It’s presented as a black and white truth: There is no forgiveness for murder.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says:
Murder violates the sanctity of life and cuts off the ability of its victims to “work out their destiny” (Benson, p. 355). Moreover, because “man cannot restore life,” and restoration or restitution is a necessary step for repentance, obtaining forgiveness for murder is impossible (Kimball, 1969, p. 129; D&C 42:18-19).
The encyclopedia cites D&C 42, which states:
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.
But in the Book of Mormon, we have the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, Lamanites who repented, buried their weapons of war, and chose to suffer death rather than take up arms to defend themselves. These people admitted to committing many murders. How is it possible that the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s were forgiven of their many murders?
9 And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed.
10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
How can the Encyclopedia of Mormonism claim forgiveness for murder is impossible if the Book of Mormon highlights a group of Lamanites that had committed many murders and yet were forgiven by God? Is the Book of Mormon teaching false doctrine? If the Book of Mormon is true, that would seem to indicate the Encyclopedia of Mormonism teaches false doctrine. Perhaps if the authors had referenced the scriptures instead of Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness, they would have not contradicted the “keystone” of the Church.
We are judged according to our knowledge. The more knowledge we have, the more accountable we are.
5 Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.
What does the Book of Mormon say about the Lamanites?
17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
These Lamanites had been taught from birth that murder was acceptable. God accommodated their incorrect knowledge and forgave them of their murders once they learned it was wrong and repented of their murders.
So what about D&C 42? This section is the law for those who will live in Zion. These people will know good from evil. In particular, they know that murder is not acceptable. So a resident of Zion who kills won’t be held blameless. He knew better and chose to kill regardless. That seems to be the reason he won’t receive forgiveness, whereas the Lamanites had not been taught to know good and evil, and could receive forgiveness in this life for their many murders.
3 Nephi 6:18
Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them; therefore they did wilfully rebel against God.
It shall be better for the Lamanites than for you except ye shall repent. For behold, they are more righteous than you, for they have not sinned against that great knowledge which ye have received; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them; yea, he will lengthen out their days and increase their seed, even when thou shalt be utterly destroyed except thou shalt repent.
This demonstrates how important it is to look at the context of each scripture. The Lord has different messages and different expectations for different audiences depending on their level of knowledge. Misapplying a message to the wrong audience can lead to false doctrine that contradicts scripture – like claiming that murder can’t be forgiven.