Changes in the Temple Ceremony
We do not have room to include the temple ceremony in this book. Those who are interested in this ritual will find it printed in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pp. 464-73. The account we published there was written by a man who had been through the ceremony about 120 times, and even active Mormons who are familiar with the ritual have admitted that it is an accurate account.
The fact that changes have been made in the Mormon temple ceremony can be demonstrated by comparing earlier accounts with the one published in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? Some of these changes were made after the turn of the century.
Ebenezer Robinson, who had been the editor of the Times and Seasons, made this statement concerning the original endowment ritual: "Here was instituted, undoubtedly the order of things which represented the scenes in the Garden of Eden, which was called in Nauvoo, the 'Holy Order,' a secret organization. The terrible oaths and covenants taken by those who entered there were known only to those who took them, as one of the members said to me, 'I could tell you many things, but if I should, my life would pay the forfeiture' " (The Return, vol. 2, pp. 346-48, typed copy, p. 153).
These oaths have been greatly modified since Joseph Smith's time. The changes were probably made within the last sixty years. Below are comparisons of the oaths as they were published in Temple Mormonism in 1931 with the way they are given today. The first oath we will deal with was printed as follows in 1931:
We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so; we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots (Temple Mormonism, p. 18).
This oath has been changed to:
I, —— (think of the new name) do covenant and promise that I will never reveal the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, together with its accompanying name, sign and penalty. Rather than do so I would suffer my life to be taken (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 468).
The second oath was printed as follows by Paden in 1931:
We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic
Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field (Temple Mormonism, p. 20).
This has been softened to:
I, —— (think of the first given name), do covenant and promise that I will never reveal the second token of the Aaronic Priesthood, together with its accompanying name, sign and penalty. Rather than do so I would suffer my life to be taken (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 470).
The third oath, as printed in Temple Mormonism, p. 20, read:
We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out.
This oath now states:
I covenant in the name of the Son that I will never reveal the first token of the Melchizedek Priesthood or sign of the nail, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Rather than do so I would suffer my life to be taken.
Although the oaths are no longer as crude as they used to be, Mormons who go through the temple still draw the thumb across the throat, stomach, etc., as they take these oaths and are told that "The representation of the penalties indicates different ways in which life may be taken (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 468).
To the early Mormon people these oaths were a very serious matter. In a discourse delivered December 13, 1857, Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency, declared: "Judas lost that saving principle, and they took him and killed him.... they actually kicked him until his bowels came out.
" 'I will suffer my bowels to be taken out before I will forfeit the covenant I have made with Him and my brethren.' Do you understand me? ... I know the day is right at hand when men will forfeit their Priesthood and turn against the covenants they have made, and they will be destroyed as Judas was" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, pp. 125-26).
A person can only begin to imagine how serious these oaths must have been to the Mormon people when the doctrine of "Blood Atonement" was practiced. Now that the oaths have been modified and the practice of "Blood Atonement" abandoned, the Mormon leaders do not have as much control over their people.
One of the oaths which was formerly taken in the temple ritual was the source of so much trouble that the Mormon leaders finally removed it entirely from the ceremony. This oath was printed in Temple Mormonism, page 21, as follows: "You and each of you do solemnly promise and vow that you will pray, and never cease to pray, and never cease to importune high heaven to avenge the blood of the prophets on this nation, and that you will teach this to your children and your children's children unto the third and fourth generation."
A great deal of testimony has been given concerning this oath, and although all of the witnesses did not agree as to its exact wording, there can be little doubt that such an oath was administered to the Mormon people after Joseph Smith's death. John D. Lee related that the following occurred after Joseph Smith's death:
... Brigham raised his hand and said, "I swear by the eternal Heavens that I have unsheathed my sword, and I will never return it until the blood of the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum, and those who were slain in Missouri, is avenged. This whole nation is guilty of shedding their blood, by assenting to the deed, and holding its peace." ... Furthermore, every one who had passed through their endowments, in the Temple, were placed under the most sacred obligations to avenge the blood of the Prophet, whenever an opportunity offered, and to teach their children to do the same, thus making the entire Mormon people sworn and avowed enemies of the American nation (The Confessions of John D. Lee, p. 160).
