Early Mormonism and Masonry: Lesser-Known Connections

There is no shortage of interest in the connections between the Masonic Craft and Joseph Smith-era Mormonism. Nearly four decades ago Dr. Reed Durham, then director of the LDS Institute at the University of Utah and president of the Mormon History Association, delivered a now (in)famous address to the MHA on Joseph Smith and Freemasonry. His presentation emphasized the connection between masonic ritual and temple ordinances, though in what Durham viewed as a faith-promoting way. Despite the subsequent public apology Durham issued (at the behest of his CES superiors), and his refusal to submit the paper for publication or even to publicly discuss it, the fascination over the connections between the Craft and the innovations of Nauvoo Mormonism — most importantly the inception of Mormon temple ritual — has remained vibrant.

My focus here is less on the esoteric component of this relationship — the ritual similarities or other fascinating and sometimes quite mysterious connections explored by Durham and others — than with the more basic historical connections. In particular, I wish to explore the history of Freemasonry in the Church and in Nauvoo and to situate it within a wider historical context. After a brief historical sketch, I’ll offer a few conclusions — some of them quite surprising — in the hope of generating discussion. In the interest of consumer protection, I offer the following disclaimer: I am not an expert on Freemasonry or its history. I defer to those whose understanding of these matters exceeds my own, and humbly solicit their input in response to my scattered thoughts here.

Although the historical origins of the Craft are rather murky, there is overwhelming consensus among scholars of Masonry that, in contrast to what most Masons have believed in the past (including early Mormon Masons) it is not of ancient inception. Generally, Masons make a distinction between “Operative” Masonry — which is basically engineering, building+geometry+mathematics, which, they claim, is as old as the world itself (and possibly older) — and “Speculative” Masonry — an esoteric, fraternal system of knowledge grounded in secret ritual, historically believed to have originated with the construction of Solomon’s temple. In reality, the speculative rites likely date to the mid 17th Century, with the legend of Hiram Abiff (the figure whose story figures centrally in the rituals) arising not long thereafter.

In early 19th-century America, Freemasonry was at once popular and wildly unpopular. At the time of the First Vision, there were as many as 20,000 Freemasons in NY state alone, probably including Joseph Smith, Sr. (Hyrum would also undergo initiation into the Craft before the Smiths left NY). Yet by the time of the founding of the first Lodge in Nauvoo two decades later, there were only a few thousand Masons in the entire United States. Several factors contributed to the intervening rise in anti-Masonry and decline in participation — the publication of several exposés of Masonry (or their translation into English), the association of Masonry with British cultural elites, the rise of Jeffersonian populism — but the most significant proximate cause was a single event: the disappearance and suspected murder of William Morgan.

Morgan, an ex-mason, wrote an exposé and arranged for publication under the title Illustrations of Masonry, in which he revealed the signs, tokens, penalties, and other secrets of Masonic rites. Just before the book’s scheduled release, Morgan was abducted. His wife, Lucinda (more on her below), tried to arrange to trade the manuscript with her husband’s abductors, but to no avail. Morgan, widely believed to have been murdered in retribution for exposing the secrets of the Craft (Masons denied the murder accusations, claiming instead that he was bribed to leave the country), was never heard from again. His disappearance was widely publicized and sparked a flury of anti-Masonic protests, publications, and even the formation and increased popularity of anti-Masonic political parties. One of the most prominent participants in the protest movements was W. W. Phelps, who edited an anti-Masonic newspaper in Candandaigua, NY. (According to historian Michael Homer*, Phelps, who founded a newspaper in Kirtland called The Evening and Morning Star, once referred to William Morgan at an anti-Masonic rally as a “bright morning star”, an ironic application of the Masonic symbol for truth to a man who exposed its secrets. Phelps, for his part, appears to have retained his antagonism toward Freemasonry. He was outside the Church at the time of the inception of Nauvoo Masonry and was never initiated into the order after returning to Mormon fellowship.)

Other prominent figures in early Mormonism had connections with either Masonry or anti-Masonic activism. Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Newell K. Whitney, and George Miller were all initiates. In a strange coincidence, Smith the elder visited a man named Eli Bruce, serving a 2 year sentence in connection with the William Morgan kidnapping, in jail in 1830, where he taught him about the Book of Mormon and his son’s calling as latter-day prophet. Father Smith appears to have lost his enthusiasm for the fraternity and died a fervent anti-Mason, just months before the establishment of the first Nauvoo lodge at his son’s request. Phelps and George Harris (more on him below) were committed anti-Masons as well. Additionally, several of the Church’s most prominent early critics were also prominent Masons, including E. D. Howe (who noted in one published tract that the Book of Mormon was printed on a Masonic Press), Pomeroy Tucker, Abner Cole, and Orasmus Turner (who also served time in jail in connection with the Morgan affair). One conclusion to be drawn from all this is that while Masonic-Mormon connections were visible in the period before Nauvoo, those connections were multi-valent, complicated, and involved both Masons and anti-Masons on both sides of Mormon and anti-Mormon activity.

The Grand Lodge of Illinois was first organized in 1805, during the height of Masonry’s popularity in the young American Republic. By 1840, with enthusiasm for the Craft at a new low, the Grand Lodge was reorganized, on 6 April (!). The Grand Masters over the newly reorganized Lodge were Abraham Jonas and James Adams. Adams, a close friend of the Prophet and part of his closest circle (he would eventually be ordained by Joseph as a patriarch, form part of the nucleus of the Annointed Quorum, and participate in plural marriage), was instrumental in installing the first Lodge in Nauvoo. Not long after the arrival of John C. Bennett in Nauvoo, Joseph asked him to direct a petition to the Illinois Grand Lodge seeking a dispensation for the installation of a Lodge in Nauvoo. The Lodge denied the request, but Grand Master Jonas granted the petition independently (likely at the prompting of Deputy Grand Master Adams). Before long, there were 4 Lodges comprised largely of Mormons — two in Nauvoo, one across the river in Keokuk, and one in Montrose. On 29 December 1841 a meeting was held in the office of Hyrum Smith to organize the first Nauvoo lodge. George Miller was selected as Grand Master with Hyrum given the more prestigious title of Worshipful Master. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon immediately petitioned for admission into the Lodge, and on 15 March in the upper room of the Red Brick Store, they were initiated. The following day, both were raised as Master Masons. The day after that, in the same room, Joseph organized the Relief Society, using language with heavy Masonic overtones (particularly as regarded secret-keeping).

John C. Bennett eventually ran afoul of the Smith brothers and other prominent Church leaders. He was expelled from the Nauvoo Lodge (when Hyrum learned that he had been expelled from a Lodge in Ohio) before being excommunicated from the Church. Among the accusations he very publicly leveled at Joseph Smith after his departure was the charge that Smith created a ritual similar to Masonry, with the implication that he disclosed masonic secrets in the process. At about this time, the Grand Lodge began investigating “irregularities” in Nauvoo Masonry, and temporarily suspended the Nauvoo Lodge’s dispensation, among other reasons for the fact that Sidney and Joseph were raised Master Masons at the same time. After a formal reprimanding, the Nauvoo lodge had its work re-authorized. Shortly thereafter Hyrum laid the cornerstone for a Masonic Temple, and in the subsequent months, Mormon lodges raised more than 400 Master Masons (significantly, all after the introduction of temple rituals), leading the Grand Lodge to once again revoke the dispensation of all Mormon lodges, citing the practices of initiating unworthy members and advancing members too quickly.

Despite these potential setbacks, Masonry among the Mormons (who refused to acknowledge the authority of the Grand Lodge to revoke their dispensation) flourished. On 5 April 1844, Worshipful Master Hyrum Smith presided over the dedication of the Masonic Temple (or Hall). His brother, Joseph, and Erastus Snow spoke at the dedication ceremony — attended by several hundred men, including visitors from neighboring cities — on the topic of the persecution of Mormon Masons by the Illinois Grand Lodge. And, as we all know, not long after the dedication, Joseph and Hyrum were murdered by a mob which included Freemasons. Joseph’s last known words were the beginning of the Masonic distress signal: “Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?”

One interesting but inescapable conclusion here is that it is not reasonable to view Freemasonry as a mere stepping stone for temple rites, a springboard that inspired something fuller and greater and was brushed aside once it served its purpose. Masonry and Mormon temple rituals were separate but related developments in life in Mormon Nauvoo. Participation in Masonic rites increased alongside the growth of the Anointed Quorum. And during the brief flurry of temple endowments after the martyrdom but before the exodus, the Lodges in Nauvoo raised more than 1,000 Master Masons. However Joseph Smith and his immediate confidants understood the relationship between the Masonic Craft and the Fullness of the Priesthood, the former was not simply a precursor for the latter.

A perhaps more fascinating, almost unbelievable conclusion also flows from the complex relationship between early Mormonism and Freemasonry. Recall that William Morgan’s wife, Lucinda, unsuccessfully intervened to save her husband from an ominous (if technically unknown) fate. Her subsequent remarriage — to close friend George Washington Harris — caused some scandal in that William’s murder was never confirmed and the remarriage occurred only a few years after his disappearance. Lucinda and George would eventually convert to Mormonism, and in 1837 they moved in with Joseph Smith and his family in Far West, Missouri. 2 years later they moved into a house across the street from Joseph and Emma in Nauvoo. At some point during these years (the dating is still debated) Lucinda became one of Joseph’s first plural wives. At this point, recall that famous distress call, stemming from Joseph’s belief that some in the Carthage mob were fellow Masons. Indeed, several Church leaders, most notably John Taylor, believed the murder to be part of a Masonic conspiracy (remember how the non-Mormon Masons were persecuting their Mormon fellow-craftsmen?). And at least one expert on the question, Nick Literski (whose own extensive research into these questions will hopefully be published very soon), assures me that there is some credible evidence of far- (and high-) reaching Masonic involvement in the plot to murder the Smith Brothers.

All of which leads to an almost staggering coincidence: that arguably the two most prominent Masonic retribution murders in American history involved victims that were married to the same woman.

*Homer’s Essay, “Similarity of Priesthood and Masonry: The Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism,” published in Dialog Vol. 27 No. 3, is the fullest treatment of the topic to date. Forthcoming book-length treatments by Homer as well as by Nick Literski promise to shed considerable light on the subject.

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Comments

  1. I haven’t read Durham’s address yet, but the ah, Faith Promoting Rumor I heard 20 years ago was that the reason the temple rituals were so similar to Masonic ones had to do with Masons hailing from Solomon’s temple.

    I think the amusing part of your post is all of the raising to Grand Masters. =)

  2. I love the dramatic ending. Poor Lucinda!

    Question: how did Lucinda’s other husband, George Washington Harris, die?

  3. Nick Literski says:

    If you don’t mind, I think a few factual clarifications are in order:

    …“Speculative” Masonry — an esoteric, fraternal system of knowledge grounded in secret ritual, historically believed to have originated with the construction of Solomon’s temple.

    Such is not a “historical belief” of Freemasonry, but rather a legenda which frames the rituals. While it is true that many early 19th Century Freemasons believed that legenda to be literal, such claims have long been discredited, by both masons and non-masons.

    Morgan, an ex-mason, wrote an exposé …

    William Morgan was not an “ex-mason.” He was not expelled. In fact, there is considerable reason to doubt that he was regularly initiated in the first place, so he may never have been a legitimate mason (but fooled other masons into thinking he was.)

    Phelps, for his part, appears to have retained his antagonism toward Freemasonry. He was outside the Church at the time of the inception of Nauvoo Masonry and was never initiated into the order after returning to Mormon fellowship.)

    While William Wine Phelps never was admitted to Nauvoo Lodge, his son, William Waterman Phelps, was—and became a prominent mason in the region until he finally joined the rest of the Mormons in Utah. This may suggest that the elder Phelps was less adamant than he had been in the past. Nauvoo Lodge never could have admitted the elder Phelps—he did too much damage in the Morgan scandal, too publicly, to not cause immediate protest if Nauvoo Lodge had admitted him.

    In a strange coincidence, Smith the elder visited a man named Eli Bruce, serving a 2 year sentence in connection with the William Morgan kidnapping, in jail in 1830, where he taught him about the Book of Mormon and his son’s calling as latter-day prophet.

    To be clear, Joseph Smith Sr. was an inmate in the same jail (Canandaigua), at the same time, for unpaid debts. He was not just “visiting” the jail.

    Not long after the arrival of John C. Bennett in Nauvoo, Joseph asked him to direct a petition to the Illinois Grand Lodge seeking a dispensation for the installation of a Lodge in Nauvoo.

    While this is a common assumption, there is no evidence that such was the case. The ordinary masonic procedure would have been for the brethren in that first masonic meeting (the one in Hyrum Smith’s brick patriarch’s office) voted to move forward with such a request, and this would naturally have fallen to the secretary to accomplish. Bennett was chosen as secretary.

    George Miller was selected as Grand Master with Hyrum given the more prestigious title of Worshipful Master. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon immediately petitioned for admission into the Lodge, and on 15 March in the upper room of the Red Brick Store, they were initiated. The following day, both were raised as Grand Masters.

    A “Grand Master” is the presiding official over a “Grand Lodge,” i.e. the collection of individual lodges in a jurisdiction (in the U.S., a state). The leader of an individual lodge is simply the “Master,” or more formally, “Worshipful Master.” The terms are being conflated here, which can be rather confusing. Joseph and Sidney were made Master Masons (not “Grand Masters”), meaning they received the third degree of Ancient Craft Masonry. This only differed from other initiated masons in the sense that their initiations were conducted rapidly (“on sight”) by order of the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois.

    Among the accusations he very publicly leveled at Joseph Smith after his departure was the charge that Smith created a ritual similar to Masonry, with the implication that he disclosed masonic secrets in the process.

    To the contrary, Bennett wrote that Joseph Smith was claiming to have received Freemasonry’s “Lost Word,” and conferring it on other Mormon men. There really weren’t any contemporaneous charges that Joseph was “revealing Masonic secrets.” Those charges originated decades later, from S. H. Godwin, a protestant minister who served as the Grand Master of Utah.

    And during the brief flurry of temple endowments after the martyrdom but before the exodus, the Lodges in Nauvoo raised more than 1,000 Grand Masters.

    Again, these were just Master Masons.

  4. Nick Literski says:

    #2:
    George Washington Harris and Lucinda began to move west with the Mormons, reaching Mount Pisgah, Iowa. At that point Lucinda left to be with her daughter in Tennessee, abandoning George. George, meanwhile, refused to go any further, certain that any day, they’d be called back to resettle Missouri. After Lucinda had been gone for a few years, George finally filed for divorce. He later died there in Iowa, of natural causes.

  5. Nice catch, Nick. I’ll change the language in the post from Grand Masters to Master Masons. Regarding the question of revealing secrets: to the extent that rumors that he was developing a masonry-esque ritual into which non Masons were initiated, doesn’t that imply that he is divulging information that he should not? If an LDS person created a fraternal order in which he initiated people into a ritual very similar to the temple endowment, I don’t think there’s any question that LDS would consider him to be inappropriately divulging things he had covenanted to never reveal.

  6. Nick Literski says:

    Actually it would imply he was “divulging” information that the Fraternity claimed was lost since the time of Solomon. So no, he couldn’t be revealing “masonic secrets.” Whatever he was doing (if Bennett is to be believed) was of his own, not taken from Freemasonry.

    The argument can certainly be made that there was sufficient similarity to suggest that either the “Order Lodge” described by Bennett or the Endowment involved “divulging masonic secrets,” but the accusation simply wasn’t being made at the time. Keep in mind that the original nine men who first received Joseph’s Endowment ceremony were previously made Master Masons–some of them in a hurry, just in the month before. If anything, Joseph appears to have considered the Master Mason degree “preparatory” to the Endowment. The former certainly can be understood to provide a certain context to understanding the latter (though that understanding has arguably changed significantly in more modern times).

  7. Nick Literski says:

    BTW, my availability to comment on this thread will be somewhat limited during the daytime hours, so please be patient with me as the discussion goes on. :-)

  8. David Reed says:

    Great synopsis of history! The many connections between the Craft an the Church is very interesting but, as FHL says, the raising of Grand Masters is amusing. Grand Masters are governing officers of a jurisdiction which contains many Lodges – sort of like a Stake President – and no Lodge has ever conferred the degree of Grand Master. A Grand Master must be a Master Mason and is usually a Past Master of a Lodge – meaning that he has diligently served as a leader in various offices within the Lodge – again, sort of like a Stake President. It is an elected position. A Lodge is organized to confer the Degrees of Masonry and promote the three-fold mission of Masonry (Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth) within the Craft. The Degrees of Masonry are (1st) Entered Apprentice, (2nd) Fellowcraft and (3rd) Master Mason. The Degrees build upon one-another by teaching moral lessons, the pinnacle being the Master Mason degree. Joseph Smith underwent the first two degree ceremonies and then was “raised on sight” to the degree of Master Mason by Most Worshipful Grand Master Jonas – meaning that he never actually underwent the Master Mason ceremony. The Lodges in and around Nauvoo raised many hundreds of Master Masons, not Grand Masters.

    David W. Reed
    Junior Deacon
    Progress Lodge #22, Free and Accepted Masons of Utah

  9. I argue in my chapter on Nauvoo that Smith was translating Masonry the way he had translated a variety of other belief systems, idea worlds, and religious traditions. I think that mode of framing allows the space necessary to consider the associations between Masonry and Mormonism without all the tension that so often comes with it.

