Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Changing World of Mormonism/Chapter 22

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 22: Temple Work"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Claim Evaluation
The Changing World of Mormonism
Chart.changing.22.jpg

Response to claims made in The Changing World of Mormonism, "Chapter 22: Temple Work"

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Response to claim: 512 - Early Mormon leaders were "very confused" about baptism for the dead

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Early Mormon leaders were "very confused" about baptism for the dead since they performed a number of them without recording them and had to do them over.

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:241.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Early leaders freely admitted their understanding grew with time; Joseph continued to instruct them (e.g., DC 128:) and they learned more after his death.


Response to claim: 514 - Baptism for the dead was not a doctrine in the early church

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Baptism for the dead was not a doctrine in the early church.

Author's sources:
  1. Orson Pratt's Works, 1891, p.205

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The majority of modern scholars accept that vicarious baptism for the dead was practiced by at least some of the early Church. It is telling that the only reference is from the late 1800s.


Question: What is baptism for the dead?

Proxy baptism is a way to provide redemption for those who died without hearing the Gospel

Explained Elder G. Todd Christopherson:

Christian theologians have long wrestled with the question, What is the destiny of the countless billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus? [1] There are several theories concerning the “unevangelized” dead, ranging from an inexplicable denial of salvation, to dreams or other divine intervention at the moment of death, to salvation for all, even without faith in Christ. A few believe that souls hear of Jesus after death. None explain how to satisfy Jesus’ requirement that a man must be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:3-5). Lacking the knowledge once had in the early Church, these earnest seekers have been “forced to choose between a weak law that [allows] the unbaptized to enter heaven, and a cruel God who [damns] the innocent.” [2]
With the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has come the understanding of how the unbaptized dead are redeemed and how God can be “a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” [3]
While yet in life, Jesus prophesied that He would also preach to the dead [see John 5:25]. Peter tells us this happened in the interval between the Savior’s Crucifixion and Resurrection [see 1 Peter 3:18-19]...


Question: Does the practice of baptism for the dead have ancient roots?

There is considerable evidence that some early Christians and some Jewish groups performed proxy ordinance work for the salvation of the dead

The most obvious of these is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

Attempts to shrug this off as a reference by Paul to a practice he does not condone but only uses to support the doctrine of the resurrection are indefensible. Paul's statement makes no sense unless the practice was valid and the saints in Corinth knew it. This is easily demonstrated if we just imagine a young Protestant, who doubts the resurrection, who goes to his pastor with his problem. The pastor answers him, saying, "But what about the Mormons who baptize for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?" You know what the young doubter would say. He would say, "Pastor, they're Mormons! What's your point?"

In fact, we know that baptism for the dead was practiced for a long time in the early church. As John A. Tvedtnes has noted:

... historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the [Cerinthians][4] of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:
“In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.) [5]

Thus, baptism for the dead was banned about four hundred years after Christ by the church councils. Latter-day Saints would see this as an excellent example of the apostasy—church councils altering doctrine and practice that was accepted at an earlier date.

Tvedtnes continues:

In early Judaism, too, there is an example of ordinances being performed in behalf of the dead. Following the battle of Marisa in 163 B.C., it was discovered that each of the Jewish soldiers killed in the fight had been guilty of concealing pagan idols beneath his clothing. In order to atone for their wrong, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and commander, collected money from the survivors to purchase sacrificial animals for their dead comrades:
“And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:43–46.) [6]


Response to claim: 515 - Wilford Woodruff "felt he had saved" all of the presidents of the United States, except for three

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Wilford Woodruff "felt he had saved" all of the presidents of the United States, except for three.

Author's sources:
  1. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 19:229.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Woodruff says nothing about him saving people—he says only that he had a vision in which prominent men from American history requested that their temple work be performed.

Response to claim: 515-516 - The Mormons spend millions of dollars on genealogical research that would be better spent feeding the starving people in the world

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Mormons spend millions of dollars on genealogical research that would be better spent feeding the starving people in the world.