Some Mormon apologists have maintained that there was no "oath of vengeance" in the temple ceremony, but the "Daily Journal of Abraham H. Cannon" makes it very plain that there was such an oath. Under the date of December 6, 1889, Apostle Cannon recorded the following in his diary:
About 4:30 p.m. this meeting adjourned and was followed by a meeting of Presidents Woodruff, Cannon and Smith and Bros. Lyman and Grant.... In speaking of the recent examination before Judge Anderson Father said that he understood when he had his endowments in Nauvoo that he took an oath against the murderers of the Prophet Joseph as well as other prophets, and if he had ever met any of those who had taken a hand in that massacre he would undoubtedly have attempted to avenge the blood of the martyrs ("Daily Journal of Abraham H. Cannon," December 6, 1889, pp. 205-206).
Apostle Cannon went on to relate that Joseph F. Smith was about to murder a man with his pocket knife if he even expressed approval of Joseph Smith's death.
The oath of vengeance probably had a great deal to do with the massacre at Mountain Meadows, in which about 120 men, women, and children were killed, and other murders which were committed in early Utah (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pp. 493-515, 545-59).
Just after the turn of the century the Mormon leaders found themselves in serious trouble because of the oath of vengeance. They were questioned at great length concerning this oath in the "Reed Smoot Case." The oath of vengeance remained in the temple ceremony, however, even after the "Reed Smoot Case" was printed, for Stanley S. Ivins told us that he took it in 1914. It must have been removed sometime between then and 1937, because in a lecture delivered on February 28, 1937, Francis M. Darter complained that "The Law and prayer of Retribution, or divine judgment, against those who persecute the Saints, has been entirely removed from Temple services.... The reason why it was taken out, says one Apostle, was because it was offensive to the young people" (Celestial Marriage, p. 60).
In the books Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? and The Mormon Kingdom, volume 1, we discussed a number of other changes made in the temple ceremony. We also present a great deal of testimony showing that the oaths taken in the temple were originally very crude. We only have room for one example here—i.e., the testimony of J. H. Wallis, Sr., who had been through the temple about 20 times:
MR. WALLIS. The obligations of priesthood were taken, the two with the Aaronic priesthood and two with the Melchisedec....
MR. TAYLER. Go on.
MR. WALLIS. (standing). "You, and each of you, do solemnly promise and vow that I will not reveal this the first token of the Aaronic priesthood with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty. Should I do so"—this is the sign [indicating]—I agree that my throat be cut from ear to ear and my tongue torn out by its roots from my mouth...."
MR. TAYLER. That is called the Aaronic?
MR. WALLIS. That is called the first token of the Aaronic priesthood. The second token of the Aaronic priesthood.—its sign is that [indicating], and the obligation commences the same, only that "I agree to have my breast cut asunder and my heart and vitals torn from my body."
Then the first token of the Melchisedec priesthood is this [indicating]; is this square [indicating], and about the same
words, only that "I agree to have my body cut asunder in the midst and all my bowels gushed out." The second token of the Melchisedec priesthood there is no penalty to, but the sign is the crucifixion sign, and the words accompanying that are "Pale, hail, hail." I do not know what it means.
MR. TAYLER. At any other stage of that ceremony is there an obligation?
MR. WALLIS. Yes, Sir... There are vows—the "vow of the sacrifices" is one—where we vow conjointly to give all our substance and all we might ever become possessed of to the support of the Church....
MR. TAYLER. What other vow?
MR. WALLIS. Another is called the "vow of chastity," by which we all vowed we would have no connection with any of the other sex unless they were given to us by the priesthood; and another vow was what we used to call the "oath of vengeance."...
MR. TAYLER. Stand up, if it will help you, and give us the words, if you can.
MR. WALLIS (standing up). "That you and each of you do promise and vow that you will never cease to importune high heaven to avenge the blood of the prophets upon the nations of the earth or the inhabitants of the earth" (The Reed Smoot Case, vol. 2, pp. 77-79).
