Best of FAIR 14: The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry

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Why are there so many similarities between the rituals and symbols of Freemasonry and the symbols and rituals found in Mormon temples? In this address from the 2005 FAIR Conference, Greg Kearney, a master mason, discusses the involvement of Joseph Smith and early members of the Church in Freemasony and gives his opinions as to why there are so many parallels between Freemasonry and Mormon Temple rituals.

The text of his presentation can be found here.

Greg Kearney was born and raised in Maine and is a life-long member of the Church. He graduated from BYU with a BFA degree in design and completed graduate work in American Studies focusing his research on Freemasonry and its influence on American history. He is a member of Franklin Lodge #123 in New Sharon, Maine as well as several lodges of research in the U.S. and Europe.

The opinions expressed in this address do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.

To purchase tickets to the 2013 FAIR Conference, visit this page. This short video clip also provides more information: FAIR Conference video clip.

27 thoughts on “Best of FAIR 14: The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry

  1. TheodoreB

    I find Greg Kearny’s presentation interesting and well thought out. I think that his concept of the Temple ritual stemming partly from Freemasonry, but the Endowment does not, has some validity. What is not clear is where Freemasonry obtained the ritual? As Greg points out, Freemasonry claims it came from the rituals of Solomon’s, Temple but it can only be traced back to 975 AD in England. However, two Masons, Dr. Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, researched the history of Freemasonry for six years and published their findings in the UK in 1996 in the book, “The Hiram Key.” Much of Freemasonry have disavowed their findings but I hear a ring of truth in them.

    They are convinced that the Knights Templar, the Crusader knights who guarded the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, found scrolls buried there which described these rituals. It is quite reasonable that this could be the link from Tenth Century England back to Solomon’s Temple. The Endowment ritual would have been practiced in the Ancient Israelite Temples for a few of the living. Kings, prophets and other righteous men such as Lehi would have held the Melchizedek Priesthood and would have been endowed in the Temple. These rituals would have been written down and stored in the Temple even as they are today.

    I agree with Greg that some of the Temple ritual came to Joseph Smith through Freemasonry, but not because he recognized it as good way to teach the unlearned. I believe the Prophet recognized the true source of the ritual as coming from God.

  2. Ned Scarisbrick

    You may have misunderstood what Greg meant. We now know that the ritual we have today in the masonic lodge did NOT come from king Solomon’s temple. It was established by Anderson’s constitution of 1723 along with the Hiram legend. The presentation of the endowment is the teaching method, not the endowment. The endowment is the covenants we make. It is my view as a Mormon and a mason that this teaching method is of great value for symbolism can be a great teacher if we open our hearts to its lessons.

  3. TheodoreB

    Ned,

    I think I understood what Greg was saying, I just disagree with him on why Joseph Smith incorporated similar rituals.

    There are many older Masonic manuscripts which James Anderson had access to and from which he produced his 1723 Constitutions. Knight and Lomas trace origins back through Sir William St. Clair, Grand Master of the Scottish Templars in the early 1300s. If Anderson thought all this up by himself, from whence comes the claimed connection back to the Temple of Solomon, and why the Templar rituals and symbols in Freemasonry?

  4. Ned Scarisbrick

    One thing we do know about king Solomon’s temple is that there is nothing about making masons, a lodge of entered apprentice , fellow craft or master masons. What we have today is symbolic representations layered upon the building story of the temple. There is in the old testament what we would consider a “password” found in Judges 12:4-6 called shibboleth. There is a computer protection service called by the same name but we both know that it has nothing to with ancient Israel. As you may know the Knight Templars are s part of freemasonry we called the York Rite. This group is the for Christians and the Scottish Rite group is for all other faiths if you want to join a addition to basic blue lodge masonry. These Knight Templars has nothing to do with the organization that was set up by the Catholic church during the crusades era. The masonic version of the Templars is based on being a man who’s honor is his faith. There is no evidence that the protector knights of the temple ever found any scrolls or secret rituals relating to the king Solomon’s temple. Interesting speculation to be sure but no evidence.

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  6. Lance Delano

    Do we really know, from exant documentation, all that took place in Solomon’s temple? To whom would have the endowment been given, in those days? If administered, it seems it would have been severely restricted, and the documentation therefore, similarly restricted.

