Ep 100 – Mormonism and Masonry Inextricably Tied
On this episode, we dive into the world of Masonry and Mormonism. In 1842, Joseph ascended to Master Mason “at-sight,” and seven weeks later revealed his Temple Endowment ceremony. If we view more of Joseph Smith’s timeline, we find Masonry was highly influential on the prophet from his earliest years, long before the Book of Mormon ever entered the public sphere. Cheryl Bruno, who is currently writing a book on Mormonism and Masonry, joins us periodically to help us walk through the history of these intertwining fields of philosophy.
History of Freemasonry
MormonThink on Masonry and Mormonism
Free Masonry its Pretensions Exposed
Dictionary of Symbolical Masonry Rev G. Oliver
Founding Fathers in Masonry
Age of Enlightenment and Freemasonry
Scottish rite Order of High Priesthood
Order of Melchisedek
Mormon Endowment and Masonic Ascendency comparison
Mormonism and Freemasonry comparison
Occult and Masonic Influence in Early Mormonism
Mason-Mormon ties: What’s fact, what’s fiction
Scott Gordon FairMormon Mormon Temples and Freemasonry
Mormon Expression 144-145
Protect LDS Children documentary
Mormon Satan, Brother of Jesus
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
November 8, 2014, the first five episodes of Naked Mormonism went public after dozens of hours of scripting, producing, building, trial and error, and a tiny bit of luck. 3.5 years have passed since that time and a lot has changed. The show has grown and adapted to become what it is today. When this endeavor began, like a lot of Mormons when they intellectually leave the church, I was angry. I felt betrayed by the Church and what it taught as unquestionable truths. This anger came from being lied to by the institution itself, not because of any bad actors within it.
This podcast has been cathartic. It’s provided a way to gain a deeper appreciation for all those involved with Mormonism from its inception. In our historical timeline we’ve followed Joseph Smith from his earliest years, through publishing the Book of Mormon, making friends and enemies, being tarred and feathered and nearly castrated. We’ve watched Joseph construct multiple empires before his actions inevitably resulted in his removal from entire communities. We’ve seen him arrested and followed his court proceedings multiple times, once for possibly telling his death squad to go kill a wealthy businessman. We’ve seen him try to solve his debts by going treasure digging with trusted Mormon elites in Massachusetts. We’ve watched him lead an army to eventual surrender and dissolution in Missouri and we’ve languished with him in prison. We’ve seen Jo form and dissolve dozens of important relationships and businesses. We’ve followed Jo’s sexual indiscretions and resulting fallout from his poor decision-making to satiate his carnal desires. We’ve read propaganda and anti-Mormon literature from dozens of contemporary sources to garner a richer understanding of how Jo and the Mormons were publicly viewed as anything from heretics, to deluded fanatics, to Saints of God. We’ve picked every low-hanging fruit of Mormon history and we’ve climbed a few branches to get some of the sweeter bits at higher levels, but there’s much left behind we haven’t explored, and may never explore. Ahead of us lies only a few more low-hanging morsels of which to partake, Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook plates, and the Nauvoo Expositor leading to Jo’s demise, and we’ll give all these points and all necessary context surrounding them their proper treatment in due time.
We’ve come a long way in 3.5 years and 100 episodes of podcasting. It’s actually been over 165 episodes, but the point still stands. And, I’ve said since the beginning that I do this show for myself. I’d do it if nobody listened. I’ll be doing it during the impending economic recession. But this podcast isn’t just another audio platform lost to the annals of cyberspace, you, the listeners have been the driving force. It’s because of you that this show has become whatever it is today. It’s because of every one of you that this show has reached as many people as it has. And, a crucial part of this whole equation, it’s all because of every one of you that I’m able to spend 80-90 hours a week researching and creating content instead of 40 hours a week at a dead-end job.
I can’t help but think that I’m one heck of a lucky guy to find myself in that tiny percentage of people who makes their living from doing their passion. What started as a hobby and therapeutic outlet has become a full-time research and writing endeavor and handful of public presentations at various groups and conferences; and that’s all BECAUSE of every one of you. I simply can’t express to you how grateful I am to each and every one of you who’ve been with me through this endeavor for so long. Your support, whether moral, financial, or just by clicking the download button every week; it means the world to me. Yes, I’ll be doing this podcast and research regardless of how many people consume it, but it’s because of you that I’m able to take pride in this work. I feel rewarded for my efforts because of you.
So, as you’ve come to characteristically expect from yours truly by now, that’s my belabored way of saying…. Thank you, thank you for everything. Here’s to the next 100…
If Joseph Smith coopted Masonic rituals, should that cause a person to question their faith in Joseph’s restored gospel?
The similarities between Masonric ascendency rituals and the Mormon temple ceremonies have been a source of fascination and occasional conflict among Mormon historians and the every-day chapel-attending Mormons for well over a century and a half. When examined in isolation, Mormon temple ceremonies are esoteric and symbolic of covenants Mormons make with their God and religion regularly throughout their lives. This ritual is unique when compared to Mormonism’s Christian counterparts. Mormonism has a step above and beyond the symbolism and rituals of most other Christianities.
On the other hand, Freemasonry is a non-religious organization. It doesn’t claim to hold the secret rituals necessary to get a person to heaven, it merely exists to make good men better. Masonry isn’t a secretive organization. Anybody can go to their local Masonic lodge or temple and strike up a conversation. People can find any information they want to know about Masonry online through a wealth of information provided by Masons.
To examine Mormonism apart from Masonry does a great disservice to Joseph Smith and the impact of Masonry on American and Mormon history. Some of you listening may know how deep these connections go, but to others, this episode will hopefully be a sufficient introduction once we understand how deeply intertwined Joseph Smith was with Freemasonry.