The next day Mr. Wallis corrected his testimony concerning the oath of vengeance:
MR. WALLIS. In repeating the obligation of vengeance I find I made a mistake; I was wrong. It should have been "upon this nation." I had it "upon the inhabitants of the earth." It was a mistake on my part (Ibid., pp. 148-49).
The Temple Ceremony and Masonry
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie says the ordinances performed in the temple "were given in modern times to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation, many things connected with them being translated by the prophet from the papyrus on which the Book of Abraham was recorded" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 779).
We have already shown that the papyri have nothing to do with Abraham or his religion. Now that it is plain that these papyri are pagan documents, Mormons must look elsewhere for the origin of the temple ceremony. It seems clear that at least part of the temple ritual came from Freemasonry. In fact, the similarities between the temple ceremony and the ritual of the Masons are very striking.
Joseph Smith Becomes a Mason
Although Joseph Smith's early writings are filled with material that condemns secret societies, the presence of the Danite band among the Mormons indicates that by 1838 his attitude toward secret societies had changed. After Joseph Smith went to Nauvoo, he became a Mason, formed the Council of Fifty, and established the secret temple ceremony. Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe admitted:
Many of the Saints were Masons, such as Joseph's brother Hyrum, Heber C. Kimball, Elijah Fordham, Newel K. Whitney, James Adams, and John C. Bennett....
With the acquiescence of the Prophet, members of the Church already Masons petitioned the Grand Master of Illinois for permission to set up a lodge in Nauvoo. In answer they were granted permission, in October, 1841, to hold lodge meetings; but it was March 15, 1842, before authority was given to set up a lodge in Nauvoo and to induct new members. Joseph Smith became a member (Evidences and Reconciliations, one volume, pp. 357-58).
The following statement is recorded in Joseph Smith's History of the Church, volume 4, page 551, under the date of March 15, 1842: "In the evening I received the first degree in Free Masonry in the Nauvoo Lodge, assembled in my general business office." The record for the very next day reads: "I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree" (vol. 4, p. 552).
The Mormons who joined the Masonic Lodge soon found themselves in trouble with other members of the fraternity. They had inducted large numbers into the fraternity and had departed from some of the "ancient landmarks." Finally, the Masons refused to allow the Mormons to continue "a Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo" (Mormonism and Masonry, by S. H. Goodwin, p. 34).
Although Joseph Smith found himself in trouble with the Masons, he is said to have given the Masonic signal of distress just before he was murdered. Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin stated:
When the enemy surrounded the jail, rushed up the stairway, and killed Hyrum Smith, Joseph stood at the open window, his martyr-cry being these words, "O Lord My God!" This was not the beginning of a prayer, because Joseph Smith did not pray in that manner. This brave, young man who knew that death was near, started to repeat the distress signal of the Masons, expecting thereby to gain the protection its members are pledged to give a brother in distress (Mormonism and Masonry, by E. Cecil McGavin, p. 17).
On page 16 of the same book, Mr. McGavin quotes the following from the Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 26: "Joseph, leaping the fatal window, gave the Masonic signal of distress."
In Utah the Masons will not allow a Mormon to become a member of their fraternity because of the things that happened in Nauvoo. One of the most important reasons for this ban is that they feel Joseph Smith stole part of the Masonic ritual and included it in his temple ceremony.
Masonic Ritual in the Temple Ceremony
The relationship between the Mormon temple ceremony and Masonry is too close to be called a coincidence. The fact that both Mormons and Masons have a temple in which they administer secret ceremonies is striking, but when we compare the ritual and learn that Joseph Smith was a Mason, we are forced to the conclusion that he borrowed from Masonry in establishing his temple ceremony.
In our study we have had access to two books which give the Masonic ritual. They were reprinted by Ezra A. Cook Publications, Inc., Chicago, Illinois. The first is Capt. William Morgan's Freemasonry Exposed, which was first published in 1827. (It should be remembered that the author of this book disappeared and that this set off the great controversy concerning Masonry.) The second is Richardson's Monitor of Free-Masonry. This book was published some time after Morgan's expose, but it is important because it gives some of the "higher degrees" not mentioned by Morgan.
