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Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Temples & Freemasonry Concerns & Questions
Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Temples & Freemasonry Concerns & Questions"
|Witnesses Concerns & Questions||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
|Science Concerns & Questions|
Response to section "Temples & Freemasonry Concerns & Questions"Summary: The author of the letter asks, "Does the eternal salvation, eternal happiness, and eternal sealings of families really depend on medieval originated Masonic rituals in multi-million dollar castles? Is God really going to separate good couples and their children who love one other and who want to be together in the next life because they object to uncomfortable and strange Masonic temple rituals and a polygamous heaven?" We respond to these questions in this article.
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: "Just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "We have the true Masonry" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "why doesn’t the LDS ceremony more closely resemble an earlier form of Masonry?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Freemasonry has zero links to the Solomon’s temple" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "If there’s no connection to Solomon’s temple, what’s so divine about a man-made medieval Scottish secret fraternity and its rituals?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Is God really going to require people to know secret tokens, handshakes, and signs to get into the Celestial Kingdom?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Does the eternal salvation, eternal happiness, and eternal sealings of families really depend on medieval originated Masonic rituals in multi-million dollar castles?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "What does it say about the Church if it removed something that Joseph Smith said he restored?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "The entire endowment ceremony is an ordinance...FAIR knows that Joseph Smith taught that the endowment is not to be altered or changed" (Source: Debunking FAIR's Debunking, July 2014)
- LDS Truth Claims: Temple Ordinances (video)
Response to claim: "Just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment"
Just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842.
Some of the endowment was developed and introduced in the weeks following Joseph Smith's initiation as a Master Mason, but other elements were developed prior to his association with Freemasonry
Jump to Detail:
- "Masonry," Church History Topics: "There are different ways of understanding the relationship between Masonry and the temple"
- Question: What criticisms are associated with the temple ritual and its relationship to Freemasonry?
- Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?
- Question: Why would Joseph Smith incorporate Masonic elements into the temple ritual?
"Masonry," Church History Topics: "There are different ways of understanding the relationship between Masonry and the temple"
"Masonry, Church History Topics on LDS.org:
"There are different ways of understanding the relationship between Masonry and the temple. Some Latter-day Saints point to similarities between the format and symbols of both the endowment and Masonic rituals and those of many ancient religious ceremonies as evidence that the endowment was a restoration of an ancient ordinance.Others note that the ideas and institutions in the culture that surrounded Joseph Smith frequently contributed to the process by which he obtained revelation.28 In any event, the endowment did not simply imitate the rituals of Freemasonry. Rather, Joseph’s encounter with Masonry evidently served as a catalyst for revelation. The Lord restored the temple ordinances through Joseph Smith to teach profound truths about the plan of salvation and introduce covenants that would allow God’s children to enter His presence."
Question: What criticisms are associated with the temple ritual and its relationship to Freemasonry?
Critics of the LDS Church often point to similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and the LDS temple endowment
Critics of the LDS Church often point to similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and the LDS temple endowment and claim that since Joseph Smith was initiated as a Freemason in Nauvoo, Illinois shortly before he introduced the full endowment to the Saints (as opposed to the partial endowment given in the Kirtland Temple), he must have incorporated elements of the Masonic rites into his own ceremony. Implicit in this charge is the idea that Joseph Smith's ritual was not revealed to him by God and thus not a legitimate restoration of ancient Israelite and early Christian ordinances.
It is worthwhile to note that these critics are also often critical of Freemasonry, and thus attempt guilt by association.