Let me preface our deep dive of Mormonism and Masonry today with a few precursors.
First off, the format today is a little different than usual. This will be a long episode and the material is particularly dense this week even though it’s only scratching the surface. I’d like to eventually spend 7.5 hours on Mormonism and Masonry like we did with the Book of Mormon, and if I’ve learned anything from the download numbers, it’s that you guys enjoy these long-form deep dives the most. We’ll be periodically joined by Mormon historian, Cheryl Bruno, to help us walk through this subject. Cheryl has been writing on Mormon history for a long time on her worldswithoutend blog wall and she’s been studying Mormon history for decades. She’s gearing up to release a book on Mormon Masonry in Nauvoo in the relatively near future and she was nice enough to share some of her research with us. Those who support the show on patreon.com/nakedmormonism got the full uncut interview on Monday as a sneak peak of this week’s show.
Second, I’m not a Mason and I left Mormonism before ever going through the temple. I hold no reverence or sanctity for either organization or their secret rituals. I’ve never sworn oaths of secrecy or fealty to either organization and don’t expect to anytime soon being an atheist. When we go through the sacred rituals comparatively, some may be offended. This information needs to be out there and can’t be ignored when talking about these intersecting topics. We’ll probably never have a Mason on the show after this episode, but that’s an understandable consequence when the white-hot light of scrutiny in a public forum is aimed at any inherently secretive organization. A few points to keep in mind during this analysis. Not being a Mason, an active Mormon, and only having studied the history of one of these organizations for a few years, I’m woefully under researched to do this subject proper justice. Historians have devoted their entire life’s work to understanding the intersection between these two organizations and apparently the scant few books out there on the subject leave a lot to be desired. We’re going to glaze over or wholly miss details that an Entered Apprentice or amateur Mormon historian would know on their first day at lodge or BYU religious studies respectively. I’ll inevitably draw a number of inaccurate comparisons and I’ll do my best to not make any false conclusions. Whether out of need for conciseness or just sheer ignorance, some important details will be missed. We’re coming at this from an outsider’s perspective on both fronts and I sincerely hope any Mason or Mormon historian listeners will grant some wiggle room with how I present the information I’ve researched thus far.
Third, it’s truly a challenge to research Masonry without falling down the rabbit hole of Zionist New World Order conspiracy. Masonry and Mormonism are both secretive organizations and many of their members wield a fair amount of wealth and power, making both organizations a magnet for tin-foil hat conspiracy hypotheses. I don’t say conspiracy theories because these claims don’t pass any level of theoretical scrutiny and mostly rely on ascribing causation when tenuous correlation is all which really exists. Most conspiracy hypotheses require dropping big names and showing pictures of those big-named people in the same room at the same time and jumping to radical conclusions that the people are obviously in league to overthrow the world and cling to power at all costs. These conspiracy hypotheses are rightfully laughed at by Masons and Mormons alike and any “New World Order” talk is just ignorant anti-Mason or anti-Mormon propaganda and we won’t degrade this presentation by entertaining this field of pseudo-history. It has no place here.
For our purposes it may be best to view Masonry as a get-together of men sharing knowledge and drinking a lot. We have meet-up and Facebook today to connect like-minded individuals, but that’s a luxury only recently afforded to humanity. In a time with no internet and extremely low literacy rates, people seeking higher education often relied on Masonry or similar informal gatherings to gain new skills and knowledge. Masonry is a boys’ club comprised of all people of all religious faiths and cultures. Similar groups of boys’ clubs have grown out of Masonry and other groups like it existed long before Masonry ever made it’s debut into the historical record.
The Smith family had connections to Masonry before Joseph Smith was even born. Masonry had a powerful infusion into American society and politics throughout the entire 18th century. But before we get to the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, we need to go waaaay back to get some context on what Masonry is and how it came to be.
It’s well-understood that Freemasonry began as a fraternal organization of wandering stonemasons. Let’s go through an insultingly brief history of Masonry to put Masonry and Mormonism into context. Freemasonry could be considered an early unionized workforce, if we’re loose enough with definitions. Stonemasonry was a respected and unique craft. Most craftsmen like carpenters or blacksmiths set up shop in one area and people would patronize their shop. Masonry is different. Masons go wherever the work is. A wealthy person in a village may have needed a mason for a few months or years of work, then once the project was completed, there’s no more work for the mason to perform and they have to move to the next town where there might be work. Masonry is a highly-skilled trade and the degrees of a mason determine that man’s ability to perform certain tasks. Out of necessity to convey expertise efficiently, specific handshakes and passwords along with a hierarchy eventually evolved. These eventually became codified and have changed as time and distance separated groups of Masons.
The first unquestionably Masonic writing available to historians is known as the Regius Poem in ye’ olde’ English dated from the year of our lord 1390. It’s a poem with the subtitle of “Here begins the constitutions of the art of Geometry according to Euclid.” When translated into modern English.
Of course, this isn’t geometry we learn in middle-school. Geometry in this sense is used with the latin and Greek roots of geo meaning earth and metry meaning to measure. The etymology of geometry means to literally measure earth. When you see the G in the center of the Masonic symbol, geometry is what it stands for. The Regius Poem ends with this passage:
“When thou meetest a worthy man,
Cap and hood thou hold not on;
In church, in market, or in the gate,
Do him reverence after his state.
If thou goest with a worthier man
Then thyself thou art one,
Let thy foremost shoulder follow his back,
For that is nurture without lack;
When he doth speak, hold thee still,
When he hath done, say for thy will,
In thy speech that thou be discreet,
And what thou sayest consider thee well;
But deprive thou not him his tale,
Neither at the wine nor at the ale.