In our book Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 486-89, we present twenty-seven parallels between the ritual of the Masons and the Mormon temple ceremony. We will include these parallels here, although we will not give the documentation to prove each parallel as we did in our larger work. Because some of the details of the temple ceremony have been changed in recent years, we are using the pamphlet Temple Mormonism—Its Evolution, Ritual and Meaning, New York, 1931, to make our comparison.
1. Both the Masons and the Mormons have what is called "the five points of fellowship."
The five points of fellowship are given by putting the inside of the right foot to the inside of the Lord's, the inside of your knee to his, laying your breast close to his, your left hands on each other's backs, and each one putting his mouth to the other's ear, in which position the Lord whispers:
Lord—"This is the sign of the token:
"Health to the navel, marrow in the bones,
(Temple Mormonism, p. 22)
He (the candidate) is raised on what is called the five points of fellowship ... This is done by putting the inside of your right foot to the inside of the right foot of the person to whom you are going to give the word, the inside of your knee to his, laying your right breast against his, your left hands on the back of each other, and your mouths to each other's right ear (in which position alone you are permitted to give the word), and whisper the word Mahhah-bone ... He is also told that Mahhah-bone signifies marrow in the bone (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 84-85).
2. When the candidate receives "The First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood" he makes a promise similar to the oath taken in the "First Degree" of the Masonic ritual.
... we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots (Temple Mormonism, p. 18).
... I will ... never reveal any part or parts, art or arts, point or points of the secret arts and mysteries of ancient Freemasonry ... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots.... (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 21-22).
3. In both ceremonies the thumb is drawn across the throat to show the penalty.
4. Those who receive the "First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood" give a grip that is similar to that used by the Masons in the "First Degree" of their ritual.
5. Some of the wording concerning the "grip" is similar.
(. . . Peter now takes Adam by the right hand and asks:)
Peter—"What is that?"
Adam—"The first token of the Aaronic Priesthood."
Peter—"Has it a name?"
Peter—"Will you give it to me?"
Adam—"I can not, for it is connected with my new name, but this is the sign"
(Temple Mormonism, p. 20).
The Master and candidate holding each other by the grip, as
before described, the
Master says, "What is this?"
Ans. "A grip."
"A grip of what?"
Ans. "The grip of an Entered Apprentice Mason."
"Has it a name?"
Ans. "It has."
"Will you give it to me?"
Ans. "I did not so receive it, neither can I so impart it." (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 23-24).
6. The oath of the "Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood" is similar to that taken in the second degree of Masonry.
We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field (Temple Mormonism, p. 20).
I.... most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear.... that I will not give the degree of a Fellow Craft Mason to any one of an inferior degree, nor to any other being in the known world.... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence ... to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field, and vulture of the air ... (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 52).
7. Both have a similar sign.
The sign is made by placing the left arm on the square at the level of the shoulder, placing the right hand across the chest with the thumb extended and then drawing it rapidly from left to right and dropping it to the side (Temple Mormonism, p. 20).
The sign is given by drawing your right hand flat, with the palm of it next to your breast, across your breast from the left to the right side with some quickness, and dropping it down by your side ... (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 53).
8. Both have a similar grip.
9. In both cases a "name" is used.
10. The promise made when receiving the "First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood" resembles the oath given by the Masons in the third or "Master Mason's Degree."
11. The sign of the penalty is similar in both cases.
12. In both cases a "name" is used.
13. The conversation at the "veil" in the temple ceremony is very similar to that of the "Fellow Craft Mason" when he is questioned concerning the "grip."
Lord—"What is this?"
Endowee—"The second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood—The Patriarchal Grip or Sure Sign of the Nail."
Lord—"Has it a name?"
Lord—"Will you give it to me?"
Endowee—"I can not for I have not yet received it." (Temple Mormonism, p. 22)
... "What is this?"
Ans. "A grip."
"A grip of what?"
Ans. "The grip of a Fellow Craft Mason."
"Has it a name?"
Ans. "It has."
