However, the LDS Church does not impose a blanket ban on murderers ever becoming a member of the Church. Instead, paragraph 6.12.30 of the Church Handbook of Instructions Vol. 1 merely states that a murderer cannot be baptized without the express approval of the First Presidency. And the case of Mike Hickey in Lonetree, Wyoming shows that even a former member of the LDS Church can be restored to membership -- if repentance is sincere and there are mitigating circumstances. On May 1st, 2011, the Billings Gazette tells Hickey's story.
Summary: In 1977, Mike Hickey, then 23 years old, fell in with an individual who had a beef with local government. Mark Hopkinson fought with a local sewer board over roughly $12,000 in hookup fees that he refused to pay. In 1977, days before Hopkinson was scheduled to be deposed as part of the ensuing lawsuit, the home of an Evanston attorney involved in the litigation exploded in the middle of the night. The attorney, Vince Vehar, 67, died in the blast, as did his wife and their 15-year-old son. In addition, a fourth person, a 15-year-old girl named Kellie Wyckhuyse, went missing; while her body was never found, a third party eventually reported that she had been killed by Mike Hickey.
In any event, Hickey, a member of an old and prominent Bridger Valley family, ultimately confessed to murdering Wyckhuyse. He also said Hopkinson knew about the murder and promised him an alibi if he killed Vehar. For that and the offer of $2,000, Hickey drove to Evanston and threw 30 sticks of lit dynamite into Vehar’s home. Authorities offered Hickey a deal: In exchange for testifying against Hopkinson, he would get 20 years in prison under a different name to protect him from Hopkinson. Hickey's testimony led to Hopkinson being given a life sentence for each of the three Vehar deaths. Hopkinson eventually received the death penalty for another murder and was executed in 1992.
Because Mike Hickey was a member of the LDS Church at the time, he was excommunicated shortly after his plea deal. However, it appears our Heavenly Father is more merciful than we believe. He looks for the least sign of repentance on our part so He can send the Spirit to work in our lives and demonstrate His power. After paying his debt to society, Hickey was restored to LDS membership in 1999. From the Gazette:
Released from prison in 1999, he came back to Lonetree and began working on the family ranch. In the decade since, he’s married and has been allowed back into the Mormon church. This last part he speaks of with pride. He traveled to Salt Lake City and went before a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He says a church leader told him that if he had any pieces of history relating to what happened — newspaper clippings, books, court documents — to get rid of them.
So why was a convicted murderer like Hickey restored to membership? There are three essential elements to this case:
(1). He was young and immature, and he acted at the behest of an older, more evil individual.
(2). He voluntarily confessed to his crimes and actively helped authorities bring down Mark Hopkinson, the evil genius who inspired them.
(3). He convinced a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that his repentance was sincere and wholehearted, leading the First Presidency to reinstate him.
The Gazette did not report whether or not Hickey had received the full endowment during his first period of Church membership. It is considered more difficult to forgive an LDS murderer if he or she has actually received the full endowment in a temple. Five comments have been posted to the story so far; all are unfavorable to Hickey.
This case, of course, is entirely different than the case of King David in the Bible, who arranged for Uriah to be placed into the hottest part of the battle to be killed so that David could grab Uriah's wife Bathsheba after he had impregnated her (2 Samuel 11). While Mike Hickey was motivated by misguided ideology and misdirected rage, King David was motivated by gratuitous lust. Then King David attempted to cover for the crime, and did not confess until exposed by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). While King David repented, the only promise he obtained was that the Lord had put away his sin and that he would not die. But many Latter-day Saints interpret that verse to mean that King David not only must wait until the second resurrection to come forth, but that he can only aspire to telestial glory. President Joseph F. Smith wrote "The way I understand it, a person who sheds innocent blood 'shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come' (D&C 42:18). The refusal of forgiveness referred to here means that the murderer can not repent and receive forgiveness through the atonement of Christ. They cannot be forgiven in the sense that celestial salvation [or exaltation] is made available to them. They will go to hell (spirit prison) to be punished for it. However, a person may eventually be able to receive another type of forgiveness which requires paying the price by suffering in hell for the murder. Then they may be able to be rescued from hell, as in the case of David, and still obtain some degree of glory(but not exaltation) after the final judgment, depending on how good they were during the rest of their life".
But the story of Mike Hickey shows that the Father's capacity for mercy is just as boundless as His desire for justice. Perhaps King David might eventually end up with a better fate after all. This may be one reason why the Savior Himself cautioned us to "Judge not, lest ye be judged". Instead of spending time trying to consign others to hell and perdition, we can use that time more productively by striving for heaven, and in particular, celestial glory with exaltation, where we can realize our full potential as heirs of the Father and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.