Christ then of his high grace,
Save you both wit and space,
Well this book to know and read,
Heaven to have for your reward.
Amen! Amen! So mote it be!
So say we all for charity.”
Masonry continued to exist in obscure forms and writings throughout the short remainder of the medieval period until the enlightenment. The black plague caused a shortage of laborers and drove up construction costs for projects requiring masonry. 1425 was the first time a king outlawed Masons being able to meet in order to unionize and jack up labor prices. This group of Masons responded by claiming a king from around 900 C.E. gave them permission to meet and essentially unionize. Similar scenarios evolved the claims of Masonry’s genesis to earlier and earlier times, eventually leading to Masons claiming they held to the same rituals as practiced in Solomon’s temple and even before that to the Egyptian paganistic rituals.
In 1660, the Royal Society was founded drawing on the inspiration of great philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle. After that, 4 lodges were installed in London in 1717 to form the first official Masonic Grand Lodge of England. After the foundation of that lodge, Masonry began an age of popularization and thus spread throughout all of Europe and into the American colonies. The first official American Masonic lodge was formed in 1731 in Pennsylvania. Many of the founding fathers were Masons as were a number of the enlightenment philosophers from whom the founding fathers drew their inspiration. Here’s a quick list of names to exhibit how prevalent and influential Masons have been in America.
William Ellery was likely a Mason, who also supported abolition of slavery in 1785 and stopped it from being spread further into northern states.
William Whipple to name a few.
Paul Revere, though not a founding father specifically, still influential. It was reported that Paul Revere’s ride was only possible because he was imprisoned at the time by a fellow Mason who released Revere when he learned of Revere also being a Mason.
14 of the U.S. presidents to date have been masons: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, F. D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford.
9 of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were Masons.
Some enlightenment philosophers who were Masons are Voltaire, Isaac Newton, John Locke, and there’s some evidence to suggest Francis Bacon was as well. Even Mozart was a Mason.
Frederic Bartholdi, the guy who designed the Statue of Liberty and laid the cornerstone for it, was a Mason. Even Buzz Aldrin is a Mason.
Masonry has served as the glue among early American religions, politicians, and social movements. When a person wanted to accomplish something, they leveraged relationships gained through Masonry. With no federal religion and so many sects bickering about who is following the one true religion, Masonry is specifically non-religious. When a state building needed the cornerstones laid or to be dedicated after construction, it was often Masons doing it because they weren’t from any specific religion but still believed in God. This had the impact of Masons being tied to nearly every major government project in some way while not creating a landscape where one religion was favored over the other. America wanted to avoid religious wars which had torn down so many empires throughout history. Masonry was the common language which satisfied the needs of the god-fearing and united all religious sects together by paying homage to none of them.
The argument follows that because Masonry has been so deeply intertwined with the foundations of the country that much of the good we see in society and a lot of public infrastructure only exists today BECAUSE of Masonry at this country’s foundation. People are quick to ascribe unfounded malice to any secretive organization, but are quick to ignore all of the incredible good which has come from it.
Many politicians since the foundation of the country have been Masons or have had friends who were Masons. Masonic lodges are a great place to meet people and share ideas and viewpoints a person otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. This has led to overrepresentation of Masons in politics, particularly during the foundation of the United States. Prior to the 20th century, Masons rarely if ever crested above 10% of the population, but 16% of the signers of the Constitution were Masons and Masons continued to wax influential in American politics from that time forward. Some of the more enlightened Northern states may have had as high as 40-50% of their elected officials as Masons of all religious stripes.
Masonry was a cultural meme Joseph Smith could never escape and it had incredible influence on his life.
One aspect of Joseph Smith’s history which has yet to be explored was his use of a hat to deprive himself of light whilst hunting for buried treasure.
In 1866 a book was released which has become a bit of a standard-bearer of mid-19th century Masonry called Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor. The end provides a glossary which may help explain Jo’s mechanism of treasure-digging.
“EYESIGHT.--He who has been temporarily deprived of his sight is reduced to the condition of a new-born babe, or of one of those unfortunate individuals whose natural infirmity renders the presence of a conductor indispensably necessary; but when there are no outward objects to distract his attention, it is then that with the eye of reflection he probes into the deepest and
darkest recesses of his own heart, and discovers his natural imperfections and impurities much more readily than he could possibly have done had he not been deprived of his sight. This short deprivation of sight has kindled in his heart a spark of the brightest and purest flame. . . We must further admit, that those who have been deprived of their sight, and who have hopes of being restored to it, strive most industriously and diligently to obtain it; that they have no greater desire, and that they will most readily pledge themselves to do all that can be required of them, in order to obtain that inestimable blessing.
A man who has been deprived of his sight may be introduced into places where he is surrounded by the strangest and the rarest objects, without a possibility of his becoming a traitor. At the same time, those who are in possession of their sight cannot feel the care of their guides so much as those who are hoodwinked, and who feel that without the constant attention of their conductors they would be much more helpless than they now are; but, however many proofs of attention and care they may receive, there is still something left to wish for; and to the question, What is your chief desire? the answer will ever assuredly be, "Light."--Gadicke.”
A man named Hosea Ballou is known as the father of Universalism and was a Mason in good-standing as he propagated his doctrine throughout early America. Joseph Smith’s father and 2 of his uncles were universalists and Masons.
With uncles Asael Smith, John Smith, and father Joseph Smith Sr. being so wrapped up in Masonry, Universalism, and the occult, Joseph was literally surrounded by Masons during his most formative years as a child and teenager.
Then, something extremely prominent and public occurred in Joseph’s own backyard.