  7. Ned Scarisbrick

    It’s my understanding that the endowment was not carried out in Solomon’s temple. All the ordinances were of the Aaronic order carried out by the Levite priests as explained in the old testament. I was not there so I could be wrong but I have not come across any information that would lead me to believe otherwise.

  8. Akohli

    I recommend the study of the Old Testament and the patterns of symbolism as set forth in the Temple rites of that time. For example, the meanings of the symbols on the Ark of the Covenant and various parts of the rituals will reveal the meaning of many of the symbols which will open the understanding of the rites and rituals as now set forth in the Temple. For example, the Horns on the 4 corners of the Ark of the Covenant represented the power of the priesthood. Which by the way, also solves the question as to why Michael Angelo put horns on the head of Moses; to symbolize the priesthood power Moses used to part the Red Sea and other miracles performed through that power. Also, study of the Voudois or Waldensians who fled to the caves of the French-Italian Alps and tried in their own way to save the Temple rites and covenants which may also show patterns that refer back to original Temple rites.

  9. Joe Steve Swick III

    TheodoreB: “What is not clear is where Freemasonry obtained the ritual?”

    The Master Mason’s Degree was *invented* by Freemasons sometime after the year 1717, after the founding of the very first Grand Lodge on June 24th of that year. While the legenda of the Craft regarding Hiram predates this by quite some time, the ritual is a relatively late invention. So, too, the Holy Royal Arch degree (most significant to Latter-day Saint history and tradition), created in about 1730. In other words, they didn’t *obtain* these rituals in the way you suggest: they created them.

    TheodoreB: “As Greg points out, Freemasonry claims it came from the rituals of Solomon’s, Temple but it can only be traced back to 975 AD in England.” Let us not confuse things here. Modern speculative Freemasonry MAY extend back to 975 AD, but that is quite different from arguing that modern Masonic *ritual* extends back to 975. There is absolutely no evidence for that. Further, the legendary claims of the Craft are just that: LEGENDARY. That legend actually states that Masonry (i.e., the Science of Geometry) was first taught by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, who wrote it down in a book, passed down to his posterity.

    Quibbling over ritual similarities is to miss the forest because of the trees. The truth is that Mormonism as a faith tradition owes a debt to Freemasonry far greater than any ritual borrowing.

  10. Joe Steve Swick III

    “Two Masons, Dr. Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, researched the history of Freemasonry for six years and published their findings in the UK in 1996 in the book, “The Hiram Key.” Much of Freemasonry have disavowed their findings but I hear a ring of truth in them.”

    The Hiram Key is a work of pseudo-historical fiction. That is why it is rejected by any serious Masonic historian or scholar. I understand why such a book might be of interest to Mormons, but I’d not wish to make any kind of argument based upon such fantasy. Mormons are already saddled with the burden of accepting parts of the legendary history of Freemasonry as literally true. To compound this by mixing in the Hiram Key is to make matters much, much worse.

  11. Joe Steve Swick III

    Akohli: “the Horns on the 4 corners of the Ark of the Covenant” Hmm. Wasn’t aware that the Ark of the Covenant had horns. Thought that these were on the Altar.

    Akohli: “[This] also solves the question as to why Michael Angelo put horns on the head of Moses; to symbolize the priesthood power Moses used to part the Red Sea and other miracles performed through that power.” No, the reason Michelangelo put horns on the head of Moses had to do with a mistranslation of the scripture, which mistook the Hebrew word for “glory” for its close cognate for “horn.” It is true, though, that this similarity between two Hebrew words is likely the reason for the horns on the Altar. :-)

  12. Joe Steve Swick III

    Ned: “It’s my understanding that the endowment was not carried out in Solomon’s temple. All the ordinances was of the Aaronic order carried out by the Levite priests as explained in the old testament. I was not there so I could be wrong but I have not come across any information that would lead me to believe otherwise.”

    Agreed. However, as a head nod in the direction of something akin to a Solomonic “endowment”: Kabbalists believe that the mystical content of that secret [priestly] tradition involving number, geometric, sound and color mysticism was originally passed along to initiates within the confines of the temple.

  13. Joe Steve Swick III

    Akohli: “I recommend the study of the Old Testament and the patterns of symbolism as set forth in the Temple rites of that time.”

    There is an authentic, admitted genetic connection between LDS Temple ritual and Freemasonry. It is dishonest to jump over Freemasonry into the ancient past without first exploring what is derived from Masonic sources. This isn’t to say that Mormon ritual’s similarities with the ancient past aren’t interesting, but only that such similarities may come to the LDS Temple ritual secondhand, so to speak.