Author's sources:
  • Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp.308-9
  • 2 Nephi 28:13"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Would not the hundreds of hours which the Tanners spend in researching, writing, and selling anti-Mormon propaganda be better spent in feeding starving people, helping the homeless, or any of a thousand other worthy activities? This charge presupposes its conclusion—the authors assume that there is no value in temple work. The criticism also presumes that Latter-day Saints do not spend millions of dollars annually on charitable work for members and non-members. The anti-Mormon bias and animus is on full display here. The scholarly veneer is gone.


Response to claim: 517 - Mormons are very similar to ancient Egyptians regarding their attitude toward the dead

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Mormons are very similar to ancient Egyptians regarding their attitude toward the dead.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors will need to provide some evidence beyond their mere statement. (One recalls Sandra Tanner's equally amusing claim that the Church of Jesus Christ's theology was closer to Hinduism than Christianity. [7])


Response to claim: 517 - The Mormon "obsession with the dead" is close to "ancestral worship"

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Mormon "obsession with the dead" is close to "ancestral worship."

Author's sources:
  1. Ensign, May 1976, p.102

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The idea is absurd. The authors quote mine the Ensign.


Question: Is temple work a form of "ancestor worship"?

Baptism for the dead does not in any way represent "ancestor worship"

Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner claim that Church members' "obsession with the dead approaches very close to ancestral worship." In support of this, they quote Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, Ensign May 1976, p.102. The critics wish to show that baptism for the dead is a form of "ancestor worship." In order to accomplish this, they extract phrases from a story told by Elder Komatsu about a couple that wished to be married, but were denied permission by the boy's parents. The use of genealogical research was the key that opened the door to allowing the couple to eventually be married. The authors carefully extract the phrases that they want to use, thereby making it impossible to see what Elder Komatsu was actually talking about. Baptism for the dead does not in any way represent "ancestor worship," and the authors had to search pretty hard to find a quote that they could butcher sufficiently to support this conclusion.

Reference Original quote... Mined quote... Use of sources
The Changing World of Mormonism p. 517. "This obsession with the dead approaches very close to ancestral worship." May I share with you this afternoon an experience that happened to a young couple who were members of the Church in Japan. They wished to be married, and as is the custom in Japan, they sought permission from their nonmember parents for the marriage to be performed. The boy’s parents refused to give permission. With concern and disappointment, the young couple prayerfully sought ways to fill their lives with meaningful Church activities and trusted that permission would be forthcoming later.

At this time Church members were planning a trip to the Hawaii Temple, and much emphasis was made and was being placed on the importance of genealogical research. So the couple joined with others in seeking out their ancestors and in planning to have the temple work done for them. The girl searched diligently through shrines, cemeteries, and government record offices, and was able to gather seventy-seven names. The boy’s uncle, who was a respected and influential member of the family, heard of this and was deeply impressed with and interested in her work. He noted the intense devotion of the girl to honoring her ancestors and suggested that such a young lady would be a good wife for his nephew. Permission was granted for the young people to be married, and the marriage was performed. Later they were sealed in the Hawaii Temple.

It is a Japanese tradition that families gather together for special holidays in January and August. As this young couple joined their family members on these special occasions, they displayed their book of remembrance, and much interest was generated in their work and in the reasons for it. They discussed with those relatives assembled their ancestral lines and the importance of completing the genealogical research. It was difficult for their nonmember families to understand the reasons for a Christian church teaching principles such as “ancestral worship,” for this was a Buddhist teaching and tradition.

Today many young men and women are completing their family group sheets and are teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to their parents and their relatives by this method. Through genealogical research and through doing temple work for their progenitors, and especially with a temple now becoming available in Tokyo, members can so live that the gospel will yet be embraced by many more in the Orient. This great work has just begun. —Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, May 1976

May I share with you this afternoon an experience that happened to a young couple who were members of the Church in Japan.... the couple joined with others in seeking out their ancestors and in planning to have the temple work done for them. The girl searched diligently through shrines, cemeteries, and government record offices, and was able to gather seventy-seven names.... As this young couple joined their family members ... they displayed their book of remembrance.... They discussed with those relatives assembled their ancestral lines and the importance of completing the genealogical research. It was difficult for their nonmember families to understand the reasons for a Christian church teaching principles such as "ancestral worship," for this was a Buddhist teaching and tradition.... Through genealogical research and through doing temple work for their progenitors, and especially with a temple now becoming available in Tokyo, members can so live that the gospel will yet be embraced by many more in the Orient Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, Ensign May 1976, p.102


Response to claim: 517-518 - Paul said to avoid "endless genealogies"

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Paul said to avoid "endless genealogies."