William Morgan affair
Historians are unable to determine Morgan’s motivations behind writing his expose of 1826. He was a Mason in goodstanding and it seems as if he wanted to write a manual for the ascendency rituals but was denied permission. His book takes some seemingly antagonistic approaches as most exposes of Masonry do, so it’s unclear where his motivations may have been upon writing and publishing the work. Regardless of his motivations, what happened in the wake of his expose is undeniable. A new uprising of anti-Masonic rhetoric entered the public lexicon and was used to smear Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign. The Masons who allegedly kidnapped Morgan passed through the Canandaigua lodge which was the nearest to Palmyra at a time when Hyrum Smith had just become an entered apprentice.
And of course, we can’t forget to mention that William Morgan’s widow, Lucinda Morgan Pendleton, became one of Joseph’s polygamist wives during the brief year Joseph spent in Missouri in 1838. There’s no possible way for historians to conclude that Joseph wasn’t familiar with the Morgan affair.
The introduction to Morgan’s expose was written by the publisher, Col. David C. Miller who described what had happened and articulated the necessity of the work in spite of any threats of danger from Masons who were unhappy with the work being published. It reads in part:
“In the absence of the author, or rather compiler of the following work, who was kidnapped and carried away from the village of Batavia, on the 11th day of September, 1826, by a number of Freemasons, it devolves upon the publisher to attempt to set forth some of the leading views that governed those who embarked in the undertaking…
It is not our intentions, however, to give a full details of the whims and caprices of man to bring forth the historic records of other years as proof of the windings and shiftings of the various characters who have “Strutted their brief hour on life’s stage” in order to convince that customs, associations, and institutions are like the lives of the authors and abettors, fleeting and fragile. Many of them rise up as bubbles on the ocean, and die away. Circumstances give them existence, and when these causes cease to exist, they go into the same gulf of oblivion as countless exploded opinions and tenets have gone before them. The mind that formed and planned them, goes on in its dazzling flight, bounding over barrier after barrier, till it has arrived at the ultimate goal of consummation.”
In the fallout of the William Morgan expose affair, Masonic lodges all over shut down. Legislation was introduced in multiple states to bar Masons from running for office. The official anti-Masonic political party was organized, igniting nationwide tensions which took more than a decade to overcome and some of the vestiges of this anti-Masonic fervor exist to this day.
Amidst this public strife and conflict, Joseph was aging into young adulthood and forming the ideas behind his seminal work, the Book of Mormon.
Joseph was exposed to Masonry just as much as occultism in lieu of a structured public education. An important distinction needs to be made. Masonry merely provided a place where men could exchange ideas and information with each other. Occultism was one of the many fields of expertise the Smith family shared with their fellow occult magicians, some of whom may have been Masons. Masonry is the school; the occult, alchemy, mathematics, herbal medicine, etc are the curricula.
Those who practiced occult magick often had their motives ascribed to Masonry from outside observers. From Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview page 69:
“In the eighteenth century, Freemasons also began publishing John Locke’s alleged letter commenting on a fifteenth-century document which accused Masons of trying to conceal their ability “of wynnynge the facultye of Abrac.” From 1775 to 1840 William Preston’s discussion of the Faculty of Abrac in his pro-Masonic Illustrations of Masonry went through fifteen English and two American editions. Some late-nineteenth-century Masons disavowed both documents as forgeries, yet earlier Freemasons frequently used this allegedly medieval document to help establish the “antiquity” of Masonry. However, Preston’s note in the text of Locke’s disputed commentary as if it were a note by Locke himself. However, this common Masonic use of the letter obscured the fact that Masons rejected the accusation that they practices ceremonial magic.
Anti-Masonic writers were eager to accept the implications of the Freemasonry-magic connection that Masonic writers had unintentionally encouraged with their use of the document’s reference to “Faculty of Abrac.” In 1828 New Yorker Henry Dana Ward anonymously published under the pseudonym “A Master Mason” an influential anti-Masonic expose that made the magic-Masonry connection explicit. The first time Ward quoted the phrase, he altered it to read: “the way of winning the faculty of magic,” even though he cited as his source an official Masonic publication that used “Abrac” not “magic.””
Occult ritualism and Masonic ritualism have different scopes and esoteric meanings, yet they still function in much the same way in practice through physically acting out narratives. People act out passion narratives of stories, biblical or otherwise, and use those narratives to teach lessons and initiate investigators into their respective schools of philosophy or theology. It should be noted that these passion narratives can be coopted and altered by individuals in order to create their own club or initiation rite. Masonic ascendency rituals have changed over time and vary by whichever rite the initiate seeks to join. In this same vein, the original temple ceremonies Joseph Smith introduced have significantly changed in subtle ways as they’ve passed from generation to generation.
Once Mormonism was started in 1830, Joseph continued to be influenced by Masons who held prominent leadership roles within the Church.
Not only does the Book of Mormon pay homage to secret combinations, but Jo’s Book of Moses published in 1832 as a revision of the creation myth used verbiage which could be ascribed to Cain’s association with spurious Masonry as a depraved secret combination, however, other historians like Quinn have ascribed the verbiage and phrasing as descending specifically from Kabbala.
From Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview:
“The Book of Mormon and Smith’s 1830 Book of Moses both referred to an ancient American organization of murderous black magic. This is more clearly demonstrated by an item of evidence usually used by those who interpret these books as anti-Masonic. The Book of Moses described the origin of the secret combination that plagued the Book of Mormon: “And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die[,]… and this day I will delivery thy brother Abel into thine hands. And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret. And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness” (Moses 5:29-31, 51; Hel. 6:27; Eth. 8:15). Proponents of an anti-Masonic interpretation of early Mormon scripture have claimed that this referred to Freemasonry’s office of Master Mason.”
