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Do you have blood oaths in the Temple?

by W. John Walsh

I read that Mormons used to make oaths in their temples about having their throats slit if they broke their temple covenants.  Is this true?

Latter-day Saints don't discuss some aspects of the temple outside of its holy walls.  It's not because these aspects are secret, but because the teachings of the temple are sacred to us. (See Do Latter-day Saints Conceal Their Doctrine?; Why is a Temple Recommend Requited to Enter the Temple?; Why don't Latter-day Saints openly discuss the teachings of the temple in detail?)   Enemies of the Church often take advantage of us because they know we are somewhat limited in what we can say about the temple.  However, while I won't discuss the details of our temple teachings, I can make a few appropriate comments that should address this issue.

First, no threat of any kind is ever made against persons breaking their temple covenants.  This is simply not true and is a major distortion of what actually occurs in the temple.  Next, it is important to recognize that religion is a very serious business.  Our eternal salvation is at stake.  To emphasize this fact, God often uses very stark language to reinforce the eternal consequences of our choices.  For example, in the Holy Bible, the Lord says:

"And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me......I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth." (Jeremiah 34:20)

In this passage from the Bible, the Lord says that those people who break their sacred covenants will be murdered by their enemies and their bodies will be devoured by animals.  To many people, this Bible teaching is somewhat gruesome.  In a much longer and more comprehensive example, Moses laid very solemn covenants upon the people of Israel, promising very stark and severe curses upon them if they failed to keep their obligations.  The covenant rituals used by Moses in Deuteronomy 27-31 are very similar to the covenant rituals used in the temple.

In Deuteronomy 27:26:

"Cursed [be] he that confirmeth not [all] the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen."

Please note that the people are asked to acknowledge their acceptance of these punishments with a sacred oath.

In Deuteronomy 28:15-68:

"But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

Cursed [shalt] thou [be] in the city, and cursed [shalt] thou [be] in the field.    Cursed [shall be] thy basket and thy store.   Cursed [shall be] the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.   Cursed [shalt] thou [be] when thou comest in, and cursed [shalt] thou [be] when thou goest out.  The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.  The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.  The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.  And thy heaven that [is] over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee [shall be] iron.  The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.  The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.   And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray [them] away.  The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.  The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:   And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save [thee].    Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.  Thine ox [shall be] slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass [shall be] violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep [shall be] given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue [them].  Thy sons and thy daughters [shall be] given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail [with longing] for them all the day long: and [there shall be] no might in thine hand.   The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:  So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.  The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.   The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.  And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.   Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather [but] little in; for the locust shall consume it.   Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress [them], but shalt neither drink [of] the wine, nor gather [the grapes]; for the worms shall eat them.  Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint [thyself] with the oil; for thine olive shall cast [his fruit].  Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.  All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.  The stranger that [is] within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.  He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.   Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:   And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.  And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.  Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all [things]: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.  The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, [as swift] as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;   A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:   And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which [also] shall not leave thee [either] corn, wine, or oil, [or] the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.  And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.   And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:   [So that] the man [that is] tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave:  So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates.   The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,  And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all [things] secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.   If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;  Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, [even] great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.   Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.  Also every sickness, and every plague, which [is] not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.  And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God.  And it shall come to pass, [that] as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.   And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, [even] wood and stone.  And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:  And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:   In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.   And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy [you].

While I will not discuss the penalties called out in LDS temples, I will say that no honest and sincere person could argue that the punishments pronounced are any more stark than those found in the Bible. 

In addition,  it's rather common for people to judge another people without considering the context of their cultural differences.  For example, to a woman living in the United States in 1999, the idea of "slitting someone's throat" may seem abhorrent.  After all, the closest she has come to witnessing something die is when she picked up her sandwich meat from the deli.  On the other hand, to a pioneer woman living in 1889, who has regular killed and skinned animals to feed her family, certain symbolism and expressions may not seem as repugnant.

(See Oaths; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page; Teachings About Temples home page)

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