    Mormon and Masonic rituals are not similar because there is a pristine proto-ritual from which both traditions draw. Rather, Mormonism borrows from Masonic rituals that date to the mid-1700′s, and are even more like contemporaneous American Masonic ritual than the earliest versions known in the 1700′s.

    This is also not an accusation of plagiarism. Joseph Smith does with Masonic ritual precisely what Masons themselves do when creating a new ritual. But, it is a bit of dishonest slight-of-hand to jump over Mormonism’s Masonic connection in a quick dash to the Bible or the ancient world, when the forms it most specifically resembles are those forms which early Mormons claim to have drawn from: Freemasonry.

  14. TheodoreB

    The ancient Temples of Israel had an outer courtyard, representing the Terrestrial World, a Holy Place, representing the Telestial World, and a Holy of Holies, representing the Celestial World, the place where God dwells. The people could enter the outer court where the sacrifices were performed, the Priests could enter the Holy Place were other rituals were performed, and the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies which was symbolic of entering into the presence of God and seeing His face. Anciently, as today, before a man could enter the Holy of Holies (Celestial Room) he first had to be washed and anointed and clothed in holy garments (Exodus 40:12-14), which is the first portion of the endowment. The scriptures do not specifically explain what other rituals, covenants and knowledge one had to receive before passing through the veil and entering into the presence of God, but that is not surprising because of their sacred nature which is not to be disclosed.

    However, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.” (D&C124:38). The ordinances of the House of the Lord preceded the creation of the earth and are always available to the righteous whenever there is a House of the Lord on the earth.

    No man can enter the Holy of Holies and symbolically (or in reality) see the face of God unless he has received the Melchizedek Priesthood (High Priesthood). Moses taught this to the Children of Israel but they rejected it, so the Melchizedek Priesthood was taken away from most of Israel (D&C 84:19-24). However, the office of High Priest is an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood in ancient Israel, even as it is today. The High Priest could not have entered the Holy of Holies into the presence of God without holding the High Priesthood. There was also a quorum of seventy Elders in ancient Israel who also would have held the Melchizedek Priesthood as they went up on the mount with Moses and saw God (Exodus 24:9-10). It would have also been their right and privilege to receive all the ordinances of the House of the Lord and to pass into the Holy of Holies. This quorum of Seventy continued down to the time of Christ as the Sanhedrin. The Twelve Princes, one leader from each tribe of Israel would also have held the Melchizedek Priesthood and been eligible to receive the full ordinances of the Temple. Then there were the kings and the prophets and probably other righteous men such as Lehi, who held the Melchizedek Priesthood and who had received all the ordinances of the Temple and had entered the Holy of Holies.

    These ordinances would have to have been written down and kept in the Temple. It is reasonable that they may have been found by the Knights Templar during the time they were guarding the Temple Mount.

  15. TheodoreB

    Joe Steve Swick III Says:
    “The Master Mason’s Degree was *invented* by Freemasons sometime after the year 1717.”

    In other words, we don’t know where it came from but it emerged sometime after 1717. Fair enough. Since the origins then are not known, and subject to speculation, please allow me speculate reasonably upon the source:

    Records in a Masonic Lodge in London show that the “Scotch Master” degree was conferred upon some in 1733, probably by visiting Masons from Scotland (what is now known as the “Scottish Rite” is a division in Freemasonry that came about a hundred years later). As it contains much Templar symbolisms it is reasonable to assume that it had its origins with Scottish Templars. History records that the Templars did not invent Freemasonry but adopted it and influenced it about this period of time. The Templars had the direct connection back to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

    Greg Kearney speculates that Joseph Smith utilized what he learned from the Masons as a teaching tool for the Endowment. I suggest that this was not the Prophets modus oporandi. He would have been impressed by the obvious connection to the Temple of Solomon and would have inquired of the Lord. The Lord would have told him, “Yes there are some vestiges of the ordinances of the House of the Lord in these rites, but here is the original and the way I want you to introduce it to the Saints of the Latter Days.”

    That would be my reasoned speculation.

  16. TheodoreB

    **Typo alert: I transposed the words Telestial and Terrestrial in the first sentence of my post July 5th, 2013 at 9:58 pm

  17. BenTanner

    There are so many symbols, hand gestures and other things that pre-date the masons and that are found all around the world. (See Nüwa and Fuxi of China for example http://www.templestudy.com/2008/09/17/nuwa-and-fuxi-in-chinese-mythology-compass-square/)

    I believe that the Masons gathered much of this into their own rituals, and therefore masonry is much like Protestantism, or Catholicism today, they have much of the truth, but not the whole thing.