"Will you give it to me?"
Ans. "I did not so receive it, neither can I so impart it." (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 54).
14. Both the Masons and the Mormons have a vow regarding "chastity."
15. The grip known as "The Sign of the Nail" seems to be similar to one given by Masons in one of their higher degrees.
16. The "Oath of Vengeance" which used to be found in the Mormon temple ceremony resembles an oath in one of the higher degrees of Masonry.
17. Both Mormons and Masons change clothing before going through their rituals.
18. Both Mormons and Masons use an apron.
19. In one of the higher degrees the Masons anoint the candidate. This is somewhat similar to the anointing ceremony in the Mormon temple ritual.
20. Both Mormons and Masons give what they call a "new name" to the candidate.
21. In the Mormon temple ceremony the candidate cannot pass through the veil until he has given certain signs and words. In the Royal Arch Degree the Masons use veils. The "Principal Soujourner" cannot enter the Third Veil except "By the words, sign, and word of exhortation of the Master of the Second Veil" (Richardson's Monitor of Free-Masonry, pp. 76-77).
22. In the Mormon temple ceremony a man represents Adam.
The Masons also have a man who personates Adam in the degree of "Knight of the Sun."
23. In the Mormon temple ceremony a man represents God. In the Mason's Royal Arch Degree a man "personates the Deity."
24. Both the Mormons and the Masons consider the square and the compass to be extremely important. The marks of the square and the compass appear on the Mormon temple garments and on the veil.
We now have the veil explained to us. We are told that it represents the veil of the temple. The marks are the same as those on the garments—the compass on the left and the square on the right side (Temple Mormonism, p. 22).
"... the three great lights in Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compass ... the Square, to square our actions, and the Compass to keep us in due bounds with all mankind ... (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 22-23).
Even a Mormon writer, E. Cecil McGavin, is willing to admit that "Mormon temple clothing contain certain marks of the priesthood, including the square and compass" (Mormonism and Masonry, p. 72).
25. In the Masonic ritual the point of the compass is pressed against the left breast of the candidate. The Mormon temple garment has the mark of the compass on the left breast.
"The marks are the same as those on the garments—the compass on the left ... (Temple Mormonism, p. 22).
"The candidate then enters, the Senior Deacon at the same time pressing his naked left breast with the point of the compass ... (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 19).
26. The angle of the square is pressed against the right breast in the Masonic ritual. The mark of the square appears on the right breast of the Mormon temple garment.
" ... the square on the right side ..." (Temple Mormonism, p. 22).
"As he enters, the angle of the square is pressed hard against his naked right breast ... " (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 50).
27. A mallet is used by both the Masons and the Mormons in their ceremonies.
Other parallels between the Mormon temple ceremony and the Masonic ritual could be shown, but these should be sufficient to demonstrate to the reader that Joseph Smith borrowed from the Masons when he established the endowment ceremony.
Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin is willing to admit that there are some similarities between Mormonism and Masonry:
The Mormons, the American Indians, the ancient Essenes, and the early Druids are not the only ones who have "Masonic" symbols and practices in their rituals.... other fraternal orders have their secret signs, grips, tokens, and passwords. The Masons certainly have no monopoly on that vast field of ritual and symbolism ... the Masonic ritual embraces a few features that resemble the rudimental ceremonies of the Temple endowment, yet these few points of similarity are largely restricted to the rituals pertaining to the Aaronic priesthood (Mormonism and Masonry, pp. 196-97).
Masons who visit the Temple Block in Salt Lake City are impressed by what they call the Masonic emblems displayed on the outside of the Mormon Temple.
Yes, the "Masonic emblems" are displayed on the walls of the Temple—the sun, moon, and stars, "Holiness to the Lord," the two right hands clasped in fellowship, the All-seeing eye, Alpha and Omega, and the beehive. Masonic writers tell us the Mormon Temple ritual and their own are slightly similar in some respects.
Without any apologies we frankly admit that there may be some truth in these statements.
Yes, the public is entitled to an explanation of these mysteries and coincidences (Ibid., Preface).