Quinn goes on to argue that ascribing this language to anti-Masonic rhetoric is spurious and that the linguistics of the passage seem to lend themselves to Kabbala genesis. It should be noted that Kabbala was making significant inroads to American culture in the late 18th and early 19th centuries being largely promulgated through communication among Masons interested in unlocking the secrets of the Zohar. Jo’s invocation of Kabbala language is merely one more indicator that he was likely influenced by teachings of fellow Mason polymaths long before he ever officially joined the Masons in early 1842.
Beyond the Books of Mormon and Moses, early Mormon hierarchy uses some starkly Masonic language. Beginning in 1830, Joseph organized the hierarchy of the Church to be led by himself and Oliver Cowdery as first and second Elder of the Church. As the membership grew and various needs evolved out of that growth, more leadership and middle-management positions began entering the fray. Joseph Smith introduced the brethren to the idea of the Melchizedek Priesthood around 1834-35 when many of his closest advisors had increasing influence on Jo’s theology. Around this same time Jo introduced the High Priesthood Quorum and the differentiation between Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and the story of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John conferring said priesthoods emerged around the same time. Many of these terms are shared in the Scottish rite of Masonry which may exhibit a genetic link between the respective hierarchies.
From an article on a Masonic website titled the Traveling Templar we find some details of the time and place where this terminology definitively entered the Masonic lexicon.
“The first authenticate record of this Order is to be found in the proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Ohio in 1828. The Order of High Priesthood dates from the year of the blessing of Abraham by the high priest, Melchizedek, King Salem... The Order’s ritual was compiled and arranged by Robert Macoy. In addition, recommend reading KJV Hebrews 7: 1, 5, 17, 20 & 21:
“For this Melchizedek, King of Salem, priest of the most high GOD, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being by interpretation, King of righteousness, and after that also, King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of GOD, abides a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily, they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham. For he testifies, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest. For those priests (under the Levitical law) were made without an oath; but this with an oath, by him that said unto him, the LORD has sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Merely exhibiting similar terminology doesn’t necessarily imply causality, however the timing and location being so close to Joseph’s early ministry in Kirtland, Ohio lend increased viability to the claim.
We can’t ignore just how surrounded by Masonry Joseph Smith was during his entire ministry.
Elite Mormon Masons
Kirtland was just the beginning of Mormonism’s intermingling with Masonry. As Cheryl goes on to articulate, the highly-secretive Danites during the Missouri year of 1838 likely had Masonic roots.
Joseph Masonry k-town - Danites
Finally, Jo escaped from Liberty Jail in Spring of 1839 and sought to build his kingdom on the Mississippi from the ground up. If you’re going to build anything, Masons are there to help. Throughout all the building efforts of Nauvoo, which was a swampland when the Mormons began settling there, Masonry would slowly creep further and further into the belief system of Joseph Smith. Jo began running in circles with powerful Masons who were politicians in order to garner the necessary favors for the Mormons to peaceably settle in Illinois and Iowa. John C. Bennett, close friend and roommate of the prophet until late Spring 1842, was a Mason in addition to being quartermaster General of the Illinois state militia. Bennett supplied the Nauvoo Legion with the munitions to make them a proper fighting force. Bennett likely used his Masonic connections to help the Mormons lobby the state governments and pass the Nauvoo Charter during the final legislative session of 1840. Bennett was summarily elected mayor of Nauvoo and continued to elevate the Mormon’s position and influence in state politics until his toxic break-up with Joseph Smith over spiritual wifery amidst other complaints.
However, it should be noted that the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge was seemingly installed under false pretenses. Masonry had suffered in Illinois from the Morgan affair and was just beginning to make a revival in the state of Illinois. Grand Master Abraham Jonas was the Mason who gave the Nauvoo Lodge its charter, but the political motivations of Jonas may help add a bit more depth to the situation and resulting controversy among Masons.
Nauvoo Lodge Controversy
Jo ascends at-sight and following controversy
Grand Master Jonas Political Motivations
Motivations for Masonry and Temple Ceremonies:
Joseph Smith could take multiple disparate fields of philosophy and mingle them together in a way which properly comported with his own personal beliefs system. Joseph was able to gather information from multiple unrelated sects of religion or philosophy and smash them into a coherent narrative in his mind. Masonry served to be the fountainhead for Jo to continually come into contact with people of all schools of thought and through multiple conversation would eventually evolve his own beliefs to accommodate their rational argumentation to which he was frequently exposed. Historians have claimed that the LDS temple endowment ceremony wasn’t based on Masonry and that the similarities aren’t coincidental, but superficial. The timing of Joseph revealing the endowment ceremony a mere 7 weeks after he ascended to Master Mason needs to be remain a consideration in attempting to ascribe causal links between Mason and Mormon rituals.
Fawn Brodie argued in No Man Knows My History on page 279 as follows:
“The Mormon Temple endowment ceremony is without a doubt taken from the Masonic ceremonies Joseph Smith participated in just weeks before he introduced the temple endowment. The grips, tokens, covenants, secret words, keys, etc. were word for word the same when first introduced. Members who were Masons previous to Joseph joining the fraternal order unashamedly referred to the Mormon endowment as "celestial masonry."
Mervin Hogan in his 1991 book, Freemasonry and Mormon Ritual, articulated a causal link between the rituals as well in saying the following:
“[L]ittle room for doubt can exist in the mind of an informed, objective analyst that the Mormon Temple Endowment and the rituals of ancient Craft Masonry are seemingly intimately and definitely involved.”