    In a quick act of faith promotion, I would suggest seeing Joseph Smith as someone God called as a prophet and blessed with the gift of clear seeing then sent him out to find the symbolic, ritual, scriptural, and other ways to communicate that vision of eternal truth. Just as he used English (and Hebrew, Greek, and hieroglyphs) to communicate those truths, so did he use other modes of meaning and communication to express those truths.

    Note also that finding crucial fragments of truth and ritual in Masonry need not exclude the possibility that in the most relevant sense the Mormon temple rites are as old as Adam.

  10. David Reed says:

    Nick Literski wrote:

    “Such is not a “historical belief” of Freemasonry, but rather a legenda which frames the rituals. While it is true that many early 19th Century Freemasons believed that legenda to be literal, such claims have long been discredited, by both masons and non-masons.”

    ”Legenda”. I like that word!

    Certainly the myth and practice of Speculative Masonry is the product of the successful Trade Guilds which developed during the Middle Ages; and Freemasonry, as we now know it, emerged – fully developed – during the 17th Century. There is, however, a great deal of historical and archeological evidence to suggest that Operative Masons closely guarded, yet effectively disseminated, their engineering and technical “secrets” for millennia. How did they teach complex mathematical, engineering (and also moral) concepts to a largely illiterate group? Through symbols, allegory and the process of apprenticeship. The Operative/Speculative Masonic concepts that became part of the historical record during the 17th Century came from somewhere and may, indeed, be of ancient origin. Wherever they came from in history, they have been used to “make good men better,” to good effect, for generations.

    Joseph Smith faced many of the same hurdles as the early Masons as he struggled to teach the concepts of the Endowment. He found in Masonry a system of teaching that enabled him to present these complex principles and concepts to a diverse populace. The similarities between the Endowment and the Degrees of Masonry are generally related to the system of teaching, not the content of what is being taught.

  11. Your third from final paragraph doesn’t follow logically or historically. In point of fact almost all Mormon groups did jettison formal associations with Masonry, and though Masonic rites are a complex system with a long in LDS liturgy, Smith integrated them into an already rather highly developed theoretical and theological system of his own.

    Also, by the 1840s, Masonry was coming back from the dead decade. Nothing like the second half of 19th century, but still it was on its way back.

    While I love the twist you propose at the end, I’m not persuaded by it at this point. I’m glad to see the data Nick has uncovered, but this is likely to be based on something of a logical fallacy–most established white settlers despised the Mormons, a significant number of them were Masons, and some subset of the mobbers were Masons. This does not demonstrate that Masonry was particularly relevant to the murder of Smith.
    Rephrasing: if A causes C and is often also present with B, it is easy but fallacious to infer that B causes C.

  12. Neal Kramer says:

    A serious attempt to differentiate what Joseph Smith was doing in Nauvoo from Freemasonry, was written by Anthony W. Ivins, then a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant, in about 1930. President Ivins’ point is very similar to Sam’s. Joseph Smith was involved in restoration and not a kind of superficial borrowing.

    I think this concept is difficult for us to grasp. Joseph, from the time of the First Vision to his death, was engaged in revealing things that were hidden and restoring the original meaning of texts that had been corrupted by any number of mediating interpretations over time. The restorations were often direct revelations and sometimes what Joseph called translation–the restoration of original meaning.

    Joseph’s revelatory hermeneutics are a striking phenomenon in an age when creativity and genius were highly prized intellectual capabilities. Joseph never claimed to create. Often through his agency truth was revealed, clarified, and restored. He never claimed to be a genius or a part of the cult of genius that defined American and European Romanticism.

    I suspect this may mean that freemasonry, like the Egyptian papyri, is akin to a red herring. It keeps us from studying what Joseph did and said and redirects us toward titillating possible “causes” of particular events or practices associated with the prophet’s work.

    It runs the risk of trying to control or contain Joseph’s revelations and restorations within a narrowly rationalist framework. Such rationalism often seeks to reduce and to reify rather than illuminate.

  13. I have nothing to add, just that I enjoyed this write-up; thanks for sharing.

    (also: Nick, with comments like these, you are going to get more and more pestering from many of us to get your book finished.)

  14. Nick Literski says:

    #8:
    Joseph Smith underwent the first two degree ceremonies and then was “raised on sight” to the degree of Master Mason by Most Worshipful Grand Master Jonas – meaning that he never actually underwent the Master Mason ceremony.

    To the contrary, Joseph and Sidney did go through the Master Mason degree ritual. Being “raised on sight” has slightly different meanings between those jurisdictions which allow it. In the case of Joseph and Sidney, the Illinois Grand Lodge didn’t really have a clear policy on the matter, so Grand Master Jonas—having in the past been Grand Master of Kentucky–went on his earlier experience. Joseph and Sidney were put through their degrees without the normal between-degree waiting period. Their first degree was on one day, then their second degree the next afternoon, with the Master Mason degree on that second evening.

  15. Nick Literski says:

    #11:
    I’m glad to see the data Nick has uncovered, but this is likely to be based on something of a logical fallacy–most established white settlers despised the Mormons, a significant number of them were Masons, and some subset of the mobbers were Masons. This does not demonstrate that Masonry was particularly relevant to the murder of Smith.

    Sam, you’re purely guessing here, as to what I’ll have to say on the matter. The case for Masonic involvement in the Smith murders is going to be a full chapter of my book, hence it’s far too involved to lay out here in blog comments, but suffice it to say my argument absolutely does not rely on the nearly-trivial fact that there happened to be Freemasons present in the mob outside Carthage Jail.

    Sam, I don’t think that you mean to be insulting, but it’s hard not to feel a little insulted that you would assume that I’m inept enough to make
    the argument you claim I’m “most likely” to put forward. If you try to read your comment as if our roles here were reversed, perhaps you’ll see what I mean.

  16. Nick Literski says:

    #11:
    Your third from final paragraph doesn’t follow logically or historically. In point of fact almost all Mormon groups did jettison formal associations with Masonry…

    Sam, I think Brad is making the very valid point that Freemasonry was not treated as a mere precursor to the Endowment. If such had been the case, Mormon involvement in Freemasonry would have ended at approximately the same time Joseph began initiating others via the Endowment. To the contrary, Nauvoo Lodge continued to initiate Mormon men into Freemasonry right up until the officers of the lodge left in 1846. Freemasonry and the temple Endowment existed side-by-side, rather than one supplanting the other.

  17. Nick #15, no offense intended at all. I apologize if the phrasing came off poorly and will gladly retract any part of it that is offensive.

    I was largely responding to the phrasing of the issue in the blog rather than your arguments, which I am eager to see.
    The question is not one of mere presence, though. If Masonry were one of several social modes for these people, the fact that they got together and discussed what they were going to do as Masons the argument is still susceptible to the same logical error. One could straightforwardly argue that “Joseph Smith was killed by the leading lights of Hancock County. These men arranged the assassination in a variety of ways, including focused meetings of the Masons in the group, who were particularly outraged at what he was doing to their induction rituals” as a way of interpreting (assuming this is the evidence Brad mentions) records of Lodge meetings (or equivalent) in which the problem of JSJ and his murder are discussed and planned.

    That said, I could be persuaded by evidence.

    As for #16, I argue in my Nauvoo chapter that Masonry existed “as the penumbra of the Anointed Quorum”–I realize now that I probably mean antechamber rather than penumbra. My perception is that this is how it was used in a religious sense. I think even if they hadn’t killed JSJ, the LDS would have gravitated away from Masonry once they realized it wasn’t going to get them much politically, though I could be wrong.

  18. #14–some have argued that the degrees are too involved to have been actually performed in the time frame described (I got corrected once for maintaining it wasn’t “on sight”) and Masons complained that Smith had been raised “on sight” for political reasons. Are these not accurate?

  19. Nick Literski says:

    #19:
    The timeframe argument is really unfounded. At the very most, we’re talking 2-3 hours per degree.

    It is true, on the other hand, that Abraham Jonas (an aspiring politician if there ever was one) was suspected of currying Mormon political favor by conferring such an honor on Joseph and Sidney.

  20. Nick Literski says:

    One could straightforwardly argue that “Joseph Smith was killed by the leading lights of Hancock County. These men arranged the assassination in a variety of ways, including focused meetings of the Masons in the group, who were particularly outraged at what he was doing to their induction rituals” as a way of interpreting (assuming this is the evidence Brad mentions) records of Lodge meetings (or equivalent) in which the problem of JSJ and his murder are discussed and planned.

    One could argue that, I’m sure, but they would be factually incorrect. I’m certainly not advancing such an argument, and in fact, I’ve openly refuted the idea (above) that the Smith murders had to do with accusations of “divulging masonic secrets,” i.e. “stealing rituals.”

    I argue in my Nauvoo chapter that Masonry existed “as the penumbra of the Anointed Quorum”–I realize now that I probably mean antechamber rather than penumbra. My perception is that this is how it was used in a religious sense.

    Your perception might be changed, once you see more of the historical evidence on the subject.

    I think even if they hadn’t killed JSJ, the LDS would have gravitated away from Masonry once they realized it wasn’t going to get them much politically, though I could be wrong.

    Sam, please realize that if you go down this “political influence” road, you’re calling Joseph Smith and every Mormon Freemason a bald-faced liar. Every man who becomes a Mason affirms that he is not doing so for any such purpose. Freemasonry is not the Rotary Club, and it’s never been designed to serve as a financial/political networking scheme.

    This “political influence” theory was unfortunately popularized by Ken Godfrey, who sought to distance Freemasonry from the Endowment (not to mention soothe modern anti-Masonic feeling of some christians) by providing “other reasons” that Joseph would be involved in Freemasonry. Unfortunately, Ken didn’t know enough about Freemasonry to realize that his argument was unwittingly accusing Joseph Smith of fraud.

    The historical evidence is really quite clear that Freemasonry was promoted within the Mormons for religious reasons, and not merely as a stepping-stone.

  21. Nick Literski says:

    Everyone,
    While I’m certainly interested in taking part in this discussion, can we please try not to turn this into a “guess what Nick’s going to say in his book” game? In most cases, you’ll be wrong, and it creates a very difficult position on my end. The history of Masonic influence on early Mormonism is complex and fascinating, and many elements of that story are simply not going to be sensibly covered in the space of a blog comment. Further, to be quite honest, I’m not prepared to publicly “tip my hand” on every issue before the book is completed. Research is hard work, and can be expensive. :-)

    Sam, you’re really barking up the wrong tree in this regard. First you assume I’m making a truly silly logical leap. When I assure you I’m not, you assume I must be making an equally silly logical leap, but with more convoluted language. Please consider that I may indeed have found evidence which you are unaware of, thus my argument on the matter may be far more convincing than what you can construct from the limited evidence of “mere presence.”

    Please—I’m not trying to be hostile here, just asking for a little consideration.

  22. Sam MB, which book of yours are you referring to in #9?

  23. Nick Literski says:

    Sam, I’ll tell you this much. My conclusions regarding the Fraternity’s involvement in the Smith murders have almost nothing at all to do with the men in the mob outside Carthage Jail. Sheriff Backenstos created a list of recognized individuals in the mob, and several of those names do happen to appear on local lodge membership lists. There is no reason, however, to conclude that these men were involved due to their membership in the Fraternity. In fact, most were “bit players” in local militia and/or posses. The Masonic involvement I will discuss in my book was on a much more significant level, both in terms of geography and status in the Fraternity.

  24. Joseph Johnstun says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for the blog. It is always nice when someone brings up this topic again. It helps Nick see how needed his book is :D

    Sam MB, have you published on this, or is it a work in progress? Will you tell me more about it?

    It may be helpful to mention, Freemasonry played a crucial role in the murder of both Joseph and Hyrum. It was very, very important. And having been Nick’s sounding board for several years, I can assure you, his information goes well beyond anything that anyone else has said on the topic.

    Now if he will just get it out there!

  25. George Miller says:

    DR#10 – He found in Masonry a system of teaching that enabled him to present these complex principles and concepts to a diverse populace. The similarities between the Endowment and the Degrees of Masonry are generally related to the system of teaching, not the content of what is being taught.

    David – You are now advancing the ideas of F.A.I.R. and especially Greg Kearney. However, if you read the interpretation of Masonic brothers who lived in New York during the 1820s, you would know that the connection between the Endowment and Freemasonry is NOT just generally related to the system of teaching. The message of the Endowment was also borrowed from Freemasonry.

  26. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    In all seriousness, the blog post has to be one of the most interesting posts I’ve read on the entire Internet for a long time and the comments have only improved the situation. Much talk of books here… Hey Nick & Sam MB, is there anything I can do to help you get published any sooner?

  27. George Miller says:

    David you have suggested that the similarities between the Endowment and the Degrees of Masonry are generally related to the system of teaching, not the content of what is being taught.

    What is being taught in the endowment that is absent from Masonic degrees and their associated legenda? To keep this interchange brief please give me ONLY two examples and please keep them isolated to the endowment and not other temple ordinances.

  28. What is being taught in the endowment that is absent from Masonic degrees and their associated legenda? To keep this interchange brief please give me ONLY two examples and please keep them isolated to the endowment and not other temple ordinances.

    I would argue (though my understanding of the substance of circa 1840 American Masonry is admittedly quite limited) that there are important and substantive differences. At a minimum, I’d say that JSJ took a ritual whose primary aims were fraternity and an improved world through improved personal character and transformed it into a fertility rite. The fact that Masonic and Anointed Quorum/temple activity flourish side by side and that one was not displaced by the other I think speaks to the fact that JSJ and those closest to him understood the two to be different in significant ways — different enough that both needed to be preserved and practiced simultaneously and independently.

    I should also note that I am not making an argument that Masonry was a primary factor in the murder of the Smith brothers (that’s Nick’s argument to make in his hopefully-soon-to-be-published book), but rather that Mormon leaders at the time believed that it played a more significant role (among many other factors) than our current historiographic memory tends to acknowledge.

  29. Kristine says:

    “At a minimum, I’d say that JSJ took a ritual whose primary aims were fraternity and an improved world through improved personal character and transformed it into a fertility rite.”

    That’s a hell of a minimum, Brad!

  30. George, you probably should note that Greg Kearney’s views are hardly the only ones within FAIR. Back when I used to do volunteer work for them I promoted a quite different view.

    That said I’m not sure the message of the endowment is borrowed from masonry. That simplifies things far too much. But I think there are clear influences but there are also quite a few other influences. As Nick quite adroitly pointed out sometimes focusing too much on borrowing leads one to miss what it was Joseph was teaching.

    As for what is different, deification is a clear one. I know that in latter exegesis of masonry the connection to deification was made. But (and correct me if I’m wrong here Nick) this was a more later development. It’s true that masonry was almost certainly influenced by Renaissance views of the hermetic texts and Christian Cabala but the deification therein is quite different from what Joseph taught.

  31. George Miller says:

    Brad#28 “Transformed it into a fertility rite.”

    Wow I am not sure I want to touch this one with a ten-foot pole. I could definitely address this point by a discussion of the perceived connection by Freemasons living contemporary with Joseph Smith between The Mysteries and Freemasonry. One only has to read such books as George Oliver’s History of Initiation for a discussion of this point. However, technically what you are discussing is NOT part of the endowment but part of the sealing ceremony.

  32. George Miller says:

    Brad#28- “The fact that Masonic and Anointed Quorum/temple activity flourish side by side and that one was not displaced by the other I think speaks to the fact that JSJ and those closest to him understood the two to be different in significant ways — different enough that both needed to be preserved and practiced simultaneously and independently.”

    This would show that you don’t understood the structure of Freemasonry which Joseph was may have been trying to model. Your assertion that the Holy Order (as the annointed quorum was often called) stood side by side with Masonic Blue lodge is no different than the Order of Melchizedek/Order of High Priesthood/Holy Order of the Grand High Priest functioning side by side with the Royal Arch and Blue Lodges.

  33. re # 12, great comment Neal, particularly the reference to the intellectual movement of the time in Romanticism.

    As to the parallels between Masonry and some aspects of the Mormon temple ceremony, I have occasionally heard people say that such parallels have shaken their faith or had the potential to do so. I don’t quite understand what about the parallel would shake someone’s faith — does that usually occur in people who do not understand what freemasonry is and/or take a negative view of freemasonry as if it were something evil or bad? To be sure, various creedal Christian institutions have taken that view, particularly during the Age of Enlightenment — but this was because Enlightenment principles form the framework of freemasonry and those principles were viewed by such institutions as threatening, much in the same way that Galileo was viewed as a threat by one such institution.

    Is there something about freemasonry that some people think is nefarious or inappropriate? If so, it would seem that stems from confusion about what freemasonry is or perhaps it signals subliminal adoption of societal prejudices against it that have their origin in creedal Christian objections.

  34. George,
    I’m not talking about the sealing ceremony. That, for better or worse, is the extent of the detail that I am willing to go into.

  35. George Miller says:

    Clark#30- “As for what is different, deification is a clear one.”

    You are incorrect here Clark. The endowment specifically discusses becoming Kings and Priests which is also discussed in Mormon and vernacular as becoming Prophets, Priests, and Kings. These are of course the titles of of the presiding officers in Royal Arch Masonry and the triune offices held by the ancient patriarchs according to Masonic authors writing in the 1820s. This presiding trio sit on thrones in the Grand Council which is situated in the Holy of Holies of the temple as described in the Royal Arch and Order of Melchizedek Priesthood degrees. I think the similarities here are fairly obvious.

  36. John,
    I don’t think the faith-shaking aspect stems from a belief that masonry is inherently evil or bad. I think the issue is the way in which the parallels complicate Correlated definitions of words like “revelation” and “prophet.” As Neal, Sam, myself, and others here have indicated, it need not be an absolute stumbling block, but hardly unproblematic for some.