Author's sources:
  • 1 Tim. 1:4
  • Titus 3:9

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Bible is not condemning genealogical research. The Bible rejects the use of "endless genealogies" to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings.


Question: Does the Bible condemn genealogical research?

The Bible rejects the use of genealogies to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings

Critics charge that the Bible condemns genealogy, and therefore the Latter-day Saint practice of compiling family histories is anti-Biblical, often citing 1 Timothy 1:4 or Titus 3:9.

The Bible does not condemn all genealogy per se. Rather, it rejects the use of genealogy to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings. It also rejects the apostate uses to which some Christians put genealogy in some varieties of gnosticism.

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogical work so that they can continue the Biblical practice of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogy work so that they can continue the Biblical practice—also endorsed by Paul—of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead, such as baptism (See 1 Corinthians 15:29) so that the atonement of Christ may be available to all who would choose it, living or dead. See: Baptism for the dead

The Bible clearly does not reject all uses of genealogy

This can be seen through its many genealogical lists, including two such lists for Jesus Christ Himself. (See Matthew 1:1–24 and Luke 3:23–38.)

The condemnation of "genealogies" in Timothy and Titus likely came because:

  • the Christians perceived a Jewish tendency to be pre-occupied by "pure descent" as a qualification for holding the priesthood. Since only pure descendents of Levi could hold the priesthood, there was endless wrangling about one's pedigree—since Paul considers the Aaronic Priesthood to have been superceded by Christ, the great High Priest like Melchizedek (see Hebrews 5), this probably strikes him as pointless.
  • some Jewish scribes and other teachers claimed that their "traditions" were directly descended from Moses, Joshua, or some other prominent leader, and thus superior to the Christian gospel.[8]
  • some gnostic sects had involved accounts of the descent of the Aeons (up to 365 "generations" in one scheme) and other mystic or pagan variations thereon.[9]

Since all these genealogies were either speculative or fabricated, they could cause endless, pointless debate.[10] Rather Paul wants the faith (in Christ) which builds up ("edifying") testimonies and lives.


Response to claim: 518 - The Book of Mormon is supposed to contain "the fulness of the Gospel," yet it doesn't teach baptism for the dead

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon is supposed to contain "the fulness of the Gospel," yet it doesn't teach baptism for the dead.

Author's sources:
  1. Pearl of Great Price, p.51, v.34

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The Book of Mormon is correct in the doctrines and principles it teaches, but it does not claim to contain all truth.


Question: What does it mean when it is said that the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the gospel?"

The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Gospel, for the purpose of convincing Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ

The Lord declared that he had given Joseph Smith "power from on high...to translate the Book of Mormon; which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also" (D&C 20:8-9; cf. D&C 27:5; D&C 42:12; D&C 135:3).

The Book of Mormon is correct in the doctrines and principles it teaches, but it does not claim to contain all truth. Its own self-described purpose is to "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations" (title page), and that these teachings are "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40; 1 Nephi 19:3). For the most part, the Book of Mormon does not concern itself with the deeper mysteries of God.

The book itself admits that it does not contain all the doctrines the Lord wants us to know. The prophet Mormon explained that he only recorded "the lesser part of the things which [Jesus] taught the people," for the intent that "when [the Book of Mormon reader] shall have received this...if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them" (3 Nephi 26:8-9; compare Alma 26:22).

What is the gospel?

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ gave a specific definition of "the gospel":

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

(3 Nephi 27:13-19, italics added.)

In this passage, Jesus defines "the gospel" as:

  1. Christ came into the world to do the Father's will.
  2. The Father sent Christ to be crucified.
  3. Because of Christ's atonement, all men will be judged by him according to their works (as opposed to not receiving a judgment at all and being cast out of God's presence by default; 2 Nephi 9:8-9).
  4. Those who repent and are baptized shall be filled (with the Holy Ghost, see 3 Nephi 12:6), and
  5. if they continue in faith by enduring to the end they will be justified (declared "not guilty") by Christ before the Father, but
  6. if they don't endure they will be subject to the justice of God and cast out of his presence.
  7. The Father's words will all be fulfilled.
  8. Because no unclean thing can enter the Father's heavenly kingdom, only those who rely in faith on the atonement of Christ, repent, and are faithful to the end can be saved.