A contemporary account lends some insight into the Joseph’s mentality behind appropriating the Masonic rituals for the temple endowment ceremony. In a letter from Heber the Creeper Kimball to P-cubed Parley Parker Pratt, he said the following:
“Bro Joseph Ses[says] Masonary was taken from preasthood but has become degen[e]rated. But menny things are perfect.”
It seems from this prevalence of information that Joseph had an idea that the Masonic ritual did indeed descend from Solomon’s temple, as many Masons believed in his day, and that his adjusted version of the ritual was merely restoring it to its perfect form. There was a certain fascination held by Jo and the other elders with ancient rituals and the mysteries which they frequently employed during said rituals. There are many differences between Masonic ascendency rituals and Jo’s endowment ceremony, but we can’t ignore the similarities.
This is a large subject and dozens of historians have articulated this better than I ever could, but let’s review the similarities we see between the Josephite endowment ceremony and common iterations of the Masonic ascendency ritual contemporary with Jo’s ministry.
Similarities in ritual- http://www.mormonismi.net/jamesdavid/masendow.htm
This is where we’re actually talking about the rituals themselves. If you don’t want to hear about them for any reason, skip the next few minutes. This isn’t exhaustive and certain variations exist depending on which rite of Masonry and which era of Mormon temple ritual we’re discussing, but this list will get us familiar with some of the overt similarities.
MASONIC PREPARATION ROOM
"He is ushered into the "preparation room" where he meets the Junior Deacon and Stewards who divest him of all his clothing except his shirt. He is then handed an old pair of drawers which he puts on; ..."
MORMON DRESSING ROOM
"The candidate, being directed to these washing and dressing rooms and having divested himself of all his clothing, awaits his time in bath with his special inner garments over his shoulder."
"The candidate then enters, the Senior Deacon at the same time pressing his naked left breast with the point of the compass,..."
"... on the garments -- the compass on the left [breast]..."
"As he enters, the angle of the square is pressed hard against his naked right breast,..."
"...the square on the right side [of the garment]..."
MASONS WASHING CEREMONY
"Master orders the basin of the perfumed water and a clean napkin to be brought to him, and directs candidate to wash his hands, which he does...Master takes a box of perfumed ointment and annoints candidate on his head, eyes, mouth, heart, the tip of his right ear, hand, foot, and says -- You are now, my dear brother, received a member of our society;..." ***
MORMON WASHING CEREMONY
"As the candidate is washed, the official hurries through the lustration ritual .... the candidate is passed on to another attendent and is anointed with oil. The oil is very definitely applied to various organs of his body."
MASONS PRESENTING NEW NAME TO CANDIDATE
"I also present you with a new name; it is CAUTION"
MORMON TEMPLE WORKER PRESENTS NEW NAME TO CANDIDATE "With these garments I give you a new name which is never to be divulged to anyone ... The name I shall give you is ________."
MAN REPRESENTING ADAM IN MASONIC CEREMONY
"Thrice Puissant Grand Master, representing Father Adam, is stationed in the east." *** (This occurs in the Knight of the Sun Degree.)
MAN REPRESENTING ADAM IN MORMON CEREMONY
"Elohim -- (Turning to the audience) -- 'This man who is now being operated upon is Michael who helped form the world. When he awakes ... he will be known as Adam"
MAN REPRESENTING DEITY IN MASONIC CEREMONY
"One of the members now personates the Deity, behind the bush, and calls out Moses! Moses!" *** (This occurs in the Royal Arch Degree.)
MAN REPRESENTING GOD IN MORMON CEREMONY
"When all is quiet, a man dressed in white flannels, representing Elohim, comes from behind the curtain..."
MASONS USE A MALLET
"...he gives a rap with the common gavel or mallet, ..."
MORMONS USE A MALLET
"...one of the temple workers, ... gives three raps with a mallet..."
MASONIC ENTERED APPRENTICE VS. FIRST TOKEN OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD
MASONIC PENALTY SIGN
"Made from the due-guard by dropping the left hand carelessly; at the same time raise the right arm and draw the hand, still open, across the throat, thumb next [to] the throat, and drop the hand perpendicular by the side."
MORMON PENALTY SIGN
"In executing the sign of the penalty, the right hand, palm downward, is drawn sharply across the throat, then dropped from the square to the side"
"The right hands are joined together as in shaking hands and each sticks his thumb nail into the third joint or upper end of the fore finger."
"The Grip -- Hands clasped, pressing the knuckle of the index finger with the thumb"
MASONIC WORDING CONCERNING THE GRIP
"The Master and candidate holding each other by the grip, as before described, the Master says. 'What is this?'
"Ans. 'A grip.'
"A grip of what?'
"Ans. 'The grip of an Entered Apprentice Mason.'
"'Has it a name?'
"Ans. 'It has.'
"Will you give it to me?'
"Ans. 'I did not so receive it, neither can I so impart it.'
MORMON WORDING CONCERNING THE GRIP
"Peter -- 'What is that?'
"Adam -- 'The first token of the Aaronic Priesthood.'
"Peter -- 'Has it a name?'
"Adam -- 'It has.'
"Peter -- 'Will you give it to me?'
"Adam -- 'I can not, for it is connected with my new name, but this is the sign.'
"... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots ..."
"We and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any secrets of this... Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots."
MASONIC FELLOW CRAFT VS. SECOND TOKEN OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD
"...binding myself under no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder."
"We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this ... Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies "
MASONIC PENALTY SIGN
"The sign is given by drawing your right hand flat, with the palm of it next to your breast from the left to the right side with some quickness, and dropping it down by your side"
MORMON PENALTY SIGN
"The Sign is made by placing the left arm on the square at the level of the shoulder, placing the right hand across the chest with the thumb extended and the drawing it rapidly from the left to right and dropping it"
"Take each other's hands as in ordinary hand-shaking and press the top of your thumb hard against the space between the first and second knuckles of the right hand."
