Related to this other question about whether murder is unforgivable according to the LDS Church.

One of the answers to the question says that:

Murder is a very serious sin, and while it can't be forgiven it can be pardoned.

However the link in the word "pardoned" leads to a "page not found" message.

This answer, however, does quote the following from D&C study guide in chapter 42:

The second most serious sin is to commit murder—that is, to willfully shed innocent blood. Concerning this sin, the Lord has said: ‘Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.’ (D&C 42:18.) Thus this is an unforgivable sin, which means that Jesus Christ cannot pay for (or ‘atone for’ or ‘forgive’) the penalty demanded by the broken law. This sin is a pardonable sin, however; that is, the sinner can eventually make full payment himself, and be received into a state of pardon. (Emphasis added.)

So, murder is described as a sin that Jesus cannot atone for and yet, the individual himself can receive a pardon by making some form of a payment.

My questions are:

1. What kind of "payment" can a murderer make to cover for murder?

2. What are the differences, if any, between being thus pardoned and being forgiven by Jesus' atonement?

  • I think they have to be baptized, and then they can be forgiven. I'd have to double check though. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 22:13
  • The answer here is D&C 19, but I don't have time to write an answer right now.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 13:37
  • the LDS believe in following the laws of the land, so if you murder, part of the payment would be to go through the legal system in the country in which you murdered
    – depperm
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 15:36
  • Related question (disclaimer: I have an answer there): christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/14031/…
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 3:01

2 Answers 2


I haven't taken a look at the other question yet, but after reading your question, my knee-jerk reaction was, "whaaaat?"

The word "pardon" does not exist in LDS doctrine outside of the "Unpardonable Sin." The one and only person who can issue a "pardon" is Jesus Christ Himself. Per D&C 64:10...

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.1

Said another way, we don't use the word. So let's examine the issue a bit and see what's going on.

D&C 131:6 teaches, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." The opposite is also true. 2 Nephi 9:25 teaches us:

...where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement.

The reality is, you can neither be saved nor punished in ignorance. These are important concepts. The Unpardonable Sin in context of this question is taking an innocent life — but that's from the perspective of understanding the gift of God. People who don't understand the gift of life, who have not been born again in the Holy Ghost, cannot be judged guilty of the Unpardonable Sin and therefore can be forgiven the sin of murder.

An example of this is the ancient apostle Paul who, as Saul, consented to the death of Stephen.

And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. ... And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. (Acts 22:4, 20)

Saul did not yet understand the glory of the Lord and, through that glory, the amazing gift of life. He certainly understood "Thou shalt not kill," but by his day the Hebrews had effectively realigned the commandments to refer to the chosen people — and Stephen was no longer among them. He was ignorant of the depth and meaning of Jehovah's commandment and not a believer in Jesus. But because of his vision he became a believer and visited Ananias and was told:

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)

Before baptism, the only "payment" is to the laws of man and the combination of repentance and baptism. Before baptism, the person may understand it's wrong to kill, but doesn't understand it the way God understands it. they are ignorant. After baptism, and after the LDS member has been taught about the sanctity of life, sobriety of the scriptures, and gifts of God, and received the Holy Ghost, murder can become unforgivable.

But before we go into that in detail, let's briefly look at the Unpardonable Sin in general. D&C 76:31-37 tells us very specifically who those who succumb to the Unpardonable Sin are:

Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power — They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born; for they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come — Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.

These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels — And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power. (Emphasis mine)

Those who commit the Unpardonable Sin are not forgiven. They are never forgiven. They will be judged to reside in Outer Darkness (also called Perdition) for eternity. But note those conditions.

  • One must know the power of Christ
  • One must have been made a partaker of Christ's power
  • One must then have allowed oneself to be overcome by Lucifer
  • And denied the truth
  • And denied Christ's power

The unpardonable sin isn't a mistake. It's not an error. It's a choice — an educated choice. A willing defiance of God's will.

Which is why it cannot be forgiven. This sheds new light on Matthew 12:32, which states that anyone who speaks against the Holy Ghost (in the context described above) will not be forgiven. Had Paul committed murder after his vision of Jesus, it would have been an unpardonable sin.

But is the Unpardonable Sin restricted to denying the Holy Ghost? If you think about it, one of the Holy Ghost's duties is to teach us all things realting to Christ and His gospel (John 14:26). Therfore, any choice to turn against the Lord is a denial of the Holy Ghost and therefore is unpardonable.

And that includes taking an innocent life. Consider the following:

Rev. 21:8  But ... murderers ... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

We've seen that phrase, "second death," before. Scroll back up and read D&C 76:31-37 again. Those who commit the Unpardonable Sin, who become sons (and daughters) of Perdition, and are cast out to Outer Darkness, they suffer the second death.

But, just to make it clear in our day...

D&C 42:18 And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.

However, what about the period of time between baptism and achieving those spiritual highs descirbed in D&C 76? Alma 39:5-6 teaches us:

Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost? For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.

Alma's last statement, "it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness" reflects the period of time between baptism and achieving the conditions described in D&C 76. It's hard ... very hard ... to receive forgiveness.

But, is there any scripture or teaching that suggests there is a payment to be made? No, there is not. How can you possibly return the potential and infinite value of a life? It's little wonder that it's hard, even when it's possible.

Before I sum up, I need to clarify something. I don't know where that linked question found the reference to the study manual. I visited LDS.org and ran through all the institute study manuals and couldn't find that citation. I have no doubt Bro. Ludlow said what he did, but he was not a prophet of the Lord. He's not wrong so long as you remember the difference between those two periods: between baptism and knowing the power of Christ, and thereafter. D&C 132:19,26-27 specifically teaches that entrance into the new and everlasting covenant (the Celestial Kingdom and marriage) can ONLY be had if no innocent blood has been shed. There's a lot to this that Bro. Ludlow's quote doesn't even touch, and so I would NOT take it at simple face value. Perhaps that was an old manual that has since been updated to clarify the doctrine, but I couldn't find it.