  37. George Miller says:

    Brad#34- “I’m not talking about the sealing ceremony.”

    You are also not talking about the endowment.

  38. George, being familiar with Brad’s analysis; I can say with confidence that he is talking about the endowment.

  39. Also decoupling the endowment ritual from the Temple liturgy is folly. There weren’t discrete rituals but one ritual system. Some who joined the Anointed Quorum, often went months after being initiated and sealed before being endowed (see, e.g., Kingsbury). But despite this time disparity the temple cultus as my buddy Sam here likes to say, was a coherent liturgy.

  40. Brad, how do the parallels conflict with “Correlated” definitions of words like “revelation” and “prophet”? What are the correlated definitions?

  41. You can be coy all you like, john. You know what I’m talking about.

  42. I’m not being coy. I suspect that I do know what you’re talking about — is it that people think that borrowing aspects of the temple ritual from elements of Masonry isn’t appropriate for someone who claims he’s a prophet? What role does Correlation play though?

  43. Nick Literski says:

    It’s unfortunate that critics’ allegations of “stealing ritual” have been allowed to frame the issue of Mormonism and Freemasonry. What Joseph did wasn’t to restore or replace Freemasonry, but rather to build upon it. As Freemasons developed further degrees, they often used the symbols of prior degrees, but added additional levels of meaning. As such, Joseph’s use of Masonic elements was a legitimate part of a long tradition. Ultimately, these endowment/masonry parallels are trivial—a mere tip of the iceberg in terms of the much broader influences of Masonic legend and practice on early Mormonism. The bigger story is SO much more interesting!

  44. Nick Literski says:

    In other words, apologists’ unnecessary fears of the “ritual stealing” claim have unfortunately led them to distance Joseph and Mormonism from Freemasonry via various arguments. This reactionary approach has prevented a great many important insights from being made.

  45. Are apologists really all that concerned with the ritual stealing angle, aside from simply pointing out that it’s not true to the extent that some critics make it out to be or result in the conclusions that some critics wish to force with it (which is obvious)? Does pointing that out make one an unacceptable “apologist” who doesn’t get the bigger picture? Doesn’t someone have to say that much, at least, in a discussion in which critics are making those types of claims?

  46. Joseph Johnstun says:

    I really hate to say this, but what it appears to me and many others that I talk to, is that apologists are trying to make the Church and its history more comfortable to other “Christian” denominations, especially Evangelicals, and thus be accepted by them. For them, the further we are distanced from anything to do with Masonry and secret rituals, funny underwear, becoming gods, a married Jesus, polygamy, et al, the better. It genuinely breaks my heart to see it done. I love this church, and like Orson Pratt, if I were cut up in 1000 pieces, each of them would still shout “Mormonism is True,” but these guys cut the beauty out of it to be accepted.

    I know saying this is going to make me instantly unpopular, but it is nonetheless how I and many friends feel.

  47. re # 46, I don’t think that’s true.

  48. I’m with John (#47).

  49. As am I. Of all the possible motivations and drives for the ways we create institutional historical memory, appeasing traditional Christians or making us seem more like them does not, methinks, rank particularly high.

  50. Scott B says:

    >I know saying this is going to make me instantly unpopular…

    Thou sayest!

  51. Steve Evans says:

    No more distancing ourselves from funny underwear. I say, we should wear more funny underwear! Double-ply. And funny swimsuits, too. We ought to be swimming like Michael Landon on Little House. And we should wear gloves.

  52. Nick: consider an apology issued, a comment retracted, and a request for speedy publication of your evidence issued. I will await your book before deciding for myself how this played out.

    My reference is to a chapter in my In Heaven as it Is on Earth, a manuscript I am hoping to submit to academic publishers this July (so if the stars align it would be out in 18-24 months). Chapter 7 treats the Nauvoo liturgy, Masonry, and the death conquest.

    Generally, I’m delighted to have people paying attention to Masonic Mormonism (or whatever you’d like to call those intersections)–my reason for mentioning the need for apologia is that no fact exists without any context and unfortunately these sets of facts have been poisonous historically because of their context. For those whose communal spiritual goals are to provide support for LDS devotions (I count myself guilty on this point) within the context of scholarship, I believe there is an obligation to assist with the denaturation of that poison (the “poison” being this system that has evolved of staking Mormon truth claims on their entire independence from cultural touchstones like Masonry).

    So while Nick and others are trying to get the facts straight, I think others within the LDS Church ought to be considering how best to integrate these facts (and the broad outlines are reasonably well known) into a faithful commitment to LDS Mormonism.

    I freely admit that there are other groups interested in this history beyond the purview of the LDS Church–for them, though, this “poison” seems to me much less relevant–they may be amused at the historiography here but are probably mostly interested in the facts. It’s current LDS who have a horse in this race, and I think we within LDS should be thoughtful about this.

    So please write some good devotional interpretive material, everybody. And maybe we should take up a collection for Nick to hire a research assistant or something. We’re eager to see the finished product.

  53. George Miller says:

    JS#39- “Also decoupling the endowment ritual from the Temple liturgy is folly. There weren’t discrete rituals but one ritual system.”

    And that ritual system was modeled on Freemasonry. Just to clarify, I was NOT asking for a decoupling of what you are calling the Temple liturgy from anything. I was specifically pointing to the endowment to narrow down the discussion. I have not found anything within Joseph Smith’s temple theology that is not either found in Freemasonry or is not an extension of the masonic system which Freemasons of the early 1800s were pushing for themselves. The only exception may be baptism for the dead and even that is arguable.

  54. George, you aught to consider publishing, then; because as it stands, I simply disagree.

    Henceforth, Sam shall be known as Sam the wise.

  55. George Miller says:

    NL#43 “Ultimately, these endowment/masonry parallels are trivial—a mere tip of the iceberg in terms of the much broader influences of Masonic legend and practice on early Mormonism. The bigger story is SO much more interesting!”

    Agreed :-) … If the borrowings started and stopped there this would be a BORING issue. However, the borrowings go much deeper and farther back and pervade both the structure, doctrine, and scripture of the Mormon faith.

    Nick#44- “This reactionary approach has prevented a great many important insights from being made.”

    Agreed … What do you expect from a people who were waiting for a Masonic Millennium. Out of fear apologists have distanced themselves from one of the main interpretive keys to Mormonism :-)

  56. I apologize that this doesn’t follow the current thread, but I was (poorly) explaining this post to a friend last night. He thought he had read that JS used the Masons as a way to disseminate information about sacred topics (like polygamy), but keep it on the down-low – if they were Masons, they were oath-bound to keep such things secret?

    I remembered reading something about “secret keeping” in this post, but on re-read, I see that was more to do with the organization of the Relief Society, right?

  57. George Miller says:

    Really on what do you disagree. Please suggest something that is fundamentally distinct and different between Celestial Masonry and Freemasonry as it was interpreted by the prominent writers on Freemasonry from 1775-1850.

  58. Secret keeping was a big part of life in the circles JSJ ran in circa 1841-44. It is a part of Masonic ritual and also of Mormon temple rites, plural marriage, esoteric doctrinal amplifications of the late Nauvoo period, etc. Secrecy is an important link between the early Relief Society and Freemasonry. Among other things, it was charged, as a body, with investigating allegations against JSJ of plural marriage (marriages that involved many of it’s highest officers and most influential members) and, in broader terms, with protecting the reputation and good name of the prophet.

  59. George Miller, if your preferred characterization for the Endowment is “Celestial Masonry,” then your participation here is soon to draw to a close.

  60. I’d say the problem George’s comments are raising is not his particular view of the endowment; it’s the fact that there simply cannot be a substantive discussion on the points he’s arguing without things turning very inappropriate, verging on sacrilege.

  61. Secrecy often argued as a part. Evidence is okay.
    George’s claim is difficult to endorse.
    Also finding extensive parallels between two vast, poorly documented symbolic and metaphysical systems is not hard. Figuring out what it means much harder.

  62. Follow up: I don’t thing George’s argument is reductionist, and I don’t think he’s being disrespectful; just that the discussion he seems to want to have is a bit of a non-starter for people who take their covenants seriously (which I’m assuming he does as well).

  63. George Miller says:

    JStapley- “George, you aught to consider publishing, then; because as it stands, I simply disagree.”
    I have been writing for the last six months and I will probably publish after Nick has laid out his case. I do not wish to step on a fellow brother’s toes.

  64. These are of course the titles of of the presiding officers in Royal Arch Masonry and the triune offices held by the ancient patriarchs according to Masonic authors writing in the 1820s. This presiding trio sit on thrones in the Grand Council which is situated in the Holy of Holies of the temple as described in the Royal Arch and Order of Melchizedek Priesthood degrees. I think the similarities here are fairly obvious.

    Certainly there are parallels but the parallels don’t establish deification. I don’t think you’re being sufficiently rigorous as to the nature of the parallels. Structural parallels need not indicate content parallels – a mistake apologists often make (and critics as well).

  65. “Structural parallels need not indicate content parallels – a mistake apologists often make (and critics as well).”

    Ah, the legacy of Brother Nibley…

  66. George Miller says:

    Steve Evans Says: “if your preferred characterization for the Endowment is “Celestial Masonry,” then your participation here is soon to draw to a close.”

    Steve, I am very sorry if my characterization has offended. I did not mean it as such. My choice of words “Celestial Masonry” was attributed to Brigham Young by one of his wives in her book Wife number 19. It is NOT my preferred characterization. My deepest apologies if this phrasing was offensive to your or others ears.

  67. George, thanks.

  68. George Miller says:

    Clarke: “Certainly there are parallels but the parallels don’t establish deification. I don’t think you’re being sufficiently rigorous as to the nature of the parallels. Structural parallels need not indicate content parallels – a mistake apologists often make (and critics as well).”

    I will be very careful in what I have to say as to adhere to by sacred obligations to both institutions.

    Salem Town in a popular book published in New York in 1822 for masons and non-masons alike, under the sanction of the Grand lodge wrote of a common interpretation of the Masonic degrees. He wrote of the seven degrees of Freemasonry from the Entered Apprentice Degree to the Royal Arch degree.

    He writes of the Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft degrees of how they retell the story of Adam. He then tells how the Master Mason degree helps the mason “look forward to a blessed immortality … in the glorious morn of the resurrection.”
    Following this he discusses the next four degrees of the Royal Arch. Of the next degree of Mark Master he discusses that the Mark Master “has a Name which no man knoweth, save he that receiveth it.” In the next degree of Past Master Town relates, “In advancing to the fifth degree, he discovers his election to, and his glorified station in, the kingdom of his Father. Here he is taught how much the chosen ones are honoured and esteemed by those on earth, who discover and appreciate the image of their common Lord.”
    After commenting on the Most Excellent Master Degree and the Royal Arch degree he comments thus on the Order of High Priesthood degree:
    There he beholds, in the eighth degree, that all the heavenly sojourners will be admitted within the veil of God’s presence, where they will become kings and priests before the throne of his glory for ever and ever. Having been consecrated by that blood, shed for the remission of sins, born of the Spirit and annointed with the oil of Divine grace, having on the robe of righteousness and the breastplate of salvation, he doubts not but a crown of glory and rejoicing will be put on his head, and the praises of The Redeemer for ever dwell on his tongue. (Town, 1822, p. 71-77)

    Other followed Salem Town who elaborated on this short 6 pages in Town’s book. One such example is in New York in the early 1820 written in a magazine for both men and women, masons and non-masons alike.

    He would write that “the several degrees of Masonry have a “manifest allusion” to the several states through which every candidate for Heaven must, in the mysterious and wonderful process of regeneration.” In discussing the entered apprentice he would discuss the “young candidate for the society of “just men made perfect.” There is much more but this should give you a wee taste of the spiritual interpretation of Freemasonry available to the initiate and non-mason alike.

    Given this striking and common interpretation of Masonic ritual, I dare say that I am not reaching for parallels that were not actually there.

  69. Once again though that is simply not deification. To a Mormon of course being a king and priest is seen as deification because of the other context (say the King Follet Discourse) which contextualizes such texts. So a Mormon reading say Rev 1:6 or 5:10 immediately sees deification. However it’s not clear from the text itself that is the case. (And certainly most non-Mormon Christians don’t see it that way)

    So you’re reading those Masonic explanations in a Mormon fashion but aren’t seeing that it is from Mormonism that the content of deification is being injected.

    Heck, I can find you much better parallels than you just outlined – especially considering William Schaw was undoubtedly familiar with the hermetic texts that were then still quite popular and influential. It’s just that I don’t think those explicit ideas of deification are really found in Masonry let alone the kind of deification a Mormon would see. (I think we have to distinguish between deification in hermetic/platonic terms and the kind of deification in material terms that Joseph sees in the endowment)

  70. Just to add, I think a case could be made for Rev 2 on the basis of merkabah texts. But even there one has to be careful since in merkabah texts we have to distinguish between Enoch deified as Metatron or the lesser Yahweh from God proper. But then that’s a matter of controversy even within Mormon theology. (i.e. are we truly like God when deified)

    My ultimate point is simply that finding parallels isn’t enough. One has to establish the meaning of those parallels in the texts one is quoting from. So to find deification in Masonry you have to find explicit (and common) interpretation of those symbols as making men gods. And I don’t believe you can find that prior to 1870.

  71. Joe Swick says:

    Wow! I can’t believe are playing here, and I wasn’t invited until now. Once I catch up on the threads, I’ll be sure to participate, although it appears as if Bro. Nick has things covered nicely here.

    I confess my bias at the outset . . . in most areas not directly touching on Nick’s research, we share a great deal of similar real estate when it comes to opinions regarding the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism. I think a dispassionate look at the evidence pulls one towards some conclusions that aren’t necessarily what many Masons or Mormons might think at first blush.

    Thanks for the invite here, Nick! I can tell already this is going to be an excellent discussion.

    Frats,
    Joe Steve Swick III, PM
    Verity Lodge No 59 F&AM
    Washington

  72. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Certainly there are parallels [between Royal Arch Masonry and LDS ritual] but the parallels don’t establish deification. ”

    In Joseph Smith’s era, the RA degree included a passing through veils, in which one symbolically ascends into the presence of a heavenly council, where the Great High Priest presides. In the presence of this Grand Council, one is rewarded for the discovery of the Secret by being crowned with one’s fellow-companions.

    If as a Mason your religion doesn’t recognize a doctrine of “divinization,” then you may not be inclined to see such a thing in Masonic ritual. Whether the RA degree suggests defication, then, will depend upon the individual Brother’s personal interpretation of the ritual.

    However. Interpreters early and late saw in Masonic ritual an “apotheosis” (to use Wilmshurst’s description, since it is the first that comes to mind).

    Good to see you, Clark.

    Kindest,
    JSW

  73. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “So to find deification in Masonry you have to find explicit (and common) interpretation of those symbols as making men gods. And I don’t believe you can find that prior to 1870.”

    This is incorrect. I’ve recently spoken before the MSRICF on Ascent Themes in Freemasonry, and I’m prepping those remarks for publication at the moment. The idea of apotheosis in the form of a heavenly ascent does appear in Freemasonry before 1870. Much earlier than 1870, in fact. I suspect that it comes to Freemasonry by way of Christianity, although I think *that* would be difficult to prove.

    Best,
    JSW

  74. Joe Swick says:

    Clark: “I don’t think those explicit ideas of deification are really found in Masonry let alone the kind of deification a Mormon would see. (I think we have to distinguish between deification in hermetic/platonic terms and the kind of deification in material terms that Joseph sees in the endowment)”

    Of course you do, because the symbols of Masonry suggest clearly that the end of the Masons’ work is the perfection of human personality. You know that Masonry is influenced profoundly by Hermetic/Alchemical streams, and that these traditions do include the concept of deifiication.

    You argue that these concepts do not precisely match the LDS form. That may be so. However, I would remind you that a similar argument is made by LDS detractors — i.e., they argue that deification does not mean the same thing for the Early Church Fathers as it does for Latter-day Saints. Even if you grant that this is so, it does not suggest to me that these things have no genetic link.

    Best,
    JSW

  75. Joe, once again one has to distinguish between hermetic or platonic deification which is the recognition that The All is God and as part of the All we are God from the sort Joseph taught.

    If you feel you have evidence for the non-Spinozist view of deification in early Masonry I’d love to hear it. I’ve certainly not seen it. Even most of the stuff I’ve seen from 1870 or so up through the 1940′s tends to adopt a more Buddhist or Spinozist like view of deification rather than the form common in Mormonism. Now some like to see deification within Mormonism as actually consisting of the more mystic unio dei and therefore see this as a non-difference. But that opens up a whole other can of worms.

  76. Joe Swick says:

    @Steve Evans “if your preferred characterization for the Endowment is “Celestial Masonry,” then your participation here is soon to draw to a close.”

    @George Miller: “My choice of words “Celestial Masonry” was attributed to Brigham Young by one of his wives in her book Wife number 19. It is NOT my preferred characterization.”

    I’m not overly familiar with “Wife Number 19.” The words “Celestial Masonry” are attributed to Eliza R. Snow Smith in Tullidge’s “Women of Mormondom.” This is not just a one-time, reference, either. Nick knows the quote I love best, as the title of his book is based upon it: “There is method in Mormonism — method infinite. Mormonism is Masonic.” The “Masonic” nature of Mormonism is elaborated in this book at some length, as I recall.

    Not to offend, but the George Miller on this forum is not the originator of the phrase “Celestial Masonry.” He was beaten to the punch on this phrase by over 100 years.