"The Grip is given by clasping the hand and pressing the thumb in the hollow between the first and second knuckle of the hand."
MASONIC NAME GIVEN
"Brother, I now present you with my right hand, in token of brotherly love and confidence, and with it the pass-grip and word of a Fellow Craft Mason .... the name of it is Shibboleth."
MORMON NAME GIVEN
"The Name is the given name of the candidate."
MASONIC MASTER MASON VS. FIRST AND SECOND TOKEN OF THE MELCHIZEDECH PRIESTHOOD
"The sign is given by raising both hands and arms to the elbows, perpendicular, one each side of the head, the elbows forming a square."
"The sign is made by bringing both hands to the square, palms to the front
MASONIC PENALTY SIGN
"The Penal Sign is given by putting the right hand to the left side of the bowels, the hand open, with the thumb next to the belly, and letting it fall; this is done tolerably quick."
MORMON PENALTY SIGN
"As the last words are spoken the hands are dropped till the thumbs are in the center of the stomach and drawn swiftly across the stomach to the hips, and then dropped to the sides."
"binding myself under no less penalty than to have my body severed in two in the midst..."
"We and each one of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this... Should we do so, we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out."
"Grasp each other's right hands very firmly, the spaces between the thumb and first finger being in interlocked and the tops of the fingers being pressed hard against each other's wrist where it joins the hand, the fingers of each being somewhat spread."
MORMON GRIP (Slightly Different Method of Grip)
"The Grip is made by grasping the hand, the forefinger on center of the wrist and little fingers locked"
MASONIC GRAND HAILING SIGN AND DUE GUARD
"The sign is given by raising both hands and arms to the elbows, perpendicularly, one on each side of the head, the elbows forming a square."
"The due guard is made by holding both hands in front, palms down..."
MORMON PAY, LAY, ALE
"The sign is made by elevating both the arms above the head ... the arms dropped to the square,... and then to the sides."
"While the Wardens are examining the candidate, the Master returns to the east and gets an apron, and as he returns to the candidate... The Master then says to the candidate, "Brother, I now have the honor to present you with a lamb-skin or white apron..."
"Adam-- (Turning to the audience)-- 'In your bundles brethren and sisters, you will each find an apron, you will now put it on."
MASONIC RAISING OF HIRAM ABIFF vs. MORMON VEIL
MASONIC FIVE-POINTS OF FELLOWSHIP AS HIRAM ABIFF's DEAD BODY IS
"He (the candidate) is raised on what is called the five points of fellowship, which are foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back and mouth to ear."
MORMON FIVE-POINTS OF FELLOWSHIP AT THE VEIL
"The five points of fellowship are given by putting the inside of the right foot to the inside of the Lord's, the inside of your knee to his, laying your breast close to his, your left hands on each other's backs, and each one putting his mouth to the other's ear...."
MASTER MASON RAISING CANDIDATE
"The Master, in raising him, is assisted by some of the brethren, who take hold of the candidate by the arms and shoulders; as soon as he is raised to his feet, they step back, and the Master whispers the word ###### in his ear, and causes the candidate to repeat it, telling him that he must never give it in any manner other than that in which he receives it. He is told that ###### signifies marrow in the bone. They then separate ..."
MORMON PASSING THROUGH THE VEIL
At the five points of fellowship "... one putting his mouth to the other's ear, in which position the Lord whispers: Lord--'This is the sign of the token: 'Health to the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and sinews, and power in the priesthood be upon me and my posterity through all generations of time and throughout all eternity."
The similarities don’t stop at just the rituals themselves as Mormon temples are covered in Masonic symbology.
We can chart Masonic influence in Mormonism by simply comparing the architecture of the Kirtland temple dedicated in 1836 to that of the Nauvoo Temple dedicated after Joseph’s death but planned and largely constructed during his lifetime. The Kirtland temple includes very few if any architectural Masonic symbols, however the Nauvoo temple is covered with moon phases and moon-shaped windows, Sunstones, handshakes, the all-seeing eye, beehives, and a number of other not-so-subtle allusions to Masonry. Even the original weathervane for the Nauvoo Temple wasn’t the angel Moroni, but an angel flying horizontally with a trumpet and Masonic robe with a small Masonic square and compass at the bottom.
SLC Temple is the keystone of Mormon Masonry, the symbology is everywhere. The original plans had even more Masonic symbolism than the actual structure as it stands today, some items were removed during construction for various reasons. Initially the windows were supposed to be bordered by a compass and square, but the plans didn’t make it to construction likely due to cost.
Alcoves beside doors with two busts of Joseph and Hyrum Smith are Masonic in that alcoves usually housed busts of John the Baptist and John the Revelator on either side of a door.
Star of David appears in a lot of Masonic art and most temples have multiple stars or stars of David in the stone or windows.
Sunstone, moon windows, stars. Big dipper.
Masonry is simply everywhere in Mormonism. The thing is, Masonry in Mormonism is treated very differently today than it was when the ceremonies first were introduced into Mormon doctrine. The modern Church doesn’t actively divorce itself from Masonry, but it surely isn’t regularly discussed by any stretch of imagination. The early Mormon were open about it. Many of them like Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, they all knew Joseph restored the ancient mysteries to the true form which had been largely preserved by Masonry since the temple of Solomon. It doesn’t seem like they thought that Joseph lifted the ceremonies straight from Masonry, it’s seems more as if they were fully aware of the Masonic rites and thought the Mormon temple endowment was merely a purer form of the rites. They had no reason to hide from it.