    Joseph restored the real thing, both in ritual and ideas. Some of the rituals couldn’t be found in the churches of the day, but were preserved in masonry.

    So what we see in the temple is just a restoration of what was originally given to Adam and Eve. That’s why we see bits and pieces of it all around the world. Just look at Greek orthodoxy, with their veils with squares on them. Surely they didn’t steal that from masonry.

  18. Joe Steve Swick III

    TheodoreB:
    “The ancient Temples of Israel had an outer courtyard, representing the Terrestrial World, a Holy Place, representing the Telestial World, and a Holy of Holies, representing the Celestial World, the place where God dwells.”
    —–

    While this is a nice LDS reinterpretation of the significance of the threefold division of the ancient Hebrew temple, these elements held different significations for early worshipers.

    TheodoreB:
    “Anciently, as today, before a man could enter the Holy of Holies (Celestial Room) he first had to be washed and anointed and clothed in holy garments (Exodus 40:12-14), which is the first portion of the endowment.”
    —–

    The LDS rituals of clothing in garments, anointing with oil, discalceation and reception of a new name, together with the reception of names, signs, and penalties in conjunction with Three Distinct Knocks and various tests of knowledge while passing through a veil are all derived from contemporaneous Masonic rites.

    In fact, the structure of the Endowment is fundamentally Masonic, and Mormons recontextualize quite a number of Masonic elements in the Endowment ritual. I would point out that the current reference to Exodus in the initiatory work is a relatively recent innovation. It serves a similar purpose as the recitation of Psalm 113 does in Masonry.

    TheodoreB:
    “The scriptures do not specifically explain what other rituals, covenants and knowledge one had to receive before passing through the veil and entering into the presence of God, but that is not surprising because of their sacred nature which is not to be disclosed.”
    —–

    This is speculation — a supposition not based upon any facts in evidence.

    TheodoreB:
    “However, the office of High Priest is an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood in ancient Israel, even as it is today.
    ——

    The Hebrew Bible nowehere says so.

    TheodoreB:
    The High Priest could not have entered the Holy of Holies into the presence of God without holding the High Priesthood.”
    —–

    While some Christians make this argument, I see no evidence in the Hebrew Scriptures that the High Priest held Melchizedek Priesthood. This is a revisioning of something that is nowhere stated in the Hebrew Scriptures. This distinction is found in Masonry and in some Christian traditions, but not in the Old Testament, unless you read it into that text.

    I suspect that the distinction between Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods enters into Mormonism via Freemasonry, where this separation is expressly made. For instance, I’m a Past High Priest of my Royal Arch chapter, and have received the Order of High Priesthood in relation to my administrative (as opposed to sacerdotal) office therein.

    TheodoreB:
    “There was also a quorum of seventy Elders in ancient Israel who also would have held the Melchizedek Priesthood as they went up on the mount with Moses and saw God (Exodus 24:9-10)”.
    —–

    There is nothing in the Hebrew Bible stating that these Seventy held the Melchizedek priesthood.

    TheodoreB:
    ”It would have also been their right and privilege to receive all the ordinances of the House of the Lord and to pass into the Holy of Holies.”
    —–

    The record is fairly clear: only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, once per year during Yom Kippur, to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat. On this day alone, the High Priest blessed the Congregation, while invoking the Divine Name beneath the blare of Trumpets.

    To the best of my knowledge,the closest anyone besides the High Priest ever got to the Holy of Holies was the viewing of the Veil, as described by Raphael Patai in his book, The Hebrew Goddess.

    TheodoreB:
    “This quorum of Seventy continued down to the time of Christ as the Sanhedrin. The Twelve Princes, one leader from each tribe of Israel would also have held the Melchizedek Priesthood and been eligible to receive the full ordinances of the Temple. Then there were the kings and the prophets and probably other righteous men such as Lehi, who held the Melchizedek Priesthood and who had received all the ordinances of the Temple and had entered the Holy of Holies.”
    —–

    Again, these individuals would have attempted to enter the Holy of Holies at their peril, for none but the High Priest was authorized to enter there. There is no evidence whatsoever for your speculation; you will need to cite a reputable scholarly source to make your case.