Mormon apologist Dr. Hugh Nibley has admitted concerning Mormonism and Masonry: "Among the first to engage in the Latter-day Temple work were many members of the Masons.... whose rites present unmistakable parallels to those of the temple" (What Is A Temple? BYU Press, 1968, p. 247).
Since many members of the Mormon church were Masons and were familiar with its ritual, Joseph Smith must have realized that he would be accused of stealing the ceremonies from Masonry. In what was apparently a move to offset this criticism, Joseph Smith claimed that Masonry once had the true endowment and that it had become corrupted through the passage of time. E. Cecil McGavin explains: "In the diary of
Benjamin F. Johnson, an intimate friend and associate of Joseph Smith, it is recorded that 'Joseph told me that Freemasonry was the apostate endowment, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion.' Elder Heber C. Kimball, who had been a Mason for many years, related that after Joseph Smith became a Mason, he explained to his brethren that Masonry had been taken from the priesthood" (Mormonism and Masonry, p. 199).
In trying to explain why their temple ritual resembles that of the Masons, some Mormons claim that the endowment was given in Solomon's Temple and that the Masons preserved part of the ceremony. Apostle Melvin J. Ballard has been quoted as saying the following:
"Modern Masonry is a fragmentary presentation of the ancient order established by King Solomon. From whom it is said to have been handed down through the centuries.
"Frequent assertion that some details of the Mormon Temple ordinances resemble Masonic rites, led him to refer to this subject," the speaker declared, and he added, "that he was not sorry there was such a similarity, because of the fact that the ordinances and rites revealed to Joseph Smith constituted a reintroduction upon the earth of the divine plan inaugurated in the Temple of Solomon in ancient days....
"Masonry is an apostasy from the ancient early order, just as so-called Christianity is an apostasy from the true Church of Christ" (The Salt Lake Herald, December 29, 1919, as cited in Mormonism and Masonry, by S. H. Goodwin, pp. 49-50).
Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin agrees:
Yes, there may be some similarities in the rituals ... In the light of the evidence supplied by Masonic historians, the conclusion is forced upon us that some of the features of the ritual once administered in Solomon's Temple have persisted in Masonry....
Since some of the Masonic ritual has descended from Solomon's time, altered and corrupted by the passing centuries, should one be surprised to find a few similarities when the Temple ritual is again established? ...
If the facts were available and the original sources extant, it would doubtless be apparent that everything in the ritual of the Mormons that the Masons say was taken from their ceremonies, dates back to Solomon's time (Mormonism and Masonry, pp. 192-94).
William J. Whalen replied in rebuttal to McGavin's statements:
McGavin accepts the most fanciful claims to antiquity put forth by such discredited Masonic historians as Mackey, Anderson and Oliver. These early Masonic writers were wont to claim Solomon, Adam, and most of the upright men of the Old Testament as early lodge brothers. Modern Masonic historians date the origin of the lodge in the early eighteenth century and recognize that these pioneer speculative Masons simply adopted the story of the building of Solomon's temple as a dramatic background for their initiations....
A few elements in modern Masonry here and there can be traced to the medieval guilds of working masons, but no one with a scholarly reputation would try to maintain that the degree system as it is worked now—and as it was worked in Nauvoo in 1842—could have possibly been derived from Solomonic rites (The Latter-day Saints in the Modern Day World, pp. 203-4).
Historically there seems to be only one logical explanation for the many parallels between the temple ceremony and Masonry, and that is that Joseph Smith borrowed from the Masons. The reader should remember that it was on March 16, 1842, that Joseph Smith "was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree" (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 552). Less than two months later (May 4, 1842), Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment ceremony. According to Joseph Smith's History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 1-2), it was in the same room "where the Masonic fraternity meet occasionally":
Wednesday, 4.—I spent the day in the upper part of the store, that is in my private office ... and in my general business office, or lodge room (that is where the Masonic fraternity meet occasionally, for want of a better place) in council with General James Adams.... Brigham Young and Elders Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedek Priesthood....
