The Bible is full of great examples of really bad people who did really bad things. The type of things that we're supposed to avoid doing, with the biggest no-no being murder. So that's why I have problems with a couple of important Bible figures.
The first one is King David and his arranging the murder of Uriah in order to score with Bathsheba. In the Bible Dictionary it says:
"Like Saul he was guilty of grave crimes; but unlike Saul, he was capable of true contrition and was therefore able to find forgiveness, except in the murder of Uriah. As a consequence David is still unforgiven, but he received a promise that the Lord would not leave his soul in hell. He will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium. Because of his transgressions, he has fallen from his exaltation (D&C 132: 39)."
In D&C 132: 39 it says:
"David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord."
So, King David had to be a pretty corrupt fellow in order to kill an innocent man and steal his wife. I would say that Uriah's murder should fall into the category of "premeditated murder" because he certainly had time to think it over and come up with a plan to get rid of him. It doesn't get much more evil than that. David has apparently not found "forgiveness," but did he receive a special promise from the Lord about not leaving his soul in hell? Did he do something special to get a "get of out jail card," or will all murderers have a chance at that same "promise?"
Perhaps more troubling to me is the Apostle Paul (aka Saul -- but not the same Saul mentioned above in the story of David) and his involvement in the stoning of Stephen. As we all know, Paul was once the ancient equivalent of an anti-Mormon, but took it to the extreme. Some of his actions against Christians would have done the Taliban proud. In the Book of Acts, we read:
"And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:58-59)
"And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." (Acts 8:1-3)
The Bible doesn't say that Saul (Paul) was the one who personally hurled the stones at Stephen. However, it appears that he played pretty much the same role in Stephen's murder as David played in Uriah's. Paul "consented" unto Stephen's death, on top of throwing men and women in the slammer (for all we know, they could have been executed as well). The fact that "the witnesses laid down their clothes" at Saul's feet indicates to me that he was probably the leader who had the power to make sure that this execution was either carried out or stopped. Even if he didn't cast any stones himself, is he any less guilty than David or any other murderer?
So Paul repented and was converted to Christianity. If anyone ever turned their life around for the better, it was him. Although not confirmed, evidence suggests that Paul was martyred himself, when he was beheaded under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. But these are the things I'm wondering about Paul:
- Was he not guilty of murder in the stoning of Stephen? And worse yet, premeditated murder?
- Even though he became an apostle, was turning his life around enough to erase his past?
- Should he have even been eligible to be an apostle in the first place if he was guilty of the murder of Stephen?
- Why does King David remain unforgiven and fallen from exaltation, while Paul went on to become a revered apostle of Christ?
- How does this apply to modern-day murderers in society? Should they have any hope of forgiveness or is premeditated murder unforgivable?