    TheodoreB:
    These ordinances would have to have been written down and kept in the Temple.
    —–

    You jump from one unsupported supposition to another. There is no evidence for this whatsoever.

    TheodoreB:
    It is reasonable that they may have been found by the Knights Templar during the time they were guarding the Temple Mount.
    —–

    Not, it is not reasonable. There is no evidence that anyone but the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. There is no evidence that any ritual akin to what we have in Masonry or Mormonism was ever practiced by the priests in Solomon’s Temple. And, there is no evidence that the Knights Templar found any written record of rituals while they guarded the Temple Mount. Finally, there is no reliable evidence that the Knights Templar existed beyond their excommunication and ban by Pope Gregory, or their persecution by Philip le Bel. There is no substantial evidence that modern Masonic Knight Templars have a genetic connection with the Christian Order of the Knights of the Temple. Believing such things without substantive evidence is not reasonable.

  19. Joe Steve Swick III

    Joe Steve Swick III Says:
    “The Master Mason’s Degree was *invented* by Freemasons sometime after the year 1717.”

    TheodoreB:
    “In other words, we don’t know where it came from but it emerged sometime after 1717.”
    —-

    No, Theodore. Rather, the Master Mason’s Degree was *invented* by Freemasons, sometime after the year 1717, as I said. The Hiramic legend was crafted specifically as a Christian metaphor or allegory, and was known to Masons prior to the development of the Third Degree ritual. In fact, allusion to the Hiramic Legend appears in the Cooke Manuscript of 1410, while the name Hiram Abiff first appears in English in the Coverdale Bible of 1650. The Hiramic Legend provides specific details regarding Master Hiram which are not found in the Bible. These apocryphal details are added in to make the figure of Hiram better conform to other similar characters in the Bible. Knowing precisely what was added to the Masonic legend by comparison with these other figures gives the first clue that Hiram serves as a type of Christ.

    While some version of the Hiramic Legend existed in Freemasonry prior to the establishment of the Grand Lodge in 1717, that ritual was likely developed by the Rev. Dr. James Anderson (who in his 1723 Constitutions mentions both Hiram Abiff and the competing legend of Noah and his sons) and the Rev. Dr. J.T. Desaguliers (who in 1719 served as the third Grand Master of the first Grand Lodge). The first mention of the ritual of the Third Degree is from 1724, but this ritual may have been based upon the story of Noah and his sons, as found in the Graham MS of 1726. It seems that similar and even identical ritual elements were shared in the Noachian and Hiramic workings. However, the Hiramic Legend and associated ritual ultimately prevailed, likely because it contained compelling elements lacking in the Noachian tradition.

    The earliest full description of the Third Degree and Hiramic Legend appears in 1730 in Pritchard’s Masonry Dissected. Oblique references are also made in early Masonic catechisms.

    TheodoreB:
    Since the origins then are not known, and subject to speculation, please allow me speculate reasonably upon the source:Records in a Masonic Lodge in London show that the “Scotch Master” degree was conferred upon some in 1733, probably by visiting Masons from Scotland
    ——-

    Actually, the Scotch (or Scots) Master Degree appears to be a later development associated with Eccosais or Haute-Grade Masonry. These degrees come from France – not Scotland, as you here suggest. It is highly unlikely that the Scotch Master degree served as the origin of the current 3rd Degree ritual, which ritual made its appearance between 1717 and 1725, as I have already noted.

    TheodoreB:
    “What is now known as the “Scottish Rite” is a division in Freemasonry that came about a hundred years later.”

    While the Scottish Rite as a degree system came about nearly 100 years later, many of those rituals which came to be associated with that Rite system were practiced as a part of Haute-grade Masonry in France many years before that time. The first large exposure of the Scottish Rite rituals actually occurred in 1828, in Bernard’s Light on Masonry. As you may recall, Light on Masonry was published in upstate New York, and would have been known to most residents there.

    It is not at all likely that early French degrees gave birth to the Hiramic Legend and the Third Degree. Neither is it likely that there is any genealogical connection between eccosais Freemasonry and the historical Catholic order, the Knights Templar.

    TheodoreB:
    “As it contains much Templar symbolisms it is reasonable to assume that it had its origins with Scottish Templars. History records that the Templars did not invent Freemasonry but adopted it and influenced it about this period of time. The Templars had the direct connection back to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
    —–

    Uh, no. This is not at all “reasonable to assume.”

