What is the church’s position on the death penalty?

Posted on August 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm

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Dear Gramps,

What is the church’s position on the death penalty? If the atonement was made for all, why is it necessary for the church to believe in sustaining the law for the death penalty rather than taking a position against it, as it seems inconsistent with the principle of forgiveness? I understand we uphold the law whereby we are governed but it would seem we should be able to forgive all men and let the Savior do the judging when it comes to the taking of life.


Dear Monika,

In the first place, as you pointed out, we believe in being obedient to the law of the land. The fact that a criminal is bound by the laws of the land has nothing to do with our attitude of forgiveness. We have no right nor reason to condemn or forgive someone who has committed an offense against someone other than ourselves. We could only condemn or forgive if we were in a position of judgement, which of course we are not. Your question should be, would I forgive a murderer if he had killed my spouse or one of my children? Then it would be meaningful to forgive the offense.

However, apart from your attitude of forgiveness, especially if the offender is unrepentant, society must be protected; and that is one of the legitimate functions of government– “to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.”

You seem to imply that in letting the Savior be the judge, we should hold no one accountable for their actions. If such a course were taken, there would be no punishment for breaking the law or for violating the legitimate rights of another. It would give those with criminal intent a free hand, and would lead to anarchy. We have a responsibility before the Lord to uphold righteousness and to denounce wickedness. In the words of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”


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What is the church's position on the death penalty? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
If the atonement was made for all, why is it necessary for the church to believe in sustaining the law for the death penalty rather than taking a position against it, as it seems inconsistent with the principle of forgiveness?

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