    Kindest,
    JSW

  77. Joe Swick says:

    @George Miller: “If the borrowings started and stopped [with the temple] this would be a BORING issue. However, the borrowings go much deeper and farther back and pervade both the structure, doctrine, and scripture of the Mormon faith.”

    Bingo. George Miller gets the prize. :-)

    Frats,
    JSW

  78. Joe, I actually agree with critics that apologists misuse many early Fathers de-contextualizing them. So I’m afraid that line of reasoning won’t work with me. Indeed I think it a common error of reasoning among both apologists and critics. It is possible to qualify ones arguments. (Blake Ostler attempts this in his debates over deification among the Church Fathers) Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    I think though that the issue of deification and its meaning in the endowment can’t be easily thought apart from the question of Mormon materialism. Masonry, I think you would agree, simply adopts a more Platonic conception.

  79. George Miller says:

    Clark, I understand your criticism, and it is a valid criticism if I were talking about George Miller (a Mormon) trying to interpret Masonic ritual. This is not what I am saying. The point I am trying to make relates to previous comments and the nature of revelation. Joseph looked for revelation just like all of us do today.

    Joseph Smith believed the standard Masonic legenda of the day that Speculative Freemasonry was first given to Adam and passed down throughout the ages to the present time. As with religion it had gone through its highs and lows. Joseph Smith also believed the Masonic legenda that a spurious branch of freemasonry which denied God, acted against Masonic morals, and proposed to deify themselves in the eyes of the people was begun by Cain and continued after the flood by the progeny of Ham. Spurious Freemasonry became the mystery traditions and was in many ways a perversion of true Speculative Masonry. NOTE: This is MASONIC legenda commonly known in Joseph’s day. It in fact comes from the man who published almost 66% of the commonly read masonic literature from 1820-1870.

    As with many Freemasons of his day, he viewed the Masonic institution as the Speculative branch of Freemasonry. He also, believed the Masonic legenda that the Master’s word had been lost in King Solomon’s day, and Freemasonry was thus somehow incomplete. He, as other Masons, also believed that the institution must be revitalized and restored to its original purity as in the Adamic age. (I know I am not providing references. I have them so ask for any particular one.)

    With this pretext, let me address your point. You say I am interpreting Freemasonry through a Mormon lens. I disagree. Joseph had the expectation that the Masonic ceremony was ancient and taught a man how to communicate and enter the heavenly abodes. The question is not my placing Mormon views on Masonry. It is that Joseph Smith used the Masonic legenda and ritual and viewed the Masonic rituals and the common interpretation of these rituals, and from this we get our Mormon view which you say I am looking through.

    Let me now address deification in particular. My reading of this point would be that Joseph knew that the Masons had a ritual in which Masons were annointed with oil and given the Melchizedek priesthood and that these men had been symbolically, “admitted within the veil of God’s presence, where they will become kings and priests before the throne of his glory for ever and ever.” He also knew that these same men had held the offices of prophet, priest, and king. These name titles, with the exception of freemasonry, were exclusively known as the offices of Jesus Christ himself. He also knew that these same Masons who had received the Order of High Priesthood “doubts not but a crown of glory and rejoicing will be put on his head, and the praises of The Redeemer for ever dwell on his tongue” thus making them priests and kings in the heavenly abode like Christ who was a God. Joseph then accepts this ancient tradition as a form of revelation coming to him via Freemasonry and makes the logical conclusion that mankind can become like God and rule and reign as kings and priests in heaven.

    Joseph may even have concluded that the deification practiced by the spurious branches was a degeneration of truth in the Speculative branch of Freemasonry. This is my argument. While I know I have focused on one quote from Town, let me assure you it does not stand alone.

  80. George, now you’ve switched the discussion from “what is in Masonry” to “how could Joseph have interpreted this as being within Masonry.” But that’s a different topic.

  81. Joe Swick says:

    @Nick: “Sam, please realize that if you go down this “political influence” road, you’re calling Joseph Smith and every Mormon Freemason a bald-faced liar. Every man who becomes a Mason affirms that he is not doing so for any such purpose. Freemasonry is not the Rotary Club, and it’s never been designed to serve as a financial/political networking scheme.”

    I vote with Nick on this one, with the caveat that some men did and do join Freemasonry for political or social advantage. Some men are, indeed liars and cheats. I’m guessing, though, that many LDS would hesitate painting Joseph, Hyrum, and a large number of the Nauvoo-era Church hierarchy with that particular brush.

    Kindest,
    JSW

  82. Just to add, certainly one could take Platonic concepts and read the words as applying to a material context. That is see it as apostate and change it by changing meanings and contexts. Indeed that is what I think God and Joseph did with Masonry. But then we are no longer talking about Masonry but a radically transfigured Masonry. Which is fine. But let’s at least be clear that something new has been added. It was that “something new” that I think Nick wisely is asking us to keep in mind.

  83. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark, I’m going to tell this to you flat out: Joseph Smith himself directly interpreted the Masonic degrees as an apotheosis! Nick knows what quotes I’m referring to.

    Joseph Smiths own comments on this matter oar direct, unmistakeable, unavoidable, and outright undeniable. I refrain from presenting my evidence, only because I am guessing Nick will mention this in his book. Others here who have spoken to me privately about this also know when and where Joseph Smith made these astounding remarks about Freemasonry.

    I’m guessing this will be a big “aha” moment for many who haven’t yet heard or discovered the Prophet’s actual remarks on this subject.

    So, Clark: I can do better than 1870. I can place these remarks directly in the mouth of Joseph Smith.

  84. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark, I’m going to tell this to you flat out: Joseph Smith himself directly interpreted the Masonic degrees as an apotheosis! Nick already knows these details; in fact, they framed one of the first discussions he and I had on the subject of Mormonism and Freemasonry.

    Joseph Smiths own comments on this matter are direct, unmistakeable, unavoidable, and outright undeniable. I refrain from presenting my evidence, only because I am guessing Nick will mention this in his book. Others here who have spoken to me privately about this also know when and where Joseph Smith made these astounding remarks about Freemasonry.

    I’m guessing this will be a big “aha” moment for many who haven’t yet heard or discovered the Prophet’s actual remarks on this subject.

    So, Clark: I can do better than 1870. I can place these remarks directly in the mouth of Joseph Smith.

  85. Joe Swick says:

    Sorry for the duplicate comment!

  86. Joe, once again let me note what I said to George. There is the question of what is in Masonry or commonly interpreted as such. There is the question of Joseph Smith’s “deconstructive” approach to Masonry. I think we have to distinguish between the two.

    Not knowing the quote in question I may actually have it. But I don’t think it bears on the question at hand.

  87. George Miller says:

    Clark#78- “George, now you’ve switched the discussion from “what is in Masonry” to “how could Joseph have interpreted this as being within Masonry.” But that’s a different topic.”

    First, Sorry Clark, I am not letting you get away with this rhetorical trick. This is the same trick that Hamblin has tried to use when he has discussed these issues with Joe. He simply says that this is an interpretation of the ritual and not the ritual itself. However, there is nothing that precludes us from examining BOTH the ritual AND its contemporary interpretation’s influence on Joseph Smith. As Joe has pointed out “The idea of apotheosis in the form of a heavenly ascent does appear in Freemasonry before 1870.” Therefore this is NOT just Joseph Smith’s interpretation.

    Secondly, the interesting topic is indeed Joseph Smith’s interpretation of the Masonic ritual as it is manifest in Mormon theology, scripture, ecclesiastical structure, AND ritual. So if you want to view this as a change of venue so be it. I like this venue better.

  88. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Just to add, certainly one could take Platonic concepts and read the words as applying to a material context. That is see it as apostate and change it by changing meanings and contexts. Indeed that is what I think God and Joseph did with Masonry. But then we are no longer talking about Masonry but a radically transfigured Masonry.”

    This becomes a fun game of what wagged what. From what I’ve seen, I’m laying my bets on Masonry influencing Joseph Smith on this score. And this ups the ante: Joseph Smith’s first intimations of the divinization of man are not in Nauvoo, but in Kirtland: assuming, of course, that he authored the 5th Lecture on Faith. :-)

  89. George, it’s not a trick since what Joseph sees in Masonry may be unrelated to what is commonly seen in Masonry. I have no trouble with Joseph deconstructing Masonry and seeing ancient origins in it and interpreting it differently from how it would commonly have been interpreted. I confess I don’t see how distinguishing the two is a rhetorical trick. I think Joseph believed a lot of things about Masonry that are simply false. (i.e. the Hirum Abiff myth)

    Keeping a distinction between Masonry the movement in terms of the understanding of its main adherents and how Mormons interpreted Masonry (including Joseph) seems not a rhetorical trick but simply good history. If one blurs that distinctions you’ll simply mislead.

    As to deification, as I pointed out to Nick, we have to distinguish between the Platonic and Spinozist sense from the Mormon sense. Once again I think that a very important distinction. If you now agree that the Mormon sense of deification simply isn’t in Masonry then I’m glad we agree.

  90. Joe, I don’t doubt there is an influence from Masonry. I’ve never argued otherwise. Although I think one can’t neglect other sources such as potential ways of reading passages such as Ps 82.

  91. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Joe, once again let me note what I said to George. There is the question of what is in Masonry or commonly interpreted as such. There is the question of Joseph Smith’s “deconstructive” approach to Masonry. I think we have to distinguish between the two. ”

    I think this is a dodge. “Common interpretations of the ritual” — especially if they are contemporaneous to Joseph Smith — are in fact important considerations. Once we’ve looked at Joseph Smith’s own remarks about Masonic ritual, we will be better able to judge what is and is not a part of his “deconstructive approach.” I’m suggesting that the perfection of human personality can be seen as a fundamental concern of Freemasonry. This concept is communicated to even the dullest of Masons through the various symbols of the Craft. If a Brother doesn’t get it by his own direct observation of the ritual, then the ritual itself gently encourages him to at least reflect on the purity of life and rectitude of conduct so essentially necessary for his spiritual well-being. As in the hermetic tradition, the symbols of the Craft can be applied in a material context if the individual Brother’s faith allows for it. For Joseph Smith to do so is not a significant leap, in my opinion.

    That is to say, if you are arguing that Joseph Smith’s “deconstructive approach” to Masonic ritual is fundamentally different than what every Freemason is encouraged to do when looking at the various degrees, then I’d be disinclined to accept your argument.

    @Clark: “Not knowing the quote in question I may actually have it. But I don’t think it bears on the question at hand.”

    I’m guessing not. If you had any idea regarding Joseph Smiths’ fairly extensive remarks on the meaning of Masonic ritual –and of how it suggests human divinization– I’m sure you yourself would have published on this by now. The only reason I’ve not at least popped off a brief paper to place my stake in the ground, is because I’m an idiot. :-)

  92. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “George, it’s not a trick since what Joseph sees in Masonry may be unrelated to what is commonly seen in Masonry.”

    For instance?

  93. Didn’t I just give one? Are you saying Masonry teaches that men become individual Gods deified able to make their own worlds ala the KFD?

    I think distinguishing between typical meaning and individual interpretation is just good hermeneutics. How you can say this is a dodge escapes me.

    Now it may be that Joseph’s interpretation is within the mainstream interpretation. I’m fine with that. I’d just want to see the evidence.

    If you are saying that the typical Mason interprets deification within Masonry not in Platonic terms but in a fashion akin to the King Follet Discourse I’d want to see the evidence. I’ve certainly seen no evidence of such in all the discussions like this I’ve been in.

  94. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Joe, I don’t doubt there is an influence from Masonry. I’ve never argued otherwise. Although I think one can’t neglect other sources such as potential ways of reading passages such as Ps 82.”

    I would agree that Masonry doesn’t explain all that we find in Mormonism. I’ve never argued that it did. However, many modern Mormons would like to ignore the significant contribution that Masonry made to the shape of Mormonism and its various institutions, or reduce this influence to a “shared biblicism.” But Masonry has, as my Brother “George Miller” claims, affected far more in Mormonism than the shape of the Endowment ritual. It has borrowed words from Freemasonry to describe its own unique religious vision, and has even canonized what until then was merely the part of the legenda of the Craft. As anyone that has looked at the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar knows, changing the meaning of symbols through degrees finds its place there; Mormon apprehension of things Egyptian relied on Masonry in a very interesting way, and the Book of Abraham may be seen as Joseph Smith’s answer to Freemasonic claims.

    Mormon values are sometimes directly drawn from Freemasonry, and Mormon institutions (the Danites, Holy Order and Relief Society all come to mind) are apparently shaped upon positively or negatively percieved Masonic models. In the case of the Danites, for instance, the anti-Masonic image of the Avenging Mason appears to have been borrowed almost whole cloth. Even the Nauvoo Legion seems to be a reflection of the heroic image of the Masonic Templars.

    Sorry. Have to scoot now. Work beckons.

  95. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Are you saying Masonry teaches that men become individual Gods deified able to make their own worlds ala the KFD?”

    Masonry isn’t a religion, and has no set dogma. However, IMO, Joseph Smith’s approach to Masonic ritual is not fundamentally different than that of other Freemasons of his day, who were encouraged to think about their ritual and symbols, to discover what might lie behind them.

    Concerning LDS soteriological concerns, I don’t think that Masonry is quite so narrow. However, Masonic ritual does more than merely accomodate LDS belief. It can also be seen to suggest heavenly ascent and deification, and interpreters of the ritual early and late have pointed in that direction.

    I wonder, though, Clark: why would the evidence have to *perfectly* match LDS teaching on this point? I’d settle for close, given that most commentators on Masonic ritual weren’t LDS. I’d settle for this, the same way LDS apologists settle for “close” when it comes to the historical Christian doctrine of divinization.

    @Clark: “I think distinguishing between typical meaning and individual interpretation is just good hermeneutics. How you can say this is a dodge escapes me.”

    Mormon critics of Freemasonry have a slight advantage here, it seems to me. Even where Masonic ritual interprets itself, it can intentionally conceal as much as it reveals. Sometimes, the signifier points to a signified, which itself is really just another signifier. For example, Masons are told that one ritual “represents” an ascent into a place representing a particular chamber in King Solomon’s Temple. However, any Mason who is such an a moron as to believe that this is the actual “meaning” of this aspect of the ritual –that these remarks are intended as an interpretation of the ritual’s significance– should never have been allowed to enter the door of a Lodge in the first place, as they lack a certain necessary faculty of mind. Yet, this kind of polemical approach is common among Mormon interpreters of Masonic ritual. They regularly attempt to reduce masonic ritual to: a “signifier-signified” model. and end there, satisfied that they have figured it out.

    In the absence of “authoritative Masonic interpreters” of the ritual, I might be inclined to look carefully at what Masons personally say about the symbols of the Craft and their meanings — especially if other Masons seem to read that person, and their heads are moving up and down. For instance, Wilmshurst is not a Masonic “authority” by any means, but he is a Mason of some intelligence, who has articulated a view of the meaning of Masonic symbols which many Freemasons find compelling. Wilmshurst suggests that the three degrees and the Royal Arch together represent the Christian dogma that Jesus “suffered, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day,” and then “he ascended to heaven.” He describes this CHRISTIAN heavenly ascent as an “apotheosis.”

    Wilmshurst’s view of Masonry may be his own, but again, it is shared by many Freemasons, who I suggest to you have rather consistently interpreted their rituals in this manner over a very long time. Of course, Masonry encourages each brother to make such application of the symbols as his own sentiments may allow, so other Brothers may have other views.

    @Clark: “Now it may be that Joseph’s interpretation is within the mainstream interpretation. I’m fine with that. I’d just want to see the evidence.”

    What about the Kabbalistic streams in the New Testament? Given a certain paucity of evidence, can we accept that Paul’s writings can give us insight into what the mystical Jewish tradition looked like in Paul’s own day?

    @Clark: “If you are saying that the typical Mason interprets deification within Masonry not in Platonic terms but in a fashion akin to the King Follet Discourse I’d want to see the evidence. I’ve certainly seen no evidence of such in all the discussions like this I’ve been in.” I don’t understand your preoccupation with the “typical Mason.” What is that? I think the better question is: “Can one demonstrate by existing records that one view of Masonic ritual contemporaneous with Joseph Smith was that said symbols suggest a heavenly ascent and deification?”

    I believe that this is a fair reading of the modern ritual. Additionally Wilmshurst does. Joseph Smith’s contemporary, George Oliver also does. Joseph Smith himself does. Maybe some others do, as well: who knows? :-)

    Best,
    JSW

  96. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “George, it’s not a trick since what Joseph sees in Masonry may be unrelated to what is commonly seen in Masonry. . . [or] are you saying Masonry teaches that men become individual Gods deified able to make their own worlds ala the KFD?”

    I believe that Masonic ritual, and specifically the rituals of Ancient Craft Masonry can be seen as a heavenly ascent and apotheosis of the candidate, and have in fact been seen that way “prior to 1870.” (I think the 1870 date comes from my own reference to George Oliver in a previous post; please correct me if I’m mistaken. If it is my own reference, then I’m suggesting there is earlier stuff. )

    I’m also stating that the particulars of that heavenly ascent and deification are not nearly as important as the fact that they are part of Masonic ritual in the first place. This is because each Brother (including Joseph Smith) is expected to find personal meaning in the ritual, and apply it to their individual situation. My point is that whatever specific elaboration on the theme he may have made, Joseph Smith was indeed elaborating on a theme which has been a part of Freemasonry since before the Prophet was born.

  97. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Joe, once again one has to distinguish between hermetic or platonic deification which is the recognition that The All is God and as part of the All we are God from the sort Joseph taught.”