This is "the gospel." The Book of Mormon teaches these concepts with a plainness and clarity unequaled by any other book. It has therefore been declared by the Lord to contain "the fulness of the gospel." The primary message of the gospel, the "good news" of Jesus Christ, is that he has atoned for our sins and prepared a way for us to come back into the presence of the Father. This is the message of the Book of Mormon, and it contains it in its fulness.


Question: How can the Book of Mormon contain the "fulness of the Gospel" if it does not speak of ordinances such as baptism for the dead or celestial marriage?

The Book of Mormon does not contain detailed descriptions of many religious topics and ordinances, such as eternal marriage or baptism for the dead

Is it possible that the Book of Mormon cannot contain "the fulness of the gospel" because it doesn't teach certain unique LDS doctrines, such as baptism for the dead, the Word of Wisdom, the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, vicarious work for the dead, and the corporeal nature of God the Father?

There are many religious topics and doctrines which The Book of Mormon does not discuss in detail (e.g., the premortal existence—see Alma 13:), and some which are not even mentioned (e.g., the ordinance of baptism for the dead).

This is unsurprising, since the Book of Mormon's goal is to teach the "fulness of the gospel"—the doctrine of Christ.

Harold B. Lee: "our scoffers say, 'How can you say that the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel when it doesn't speak of baptism for the dead?'"

Of this criticism, Harold B. Lee said:

Now, our scoffers say, "How can you say that the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel when it doesn't speak of baptism for the dead?" Some of you may have asked that question.

What is the gospel as it is defined? Let me give you how the Lord defines the gospel, in these words: "And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom." (DC 39:5-6.)

Wherever you have a restoration of the gospel, where those fundamental ordinances and the power of the Holy Ghost are among men, there you have the power by which the Lord can reveal all things that pertain to the kingdom in detail, don't you see, including baptism for the dead, which He has done in our day. That is what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he was questioned, "How does your church differ from all the other churches?" and his answer was simple, "We are different from all the other churches because we have the Holy Ghost." (See History of the Church 4:42.) Therein we have the teachings of the fulness of those essentials in the Book of Mormon upon the foundations of which the kingdom of God is established.[11]

BYU professor Noel Reynolds wrote:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not synonymous with the plan of salvation (or plan of redemption), but is a key part thereof. Brigham Young stated that the 'Gospel of the Son of God that has been revealed is a plan or system of laws and ordinances, by strict obedience to which the people who inhabit this earth are assured that they may return again into the presence of the Father and the Son.' While the plan of salvation is what God and Christ have done for mortals in the creation, the fall, the atonement, the final judgment, and the salvation of the world, the gospel contains the instructions--the laws and ordinances--that enable human beings to make the atonement effective in their lives and thereby gain salvation.[12]


Response to claim: 520 - Jesus "taught the opposite" of eternal marriage when he said that people "neither marry, nor are given in marriage" in the afterlife

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Jesus "taught the opposite" of eternal marriage when he said that people "neither marry, nor are given in marriage" in the afterlife.

Author's sources:
  1. Luke 20:34-36

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is incorrect.


Question: Does Jesus Christ's statement "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage" contradict the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal marriage?

Jesus Christ was responding to the Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection

Matthew 22:23-30 (or its counterparts, Mark 12:18-25 and Luke 20:27-36) is often used by critics to argue against the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage.

The Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection, asked the Savior about a case where one woman successively married seven brothers, each of which died leaving her to the next. They then tried to trip up Jesus by asking him whose wife she will be in the resurrection. Jesus' answer is almost identical in all three scriptural versions.

Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:29-30)

Early Latter-day Saints did not see any difficulty in reconciling it to their views on eternal marriage: Jesus was talking about marriage for time, not eternity

Latter-day Saint scripture discussed it specifically:

15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever (DC 132:15-17) (emphasis added)

Joseph did not need to go back and correct the Bible each time he received a new revelation

So if the Doctrine and Covenants clarifies or corrects a teaching the Bible, then why didn't Joseph go back and correct the Bible as well? Because it simply wasn't necessary for him to continuously revise the Bible based upon new revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants, like the Book of Mormon, is considered to be scripture and an equal companion to the Bible. That is, after all, the purpose of receiving new scripture..