Some of the endowment was developed and introduced in the weeks following Joseph Smith's initiation as a Master Mason, but other elements were developed prior to his association with Freemasonry
While it is true that some of the endowment was developed and introduced in the weeks following Joseph Smith's initiation as a Master Mason. This oversimplifies the issue considerably. The endowment and other parts of LDS temple worship developed slowly over a period of years. It did not happen all at once. Joseph Smith's critics want to label him as an intellectual thief by claiming that he stole some of the ritual elements of Freemasonry in order to create the Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony. The greatest obstacles to this theory are the facts that
- Joseph Smith claimed direct revelation from God regarding the Nauvoo-era endowment,
- Joseph Smith knew a great deal about the Nauvoo-era endowment ceremony long before the Nauvoo period—and thus long before his entry into the Masonic fraternity, and
- the Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony has numerous exacting parallels to the initiation ceremonies of ancient Israelite and early Christian kings and priests—parallels which cannot be found among the freemasonry available to Joseph Smith.
Furthermore, Joseph's contemporaries saw the parallels to Masonry clearly, and yet they did not charge him with pilfering.
In order to understand this issue, a few facts need to be understood:
- Joseph Smith, Jr. was initiated as a Freemason in Nauvoo, Illinois on the 15th and 16th of March 1842; his brother Hyrum and (possibly) his father Joseph Sr. were Masons before the Church's organization in April 1830.
- A few of the early leaders of the Church were Masons before the Church's organization while many others were initiated into the Masonic institution in the Nauvoo period.
- Masonry was a well-known and highly regarded fraternity in mid-19th century America.
- There are similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and those of the LDS Temple endowment. These similarities center around
- the use of a ritual drama—the story of Hiram Abiff is used by the Masons, while the LDS endowment uses the story of Adam and Eve and the creation (the LDS versions have parallels to ancient Israelite temple worship).
- similar symbolic hand gestures in the course of the rituals (which also have ancient antecedents)
- small portions of similar verbiage
Symbolist F. L. Brink suggested that Joseph Smith successfully provided an "innovative and intricate symbology" that suited well the psychic needs of his followers. 
Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?
Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment theology early on in his prophetic career
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.
Joseph demonstrated knowledge of temple theology very early on in his prophetic career. Matthew Brown offered this timeline for consideration:
- 16 February 1832 (D&C 76:50-70): Joseph Smith learned by vision about being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, Kings and Priests, the Church of the Firstborn, and godhood.
- 22 September 1832 (D&C 84:18-26, 31-34): Joseph Smith learned by revelation that Moses knew of Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances that would enable one to enter into the Lord's presence.
- 2 February-2 July 1833 (JST Isaiah 34:16): Joseph Smith learned that none of those whose names are written in the book of the Lord "shall want [i.e., lack] their mate," suggesting the permanent sealing together of husband and wife. 
- 5 July 1835 (HC, 2:235-36): The Church acquired several ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls that contained, among other things, the writings of Abraham and Joseph. It has been demonstrated that some of the material on these scrolls is related to Egyptian temple ceremonies (compare Abraham 1:26; see explanations to Facsimile 2).
- 20 January 1836 (HC, 2:377-78): The Prophet conducted a marriage ceremony "after the order of heaven." The couple took each other by the hand, and the Prophet invoked upon them "the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
- 3 April 1836 (D&C 110): Keys pertaining to the temple ordinances that were eventually practiced in the Nauvoo period were restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple.
- 15 March 1839 (HC, 3:286): Joseph Smith informed a member of the Church" "I never have had [an] opportunity to give [the Saints] the paln that God has revealed unto me."
- 27 June 1839 (WJS, 6): The Prophet made the first of several known references to methods of discerning between spiritual beings sent from God and deceptive spirits who attempt to pass themselves off as heavenly messengers. These methods were considered to be some of "the keys of the kingdom of God." The Prophet's teachings are now published in section 129 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
- 18 June 1840 (HC, 4:137): Joseph Smith stated his desire to continue translating the Egyptian papyrus scrolls obtained by the Church in 1835.
- 15 August 1840 (WJS, 37, 49; HC, 4:231): During a funeral sermon the Prophet read 1 Corinthians 15:29 and announced that baptism for the dead would be practiced in the Nauvoo Temple.
