoken clearly in the Doctrine and Covenants concerning those who murder:
D&C 42:18-19: “And now behold I speak unto the Church. ‘Thou shalt not kill (Murder) and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come. And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die.’”
This concurs with what is taught throughout scripture:
Genesis 9:6: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”
Exodus 20:13: “Thou shalt not kill” (footnote to this verse states murder)
Only through Capital Punishment can the land be cleansed from the sin of murder:
Numbers 35: 31, 33-34: “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which [is] guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death… So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye [are]: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.”
2 Nephi 9:35: “Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth for he shall die”
Alma 1:13-14, 18: “And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance. Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law……And they durst not steal, for fear of the law, for such were punished; neither durst they rob, nor murder, for he that murdered was punished unto death.”
Today there is nothing in Church publications on capital punishment or the death penalty. The subject has been well and truly frozen by the leaders of the Church. There is one official statement on LDS.Org Public Issues as follows:
“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.”
In my opinion by this statement the Church is not sustaining the clear direction the Lord has given in the Holy Scriptures but is sitting on the fence because of public opinion.
Do you have any thoughts on this?
JOEL - Back in the Old Testament days and in Book of Mormon times(the sources for most of your scriptures) when people lived in a theocracy and the civil and religious authorities were combined, capital punishment was the directed result in response to murder. Now that we have a separation of Church and state; the power to take a life is reserved to the state law. You quoted the following D&C scripture to back up your assertion of the Church's pro-death penalty beliefs:
D&C 42:18-19: “And now behold I speak unto the Church. ‘Thou shalt not kill (Murder) and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come. And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die.”
A little further on in that same section in verse 79 it says:
"And it shall come to pass, that if any persons among you shall kill they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the laws of the land; for remember that he hath no forgiveness; and it shall be proved according to the laws of the land."
The command, "but he that killeth shall die" (verse 19), cannot be a direction for capital punishment, since the punishment of taking life is a consequence reserved to the laws of man, as explained in verse 79. In context, what is said in these scriptures clearly concerns the eternal significance of deliberate homicide. In other words, a person who deliberately kills another shall die spiritually.
However, I think it is pretty obvious to everyone, as you point out, that capital punishment is viewed in the scriptures of the Church to be an appropriate penalty for murder. And if we were living in a theocracy, the Church could under God's direction, promote and impose capital punishment when appropriate as in times past. However, even though in Old Testament times capital punishment may have been an effective deterrent against the sin of murder, that is highly debatable in today's society. That is why we have modern day prophets who are inspired to know what should be done today
Aside from that, by the Church saying that it does not oppose capital punishment, in my opinion, is a statement that it supports the correct application of it and therefore should not be considered "fence-sitting". The church certainly was not concerned with public opinion when it decided to support proposition 8 in California.
The fact that the Church does not "promote" capital punishment, only means that it is not going to go out and spend its valuable time trying to force the civil laws to be changed, which of course are different depending on which state you look at. The Church chooses to spend its time promoting policies that save souls.