One woman who was questioned concerning the temple ceremony gave this testimony:
A.—... I said I received endowments in Nauvoo, in the Masonic Hall.... All the ceremony was performed in the Masonic Hall. The washing was done in the Masonic Hall, and the anointing with oil.
Q.—What furniture was in the Masonic Hall at the time the endowment was performed?
A.—... if you are expecting me to tell you all about the particulars of what was there in the way of furniture and what was done
there, you must not expect me to do it any more than you would expect a Mason or an Odd Fellow or any other member of a secret society to reveal the secrets of their order ... (Temple Lot Case, pp. 353-54).
With this very close connection between Mormonism and Masonry, it is almost impossible to believe that Joseph Smith did not borrow from Masonry in establishing the temple ceremony.
The Mormon leaders find themselves faced with several embarrassing questions regarding the temple ritual and Masonry. Many members of the church wonder how they can believe in a secret temple ritual, when the Book of Mormon condemns all secret societies, bands and oaths. In fact, it plainly states that "the Lord worketh not in secret combinations" (Ether 8:19).
Further, there is the question of why Joseph Smith would become a Mason. Besides all of the statements in the Book of Mormon which condemn secret societies, Joseph Smith joined with four others in stating: "We further, caution our brethren, against the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenants, oaths, penalties, or secresies.... pure friendship, always becomes weakened, the very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy" (Times and Seasons, vol. 1, p. 133).
Benjamin F. Johnson claims that Joseph Smith told him that "Freemasonry was the apostate endowment." Why would Joseph Smith join an organization that he believed was in a state of apostasy?
Mormon leaders now claim that it is not right for members of the church to join the Masons or other secret societies. Anthony W. Ivins, who was a member of the First Presidency, counseled that "The Mormon Church ... advises its members to refrain from identifying themselves with any secret, oathbound society... It is difficult to serve two masters and do justice to both" (The Relationship of "Mormonism" and Freemasonry, p. 8).
Joseph F. Smith said that those who "are identified with these secret organizations" are "not fit to hold" important offices in the church (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 491).
John A. Widtsoe added: "The activities of the Church, in all departments are sacred, not secret. This point of view makes it difficult for Latter-day Saints to look with favor upon secret, oath-bound societies.... Sometimes they cause loss of interest in Church duties, for no one can serve two masters with equal interest.... Divided allegiance is always unsatisfactory and
often dangerous" (Evidences and Reconciliations, vol. 1, pp. 213-14).
It is interesting to note that the same Apostle who made these statements against secret societies had to reverse himself and write a chapter entitled, "Why Did Joseph Smith Become a Mason?" He claimed that Smith joined the Masons to win friends among "the prominent and influential men of the state" so that the church would not be persecuted, but he had to admit that "the attempt to win sufficient friends through Masonry to stop persecution failed" (Ibid., vol. 3, pp. 114-17).
Joseph Smith's own words about "the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenant or oaths, by penalties or secrecies" could certainly be used against the Mormon temple ceremony. Apostle Widtsoe, however, maintains that "the temple endowment is not secret. All who meet the requirements for entrance to the temple may enjoy it" (Ibid., p. 24). John A. Widtsoe's reasoning with regard to this matter is very poor. All secret societies allow their own members to participate in their rituals. The Mormon temple ceremony is kept secret from outsiders, and, after all, isn't this what makes a secret society? Many members of the Mormon church maintain that the temple ceremonies are sacred and not secret. The Mormons, of course, have a right to believe that their ceremonies are sacred, but this does not change the fact that they are secret. They are just as secret as the ceremonies of any other secret society.