OK, that was lengthy, but to specifically answer your question: there are three periods to consider:

  • Before baptism, killing a person is forgivable through repentance (including satisfying the laws of man) and baptism.

  • After baptism, it's difficult, very difficult, to obtain forgiveness because, frankly, how confusing is "thou shalt not kill," really? On top of this, what restitution can be made as part of the repentance process. As I said, very difficult.

  • Finally, once you have met the expectations of spiritual growth as described in D&C 76, having been born again, received the Holy Ghost, been made aware of Christ's power and partaken of it (a whole discussion unto itself), murder is 100% unforgivable.

1Which means that we, individually, are expected to fogrive murders. Having never been involved with one, or even known someone who was, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to forgive a murderer. Note, however, there is a difference between forgivness and consequence. The rule of the Church is that excommunicated people may not partake of the Sacrament (bread & water). Our forgiveness doesn't change the fact that their actions required a separation from the Church that restricts their activity until or unless rebaptized. This reflects the idea of the Unpardonable Sin. Some actions separate you from the Kingdom permanently.

  • Hi @JBH, you write that after a person has met the expectations of spiritual growth, been born again (and some other factors) murder is 100% unforgivable. Does that mean that in that kind of situation getting baptized again would not provide forgiveness? Also where is a line drawn regarding "murder" done in military, e.g. if a Mormon serving in U.S. army had been involved in the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War or other similar acts done by military?
    – user100487
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:30
  • 1
    (a), when the Lord said unforgivable, He meant it. Once you have crossed that line, there is no coming back, not even through rebaptism. The Church cannot tell the Lord what to do. Once He's made that judgement, it's done. (b) Yes, there is such a line. The Lord, speaking as Jehovah, commanded the deaths of many. Murder is an unwarranted, unsanctioned death. Serving in the military is a sanctioned defense of nation and citizenry. However, (c) you are absolutely correct. It is not a free license to step away from your God-given ability to judge right from wrong. (continued)
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:33
  • 1
    Men and women who step over the line in the military are as guilty of shedding innocent blood as any other. Perhaps said another way (though this is NOT a specific Church teaching), when in the military, the phrase could be rendered, "thou shalt not kill unecessarily." The moment you step beyond the minimum requirement of duty in terms of taking life in the military, you very much risk the judgement of the Lord. Finally, please note that the Church acts in these cases, but the Church is not the final judge. Man does the best it can, but Jesus is the final and most authoritative judge.
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:35

Questions like these can get tricky because they're all about semantics. Pardon sin and forgive sin are used interchangeably throughout the scriptures and as used by church leaders.

Also, I would also like to mention that I'm not exactly sure how doctrinal my answer below will be due to the lack of information on the subject of pardon vs forgive, but nonetheless I will answer the question as asked according to my best understanding of the scriptures.

Mormon doctrine generally defines Hell in two different ways. One is where Satan dwells and is also called outer darkness. Only those who commit the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost will eternally dwell in this Hell. A very small minority of God's children will be cast to outer darkness.

The second is a temporary Hell and to put into simple terms, is where bad people go. This Hell is also referred to as an Eternal Hell, more Eternal in nature not in duration D&C 19:10-20. This Hell is also referred to as Spirit Prison. It's in this second Hell that "pardoning" of sin would take place.

Guide to the scriptures defines this Hell as:

Latter-day revelation speaks of hell in at least two senses. First, it is the temporary abode in the spirit world for those who were disobedient in mortality. In this sense, hell has an end. The spirits there will be taught the gospel, and sometime following their repentance they will be resurrected to a degree of glory of which they are worthy. Those who will not repent, but are nevertheless not sons of perdition, will remain in hell throughout the Millennium. After these thousand years of torment, they will be resurrected to a telestial glory.


The scriptures classify two resurrections that will happen. All those who are destined for the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms will be resurrected sometime before or at the beginning of the 1000 year Millennium after Christ comes. The second resurrection will take place after the Millennium. While those of the first resurrection are enjoying the millennium, those still in Prison in the Spirit World will suffer for 1000 years until they "...hast paid the uttermost farthing." Matt 5:25-26. After this time of suffering in Hell, they will be "pardoned" for their sins and be allowed entrance into the Telestial Kingdom for eternity.

This is the Hell that is referred to when David, who committed the sin of murder, said:

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;

Psalm 16:10 Also see Psalm 86:13

So in answer to your question, those who are forgiven of their sins will not suffer in Hell whereas those who commit murder cannot be forgiven and can only be pardoned of their sins in order to enter the Telestial Kingdom by suffering in Hell. Those who have committed the unpardonable and unforgivable sin of denying the Holy Ghost will not be pardoned of their sins and thus will not enter any Kingdom of Glory.

I'm not sure what the nature of the suffering is and I'm not sure how the Atonement applies to both forgiveness and pardon specifically. We don't really know how the Atonement or forgiveness works, we just know it does. Although it is clear that it is by the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that one is pardoned of their sins.

However, murder is not the only sin that will cause you to suffer in Hell in the Spirit World, but I'm not sure how the terms "pardon" and "forgive" applies to the sins of those who never murdered but who will suffer in Hell to be able to enter the Telestial Kingdom. Everyone who enters a Kingdom of Glory will have all their sins pardoned/forgiven at some point. When that takes place and under what circumstances is what determines which Kingdom you go to. (Circumstances such as if the the forgiveness/pardon took place on earth, in the spirit world after having a chance on Earth, after having to suffer in Hell etc.)

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