    While I appreciate your own desire to make this distinction, I don’t agree that in this discussion we must do so. In my opinion, it is sufficient to demonstrate that Masonic ritual may be understood to depict the heavenly ascent and deification of the individual Mason, should his religious belief allow such a view. Commentary on what that may or may not mean is left to each Brother, and for purpose of this discussion is largely irrelevent, I would think. That Joseph Smith held a *specific opionion* regarding the shape of the heavenly ascent and deification is not so important, I think.

    Obviously I don’t mean to imply that this has no theological significance. But Freemasonry isn’t a religion, and does not dictate the fine details of a Brother’s religious belief. So, why would that be important here?

    @Clark: “If you feel you have evidence for the non-Spinozist view of deification in early Masonry I’d love to hear it. ”

    Again, I can appreciate your desire to make this kind of nice distinction. But forgive me for being happy that with you at least, the discussion has moved away from whether or not there IS a heavenly ascent and deification evident in Masonic ritual, to whether or not there is evidence for a “non-Spinozist view of deification in early Masonry.”

    This makes me happy. :-)

    Frankly, Clark, if you wish to claim that Joseph Smith restored such a religious doctrine, and that Masonry is somehow “corrupt” or “apostate” for not advocating a “non-Spinozist view of deification,” that is quite all right by me.

    :-)

    @Clark: “Most of the stuff I’ve seen from 1870 or so up through the 1940’s tends to adopt a more Buddhist or Spinozist like view of deification rather than the form common in Mormonism.”

    In my mind, the view you have just stated is already ahead of LDS apologiest I have spoken with who outright deny that early Freemasons have interpreted their ritual as any kind of deification, and that Masonic ritual certainly cannot be seen as a heavenly ascent.

    @Clark: “Now some like to see deification within Mormonism as actually consisting of the more mystic unio dei and therefore see this as a non-difference. But that opens up a whole other can of worms.”

    I agree that this is an entirely separate issue, and not really relevant to this discussion. I’d only suggest that because of the nature of Masonry, whether the kind of deification you see in its ritual is Spinozist or non-Spinozist is somewhat similar to the question of what kind of God a Mason is obliged to believe in.

    The answer?

    :-)

    I’ve missed you Clark! Probably more than you’ve missed me.

    ;-)

    JSW

  98. The 1870 was rather arbitrary and was from my vague memory of the period when a lot of “explanations” of masonry drawing on comparative religion started to be written extensively. That is I have found numerous more interesting parallels but they always post-date 1870 or so.

    As I said the issue isn’t deification but the kind of deification. As I said rather early I could myself provide much better parallels from my own notes than George did. The problem is that I recognize the distinction between Platonic apotheosis such as is found in hermetic writings and Nauvoo theology which saw God as a material person.

    The problem in discussions like this is that some want to deny too much uncritically and others want to include too much uncritically. Ultimately what counts aren’t the parallels but the parallels in their own context. As you yourself know, I’ve been in an awful lot of these discussions the past 20 years and once the evidence actually comes out their is often far less than meets the eye.

    History isn’t just about how we can interpret texts but how we can justify such texts.

    As to George Oliver, while he certainly talks of ascents, the question is how to take his talk. I believe that speculative Masonry picked up elements of Renaissance hermeticism, gnosticism, paganism, Platonism and so forth and that Schaw in particular brought them into Masonry. So I do not (and never have) doubted those things. The question is once again the content relative to Mormon understandings such as the King Follet Discourse. If you believe Oliver teaches a material deification ala Mormons then please, tell me which text. I’ve consulted several in my collection and I don’t see it.

    Regarding Oliver, it’s odd you bring him up since it seems to me he adopts a fairly traditional view of God. So, for instance, he writes in The Symbol of Glory, “the Deity, however, is Omnipresent and cannnot be confined to any individual locality but it equally diffused throughout the entire universe.” (153) And later, “…although God is said to dwell in the highest heavens, yet being omnipotent, he is bound to no limit or space…” (163)

    Once again the issue is not deification, which is of course the key aspect of the hermetic writings which many masons thought were quite ancient rather than being relatively late productions of late antiquity. The question is the nature of Nauvoo interpretations of the endowment as a material heavenly ascent.

    As to “Kabbalistic streams in the NT” that’s a whole other controversy. As you undoubtedly know that’s quite controversial. Some, such as Idel, of course see what sometimes gets labeled as Jewish gnosticism as arising from Kabbalism. But the more dominant view is that Kabbalism is a late development arising out of merkabah speculation and gnosticism rather than vice versa. So let’s not take a rather controversial historical claim as evidence for an even more controversial historical claim.

    As to the problem of the signifier. As you know, I love semiotics, so I’m quite familiar with what some call “the hermetic problem.” However in history of course the issue is what we can establish reasonably and not what is possible to interpret. Beware of Hamlet’s Mill…

    To the other point, I confess it is frustrating when some point to Mormon apologists who attempt to disparage any Mormon-Mason connection as if that answers any skeptical inquiry into Mormon-Masonry connections. At best it is arguing beside the point. Further I know you know that I accept a lot of Mormon-Masonry connections. So I’m surprised you raise this.

    All I am saying is what Nick is saying. Let’s not say Joseph did nothing original and that everything comes out of Masonry without Joseph having any new revelation or creativity of his own. That is, in my mind, just as bad as sweeping Masonry under the rug and saying, “move along, there’s nothing to see here.”

    I’m more than willing to be convinced. I have quite an open mind. I just look for the evidence. Thus far in most discussions I’ve been in the evidence is much, much weaker than proponents claim. I’m sure there’s a lot out there that I haven’t seen. So I don’t want to claim there is no evidence. However I think it fair to those making claims that they provide evidence. It’s one thing if, as Nick is doing, they are preparing a book. It’s quite an other if people say they have evidence, make claims, but are unwilling to present the evidence.

  99. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “Keeping a distinction between Masonry the movement in terms of the understanding of its main adherents and how Mormons interpreted Masonry (including Joseph) seems not a rhetorical trick but simply good history.”

    Hold one, Clark. Here’s the point:

    The “main adherents” (whatever that means) of Masonry have suggested that Masonic ritual entails a heavenly ascent and deification.

    Joseph Smith believed that Masonic ritual entails a heavenly ascent and deification.

    :-)

    I think that this is non-trivial, whatever you may make of differences in Joseph Smith’s personal theology from what other folks of his day believed.

    Joseph was not a bashful boy. I’m sure that given the opportunity, he would have been happy to share his views regarding Masonic symbolism with other Masons. It is a small conceit of mine that had he done so in the right venue, they would have been impressed.

    :-)

    @Clark: ” If one blurs that distinctions you’ll simply mislead.”

    What is the worry here, Clark? Is it misleading to say that there is a heavenly ascent and divinization depicted in Masonic ritual? Is it misleading to say that LDS temple ritual also contains a heavenly ascent and divinization?

    What is misleading?

    Best,
    JSW

  100. (Sorry, screwed up the formatting by forgetting an italics close. Mea culpa)

    To add, I’m not saying you are saying Joseph offered nothing new. George was headed that way and demanded an example of something new. I offered it. If you agree that Joseph offered something new in the endowment let me simply turn the question around and have you answer George. What in the endowment, content-wise, is unique?

  101. Joe, go back to the original comment (#30). Merely providing elements of deification I acknowledged from the first were in Masonry seems pointless. I initially wrote:

    It’s true that masonry was almost certainly influenced by Renaissance views of the hermetic texts and Christian Cabala but the deification therein is quite different from what Joseph taught.

    So all my comments are tied to that quote. Maybe you missed reading the initial response to George and that is the reason for the confusion. (Although I think I’ve reiterated many times acknowledging the hermetic ascent)

  102. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “As I said the issue isn’t deification but the kind of deification. As I said rather early I could myself provide much better parallels from my own notes than George did. The problem is that I recognize the distinction between Platonic apotheosis such as is found in hermetic writings and Nauvoo theology which saw God as a material person. ”

    Clark, in Joseph Smith’s day, THE INDIVIDUAL FREEMASON ascended to the Grand Council, passing through veils and meeting various tests, then stood before the GRAND HIGH PRIEST, having been previously told that this represents heaven. He was there crowned in what is called “the Rite of Exaltation.” Let me ask you: do you really think that in that very moment, this person is thinking about God as some intangiable or impersonal Being? I PROMISE you not. Do you think that, surrounded by Brothers and Companions, he is thinking about merging into the ALL? I PROMISE you not! Remember that for the Mason, this isn’t about “reading words” as you suggest. It is AN EXPERIENCE, with an immediacy and tangibility that my own words cannot adequately express. The Brother is EXALTED: ascending into the Grand Council, where in the presence of Three Persons who are at once Prophet, Priest, and King, he is crowned.

    The ritual itself does not seem in the least an abstraction: only our later descriptions of it are this way. The disadvantage in my discussions with you are that when it comes to Masonry, you are limited to the words on a page or at best a video exposure, and this is far different than the direct experience of the ritual. Airy discussions about “merging with the One” lack the immediacy that the Masonic ritual provides, as I am sure you can appreciate.

    Let me say it this way: there is NOTHING in LDS ritual that is in ANY WAY seems “more tangible” or “less abstract” than what I have experienced in my ritual life as a Freemason. There is NOTHING in the Masonic rituals we are discussing that seem LESS suggestive of the themes of heavenly ascent / deification than what we find in LDS ritual. In both cases, we come to the ritual informed by personal traditions and texts, and this can shape our experience of said rituals.

    I do see an ascent and deification as a fundamental aspect of Masonic ritual. So have other Freemasons early and late. Whatever else that means is left to the individual Brother, but the experience comes before the philosophizing over what this or that ritual element means for the individual.

    Whatever personal beliefs George Oliver or any other Mason may have held regarding the nature of Deity, this is at best incidental: no Mason is required to make a specific declaration of the nature of the Deity he worships.

    Sorry . . . a bit longwinded there, eh. :-)

  103. Joe, the nature of deity is key to the point I raised. Nothing you mentioned I disagree with. It just doesn’t in the least deal with the issue I raised.

    If you can find me masons prior to Joseph Smith believing God the Father has a body of flesh and bones and seeing the ascent as becoming that Father I’ll concede my point. That you haven’t done this but merely point to parallels I conceded from the beginning suggests you can’t.

    The point about Oliver was just to point out that Oliver doesn’t address the original point I raised. Heck, as I’ve said numerous times I can find something far more explicit than you raise in the hermetic texts.

    Let me again repeat the question George raised to you. Do you think Joseph created something new in the endowment that wasn’t in Masonry and if so what do you think it is.

  104. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: You are right, I missed your initial posting, and owe you a bit of an apology. Like you, I do believe that Joseph Smith offered something new, although we may disagree on precisely what that is. While I agree with “George Miller” in #35, I also agree with Nick that Joseph wasn’t simply stealing from Freemasonry. Rather Joseph Smith’s “use of Masonic elements was a legitimate part of a long tradition.” I’ll give an example or two below.

    @Clark: “What in the endowment, content-wise, is unique?”

    This is complicated, and I wish to respect the bounds of good taste when it comes to discussing LDS and Masonic rituals.

    Let me say this: the LDS Endowment is a Masonic ritual, but it is entirely recontextualized. So, I admit that the two ritual systems share many of the same elements, and that there is a deep structural kinship between them. The meaning of many ritual elements are similar. However, I also find that many times the LDS ritual expands upon or enlarges themes it shares with Masonry.

    Recontextualization: by this, I mean that central myth (in the non-pejorative sense of that word) which serves as the stage for the Endowment is almost entirely different than the specific legenda used as a backdrop or stage for the rituals of Ancient Craft Masonry. In the context of the Endowment, I appreciate your remarks on Joseph Smith’s “deconstructing” of Masonry: in his own ritual conception, he does remove all overt references to and allegorizing upon the Builder’s craft, with a few notable exeptions (i.e., the Square, the Compasses, and the Line, which I would point out are the subject of a lecture in Masonry).

    Now, we do find some aspects of the LDS ritual hinted at elsewhere: for instance, the French degree of “Le Parfait Macon” is based upon the story of the Garden of Eden, and in the Craft degrees it is really “Adam [the Archeypal Man] at the Altar,” and the degrees outright reference to the Genesis account. From at least the time of Anderson’s Constitutions, the legendary history of the Craft extended back to the Garden of Eden, where God taught Adam (the first Grand Master) the Divine Science of Geomery. Adam recorded this in a book to be passed down to his posterity.

    However, even granting the above, the way these elements are developed in LDS ritual is very unique. As I’ve already said, I agree with Nick that the Endowment is not simply a borrowing from existing Masonic degrees, but is itself a unique ritual working which thoughtfully brings together recognized or common Masonic elements in a unique and exciting way, and in so doing enlarges upon their meaning and significance. Joseph Smith (and the others who worked on the Endowment in the 1840′s) were clearly ritualists of the first order.

    A beautiful touch which arises from the recontextualization we find in the Endowment, is that the themes of recovery, heavenly ascent and deification are connected directly and unambiguously with the Garden of Eden. That is to say, Masonic ritual makes much of enduring the hardships of travelling through a lone and dreary wasteland before obtaining a heavenly reward. However, LDS ritual so beautifully contrasts this barren world with the Garden — it simultaneously summarizes and builds upon these same themes using its own uniqe ritual context. To me, this is a brilliant aspect of LDS ritual.

    In my opinion, one of the other great touches in the Endowment is that (if I be allowed to characterize the ritual without specific reference to its content) it is in fact a staged revelation, which reveals how to obtain revelation, and how to discern between true revelation and error, and then provides the “Keys” by which one can obtain. And, while both rituals are concerned with the recovery of something which has been lost, I particularly cherish the unique way this theme is expressed and developed in the Endowment, and the very beautiful language associated with the promise of recovery.

  105. Something in this thread has troubled me, but I have not known quite what it was, or how to identify it. Maybe it comes down to my old saw (in such discussions) about the danger of missing the forest for the trees. Deification was a point raised in response to a challenge to find something in Mormon ritual which did not come from Masonic ritual. Be that ever so valid, is it not becoming a red herring here? As I understood it, Brad’s initial post was aimed at a seemingly general lack of awareness among many modern Latter-day Saints regarding the extent of Masonic parallels to Joseph Smith’s temple rituals of the early-mid 1840s. I have devoted decades to this and similar topics in my spare time, and feel certain that such a concern is by no means mis-placed or at all exaggerated. But back to a more broad view: I would like to share one paragraph, below, from the introduction to my Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source (2008), page 30 . . .

    Some respondents, then, deny the significance of the modern Mormon parallels by requiring, in rebuttal, a perfect pre-existing example of every aspect of the modern faith, down to the slightest shade of doctrine or the Book of Mormon’s most humbly-crafted phrase. “Find and show it all,” they seem to demand, “or we concede nothing.” But if such a burden of discovery is ours, it was never Joseph Smith’s. Such a stance assumes, in essence, that since Mormonism is true, then Mormonism is true – a circular argument which must insist that whatever now is, always was, precisely, that which had to be, even to the most minute detail: the one and only true, present system of belief, prophetically differentiated from all the varieties of the past. A flexible assurance of that sort is powerful in the realm of faith, and will endure like nothing else. It cannot make sense, however, as any demonstration that Mormonism was not derived from the culture in which it emerged.

  106. Rick, I suspect most of us agree that this hasn’t been dealt with. I think most of us have eagerly been awaiting Nick’s book for many years. (And I was disappointed that Joe dropped plans for his book many years ago) Thus far the topic just has been dealt with in print quite poorly. That is the large parallels have been discussed in several places but the parallels and influence is much, much more widespread.

    That said I think there is still a vigorous debate to where an influence should be pointed to in masonry/hermeticism and when to the Bible or Biblical commentaries. I also think that there are debates about content, although I think a lot of that debate will have to await Nick’s book.

    The final debate is the old debate about parallels. That is when should we see Mormonism in 19th century terms and when in ancient terms. As I think Joe would agree, many of the interesting masonic parallels can also be found in kabbalism, hermeticism, merkabah mysticism, and other movements of late antiquity. Some apologists play up those while downplaying 19th century parallels. I think that’s often illegitimate simply because there was a lot more direct influence in the 19th century than many are willing to concede. But what’s so interesting is how much of what Joseph created (and even what is in masonry) has ties to the ancient world, either due to the resurgence of those movements in the Renaissance or simply due to coincidence.

    A big debate then becomes how to treat evolution of certain things in the 18th and 19th centuries. So one can look at Brent Metcalf’s arguments about the resurrection motif in the five points of fellowship which changes over time. I think that sort of thing is missing the forrest for the trees, as you said. (And I think Joe would agree)

  107. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: In regards to #104, I’d say that one should look to the reasons Joseph used Freemasonry for insight into what he may have provided that Masonry didn’t already have.

    I don’t mean to sound cryptic, but I don’t want to step on someone else’s toes when it comes to research.

    What is quite clearly unique aside from the pretty form of the Endowment, or how the Endowment enlarges upon Masonic themes, is that unlike Masonry, Joseph Smith claimed that *his ritual was salvific* and that it was *authorized by God.* The difference is in the claim to Priesthood authority. That is why I’ve suggested that the fundamental issue of the Book of Abraham isn’t Blacks and the Priesthood, but rather benign (or even “righteous”) orders that imitate the order of the Priesthood:

    “Pharaoh, BEING A RIGHTEOUS MAN, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to IMITATE THAT ORDER established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah” (Abr 1: 26-27).

