Oath of Vengeance

1845 - 1930

What was this Oath of Vengeance? What did it entail? What was the punishment connected? When did it stop becoming part of the temple covenants?




"You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children's children unto the third and 
fourth generation."


The Oath of Vengeance (or the Law of Vengeance) was part of the endowment ritual of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Participants swore an oath to pray for God to avenge the blood of prophets Joseph Smith and Hyrum, who were assassinated in 1844. The oath was part of the ceremony from about 1845 until early 1930.

Is there a doctrinal basis for this oath?


King James Bible

Genesis 4:10

"And he said, What has thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."


Book of Mormon

2 Nephi 26:3

"And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them."


Book of Mormon

Alma 1:13

"And thou has 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."

Firsthand Accounts 

of the Oath of Vengeance


Diary of Heber C. Kimball

21 December 1845

In the temple, Heber had "covenanted, and will never rest... until those men who killed Joseph and Hyrum have been wiped out of the earth".


Increase & Maria Van Duesen


"We are required to kneel at this alter, where we have an oath administered to us this effect; that we will avenge the blood of Joseph Smith on this Nation, and teach our children the same. They tell us that the nation has winked at the abuse and persecution of the Mormons, and the murder of the Prophet in particular; Therefore the Lord is displeased with the nations, and means to destroy it; and this is the excuse for forming this league or conspiracy" [The Mormon Endowment: A Secret Drama, or Conspiracy, in the Nauvoo Temple by Increase and Maria Van Duesen in 1846, published in 1847].


Ann Eliza Webb Young


"[W]e swore that we would use every exertion to avenge the death of our Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum upon the Gentile race, and to teach our children to foster this spirit of revenge also" [Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Webb, pg. 168].


Mrs. G. H. R.


"We were then made to swear to avenge the deaths of Joseph Smith, the martyr, together with that of his brother, Hyrum, on this American nation, and that we would teach our children and our children's children to do so. The penalty for this grip and oath was disembowelment."


Abraham H. Cannon, Apostle

6 December, 1889

"About 4:30 p.m. this meeting adjourned and was followed by a meeting of Presidents Woodruff, Cannon and Smith and Bros. Lyman and Grant... In speaking of the recent examination before Judge Anderson Father said that he understood when he had his endowments in Nauvoo that he took an oath against the murderers of the Prophet Joseph as well as the other prophets, and if he had ever met any of those who had taken a hand in that massacre he would undoubtedly have attempted to avenge the blood of martyrs" [Cannon, entry of December 6, 1889, pg. 205].


John Bond


"The second one, I was put under, was to avenge the blood of the prophets against the Government of the United States, teach that to my children and my children's children from generation to generation, and everlastingly keep them after them. The penalty, I believe, was that the heart, or the bowels, would be torn out,—something to that effect, so far as my memory will carry me" [The Inside of Mormonism.. by Henry McMillan, pg. 10-11].


Bishop Andrew Cannon


"Well, as near as I can remember I was sworn to avenge to blood of the prophets, that was understood, indirectly, to refer to Joseph Smith. ... The understanding was, that any parties who were guilty, or consented to their death, as near as I understand it" [The Inside of Mormonism.. by Henry McMillian, pg. 16-17]


J. H. Wallis, Sr.


"That you and each of you will never cease to importune High Heaven for vengeance upon this nation for the blood of the prophets who have been slain" [United States Senate, 1904, pg. 79, 149].


August W. Lundstrum


"We and each of us solemnly covenant and promise that we shall ask God to avenge the blood of Joseph Smith upon this nation. There is something more added, but that is all I can remember verbatim. That is the essential part. ... It was in regard to teaching our children and children's children to the last generation to the same effect" [United States Senate, 1904, pg. 152-153, 161].


Annie Elliott


"One, I remember, they told me to pray and never cease to pray to get revenge on the blood of the prophets on this nation, and also teach it to my children and children's children" [United States Senate, 1904, pg. 189].

of the Oath

In 1919, Mormon Prophet Heber J. Grant appointed a committee to revise the Endowment Ceremony, which was then done under the direction of Apostle George F. Richards from 1921 to 1929. Richards revised the ceremony to eliminate the Oath of Vengeance, and the revision was formally implemented in the early 1930s. 

According to the American Marketing Association, in explaining how long a generation is they say, "the average period, generally considered to be about 20-30 years." President Grant, by asking and allowing Apostle Richards to revise and eliminate the Oath of Vengeance in 1930,  would be fulfilling the oath in that it was done away (in some accounts) after "the third and fourth generation."

  • First Generation: 1865
  • Second Generation: 1885
  • Third Generation: 1905
  • Fourth Generation: 1925

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