  20. Joe Steve Swick III

    Ben Tanner: “There are so many symbols, hand gestures and other things that pre-date the masons and that are found all around the world. (See Nüwa and Fuxi of China for example http://www.templestudy.com/2008/09/17/nuwa-and-fuxi-in-chinese-mythology-compass-square/)”
    —–

    Ancient parallels notwithstanding, it is with little dispute that these elements entered Mormonism via Freemasonry. Keep in mind that early Mormons did not call their temple ritual “Celestial Taoism,” or “Restored Zorastrianism.” Rather, they called it “Celestial Masonry” – and for good reason. I would also point out that Masons were discussing this kind of ritual similarity long before the founding of the Church in1830, Ben. Just pick up a copy of George Oliver’s Antiquities of Freemasonry to see what Joseph Smith’s contemporaries were discussing when it came to practices of the ancient world.

    Ben Tanner: “I believe that the Masons gathered much of this into their own rituals, and therefore masonry is much like Protestantism, or Catholicism today, they have much of the truth, but not the whole thing.”

    Actually, Freemasonry is nothing at all like Protestantism or Catholicism, because it is not a religion. What you say makes about as much sense as if you had said, : “I believe that the [Boy Scouts] gathered much of this into their own [Order of the Arrow], and therefore [The Boy Scouts are] much like Protestantism, or Catholicism today, they have much of the truth, but not the whole thing.”

    It seems to me that you have a mistaken notion of what Freemasonry is (and certainly do not appreciate what it was in Joseph Smith’s day), and therefore arrive at faulty conclusions about its relationship to religion in general, and to Mormonism in particular. In this regard, I’d ask you what you mean by “much of the truth,” when our discussion to this point is about ritual elements. What specific “truth” do you believe has been preserved by Freemasonry?

    Ben Tanner: “Joseph restored the real thing, both in ritual and ideas. Some of the rituals couldn’t be found in the churches of the day, but were preserved in masonry.”
    —–

    What specific things do you believe Joseph Smith recovered from Freemasonry? Over the years, many Masonic elements –which I considered fundamental parts of the Endowment – have been removed. That being so, I’d be interested to know what specific rituals you believe to have been preserved in Masonry because they are “fundamentally true.”

    I prefer to believe that the Enowment is “something old, something new, something borrowed, but its all true.” For believing Latter-day Saints, it is the power of the Priesthood which changes a submersion in water into the ordinance of Baptism. Was this “found all over the ancient world?” Yes. But it entered Christianity, with little doubt, via Judaism’s conversion ritual of washing in the mikveh. Other ancient parallels notwithstanding. IMO, as it is the Priesthood which sanctifies the ritual and transforms it into a vehicle or token of divine grace, it really doesn’t matter where the ritual element comes from. What matters is the authority by which the commonplace element is transformed into that which is salvific.
    Ben Tanner: “So what we see in the temple is just a restoration of what was originally given to Adam and Eve.”
    —–

    That is a matter of faith, and is beyond what may be established by currently-known facts of history.

    I would remind you that long before 1830, Freemasons were claiming that Masonry began in the Garden of Eden – that Adam was the first Mason, was taught the Divine Science of Geometry by God Himself; Adam wrote this in a book, and instructed his progeny thereby. The difference between Mormonism and Freemasonry, is that Masons by and large believe that their tradition serves an allegorical purpose; Mormons believe that same history is literally true.

    Ben Tanner: “Just look at Greek orthodoxy, with their veils with squares on them. Surely they didn’t steal that from masonry.”
    —–

    The Royal Arch Degree in Freemasonry contains a ritual celestial ascent into the presence of a Grand Council situated in the Holy of Holies, while passing veils and receiving tests of knowledge regarding the various names, signs, and tokens associated therewith. They recover That Which Was Lost, and in the presence of the Grand Council, are rewarded for their labors by being crowned and made Companions in what Royal Arch Masons call “The Rite of Exaltation.” The prayer associated with this degree specifically states that the Grand Council represents that Grand Council in Heaven.

    Now, I’m not saying that parallels between Mormonism and Greek Orthodoxy aren’t fascinating. But the truth you will eventually be compelled to admit is that Mormonism obtains much of its ritual and tradition from Freemasonry.

    I’m reminded of this, every time a sustaining vote is made in the Church. That religiously unique practice also appears to have entered the Church via Freemasonry. Just sayin!