When Joseph Smith performed his inspired "translation" of the Bible, he clarified and revised a number of items. This was a continuous process that involved various portions of the Bible - it was not performed from "start to finish." He did not consider it necessary to revise the Bible every single time he received a new revelation.


Response to claim: 530-534 - The endowment has been changed over the years

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The endowment has been changed over the years.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The method of presentation of the endowment has changed over the years.


Question: Why would the Church remove or alter elements of the temple ceremony if these ceremonies were revealed by God?

There is a difference between the ordinance of the endowment and the mechanism used in the presentation of the ordinance

Latter-day Saints believe that the Temple endowment is an eternal ordinance that Joseph Smith received by revelation from God. Why, then, have changes been made to it several times since it was first revealed?

People sometimes confuse the ordinance of the endowment with the presentation of the endowment. The presentation has undergone many changes since the time of Joseph Smith as it is adjusted to meet the needs of a modern and ever changing membership.

Joseph Smith restored the endowment ordinance, but the method of presentation of the ordinance is adapted to fit the needs of the times. There would be no point in having continuing revelation, a founding idea of our faith, if we are not permitted to advance and meet new needs. God’s directives and how He deals with His people may vary according to His people’s understanding and needs. God doesn’t tell everyone to build an ark and wait for a flood. Changes sometimes occur as a result of God dealing with His children according to their changing circumstances.


Question: Did other ceremonies or practices ever change in the ancient Church?

major changes in practices took place during Jesus Christ’s ministry

We know that major changes in practices took place during Jesus Christ’s ministry. Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses and practices associated with that law were no longer necessary. Changes also took place after Christ's earthly ministry. For example, Christ originally taught the gospel only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 15:24) and forbade His apostles from going to the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5–6). After Jesus' death Peter was commanded by an angel to take the gospel to all people (Acts 10, Acts 11; Matt 28:19). Following Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry the practice of circumcision also became unnecessary (Acts 15, Galatians 6:15). Changes in the Church are sometimes necessary. Such changes, however, must be done by inspiration or revelation from the head of the Church, who is Jesus Christ.

Relative truths can change, while absolute truths do not

There are absolute truths and relative truths. Absolute truths (such as: God lives and Jesus is the Christ) do not change. Relative truths or practices (such as: circumcision, plural marriage, and age of priesthood ordination) do change. Many relative truths deal with procedural issues, and how absolute truths are presented, rather than the absolute truths themselves. As additional truths are revealed, our understanding of previous revelation is modified to accommodate additional light.

That the temple ceremonies have undergone occasional changes, improvements, and refinements, should cause no concern since -- as Joseph Fielding Smith noted -- the “work of salvation for the dead came to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] like every other doctrine — piecemeal. It was not revealed all at once.”[13]

President Brigham Young gave a brief definition of the endowment and thereby identified some of its essential elements. He said,

"Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell."[14]

On 4 May 1842, after President Joseph Smith gave the first Nauvoo-era endowment to a small group of Latter-day Saints he told apostle Brigham Young that because of their limited spacial circumstances the overall experience was “not arranged perfectly” and he wanted Brigham to “organize and systematize” the ceremonies. This indicates there were some presentational modifications allowable in the rites while still preserving the core elements of the experience.


Question: Is it ever allowable to modify a religious ceremony?

The ceremony by which the endowment is administered is subject to modification, but the elements of the endowment are not

Harold B. Lee emphasized that the means by which the endowment and its message are presented are subject to modification

Now, you think for a moment—in the upper office over [Joseph Smith's] store, with no equipment like we have in our temples today, the endowment had to be given by lecture. The Prophet Joseph Smith through these, his counselors, and others as you heard their names, attended to the matters that we now have given in various ways. Sometimes our people who go through the temples are a bit startled because of the varied ways in which the endowment is presented. Perhaps, as under inspiration they studied the nature of the endowment, they thought to make it a little more meaningful to the patrons who would come: part by dramatization, part by question and answer, part by lecture, part by picturization on the walls of some of the temples. We have artists who have tried to put those who go through the temple in the mood of the lesson to be taught as they proceed through the temple.
....But it is the same message that was given by lecture by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his office over [his] store. Now, when we have that in mind, we will see why the Prophet, in the beginning of this dispensation, gave certain instructions to have the brethren stimulated in their thinking.[15]