    In Joseph Smith’s day, the legendary history of the Craft as presented both by Hutchinson and Oliver (and maybe even Anderson, I can’t recall), traced their history and claim on the mysteries through Egypt. If I’m correct about this, Abraham 1 is really contrasting “the REAL Priesthood” with an order which is merely an “imitation” of the real thing. Pharoah’s righteousness is not enough: without the Priesthood, his “order’ is but a pale imitation.

    In this view, Priesthood trumps all. It doesn’t even matter that Pharoah was well-intentioned, or that his order appeared to be around longer than Abraham was old.

    :-)

    I can think of no Freemason that would tell you that Masonry is itself salvific, or that its rituals are essentially necessary.

  108. George Miller says:

    Sorry for the delay in responding Clark. I just finished up a Master Mason’s degree here at the lodge. I want to make sure that you are not misunderstanding my view. While you jumped into the conversation, I was primarily responding to the following statement.

    “He found in Masonry a system of teaching that enabled him to present these complex principles and concepts to a diverse populace. The similarities between the Endowment and the Degrees of Masonry are generally related to the system of teaching, not the content of what is being taught.”

    I do not accept this apologetic stance which has only recently been put forward by Mormon apologists. There is a large amount of MASONIC CONTENT in the Mormon ceremony.

    I am not trying to deny that Joseph was inspired, nor that he was a master ritualist, nor and that the Mormon endowment is a beautiful ritual working. In his day, George Oliver bemoaned the fact that the European rituals had been steadily de-Christianized. Had Oliver been a Mormon, he would have been thrilled at Joseph’s reworked and fully Christianized, even Mormonized ritual.

    However, to deny that the endowment contains Masonic context is just intellectually dishonest. (Clark from your comments I don’t think you are saying this.) I am not saying that there is nothing innovative in Joseph Smith’s ritual. But for the MOST PART each of these innovations is built on pre-existing concepts within the Masonic ritual.

    As such I did challenge such naysayers to suggest something novel. To this question I got a blank stare. You suggested deification. I think Joe has assuaged and perhaps convinced you that apotheosis was a theme in Freemasonry. While the Joseph Smith’s conception of this may have been more material than Platonic, I think it could be successfully argued that the seed for Joseph Smith’s revelation was at least in part found in Freemasonry.

  109. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “As I think Joe would agree, many of the interesting masonic parallels can also be found in kabbalism, hermeticism, merkabah mysticism, and other movements of late antiquity. Some apologists play up those while downplaying 19th century parallels. I think that’s often illegitimate simply because there was a lot more direct influence in the 19th century than many are willing to concede. But what’s so interesting is how much of what Joseph created (and even what is in masonry) has ties to the ancient world, either due to the resurgence of those movements in the Renaissance or simply due to coincidence.”

    Yes. Even if one admits Joseph Smith’s borrowing from Masonry, it would seem Joseph tended to emphasize elements that also appear in the the ancient world. Of course, Masons did claim that their rites were like this. LOL.

    Clark, you also state one of my main gripes nicely: “Some apologists play up [the similarities with the ancient world] downplaying 19th century parallels. I think that’s often illegitimate simply because there was a lot more direct influence in the 19th century than many are willing to concede.” That’s at the root of a lot of my sensitivity on this issue: the desire to jump over a contemporaneous influence in the rush to look at the past.

    I find the connections with the ancient world interesting as well. I just think it can be dishonest if we fail to give credit where credit is due. There is a demonstrable link between Mormonism and Freemasonry: this being so, I’d like to explore that before concluding that the reason there are similarities in Mormon and Masonic ritual, is that there is some common pristine ritual from which both traditions draw.

    I don’t think that being honest about history and genealogy doesn’t mean one need abandon faith in Joseph Smith as a Prophet. It may slightly change what one believes regarding how a prophet behaves, though. In fact, while we may get a little less “woo-woo” we may also get a little more “wow.”

  110. Joe Swick says:

    I apologize for the hasty posts, with lots of bad grammar. I should have said:

    “I don’t think that being honest about history and genealogy means one need abandon faith in Joseph Smith as a Prophet. “

  111. Joe Swick says:

    @George Miller: “To deny that the endowment contains Masonic context is just intellectually dishonest. (Clark from your comments I don’t think you are saying this.) I am not saying that there is nothing innovative in Joseph Smith’s ritual. But for the MOST PART each of these innovations is built on pre-existing concepts within the Masonic ritual.”

    I agree with this. In my opinion, the genius of the Endowment isn’t in the uniqueness of its various elements, but rather in how those elements are brought together to expand and enlarge upon their significance.

    This isn’t to say that there is absolutely nothing unique in the Endowment. I think Joseph Smith thought he had something that was VERY unique, and that the re-Christianized Endowment was the proper setting for that thing.

  112. Steve Evans says:

    Joe and George Miller, why didn’t you start off with your last comments?

  113. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “If you can find me masons prior to Joseph Smith believing God the Father has a body of flesh and bones and seeing the ascent as becoming that Father I’ll concede my point. That you haven’t done this but merely point to parallels I conceded from the beginning suggests you can’t.”

    That is correct, Clark: I cannot demonstrate this. But I don’t know why that is important. In the first place, it is enough that there be a heavenly ascent and deification as part of Masonic ritual. And, strictly speaking, the idea of a God of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s isn’t a teaching of the Endowment any more than it is of Masonic ritual. The question wasn’t about what was unique in MORMONISM, but what was uniquely presented in the Endowment.

    Here is what you said at the beginning of your discussion (i.e., #30):

    “As for what is different, deification is a clear one. I know that in latter exegesis of masonry the connection to deification was made. But . . . this was a more later development. It’s true that masonry was almost certainly influenced by Renaissance views of the hermetic texts and Christian Cabala but the deification therein is quite different from what Joseph taught.”

    When I read this, I wasn’t quite sure of your point.

    You suggest first that Masons were influenced by Renaissance views, hermetic texts and Christian Cabala, which of course all teach a form of deification. I observe that the Renaissance was not a late influence on Freemasonry. Neither were hermetic texts or Christian Cabala. If you believe that notions of deification entered Freemasonry via these sources (I’m inclined to agree, although proving it is another matter), then you aren’t merely suggesting some late exegesis, right? Or are you really arguing for a later introduction of this idea into Masonry, say, in 1870 or later?

    You correctly note that one can point to later interpretations of Masonic ritual (such as Wilmshurst) that clearly and unambiguously opine that the ritual refers to the Christian message and that this includes: death, burial resurrection, and exaltation (i.e., apotheosis). Hutchinson doesn’t discuss the Royal Arch degree, but like Wilmshurst over 100 years later, he characterizes the Master Mason’s degree as a death, burial and resurrection:

    “[Jesus] manifested to mankind the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. In the Master’s Order this whole doctrine is symbolized” (Hutchinson 145, 1795 edition — sorry, I’m at work and away from my personal copy).

    In 1820, Salem Town describes the Royal Arch Degree as heavenly ascension, in this language:

    “The beauty of the moral world will arise, from the ruins of nature, irradiated with the beams of immortality. The bright effulgence of the Divine glory and justice, and all the adorable perfections of the very Godhead shall fill the universe, and be displayed before its countless millions, while the righteous shall ascend, in transports of joy, to realms of everlasting felicity. This solemn event is faintly prefigured in the sublime degree of a ROYAL ARCH MASON. Let every Companion seriously consider the circumstances attendant on his exaltation: let him duly examine all those symbolical representations which pass before him, and say if there does not appear to be a manifest allusion to the final consummation of all things. To particularize those Masonic representations is not admissible” (Town, 66).

  114. George Miller says:

    I was asked earlier about my usage of the phrase “Celestial Masonry.” Here is the reference and complete quote.
    “It is claimed that the mysterious rites were taken from Masonry, and that the Endowments are a direct outgrowth of the secret society. Brigham Young delights, I know, to speak of it as ‘Celestial Masonry’” (Eliza Young et al., Wife No. 19. (1876) pp. 371)

  115. While what I term the divine anthropology (which includes theosis or whatever you want to call it) was clearly confirmed, supplemented, and justified in part by Masonry, the Mormon system is much larger than Masonry, both before and after Smith’s immersion in Masonry. I have come to argue (this one’s Chapter 9) that in point of fact this represents a magnificent, novel imitatio Christi. Deeply heretical to the American mainstreams but rather distinct from the other perfectionist movements (remember that Masonry is only one rather eclectic set of perfectionist movements–there are plenty more to choose from).

  116. George Miller says:

    JWS#109 “That’s at the root of a lot of my sensitivity on this issue: the desire to jump over a contemporaneous influence in the rush to look at the past.”

    I agree with my dear brother on this regard. Let me also state another sticking point for me. Some apologists intellectual curiosity (and fears) are quelled when faced with bona fide borrowed elements from Freemasonry by simply pointing to traditions predating Freemasonry from which Masons may have borrowed. In doing so they ignore particular angle/spin that Freemasonry put on these traditions which affect the way Joseph received them.

    More egregiously, the same commentators then extend their arguments well beyond the breaking point by trying to claim that the more ancient version is closer to the form which Joseph Smith presented. For example some have claimed that the Egyptian ritualistic system is more closely related to the Endowment than Freemasonry. I simply disagree. It is for this reason that I would take umbrage with this comments Clark.

    Clark#69-”Once again though that is simply not deification. … Heck, I can find you much better parallels than you just outlined.”

    I simply disagree. Given the description given in GM#68 and JSW#72,102 do you really believe that you can provide parallels that are more extensive?

  117. George Miller says:

    Sam#115 “In point of fact this represents a magnificent, novel imitatio Christi.”

    Wow Sam- It is interesting you should mention this. After our lodge meeting last night I stayed late (way TOO late- 3:00 a.m.) chatting with two brothers. We had a 45 minute conversation on this very idea within Freemasonry. This was NOT a diatribe by me but in fact 70% of the conversation was THEM elaborating on “imatatio Christi” (not their words) within Freemasonry. During the Master Mason ritual the initiate takes on the role of Hyrum Abiff, which in the higher degrees is revealed to symbolize Christ, as he is killed and “raised.” George Oliver discussed the penalties of Freemasonry as representing the candidate becoming the sacrifice. Forgive me if I don’t elaborate more as not to offend Mormon and Masonic sensibilities. In the Mark Master degree one finds and claims as one’s own the mark when it is in fact Hyrum Abiff’s. In the Royal Arch degree one is crowned a Priest and King the very title given to Christ.

    Sam- I think you are on the right track. However, IMHO Joseph’s use of this theme in the Endowment builds on the precedent of these element within the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch degrees.

  118. George Miller says:

    “the Mormon system is much larger than Masonry, both before and after Smith’s immersion in Masonry.”

    However, recognize that Joseph is fully immersed in Freemasonry as early as Vermont.

  119. George Miller says:

    “The Mormon system is much larger than Masonry.”

    My reading would be substantively different. I would assertthat the Masonic system is in fact larger. However, Joseph Smith’s system is more overtly Christian.

  120. aloysiusmiller says:

    This book by John M. Lundquist (who is probably a Mormon but the book is not written with any reference to Mormonism) suggests that there are indeed links between Freemasonry and earlier esoteric initiation rites that have remarkable parallels in ancient texts.

  121. George Miller says:

    “While what I term the divine anthropology (which includes theosis or whatever you want to call it) was clearly confirmed, supplemented, and justified in part by Masonry, the Mormon system is much larger than Masonry, both before and after Smith’s immersion in Masonry.”

    Sam, I am intrigued by your characterization here. I of course concur with the first part of your statement, but I would be interested in what aspects you think the Mormon system is much larger than Masonry. While I admit I am cheating a bit in my response since Albert Pike entered the Masonic scene after Joseph Smith’s death, what does Mormon ritual and commentary have to compare in scale to the Scottish Rite system of 33 degrees and >750 pages of commentary to accompany the ritual in Morals and Dogma. IMHO humble opinion the Scottish Rite is somewhat disjointed in its presentation, but surely the same could be said of Joseph Smith’s ritual.

  122. George Miller says:

    Clark#106, ” As I think Joe would agree, many of the interesting masonic parallels can also be found in kabbalism, hermeticism, merkabah mysticism, and other movements of late antiquity.”

    I agree with you here Clark that “many of the masonic parallels can be found elsewhere.” You then continue.

    “I think … there was a lot more direct influence in the 19th century than many are willing to concede.”

    I would agree with you here as well, though with a major caveat. Probably the best source for information on these esoteric traditions came through Masonic related publications. By seeking to distance the Mormon movement from Freemasonry, some Mormon writers miss important material. Let me give you two examples. In his book Early Mormonism and the Magical World View, Quinn admits that “To be sure, Masonic rituals shared some similarities with the ancient mysteries…” (EMMWV,234). However, when he reviews the extant sources on the Mysteries in Joseph Smith’s environment he includes five major sources: (1) Divine Legation by William Warburton, (2) Origins of Pagan Idolatry by George Faber, (3) a work by Sergei Uvarov, (4) the Enyclopedia Britanica, and (5) Exposition of the Mysteries by John Fellows. Seeking to distance Mormonism from Freemasonry he neglects to mention the full title of Exposition of the Mysteries or its later, frankly more aptly named, The Mysteries of Freemasonry. Interesting to Mormons, Fellows includes in the text a lion-couch scene with the following caption.

    The author here gives a complex figure, copied from the collection of Mountfaucon … The raising of grand master Hiram, in the third degree of Masonry, by the “grip or paw of the Lion,” (the terms used in the operation) whom as the story goes, had been murdered by three fellows of the craft, is evidently copied from this fable of the death and resurrection of Osiris. The position of the master Mason, when in the act of raising Hiram, is a fac simile of that of Anubis over the body of Osiris. (Fellows, 15)

    Equally disturbing in Quinn’s treatment is the complete absence of George Oliver’s works Antiquities of Freemasonry and History of Initiation (which relied heavily on Faber) that discuss the mysteries in greater depth and were both published prior to 1830. Oliver’s works were definitely known in America to Masonic, anti-masonic, and religious authors in the 1820s and 1830s. Additionally, before, during, and after the Morgan Affair articles discussing Freemasonry side-by-side with the mysteries were common in America.

    Thus the most readily information on the mysteries were arguably masonic sources.

    As a second example I will point to Nibley. He has discussed the clothing worn in the Egyptian and Early Christian rituals relying on his audience to draw the parallels with Mormon temple rituals. However, information on these subjects, which seems more relevant, readily available, and thorough can be found in Masonic works. For example in 1826 George Oliver would write Signs and Symbols for both a Masonic and non-Masonic audience. This book contained a series of lectures suitable to be read in lodge meetings. One lecture on the Masonic apron had the following discussion of ritual clothing worn in Antiquity.

    “The investiture of the Apron formed and essential part of the ceremony of initiation, and was attended with rites equally significant and impressive. With the Essenian Masons, it was accomplished by a process bearing a similar tendency, and accompanied by illustrations not less imposing and satisfactory to the newly initiated enquirer. He was clothed in a long WHITE robe, which reached to the ground, bordered with a fringe of blue ribbon to incite personal holiness, and fastened tightly around the waist with a girdle or zone, to separate the heart from the lower and more impure parts of the body. … Their chief employment was to learn to rule and govern their passions, to keep a tongue of good report, and to practice secrecy united with universal charity and benevolence. … The garments of initiation were uniformly WHITE, and they bore a common reference to innocence of conduct and purity of heart. When a candidate was initiated into the ancient mysteries, he was REGENERATE; for these institutions were the sole vehicles of regeneration among the idolaters; and he was invested with a White Garment and Apron, as a symbol of his newly attained purity.” (Oliver, 131-2)

    Nibley, in looking for ancient sources misses the Masonic contemporary ones. Nibley is not the only Mormon at fault here. Matthew Brown in his work “Girded about with Lambskin” makes the same mistake. Brown attacks the notion that “Joseph Smith plagiarized ritual elements from … the Freemasons.” In particular his paper “attempts to demonstrate that the lambskin apparel in 3 Nephi 4:7, which has been mentioned as one of the Masonic elements, can indeed be seen from an ancient perspective,” and that apron use can be found in “the Bible, Egypt, and Mesoamerica.”

    The main problem with Brown’s thesis is that Freemasons have long elaborated on these exact parallels (as shown above) and thus Brown is a Johny-Come-Lately whose treatment is frankly inferior to George Oliver’s. Brown finishes his paper with a very brief, woefully inadequate, and misleading discussion on the apron in Freemasonry.

    Thus Clark if historians want to search for sources of information on these esoteric ideas in order to gauge their impact on Joseph Smith, it is essential to include Masonic sources in these literature surveys and to give them their due consideration in light of Joseph Smith’s documented interest and previous borrowing from such material.

  123. Sorry guys, I don’t have time for more than a brief set of comments.

    George, I fully agree that masonry has insufficiently been engaged with by historians. It has been dealt with only in a superficial level. And more esoteric side movements (such as adoptive rites) not at all. Early Mormonism was perfused with masonic ideas from the mundane to the deep. It was as influential on Mormon think as was Protestantism. That said I think you have to get some solid books out there to really engage people. Thus far the publications have been fairly weak. (Ditto with the broader movement sometimes termed hermeticism where a lot that is written is frankly embarrassing) I agree Quinn’s work is bad, but at least he paved the way for something further to be written. However while most agree Magic World View is bad we’ve not seen the expected followups.

    Regarding apologists, if they were wise, they’d concede a lot of the 19th century parallels and simply acknowledge them the way we do Protestant influences. No one cries foul about Arminianism influences on Mormonism. Why worry about Masonic ones? Primarily because there is the perception that masonry is all made up since the founding myths are false history. But no one seems to want to grapple with what they were made up out of. Schaw, Bruno and others simply aren’t engaged with but I think they offer fertile ground for apologists. The key unexplored period of Mormon history is the Renaissance.