Brigham Young called the endowment ceremony “celestial Masonry”
Heber C. Kimball: “We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.”
This wealth of similarities and the coinciding timing from when Joseph ascended to Master Mason and the endowment ceremonies being introduced seem to point to genetic contribution from Masonry to the endowment ceremony, but is one truly derived from the other? Quinn argues in opposition in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview on page 226:
“Mormon officials and scholars generally agree that Mormonism reached its doctrinal apex in 1842-44, when Smith gave instructions about “the temple endowment.” Some interpreters, both non-Mormons and Mormons, have described the endowment as borrowed directly from contemporary Freemasonry. Although there are superficial similarities of symbol and rite between Masonic rituals and the Mormon endowment, I believe that the underlying philosophy and purpose of the two were fundamentally different. Mormon revelation, in fact, proclaimed that the LDS endowment directly restored what Masonry acknowledged it had only some connection with—the occult mysteries of the ancient world.”
Quinn goes on to summarize what these “mysteries of the ancient world” were in language contemporary with Joseph Smith:
“From Smith’s time to the present, these ancient mysteries have been viewed as the climax of the occult tradition and magic world view. In 1790 a book repeatedly stated that “the mysteries occultly signified” various meanings. New York’s Lutheran president observed in 1810: “The mysteries were not only a great support to magic, but they also gave to it a new and more shining appearance.” An 1817 study of the Eleusinian mysteries commented: “If it were possible to lift the veil which covers the mysteries of Eleusis, we should possess a key to the mysteries of Egypt and of the East.” Under the heading of “THE EXERCISE OF OCCULT POWER,” a multi-volume encylocpedia included “the Ancient Mysteries” and “Necromancy.” Maurice Bouisson wrote a generation ago that “it was in the Mysteries that sympathetic magic achieved its full development.”
Quinn goes on to quote from the Messenger and Advocate, the Church periodical in 1837, where it speaks directly of the Eleusinian mysteries:
“Erutheus, who cultivated the plains of Eleusis, instituted the Eleusinian mysteries. These mysteries were of a religious and moral nature, conveying the doctrines of the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of reward and punishment. Cicero speaks of them in terms of high commendation. But the ceremonies connected with them, were childish and ridiculous.”
Quinn quotes Hugh Nibley to explain why we find such direct influence of these old mysteries in early Mormon theology and practice when he said:
“In the early days of the Church the mysteries of the past intrigued and aroused the brethren.”
Conclusion and Book plug
Conclusion NEEDS A LOT OF WORK
We’ll never be able to get inside Jo’s head. Whatever Mormonism was from 1830-44 under Joseph Smith, in his mind it was a coherent and fluid system of religious beliefs which could adapt and evolve dependent on whatever Jo happened to be exposed to at any given time.
If Joseph Smith plagiarized Masonic rituals for his endowment ceremony, does that somehow invalidate Mormonism as the one true religion? This question means nothing to a person who doesn’t believe in Mormonism, but for Mormons, this could be a challenge to reconcile. As the one true gospel on the earth, belief in Mormonism hinges on the claim that Joseph was the prophet who spoke directly to God to restore the one true religion. How can the one true religion be plagiarized from other religions? A loophole exists here, other religions have pieces of truth, but Mormonism has the full and complete truth.
Seeing so many religions and philosophies from which Mormonism descended, there’s no reason to view it differently from every other religion. Take protestant Christianity and a healthy dose of Universalism, mix in some Baptist communalism, add post-enlightenment occultism partway through the mixing process, pass through the mill of Masonry, bake at 451 fahrenheit for 33 years, season with Swedenborgianism and a pinch of Rosicrucianism, divide into twelve equal portions and serve with a moderate helping of Kabbala and you’ve got a brand-new religion and the whole is somehow greater than the sum of the constituent parts. Mormonism isn’t original. Unique, yes, but original? Exhibit one belief Joseph sincerely held and taught as doctrine which had never been practiced before in some form and you still wouldn’t prove he was original. He merely synthesized and called it restoring the original. Even then, we’re still a long way off from proving he’s a true prophet of god, whatever it is that means.
Do I dare make the bold assertion that there’s no such thing as an original religion? Religions evolve organically from the fertile soil from which they spring, but I’ve yet to see a single religion which truly arose from a spiritual and philosophical vacuum. Religions come from other religions, they influence and descend from each other. Some gain more traction than others, some die out with a few sparse believers. Some take over massive swaths of land and resources, others are too exclusive to allow more than a few families to be followers. Not all religions are equal, but they’re all RELIGIONS! And I can’t wrap my mind around treating Mormonism different than any other Protestant sect when viewing with the lens of a religious historian.
So, if we can explicitly describe the philosophies and religions which Mormonism evolved from, does that make it any less true? Would the inverse nullify the proposition? If we can explicitly show that Mormonism didn’t evolve from any other religions or philosophy which existed prior to Joseph Smith publishing the Book of Mormon, does that make it true?
Believing members who are unaware of everything presented today who are nonetheless critical thinkers may have some serious issues knowing that they go to the temple to perform a largely Masonic ritual. If a person is basing their belief in Mormonism on the originality of the doctrine or the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, it’s understandable how this information may force them to take pause and reexamine what it is they believe. They can say Jo made it all up based on what was around him, which seems a rational conclusion. They can compartmentalize and let their faith go on preserved in its ignorant form and put it up on their ever-creaking shelf. Or, they can truly emulate the founding prophet, Joseph Smith, and evolve their beliefs system to incorporate Jo’s Masonry. Whatever the decision, it’s never worth it to sacrifice one’s own critical thinking and rationality for untenable religious beliefs.
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