Response to claim: 535-547 - The endowment was derived from Freemasonry

The author(s) of The endowment was derived from Freemasonry make(s) the following claim:

The endowment was derived from Freemasonry.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph implemented elements of the endowment prior to his association with Freemasonry, and some elements of Freemasonry were used in the presentation of the endowment.


Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?

Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment ritual, phraseology, vestments, and theology at least a year before he ever became a Freemason

Critics have noted that Joseph's initiation into Freemasonry (15–16 March 1842) predates his introduction of the full temple endowment among the Saints (4 May 1842). They thus claim that Masonry was a necessary element for Joseph's self-generated "revelation" of the Nauvoo-era temple ceremonies.

But one LDS author draws attention to the fact that there is much more to the history of the endowment restoration than critics of the Church are willing to admit.

Plenty of evidence...is available that Joseph Smith had a detailed knowledge of the Nauvoo temple ceremonies long before he introduced them in May 1842 and long before he set foot inside a Masonic hall...While Joseph Smith was translating the book of Abraham from Egyptian papyri, he wrote a series of short explanations for three of the illustrations that accompanied his translation. The Prophet noted that in Facsimile 2, figures 3 and 7 were related in some manner to "the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood" and "the sign of the Holy Ghost." When he came to figure 8, he explained that this area on the Egyptian drawing contained "writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God."...

Other writers have used the Facsimile 2 material to sharpen the chronological argument against Joseph Smith. Facsimile 2 and its temple-related explanations were first printed in the 15 March 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons, the same day that the Prophet received the first of three Masonic initiation rites. Latter-day Saints have traditionally argued that this issue of the newspaper was published during the day while the Prophet's Masonic initiation did not occur until that evening. Thus Joseph Smith must have had temple knowledge before he had Masonic knowledge. But critics point out that the 15 March issue of the paper was not actually published until 19 March, several days after the Prophet witnessed the Masonic ceremonies.

This is where terminology becomes crucial. Some claim that the phrases employed by Joseph Smith in the Facsimile 2 explanations are Masonic and that it was not until several days after his Masonic induction that Joseph Smith "first spoke of 'certain key words and signs belonging to the priesthood.'" These critics assume the terms are necessarily "Masonic," yet it must be remembered that Freemasonry's rites are little more than borrowed baggage. Then what about the supposedly incriminating timing of these incidents? This is precisely the point at which the entire argument falls apart. On 5 May 1841 William Appleby paid a visit to Joseph Smith, who read to him the revelation on temple ordinances, now identified as Doctrine and Covenants 124, that was received 19 January 1841. After the two men discussed baptism for the dead, the Prophet got out his collection of Egyptian papyrus scrolls and, while exhibiting Facsimile 2, explained to Appleby that part of the drawing was related to "the Lord revealing the Grand key words of the Holy Priesthood, to Adam in the garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and to all whom the Priesthood was revealed."

It is also clear from Doctrine and Covenants 124 that Joseph Smith was well aware of the main ritual elements of the Nauvoo endowment ceremony at least as early as 19 January 1841. (See D&C :124.) [16]

The note from Appleby is found in his journal under the date of 5 May 1841, a little less than a year before Joseph's initiation into the Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo. [17] There is a great deal more historical evidence that the Prophet Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment ritual, phraseology, vestments, and theology long before he ever became a Freemason.

In evidence of this fact, we find that upon his initiation into Masonry Joseph Smith was already explaining things which the Masons themselves did not comprehend. According to one witness:

"the Prophet explained many things about the rites that even Masons do not pretend to understand but which he made most clear and beautiful." [18]


Question: Why would Joseph Smith incorporate Masonic elements into the temple ritual?