    The other annoyance is that Mormon apologists are willing to concede people like Martin Luther were inspired yet deny this to Renaissance figures, Masons, or even figures like Swedenborg. Yes we can say they got a lot wrong. But don’t we say Protestants are apostate too? I honestly don’t understand the double standard.

    As I said though I think that apologists also get treated unfairly. Most I know are at least reasonably versed on the basic parallels and accept Masonic influences. Those that don’t acknowledge the broader movements simply do so out of ignorance. But once again if no one publishes the books you can’t complain too much. No one can engage with non-provided evidence. It reminds me of the kerfuffle of Lance Owens horrible “Joseph Smith and the Kaballah.” People kept saying there was stuff there and criticizing the response Owens got. But Owens work simply was bad. People can only engage with what is written not some ideal treatise people refuse to write.

    As to the question of deification. I think the standard hermetic corpus has stronger theological (i.e. content) parallels. Until you realize the platonic thrust of those writings. (A similar effect is found in the misuse of the Gospel of Philip although there the parallels end up being a bit more complex than some let on as well) I think it is the neglect of the philosophical context that irks me a lot. It can lead to massive changes. The typical response is to say that content doesn’t matter and that one has to consider how a naive materialist would read the texts. (I’m not saying anyone here is making that move) Sort of how some read the KJV as if it were written in 1985. That’s just bad hermeneutics though.

  124. Razorfish says:

    Great discussion by all.

    I have a question related to the original post:
    “Participation in Masonic rites increased alongside the growth of the Anointed Quorum. And during the brief flurry of temple endowments after the martyrdom but before the exodus, the Lodges in Nauvoo raised more than 1,000 Master Masons. However Joseph Smith and his immediate confidants understood the relationship between the Masonic Craft and the Fullness of the Priesthood, the former was not simply a precursor for the latter.”

    Could someone please comment or provide some color and context on why following the marterdom of Joseph (and the completely restored LDS endowment ritual), many of the early Saints were still raised Master Masons?

    As has been mentioned, there is a fascinating nexus between LDS temple rituals and Masonic liturgy that has never been adequately explained to the mainstream Church membership in any comprehensive and meaningful way. I look forward to the research and forthcoming book by Nick and others who can illuminate this issue further.

  125. Joe Swick says:

    @aloysiusmiller (#120): “This book by John M. Lundquist (who is probably a Mormon but the book is not written with any reference to Mormonism) suggests that there are indeed links between Freemasonry and earlier esoteric initiation rites that have remarkable parallels in ancient texts.”

    Masons have been saying this before John Lundquist (yes, a Latter-day Saint) was ever born. As an example of this approach, I generally recommend “Who Was Hiram Abiff?” by JSM Ward (http://tinyurl.com/nm8moh). I especially recommend it to Mormons because it reads like Hugh Nibley.

    The issue really isn’t one of whether or not there are parallels in to Masonry or Mormonism in the ancient world — I’m convinced there are. Rather, the issue is about the relationship that Mormonism shares with Freemasonry. It seems to me that Ivins and many after him have been largely of the “don’t look at the man behind the curtain” sort. They don’t want to know that Mormonism owes ANYTHING to Freemasonry; they are happy to believe (rightly or wrongly) that similar elements may be best explained by *looking over* Freemasonry (which has a demonstrable genetic link to Mormonism) into the ancient world. They are particularly of this mind when the elements are part of Mormon ritual. They care considerably less about the OTHER elements, which I personally find at least as interesting as ritual parallels.

  126. Joe Swick says:

    @GeorgeMiller: “Equally disturbing in Quinn’s treatment is the complete absence of George Oliver’s works Antiquities of Freemasonry and History of Initiation (which relied heavily on Faber) that discuss the mysteries in greater depth and were both published prior to 1830. Oliver’s works were definitely known in America to Masonic, anti-masonic, and religious authors in the 1820s and 1830s. Additionally, before, during, and after the Morgan Affair articles discussing Freemasonry side-by-side with the mysteries were common in America.”

    It is even worse. Quinn argues that LDS ritual is more like the Eleusinian mysteries than Freemasonry, while entirely failing to note that many of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries were Freemasons, who knew of the Eleusinian mysteries precisely because writers like George Oliver were comparing those mysteries to Freemasonry. Ach! Makes me wanna bang my head on a stump.

  127. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “The typical response is to say that content doesn’t matter and that one has to consider how a naive materialist would read the texts.”

    Or experience the ritual. :-) Let’s not forget that.

    Best,
    ~J

  128. Joe Swick says:

    @Razorfish: “Could someone please comment or provide some color and context on why following the marterdom of Joseph (and the completely restored LDS endowment ritual), many of the early Saints were still raised Master Masons? ”

    Because when some said that Freemasonry was a *preparation* for something greater, it might not have meant that when the “something greater* arrived, that Freemasonry ceased to be a preparation for it?

    Similarly, I continue to participate in many Masonic rituals, which may be viewed as preparation for rituals I later recieved. Those “preparatory rituals” did not suddenly cease to have value to me, because I’d received the rituals they prepared me for.

    If we consider the Endowment as not standing alone, but as predicated on a larger ritual system found in Freemasonry, the value of Masonic ritual becomes apparent.

    By the way, your question is akin to asking ME why *I* choose to be a Freemason –what value could it possibly have for me– since I’ve already received the Endowment.

    :-)

  129. aloysiusmiller says:

    125. I actually have no idea what parallels exist between Mormonism and Freemasonry and really don’t care. But one of the assertions of this weblog was that Freemasonry’s rituals are of modern origin and that by Freemasonry’s own admission.

    Perhaps they no less about the origins of their ritual than they think. So it would seem if the scholarship in my hyperlink is of any substance.

  130. Joe Swick says:

    @Clark: “If you can find me masons prior to Joseph Smith believing God the Father has a body of flesh and bones and seeing the ascent as becoming that Father I’ll concede my point. That you haven’t done this but merely point to parallels I conceded from the beginning suggests you can’t.”

    I confess that Freemasonry isn’t Mormonism, Clark. And I confess that I can’t make it so. But, while it happens occasionally, I also don’t expect that borrowings need be complete or clean to *be* borrowings. Sometimes, there are little bits of language or subtle context that give away where a thing comes from.

    For instance, I was reading a BY speech (I think about mining) which ended by counselling men to “take due notice and govern themselves accordingly.” I laughed at this because it was clear to me in a way it is not immediately evident to a modern Mormon, that BY was making a joke, and that the verbiage here was drawn from Freemasonry. It struck me as incongruous with the bulk of his remarks, but there you have it. No one would argue against this being drawn from Masonry, because no one cares about mining the way they do about the Temple, ferinstance.

    I suggest that there are quite a few of these “gems in plain sight,” waiting for someone to write about them.

    :-)

    Some more, some less significant.

    Best,
    ~J

  131. On these apparent parallels, see
    http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/12/22/move-slowly-on-the-tricky-stuff/

    Some parallels will clearly bear fruit, but we should be cautious about being too definitive on them.

  132. Joe Swick says:

    #129 @aloysiusmiller: “I actually have no idea what parallels exist between Mormonism and Freemasonry and really don’t care.”

    I see.

    @aloysiusmiller: “But one of the assertions of this weblog was that Freemasonry’s rituals are of modern origin and that by Freemasonry’s own admission. Perhaps they no [sic] less about the origins of their ritual than they think. ”

    And perhaps the seeming arrogance that you (or Latter-day Saints in general) –sans any kind of real study or effort to research– know better than a Masonic scholar what Freemasonry is or from whence it is derived is a hindrance to real advancement.

    Many Latter-day Saints have a vested interest in the SPECIFIC FORMS of Masonry being very old, when they simply are not.

    The Master Mason’s degree, *in it’s current form*, does not predate the formation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717. The Royal Arch Degree *in its current form* can be traced back no farther than about 1726.

    I’m just sayin.

  133. Steve Evans says:

    Joe, better seeming arrogance than the regular old-fashioned kind you seem to possess. I’m no fan of aloysius, but if you’re holding yourself out as a representative of Masonry you are not doing yourself any favors.

  134. Steve Evans says:

    That’s just my way of asking everyone to treat each other nicely, or I use the stick. Carry on.

  135. aloysiusmiller says:

    132. I wasn’t sharing my opinion. I don’t know enough to have an opinion on the subject. I was sharing the opinion of someone who has scholarly credentials who published a book on temples and rituals etc.

  136. aloysiusmiller says:

    I guess I do have a small opinion that I expressed and that is perhaps Freemason’s don’t know their history as well as they think they do. I suppose there would be (justifiable) outrage here if I suggested that only Mormons could know Mormon history.

  137. I don’t think the specific form necessarily matters. The fact it had an origin shouldn’t bother us anymore than finding that the sacrament rite in the Didiche representing the old world doesn’t match the one Moroni gave (that we use) from amongst the Nephites. And some have argued that the form used by the post-advent Nephites itself has genealogical ties to Benjamin.

    The idea of static forms seems an unfortunate thing to fixate on — especially considering how much of the temple has actually changed over the last 150 years or so. (With many of the more overt changes being a kind of de-masonfication of elements)

  138. Regarding “experiencing the ritual.” I think we have to be careful about injecting too much psychological speculation into history. I know some do this. (Vogel does in his biography to a degree, for instance) Some go way over the top. (Say the one speculating on mental dysfunction – forget the name of the Signature book that did this with Joseph) I think history should just acknowledge some things it can’t establish.

    Aloysius, I suspect many masons don’t. However I think when folks who are interested in masonic history notice huge established issues neglected in Mormon history that it’s fair to cry foul. Much like Mormon amateurs in history reading non-Mormon histories can cry foul when huge important issues are neglected by particular historians.

  139. George Miller says:

    Steve … I hope you will forgive me for defending my brother, but lets put some perspective on the posts from JSW and AM.

    Lets imagine that this blog was still on BCC but instead was about Mormonism and Jewish temple practices. AM pops into the comments section and admits that he is not a Mormon, and has not studied Mormonism in depth, except for what he learned at the Evangelical church he attends. From a few sermons he knows of a book called The Godmakers, and from what he has gathered from perusing the book, he believes that Mormons may know less about the origins of the Endowment ritual than they think. He thinks we should take his comments seriously, after all someone who has scholarly credentials has published a book. AM is then brought to task by say, Steve, who tells him that he is being a bit arrogant when without any kind of real study or effort to research he suggested that he (or at least Ed Decker) knows better than an active Mormon, who has attends the temple regularly, has actively researched Mormonism, has given presentations at the MHA, and currently has a manuscript accepted for publication in Dialogue. He then tells AM that the research shows that Ed Decker’s book is just flat wrong. I’m just saying ….

    (AM … please don’t take offense … I am not trying to paint you as an anti-anything. I am just trying to, perhaps, allow you see through the eyes of someone who has put a significant amount of research into the topic.)

    Actually, Joe is pointing out a VERY important problem about the previous Mormon scholarship on the subject. Most Mormons know nothing about what IS known and about the history of Freemasonry and the amount of information that is readily available to Masons and non-Masons. Since 1884 serious historical research on Freemasonry has been conducted and published in England in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. In America the Scottish Rite Research Society publishes fabulous research on Freemasonry and their annual publication Heredom is available for purchase by Masons and non-Masons alike from their website.

    While I hate the titles, I highly recommend The Idiots Guide to Freemasonry by Brent Morris and Freemasonry for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp. (I personally prefer Morris’s book though Hodapp discussion of WHY he became a Mason was VERY MOVING). I am sorry to say that if AM had read even these beginner books on Freemasonry, he would know more about Masonic history than John M. Lundquist.

    The BEST scholarship coming out right now for the general public is not IMHO, however, from Freemasons. The first book I recommend to ANY Mormon who wants to understand what Freemasonry was like, why Joseph may have wanted join, and why it may have meant so much to him, is Revolutionary Brotherhood by Steven Bullock. If you want to understand HOW Freemasonry began I would also suggest The Origins of Freemasonry: Scottland’s Century (1590-1710) by David Stevenson. Fabulous works are also available by Margaret C. Jacob and Jessica Harland-Jacobs. I would point out AM that there is scholarly consensus in both the Masonic AND Scholastic community on the origins of Freemasonry. The consensus that it DEFINITELY did not arise from King Solomon’s temple as many Mormons are mistakenly under the impression. The evidence is both broad and deep, compelling and conclusive.

    These previous books discuss the genetic history of Freemasonry. However, there are many memetic contributions, which are MUCH harder to trace. For books on the subject I would first suggest reading Freemasonry: A journey through Ritual and Symbol by W. Kirk MacNulty. It also has pretty pictures :-) For more in depth study, and to understand the bigger intellectual picture, I would suggest Francis Yates’s books: The Art of Memory, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment.

    The reason I am posting such a reading list is because, as others have pointed out, the Mormon scholarship has be abysmal and because this will give you something to read while waiting for Nick’s book. Perhaps we can avoid the same horrible mishap that happened in the pages of Dialogue when Homer’s article was released. The next issue published a letter to the editor commenting on Homer’s article. It said:

    “I was surprised to find two brief citations of Cecil McGavin’s groundbreaking Mormonism and Masonry in Homer’s article, which sets out to cover the relationship between the two movements- the whole thrust of the McGavin book published almost sixty years ago. More surprising was Homer’s failure to cite Michael Baignet’s “The Temple and the Lodge” of more recent publication.”

    While McGavin was well meaning, his book is mainly an explication of Mormon beliefs and shows he did not understand Freemasonry. Other Mormons have looked other places for information about Freemasonry. Some Mormons, not knowing there are genuinely good books on Freemasonry, instead turn to IMHO bad historical works by writers like Michael Bainet, Christopher Knight, John Robinson, and worse yet Graham Hancock. I hope the above reading list will be helpful for those whose interests were peaked by the this blogs discussions.

  140. Steve Evans says:

    George Miller, I’m more concerned with tone than anything else. Those who study Freemasonry and are familiar with its teachings ought to know that lording knowledge over outsiders is a mistake. I welcome your participation.

  141. George Miller says:

    Thank you Steve … I am enjoying my participation here.

  142. George Miller says:

    @Clark#137 “The idea of static forms seems an unfortunate thing to fixate on — especially considering how much of the temple has actually changed over the last 150 years or so.”

    I think the study of EVOLVING forms is particularly important to fixate on if we are discussing borrowing by Joseph Smith of Masonic ideas. This evolution gives us a great diagnostic for determining IF something was borrowed, which is an issue for some. My own research on scriptural borrowings indicate that the elements that Joseph Smith borrowed look MOST like 1800s era masonic legenda and least like older Masonic forms. The farther forward or backwards in time you go, the farther Joseph Smith’s interpretation diverges from Masonic legend.

    That being said Clark, I agree with you completely that this is a BORING thing on which to fixate. A much more interesting (and important) thing to fixate on is what this teaches us about HOW Joseph, whom I believe was inspired, received revelation, and what is the NATURE of revelation from God. My spiritual life has been greatly enhanced by understanding better the process of revelation used by Joseph. I think it is a mistake too commonly made by some Mormons who think that “I could never be like Joseph” or that the method he used to receive revelation should some-how be different than our own.

    As you have mentioned before, (my words) one of the of the unavoidable conclusions one has to make from such an analysis is that just like Luther, the Freemasons were inspired. For some, sadly, this is conceptually a VERY difficult pill to swallow. However, I think there is are at least two more difficult pills to swallow, but which I think is important for our spiritual growth. First, is that revelation may not be historically accurate. Second, that because revelation is limited by our present understanding, every revelation is necessarily incomplete and will thus in time show holes which need to be either patched or perhaps thrown out and entirely replaced be new revelation. (Sitting here with my finger over the submit button … I hope I will not offend anyone … push/no-push … push … regret??)

  143. Thank you for the reading list George. I find the subject fascinating but I freely admit that I know nothing about it (beyond the historical juggernaut known as National Treasure). I was just about to ask for one.

  144. aloysiusmiller says:

    George, What a stretch. I didn’t tie this to an anti-Masonry book. I tied it to a scholarly book that is about the ancient temple. It takes no negative view of Freemasonry and has no comment that I can determine that criticizes Freemasonry history or historians.

    It merely asserts that there is some basis for believing that there are current initiatic traditions (including Freemasonry) that have surprisingly common parallels with and possible provenance in older documented traditions (such as they exist). Comparing my argument to an evangelical making an anti-Mormon argument is really spurious even with your gratuitous kind words thrown in.

    The author of this book which I cited and linked to has scholarly credentials is not known to anyone as anti-Freemasonry.

    Now I am the one who said (or says) that Freemasons may not know (or want to know) their history. I am not against Freemasonry. I don’t know enough about it to be for or against it. I don’t even really care to know that much about it. I just believe that (just as for Mormons) there may be non Freemason perspectives on Freemasonry history that have validity even if they present a different perspectives of the origins of the organization.

    Please don’t go into a defensive crouch when no attack was made.

  145. George Miller says:

    AM- I actually picked up Lundquist’s book about a year ago. While I understand you were impressed by its scholarship, academics who have studied Freemasonry would be, frankly, appalled at his sloppy scholarship. A thorough treatment would get long and involved but here is the capsulated form.

    Lundquist’s main thesis here is that the Freemasons received their rituals and practices from the Knight’s Templar. He informs his reader that “the Templars dug up Essene documents underneath the Dome of the Rock” and that they contained “secret initiatic tradition going back to the Temple of Solomon.” (Lundquist, 162) These secret rites were then passed on to the Freemasons.