At any rate, the connection between Mormonism and Masonry can be briefly summarized as follows:
1. Both Mormonism and Masonry have secret ceremonies that are performed in secret temples.
2. The "Masonic emblems" are displayed on the walls of the Mormon temple.
3. The Mormon temple ritual is similar in many respects to that used by the Masons.
4. Joseph Smith and many of the most prominent members of the Mormon church were also members of the Masonic lodge.
5. Temple ceremonies were actually performed in the Masonic hall.
Reed Durham, who has served as president of the Mormon History Association, has carefully examined the parallels between Mormonism and Masonry. Although Dr. Durham still maintains that Joseph Smith was a prophet, he has to admit that Masonry had a definite influence upon Mormonism:
... I am convinced that in the study of Masonry lies a pivotal key to further understanding Joseph Smith and the Church.... Masonry in the Church had its origin prior to the time Joseph Smith became a Mason.... It commenced in Joseph's home when his older brother became a Mason. Hyrum received the first three degrees of Masonry in Mount Moriah Lodge No. 112 of Palmyra, New York, at about the same time that Joseph was being initiated into the presence of God ... The many parallels found between early Mormonism and the Masonry of that day are substantial ...
I have attempted thus far to demonstrate that Masonic influences upon Joseph in the early Church history, preceding his formal membership in Masonry, were significant. However, these same Masonic influences exerted a more dominant character as reflected in the further expansion of the Church subsequent to the Prophet's Masonic membership. In fact, I believe that there are few significant developments in the Church, that occurred after March 15, 1842, which did not have some Masonic interdependence. Let me comment on a few of these developments. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the Mormon ceremony which came to be known as the Endowment, introduced by Joseph Smith to Mormon Masons, had an immediate inspiration from Masonry. This is not to suggest that no other source of inspiration could have been involved, but the similarities between the two ceremonies are so apparent and overwhelming that some dependent relationship cannot be denied. They are so similar, in fact, that one writer was led to refer to the Endowment as Celestial Masonry.
It is also obvious that the Nauvoo Temple architecture was in part, at least, Masonically influenced. Indeed, it appears that there was an intentional attempt to utilize Masonic symbols and motifs....
Another development in the Nauvoo Church, which has not been so obviously considered as Masonically inspired, was the establishment of the Female Relief Society. This organization was the Prophet's intentional attempt to expand Masonry to include the women of the Church. That the Relief Society was organized in the Masonic Lodge room, and only one day after Masonry was given to the men, was not happenstance.... included in the actual vocabulary of Joseph Smith's counsel and instructions to the sisters were such words as: ancient orders, examinations, degrees, candidates, secrets, lodges, rules, signs, tokens, order of the priesthood, and keys; all indicating that the Society's orientation possessed Masonic overtones.
It was true that in orthodox Masonry,... the inclusion of women was definitely prohibited and certainly unheard of.
The Joseph Smith Masonry was daily becoming less orthodox
and tended to follow more in the direction of some unorthodox Masonry which had been imported to America from France. In this type of Masonry, two different women's groups operated....
The second type of unorthodox female Masonry was known as 'Adoptive' Masonry... The ceremonies for women in this order were quite similar to those later found within the endowment ceremony of the Mormons.... I suggest that enough evidence presently exists to declare that the entire institution of the political kingdom of God, including the Council of Fifty, the living constitution, the proposed flag of the kingdom, and the anointing and coronation of the king, had its genesis in connection with Masonic thoughts and ceremonies.... it appears that the Prophet first embraced Masonry, and, then in the process, he modified, expanded, amplified, or glorified it.... I believe he accepted Masonry because he genuinely felt he recognized true Ancient Mysteries contained herein.... The Prophet believed that his mission was to restore all truth, and then to unify and weld it all together into one. This truth was referred to as "the Mysteries," and these Mysteries were inseparably connected with the Priesthood.... Can anyone deny that Masonic influence on Joseph Smith and the Church, either before or after his personal Masonic membership? The evidence demands comments ...
There are many questions which still demand the answers.... if we, as Mormon historians, respond to these questions and myrids [sic] like them relative to Masonry in an ostrich-like fashion, with our heads buried in the traditional sand, then I submit: there never will be "any help for the widow's son" (Mormon Miscellaneous, October, 1975, pp. 11-16).
Although Mormon apologists would have us believe that Joseph Smith received the temple ceremony by revelation from God, the evidence is against it and clearly shows that he borrowed heavily from Masonry.
After careful examination of the temple ceremony, we have come to the conclusion that it bears unmistakable evidence of being a man-made ritual. The fact that so many changes had to be made in it to try to make it acceptable shows plainly that it is not from God.