  21. TheodoreB

    It sounds like the Church was not restored through revelation from God, it was restored through Freemasonry! ;-)

    I find it interesting how much effort is expended to write the Scotts out of the history of their contribution to Freemasonry. However, it is written in the stonework of the Rosslyn Chapel that was built in the 15th Century. Dr. Robert Lomas of the University of Bradford explains some of this in his lecture on the “Origins of Freemasonry” given in 2000 at the 5th International Conference of Great Priories in Stirling, Scotland.

    http://www.robertlomas.com/Freemason/Origins.html

  22. Mike Parker

    This is a very interesting conversation. Thank you, Theodore and Joe, for disagreeing without being disagreeable.

    The impression that I’ve had for some time is that the Lord wanted to reveal an ordinance through Joseph Smith, and it was only after Joseph was initiated into Freemasonry that it crystallized in his mind how this could be accomplished.

    The fact that Joseph believed Freemasonry was a corrupted form of an ancient priesthood ordinance is not as important as what he revealed through the endowment. (The same could be said of what Joseph believed about the Egyptian papyri he obtained in 1835 and the text of the Book of Abraham that he revealed.)

    I agree with Joe that the ancient connections to Freemasonry are mostly Masonic legend, without any verifiable basis. I would also agree with Theodore (and I believe Joe is on the same page here) that the Lord has used ordinances of purification and instruction throughout time, and that our endowment is the modern version of these ancient patterns.

  23. Joe Steve Swick III

    TheodoreB: “It sounds like the Church was not restored through revelation from God, it was restored through Freemasonry! ”
    ——

    I don’t suppose I’ve said anything about the restoration of the Church through revelation from God. That issue is really not one that scholarship can answer – it is a matter of faith. However, I do believe that whatever our faith may be, it is best when it engages the known facts in a way that is honest, and has real integrity.

    On the other hand, I’d not go so far as to say that the Church was “restored through Freemasonry.” Mormonism had many important formative influences, and no one thing –Masonry included– can “explain it all.” I would say, though, that Freemasonry was a rather potent force in antebellum America, and the exact nature and shape of the Masonic contribution to early American milleniallism as well as to Mormon Restorationism has not really been appreciated by very many Latter-day Saints. That Masonic influence extends to LDS scripture, tradition, and nearly every significant Mormon institution. It would seem that a few critical Masonic legends are apparently co-opted by the Saints, where they are transformed into sacred history. From the School of the Prophets to the Danites, to the Council of Fifty to the Anointed Quorum, to the Nauvoo Legion and the Relief Society – each of these may be seen as experiments with either subtle or more openly Masonic models. And more: Joseph Smith’s explication of what Sam Brown calls the “Mormon Chain of Belonging” seems to be an adaptation/expansion of the Masonic concept of the “Bright Fraternal Chain,” which begins on earth and extends to heaven, and for which the motto has ever been: “Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit” – i.e., “What Virtue Has Joined Together, Death Cannot Separate.”

    So, the issue of Masonic influence is very broad, but our comments here are rather narrowly focused. That is, our discussion here has been really limited to the origins of the Third Degree ritual in Masonry, and its possible connections with the Temple Endowment. On that score, the reliance of LDS ritual on Freemasonry is really not a matter of great debate; the only real quibble is about the precise extent of that borrowing.

    It might be helpful for some Latter-day Saints to see this issue as really one of Priesthood and its “sacralizing” power. Which is to say, since the Priesthood has the power to transform profane or common elements into tokens of grace – i.e., to turn water into wine, or alchemical lead into gold– it theoretically wouldn’t matter if the Endowment had been borrowed whole cloth from Freemasonry (although in my best judgment it is not). Since Freemasons do not claim their rituals to be salvific, there is no issue of “competition” involved with this; only the Church claims that its ordinances are essentially necessary for salvation. Masons merely say that a Brother may find in his reflections on their rituals an allusion to those things which *are* essentially necessary for him. In this way, Freemasonry is the handmaid of religion, but not a replacement for it.

    Since you’ve opened the conversation to include Masonry’s relationship to the broader issue of the restoration of the Church, I’d only reiterate what I’ve said above; the influence of Freemasonry on Mormon institutions is much more extensive than most Latter-day Saints would suspect. This is the subject of my current book –Method Infinite, which I hope will find a publisher in the coming year.