There are two aspects of temple worship: The teaching of the endowment, and the presentation of the endowment

In order to understand the relationship between the temple endowment and Freemasonry it is useful to consider the temple experience. In the temple, participants are confronted with ritual in a form which is unknown in LDS worship outside of that venue. In the view of some individuals the temple endowment is made up of two parts:

  1. The teachings of the endowment, i.e., the doctrines taught and the covenants made with God.
  2. The method of presenting the endowment, or the "ritual" mechanics themselves.

It is in the ritual presentation of the endowment teachings and covenants that the similarities between the LDS temple worship and Freemasonry are the most apparent. The question is, why would this be the case?

Joseph's challenge was to find a method of presenting the endowment that would be effective

It is the opinion of some people that in developing the endowment Joseph Smith faced a problem. He wished to communicate, in a clear and effective manner, some different (and, in some cases, complex) religious ideas. These included such abstract concepts as

  • the nature of creation (matter being organized and not created out of nothing)
  • humanity's relationship to God and to each other
  • eternal marriage and exaltation in the afterlife

The theory is that Joseph needed to communicate these ideas to a diverse population; some with limited educational attainments, many of whom were immigrants; several with only modest understanding of the English language; all of whom possessed different levels of intellectual and spiritual maturity—but who needed to be instructed through the same ceremony.

Ritual and repetition are important teaching tools

Joseph Smith's very brief experience with Freemasonry before the introduction of the full LDS endowment may have reminded him of the power of instruction through ritual and repetition. Some people believe that Joseph may have seized upon Masonic tools as teaching devices for the endowment's doctrines and covenants during the Nauvoo era. Other people are of the opinion that since these elements were previously present in the worship of the Kirtland Temple they were not 'borrowed' by the Prophet at all.

Regardless, the use of symbols was characteristic of Joseph Smith's era; it was not unique to him or Masonry:

Symbols on buildings, in literature, stamped on manufactured goods, etc. were not endemic to Mormons and Masons but were common throughout all of mid-nineteenth century American society (as even a cursory inspection of books, posters, buildings and photos of the periods will bear out.) So, assuming [Joseph] Smith felt a need to communicate specific principles to his Saints, he might naturally develop a set of easily understood symbols as were already in familiar use about him. [19]


Question: How do the goals of Freemasonry compare to those of the Latter-day Saint endowment?

The goals of Masonry and the LDS endowment are not the same

It is worth noting that some of the similarities between the endowment and Freemasonry which are highlighted by Church critics are only superficial. For example, critics typically focus on the common use of architectural elements on the Salt Lake Temple and in Masonry, even though the endowment makes no reference to such elements. In almost every case, shared symbolic forms have different meanings, and thus should not be seen as exact parallels.

It should also be emphasized that the goals of Masonry and the LDS endowment are not the same. Both teach important truths, but the truths they teach are different. Masonry teaches of man's relationship to his fellow men and offers no means of salvation; i.e., it is not a religion. The temple endowment, on the other hand, teaches of man's relationship to God, and Latter-day Saints consider it to be essential for exaltation in the world to come.


Question: Where did 19th-Century Latter-day Saints believe that Freemasonry came from?

It was a common 19th century belief of both Mormons and Masons that Masonry had it origins in the Temple of Solomon

The Saints of Joseph Smith's era accepted the then-common belief that Masonry ultimately sprang from Solomon's temple. Thus, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball understood Masonry to be a corrupted form of a pristine ancient temple rite. [20] One author later wrote that masonry as an "institution dates its origins many centuries back, it is only a perverted Priesthood stolen from the Temples of the Most High." [21]

It was a common 19th century belief of both Mormons and Masons that Masonry had it origins in the Temple of Solomon. A few Masons cling to this view even today. An opinion not, it turns out, supported by the historical evidence but it was only an opinion. When studying the relationship between Mormonism and the fraternal order known as Freemasonry it is important to acknowledge and understand the perspective expressed by nineteenth century Latter-day Saints. Below are seven examples of what some Mormons thought about where the rites and teachings of the Masons came from (some of these people were also Masons). Notice that some of these quotes purport to reflect the view of the Prophet Joseph Smith on this subject.