    “The Templar tradition ended on March 19, 1314, with the execution of Jacques De Molay, the last Grand Master of the order. Traditions from that time onward claim that the Templar legacy, authority, Temple treasures, and secret initiation rituals were dispersed, primarily to Scotland, giving rise to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Thus the Freemasons become the heirs of Templar traditions, to which are added the legend of the Holy Grail and the cup that received the blood of Christ on the cross.” ( Lundquist,161)

    If this were true then every Freemason should be interested. But were these traditions anything like the Endowment? “It can be stated with some confidence that the Knights Templar and their successors did indeed possess an initiatic tradition, based for example on ritual initiation into ever higher degrees of the order, secret passwords, and handgrips, penalty signs, and wearing (and changing) of ritual clothing.” (Lundquist, 164) He then goes on with excerpts for four pages of “one of the most thorough and informative accounts” of this ritual (Lundquist, 165-168). Indeed this ritual does seem to confirm Lundquist’s hypothesis. He then informs his reader that “it is beyond the scope of this book to trace in detail and to fill in the various links in the chain of esotericism from antiquity to the Kinghts Templar to the Freemasons.” (Lundquist, 168)

    While this all might seem compelling, on close examination it all falls apart. Lundquist’s “Templar” ritual is not from the Templars at all but from the Order Templi Orientis founded in the early 1900s and run by none other than Aleister Crowley. It sounds familiar to Mormons because the rituals were based on Masonic rituals. Lundquist’s rendition of Templar ritual is therefore just bogus.

    When we look at the Masonic history for evidence that the Freemasons got their secrets and rituals from (which their is no indication they possessed in the first place) we are equally stymied. Examination of over 100 extant Old Charges which contain a recitation of Masonic history dating from 1390 to the early 1700s reveals NO indication of Templar origins. Additionally the histories written by the Modern and Ancient Grand Lodges have elaborate histories NONE of which mention the Templars. In fact the first suggestion that the Freemasons might be connected with knights at all doesn’t occur until Freemasonry travels to France. The aristocratic Frenchmen don’t want to join a social club which has its roots in working class masons, so Chevalier Ramsey rewrites Masonic history to included the crusaders. Later french Freemasons would invent a new set of rituals based on legends of the Knights Templars. There is no convincing evidence, except to conspiracy theorists and Dan Brown, of genetic connection between the Knights Templar and the Freemasons.

    Lunquists treatment of Freemason is also equally misleading and incorrect. The Scottish Rite wasn’t developed in Scotland but in Europe and evolved over time to its present form. Lundquist’s later discussion of Freemasonry (Lundquist, 173-5) is just unreadable and garbled with Lundquist showing no understanding that there are NO indications of the operative Masons having any type of esoteric system of teaching that looked anything like Freemasonry of the 1820-40s to which Joseph Smith was exposed.

    Just as I said before, much of Mormon scholarship (with the exception of Homer) is just malarchy. Probably the worst offender of all is in fact Lundquist. I am sorry you were fooled by his sloppy scholarship. He uncritically accepts anything he finds, from anytime period, however contradictory the facts, and shoves it into his confusing narrative.

  146. George Miller says:

    When we look at the Masonic history for evidence that the Freemasons got their secrets and rituals from THE TEMPLARS (which their is no indication they [THE TEMPLARS] possessed in the first place) we are equally stymied.

    Sorry for any and all typos.

  147. aloysiusmiller says:

    Let the facts lie where they may. But likening me to an anti-Mormon evangelist and likening Lundquists book to GM is utterly over the top.

  148. I think that the genealogy of Masonry rites are: Kabbalah-Templars-Masonry. One connecting factor is the Sephardic Jews. Sephardic Jews were big into the Kabbalah. Some Templars were Sephardic Jewish in ancestry.

    LDS Connection- Kabbalists believe that Adam and the other OT prophets had the Kabbalah and it was written down after 1st Century or so. Our Temple rites have been around since Adam, and the Temple rites and some aspects of the Kabbalah are similar. So Temple is a kind of a Kabbalah or visa versa. Masonry is a kind of Kabbalah. So naturally God had Joseph Smith learn about Masonry as a preparation for the Temple.

  149. George Miller says:

    AM- I am sorry if my wording was unclear enough that you thought this was the point I was trying to make. I guess that I should have been more forceful and expansive when I wrote.

    “AM … please don’t take offense … I am not trying to paint you as an anti-anything.”

    I can, now, readily see why you took my message the way you did. My point, however, was NOT that Lundquist’s book was anti-Masonic. As you can see I have read his book, as I assume you have as well since you recommended it to the group, and that there is no way it could be thought of as anti-Masonic. The logical analogy then that should have been drawn from my message was then something else entirely. The analogy to be drawn from my comparison was that both books do spread invalid information and misinformed conclusions on the subject which was “part” of the point of my message.

    AM#144″Now I am the one who said (or says) that Freemasons may not know (or want to know) their history.”

    I am sure that you, and the rest of the readers, can see how offensive such a statement is. Thank you for qualifying this statement with “may” but the accusation is inflammatory.

  150. George Miller says:

    @JAB#148- “I think that the genealogy of Masonry rites are: Kabbalah-Templars-Masonry. One connecting factor is the Sephardic Jews. Sephardic Jews were big into the Kabbalah. Some Templars were Sephardic Jewish in ancestry.”

    JAB- This is an intriguing possibility. However, to be more accurate, the Sephardic Jews innovations on the Jewish mystical tradition gives us our present form of Kabbalah. I would love to see the evidence on which you base your claim that the sephardic Jews had any connection to the Templars. There is a second problem with such a lineage. There is no credible evidence for a connection between the Templars and Masonry. However, there is credible evidence that Kabbalah influenced Freemasonry directly. This is undoubtedly one of the memetic contributions to Freemasonry.

    JAB#148- “Kabbalists believe that Adam and the other OT prophets had the Kabbalah and it was written down after 1st Century or so. Our Temple rites have been around since Adam, and the Temple rites and some aspects of the Kabbalah are similar.”

    Interesting, and as mythical history used for teaching this is intriguing and fascinating. JAB don’t get me wrong, Kabbalah is fascinating and enlightening. There is undoubtedly value in reading both scripture and the temple in a Kabbalistic manner. However, I think it strains credulity to suggest that the Kabbalistic myths are historically accurate.

  151. aloysiusmiller says:

    Well in the tradition of the Internet I have done some googling and reading. Becoming thereby an instant “scholar”, it seems clear to me that there are current Freemasons who believe that their rites have (at a minimum) parallels with ancient initiatic, hermetic and esoteric traditions.

  152. Hi George #150 I do not have a lot of time, but Dr Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman at Rutgers wrote When Scotland Was Jewish. She has evidence about Jewish pioneers who Settled Great Britain Area before first Century AD and the Sephardic Jews who came later. Fascinating work as she covers Kabbalah-Templar information. Kabballah expert and Rabbi Arthur Kurzweil says that the Kabballah was oral tradition back to Adam before it was written down.

    As for credible evidence for any of this, there will be little as the Sephardic Jews who became Crypto-Jews left little in evidence of their rituals and beliefs. Kabballah was secret/sacred for most of humanity.

    I have an ancestor Maureen Duvall b. 1625, who was rather famous, the ancestor to Obama, Truman, and others. He was a Huguenot from France. THe Huguenots were either Converso/Protestant Jews or Protestants radicals. One of his contemporaries talks about secret rites practiced by Duvall and others. I think (do not know it was secret) that he was practicing some kind of Templar-Kabballah. Many of his descendants were Masons and my DNA. If you are interested, follow my link back to my page and read my Sephardic Jewish posts, the ones I have so far.

  153. no connection between the lds church and masonic practices.

  154. Well, that settles that. No need for further discussion. :)

  155. Kristine says:

    There went 12 dissertations, 5 Sunstone symposium sessions, and 47,000 future blog posts!

  156. I’m skimming through a book I just received: the origins of freemasonry by David Stevenson: chapter 5 has the heading “the Renaissance contribution” with sub chapters titled:

    Neoplatonism and the occult striving of the late Renaissance;
    Hermeticism and the cult of Egypt;
    The art of memory;
    The Rosicrucians (who baptized the dead before Mormons)
    The architect, the mathematician and manual arts;
    Renaissance, Reformation and the Scottish masons.

    Looking forward to reading it.

    Chapter 6 reads:
    The Mason word;
    The catechisms: rituals of identification;
    The catechisms: rituals of initiation.

    it says David Stevenson is a Professor of Scottish History
    University of St. Andrews.

  157. also (who baptized the dead before the Mormons) is my addition and not in the book.

  158. That’s a very useful book, one of very few written outside confessional constraints. Its fairly nationalistic tho so be aware that his claims won’t be universally believed. So far in my reading only bullock is better.
    And rosicrucians are the wrong tree to bark up.

  159. George Miller says:

    SMB- I am glad you enjoyed the book. Stevenson’s book is an excellent work. I would, if you don’t mind, like to interject a very minor correction. There is actually a quite a bit of literature published exactly in the lines of Stevenson. Though most Mormons are unaware of the fact. It is not unlike a non-member who is looking for information on the church and goes to Borders looking for information. If you know where to look for the information there is a huge amount available, all you have to do is go to Deseret Book. As far as confessional constraints go, well, much of the literature is at least as open in their discussion as Stevenson. This is especially true for research coming out of lodges of research in the last 10 years. Probably the largest single advantage that works such as Stevenson’s, Bullock’s, Jacob’s, and Harland-Jacobs’s have is that they are written by professional historians who understand the larger historical context.

  160. George Miller says:

    @Kasey#158- I think you will enjoy the book. I believe what you are talking about when you mentioned Baptism for the dead was what you have read on the Ephrata community. While I would be happy to be corrected, I believe that this is the only group that modeled themselves on the Rosicrucian Manifestos (a non-existent organization) which also practiced baptism for the dead.

    As an interesting Masonic side note, Quinn was fascinated by Julius Friedrich Sanchse report on the Ephrata community (EMMWV, 223) which is contained in full below:

    After the dedication, the next noteworthy ceremony of which we have any record that took place within the new chapel was during the following August, when Beissel, by virtue of his office, as Vorsteher of the whole settlement, in the presence of the whole congregation solemnly consecrated Brothers Onesimus (Israel Eckerling), Jabez (Peter Miller) and Enoch (Conrad Weiser) to the priesthood; after which they were admitted to the ancient Order of Melchizedek by having the degree conferred on them in ancient form.

    After the ceremony the Vorstcher, assuming the role of Grand Master of the Zionitic Brotherhood, deposed Prior Jotham and appointed in his place the newly-ordained Brother Onesimus as prior or perfect master of the Zionitic Brotherhood. (Sachse, 1:386)

    Quinn saw in this direct proof that the Order of Melchizedek was also important to the Ephrata community. As soon as I read this quote in EMMWV I was suspicious since it contained what appeared to be masonic language. Further examination of Quinn’s sources found the following quote form Sanchse.

    These brethern in the Berghaus passed their time in speculations as foreign to the pure and simple Sabbatarian teachings as they were to the Rosicrucian tenets; the rites which they practiced were similar to what are now known as the “strict observance,” or the Egyptian cult of mystic Freemasonry. (Sanchse, 354)

    This made me wonder if Sanchse was a Freemason. It didn’t take me long to answer this question in the affirmative.

    Julius F. Sanchse (1842-1919) Masonic author and researcher. Born Nov. 22, 1842 in Philadelphia, PA. He was librarian and curator of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania from 1906. Was the author of Benjamin Franklin as a Freemason, 1906; Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, 1727-1907; Old Masonic Lodges of Pennsylvania, 1730-1800; Quaint Old Germantown; History of Masonic Knights Templar in Pennsylvania, 1797-1919. Member of Columbia Lodge No. 91, Columbia, PA. Died Nov. 14, 1919. (Denslow, 1)

    One modern author has noted that “Sanchse was apparently much influenced by Freemasonry and may have exaggerated its influence on the Brotherhood [at Ephrata].” (Alderfer, 227)

    I guess this only goes to show it is important to be skeptical of what you might read.

  161. Kasey #153 Yes, that is the book I am referencing. In Chapter 8 titled The Knights Templar, Freemasons and the Cabala in Scotland
    Sections in chapter 8:
    The Knights Templar
    Shift in Religion
    Templars, Cabala and Judaism
    The Cabala
    Mathematics of the Cabala

    I really enjoyed this book. It is expensive, but well worth it for me.

  162. #161, regarding the Ephrata community affinity for “Mechizedek” priesthood and baptism for the dead . . .

    Here is entry 158 of my Mormon Parallels on the subject, for anyone who may wish to consult it.

  163. thank you Rick, that is really interesting information.

  164. Seth Leigh says:

    I hope I’m not completely out of context here, but the Catholic Church believes its priests are ordained after the order of Melchizedek.

    I attended the annual ordination mass two weekends ago in Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, at the invitation of a friend of mine who is a seminarian in that archdiocese. One of the interesting things was that at a certain point in the mass, after the ordinations had been performed, and the archbishop (Cardinal O’Malley) annointed the hands of the newly ordained with oil of chrism, and said something, the entire congregation sang out “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.”

    Afterwards I asked my friend about this, and he said that yes, the Catholics believe that their priesthood decends through Jesus back to the priesthood of Melchizedek.

    Anyhow, just wanted to toss this out there, as the idea of a priesthood being in a line, order, or whatever you want to call it, of Melchizedek, doesn’t just go back to various small religious movements – it goes straight back to Roman Catholicism.

  165. George – Can you give me a good website or information about Blacks being allowed in lodges. It seems that Joseph just might have been denying blacks the priesthood because blacks were not admitted into lodges. I am starting to do a little research about this issue and would like to be pointed to some information.

  166. George Miller says:

    @Kasey#166- This is a very complicated issue, but I would note that you have already been beat to the punch. Michael Homer wrote an article “Why then introduce them into our inner temple?”: The Masonic Influence on Moron Denial of Priesthood Ordination to African American Men (JWHA Journal (2006) 26:234-259). It is an interesting article and does dovetail with your assertion. However, I think Joseph’s discussion of the BoA has much less to do with race, and more to do with the mystery traditions, especially considering Joseph Smith’s sources and influences in understanding the BoA.

    While there may be good websites, there is a better course of action. If you are going to studying a certain state (for example New York, Illinois, or Utah) then look on the web for contact information for a Prince Hall lodge. Once you contact them, ask if they have a Lodge of Research in the state (they probably do) and then contact the research lodge. They most probably will have detailed records of the relationship between the two American branches. This would give you good ground material for discussing the subject.

    Another resource might be the Phylaxis Society (a Masonic Research Society). Their past president Joseph A. Walkes, who crossed into “the Celestial lodge above” a few years ago, was an avid researcher and both a Mormon and a Prince Hall Mason. I believe he had all of Brother Hogan’s material. I have never had contact with this group, so I am unsure what help they might be able to provide.

    Also of interest would be a detailed examination of Elder Q. Walker Lewis. Some discussion on this subject has been done by Connell O’ Donovan in JWHA 26:47-99. This author brings up some interesting thoughts though some of his suggestions I think are incorrect. I doubt that Joseph Smith, or any other member, would have associated Prince Hall Masonry with “spurious masonry” passed down from Cain and the comment that “Brigham Young, still quite vulnerable in his leadership position of the majority of the Latter-day Saints, may not have appreciated Walker Lewis’ high Masonic rank either,” is simply off-the-wall to anyone who understands Masonic leadership structure.

    I hope these comments are helpful and direct you in the correct direction.

  167. George – thank you! I looking forward to reading your book too.

  168. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    @ Georege Miller: “IMHO humble opinion the Scottish Rite is somewhat disjointed in its presentation, but surely the same could be said of Joseph Smith’s ritual.” While I really enjoy Pike’s ritual, he tripped a bit here and there, as well. Nevertheless, the Pike Workings are very consistent, and I have to admit my preference for them over some of what I’ve heard about in the NJ tradition.

  169. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    @George Miller: “One modern author has noted that ‘Sanchse was apparently much influenced by Freemasonry and may have exaggerated its influence on the Brotherhood [at Ephrata].’ (Alderfer, 227)”

    Yes, but AMORC would love to own him and the Ephrata community as part of their own “one true and authentic” Rosicrucian tradition.

  170. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    @George Miller:
    “Lundquist showing no understanding that there are NO indications of the operative Masons having any type of esoteric system of teaching that looked anything like Freemasonry of the 1820-40s to which Joseph Smith was exposed.”

    Quick question for you, George: What is the earliest record of which you know, where we see Masons allegorize their working tools?

  171. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    @aloyisus miller: “it seems clear to me that there are current Freemasons who believe that their rites have (at a minimum) parallels with ancient initiatic, hermetic and esoteric traditions.”

    Yes! Just as there were many years prior to 1826.

  172. Steve Evans says:

    4 in a row, Joe. Say it ain’t so.

  173. Seth@165- That line in the Catholic ordination comes straight from Psalm 110:4, a royal Psalm, thought to be recited at the crowning of a new Israelite king.

    “Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind; you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s quoted in Hebrews 5:6 and other places in the NT.

    One of the things that strikes me about those who write about Masonry and the temple is that they are often very knowledgeable in that area, but, generally speaking, know comparatively little about Biblical ritual, which certainly was a source for Catholicism, Joseph Smith, etc.

  174. Justmeherenow says:

    I wonder if this thread might give a reasonable preview of some conversations that will take place in the Bloggernacle after Dan Brown’s The Symbol finally comes out?

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