    TheodoreB: “I find it interesting how much effort is expended to write the Scotts out of the history of their contribution to Freemasonry.”
    —–

    I don’t find this to be the case at all! In fact, David Stevenson’s book, Scotland’s Century, is highly respected because it makes good use of available historical evidence: http://www.amazon.com/The-Origins-Freemasonry-Scotlands-Century/dp/0521396549/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1373419143&sr=8-2&keywords=scotland+century .

    What doesn’t fare so well are wild speculations (such as The Hiram Key, or confusing the legendary history of the Craft with authentic (“real”) Masonic history. For one who honestly shows where the fact and the fiction intersect, I highly recommend almost anything by Rev. N. B. Cryer.

    TheodoreB: “However, it is written in the stonework of the Rosslyn Chapel that was built in the 15th Century.”
    —–

    I prefer the book by the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s Museum Curator over such speculations:

    http://www.amazon.com/Rosslyn-Hoax-Ian-Allan/dp/0853182558

    Cheers,
    Joe Swick

  24. Ned Scarisbrick

    Joe, you seem to have a very good grasp of the relationship of the craft with the Church. I believe that freemasonry is to the temple endowment what the King James English is the Book of Mormon.

    Well said,

    -Ned

  25. Joe Steve Swick III

    Mike Parker: “The impression that I’ve had for some time is that the Lord wanted to reveal an ordinance through Joseph Smith, and it was only after Joseph was initiated into Freemasonry that it crystallized in his mind how this could be accomplished.”
    —–

    That may be so. Actual ritual participation can be very different than knowing the content of a ritual by exposure or “reenactment”– both of which were happening close to the Smith home in the mid-to-late 1820’s. However, this is to gently suggest that Joseph Smith’s Masonic education began long before his initiation in the 1840’s.

    Mike Parker: “The fact that Joseph believed Freemasonry was a corrupted form of an ancient priesthood ordinance is not as important as what he revealed through the endowment.”
    —–

    Ah, the sweet voice of comity and reason! 100 percent agreement from me here. In many ways, what Joseph Smith believed about Masonry is not nearly as interesting as what he produced as a result of his interaction with it. This was, he asserted, the product of revelation. At the very least, one is forced to admit that Joseph Smith was a brilliant ritualist; more than this, I personally find the Endowment to be the product of the Prophet’s unique inspiration. And I say this having participated in (and having been spiritually moved by) many Masonic ceremonies. The Endowment is unique. What Joseph Smith does with certain Masonic “borrowings” is profoundly significant. Should anyone like, I’d happy to provide one such example, innocuous but typical of the deep understanding the Prophet displays when it comes to Masonic ritual matters.

    Mike Parker: “(The same could be said of what Joseph believed about the Egyptian papyri he obtained in 1835 and the text of the Book of Abraham that he revealed.)”
    —–

    Absolutely true. I’d point out that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers show a kind of Masonic thinking as well, as each of the “hieroglyphs” have meanings expanded by “degree.” Moreover, the very content of the Book of Abraham addresses the issue of a man who was *righteous* and yet imitated the true Order of Priesthood. This is how I believe Joseph Smith perceived of Freemasonry; among other things, the Book of Abraham is a Mormon answer the Masonic pedigrees provided by Will Hutchinson, George Oliver and other writers. It is also here that we see what Joseph Smith does with the Masonic idea of the “bright fraternal chain, each link forged by virtue.” In the Prophet’s mind, this becomes a great patriarchal or familial chain, linking each virtuous adopted member to their exalted fathers in Heaven (see Abr. 1:2-4):

    “If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory” (TPJS 340).

    “This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven. . . we want the power of Elijah to seal [i.e., link] those who dwell on earth to those [i.e., exalted Beings] who dwell in heaven” (HC 6:252).

    Mike Parker: “I agree with Joe that the ancient connections to Freemasonry are mostly Masonic legend, without any verifiable basis.”
    —–

    Mostly. :-)

    Mike Parker: “I would also agree with Theodore (and I believe Joe is on the same page here) that the Lord has used ordinances of purification and instruction throughout time, and that our endowment is the modern version of these ancient patterns.”
    —–

    Exactly my sentiments. As I said, “something old; something new; something borrowed; and it’s all true.”

    Thank you, Mike.

  26. Joe Steve Swick III

    Ned: “I believe that freemasonry is to the temple endowment what the King James English is the Book of Mormon.”
    —–

    I’m stealing that line. :-D

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