Early Latter-day Saints' views of Freemasonry

Joseph Fielding wrote during the Nauvoo period:

Many have joined the Masonic institution. This seems to have been a stepping stone or preparation for something else, the true origin of Masonry. This I have also seen and rejoice in it.... I have evidence enough that Joseph is not fallen. I have seen him after giving, as I before said, the origin of Masonry. [22]

Heber C. Kimball wrote of the endowment:

We have received some precious things through the Prophet on the Priesthood which would cause your soul to rejoice. I cannot give them to you on paper for they are not to be written so you must come and get them for yourself...There is a similarity of Priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph says Masonry was taken from Priesthood but has become degenerated. But many things are perfect. [23]

Thus, to Joseph's contemporaries, there was much more to the LDS temple endowment than just warmed-over Freemasonry. None of Joseph's friends complained that he had simply adapted Masonic ritual for his own purposes. Rather, they were aware of the common ritual elements, but understood that Joseph had restored something that was both ritually and theologically ancient and God-given.

Early Church leaders believed that Freemasonry was an "apostate" form of the Endowment

  • Willard Richards (16 March 1842): “Masonry had its origin in the Priesthood. A hint to the wise is sufficient.” [24]
  • Heber C. Kimball (17 June 1842): “There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph [Smith] says Masonry was taken from priesthood.” [25]
  • Benjamin F. Johnson (1843): Joseph Smith “told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion.” [26]
  • Joseph Fielding (December 1843): The LDS temple ordinances are “the true origin of Masonry.” [27]
  • Saints in Salt Lake City (1849–50): “Masonry was originally of the church, and one of its favored institutions, to advance the members in their spiritual functions. It had become perverted from its designs.” [28]
  • Heber C. Kimball (9 November 1858): “The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy. . . . They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.” [29]
  • Church Authorities (1842–1873): “The Mormon leaders have always asserted that Free-Masonry was a . . . degenerate representation of the order of the true priesthood.” [30]


Notes

  1. John Sanders, introduction to What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by Gabriel Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders (1995), 9.
  2. Mormonism and Early Christianity (Vol. 4 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Todd Compton and Stephen D. Ricks, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 101.
  3. Alma 42:15
  4. The source erroneously refers to the "Marcionites" instead of the "Cerinthians".
  5. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign (February 1977), 86. off-site
  6. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign (February 1977), 86. off-site
  7. See citation in Daniel C. Peterson, "What Certain Baptists Think They Know about the Restored Gospel (Review of The Mormon Puzzle: Understanding and Witnessing to Latter-day Saints by North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention)," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 12–96. off-site
  8. George H. Fudge, "I Have a Question: How do we interpret scriptures in the New Testament that seem to condemn genealogy?," Ensign (March 1986), 49.
  9. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1811-1817, New Testament, "1 Timothy 1:4" & "Titus 3:9"
  10. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), 353.
  11. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 156. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  12. Noel B. Reynolds, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Taught by the Nephite Prophets," Brigham Young University Studies 31 no. 3 (Summer 1991), 33.
  13. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 168.
  14. Brigham Young, "Necessity of Building Temples—The Endowment," (April 6, 1853) Journal of Discourses 2:31.
  15. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 578. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  16. Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site (citations omitted)
  17. William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, MS 1401 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  18. Horace H. Cummings, "True Stories from My Journal," The Instructor 64 no. 8 (August 1929), 441.; cited in Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site
  19. Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #5) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site(emphasis added)
  20. See Footnote 30, Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site
  21. H. Belnap, "A Mysterious Preacher," The Instructor 21 no. ? (15 March 1886), 91.; cited in Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site
  22. Andrew F. Ehat, "'They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet'—The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding," Brigham Young University Studies 19 no. 2 (1979), 145, 147, spelling and punctuation standardized.
  23. Heber C. Kimball to Parley P. Pratt, 17 June 1842, Parley P. Pratt Papers, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, spelling and punctuation standardized.
  24. Letter, 7–25 March 1842, Willard Richards to Levi Richards, published in Joseph Grant Stevenson, ed., Richards Family History (Provo, UT: Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, 1991), 3:90.
  25. Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 85.
  26. Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review (Heber City, UT: Archive Publishers, 2001), 113.
  27. Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, Winter 1979, 145; hereafter cited as BYUS.
  28. John W. Gunnison, The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott and Company, 1856), 59.
  29. BYUS, vol. 15, no. 4, Summer 1975, 458.
  30. Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 698.