- 31 August 1840 (HC, 4:184-87): The First Presidency stated in a general letter to all Latter-day Saints that the priesthood was yet to be established in its fullness and the Kingdom of God built up in all of its glory. They announced that they had been given "the pattern and design" to accomplish this and emphasized that everything the Saints had accomplished so far would pale in comparison to what was about to occur. In connection with this they spoke of the necessity of building the Nauvoo Temple.
- 19 January 1841 (D&C 124:28, 34, 38-41, 95, 97): The Lord revealed that the fullness of the priesthood would be restored and practiced in the Nauvoo Temple, spoke of certain "keys" whereby one could ask for and receive blessings, and provided a detailed outline of what the Nauvoo Temple ordinances would consist of. The Lord also stated that the ordinances that were about to be restored were once practiced in the tabernacle built by Moses and in the temple constructed by king Solomon.
- 5 May 1841: William Appleby visited the Prophet who showed him the three Egyptian facsimiles that are now published in the Book of Abraham and evidently showed him written explanations of their various parts. These explanations, as recorded in Appleby's journal, closely match the printed explanations that now accompany the Book of Abraham facsimiles. Appleby recorded that one part of Facsimile #2 presented "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." The note from Appleby is found in his journal a little less than a year before Joseph's initiation into the Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo (15-16 March 1842).
- 31 October 1841 (HC, 4:443-44): Hyrum Smith informed a group of Latter-day Saints that within the Nauvoo Temple "the key of knowledge that unfolds the dispensation of the fullness of times may be turned, and the mysteries of God be unfolded."
- 4 March 1842 (HC 4:543): The Prophet gave Reuben Hedlock instructions regarding the "explanations" that were to accompany Facsimile #2 when it was published in the Times and Seasons. These "explanations" made mention of "the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood" and also indicated that this Egyptian hypocephalus contained "writings that cannot be revealed unto the world but [are] to be had in the holy temple of God."
In evidence of these 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." 
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:
- The teachings of the endowment, i.e., the doctrines taught and the covenants made with God.
- 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. 
Response to claim: "We have the true Masonry"
President Heber C. Kimball, a Mason himself and a member of the First Presidency for 21 years, made the following statement: “We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.
Early Church leaders did believe that they had "the true Masonry."
Jump to Detail:
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.  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." 
It was a common 19th century belief of both Latter-day Saints and Masons that Freemasonry had it origins in the Temple of Solomon. Some modern Masons continue to hold to this idea, or believe Masonry is (at least in part) derived from other ancient sources. Although this is a minority view that has been forcefully challenged, it was the view held by the early Latter-day Saints and apparently the prophet Joseph Smith himself.
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. 
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. 
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 ancient and divinely inspired.
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.” 
- Heber C. Kimball (17 June 1842): “There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph [Smith] says Masonry was taken from priesthood.” 
- Benjamin F. Johnson (1843): Joseph Smith “told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion.” 
- Joseph Fielding (December 1843): The LDS temple ordinances are “the true origin of Masonry.” 
- 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.” 
- 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.” 
- Church Authorities (1842–1873): “The Mormon leaders have always asserted that Free-Masonry was a . . . degenerate representation of the order of the true priesthood.” 
Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Freemasonry and the Origins of Modern Temple Ordinances"Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (June 5, 2015)
Joseph Smith taught that the origins of modern temple ordinances go back beyond the foundation of the world.1 Even for believers, the claim that rites known anciently have been restored through revelation raises complex questions because we know that revelation almost never occurs in a vacuum. Rather, it comes most often through reflection on the impressions of immediate experience, confirmed and elaborated through subsequent study and prayer.2 Because Joseph Smith became a Mason not long before he began to introduce others to the Nauvoo endowment, some suppose that Masonry must have been the starting point for his inspiration on temple matters. The real story, however, is not so simple. Though the introduction of Freemasonry in Nauvoo helped prepare the Saints for the endowment — both familiarizing them with elements they would later encounter in the Nauvoo temple and providing a blessing to them in its own right — an analysis of the historical record provides evidence that significant components of priesthood and temple doctrines, authority, and ordinances were revealed to the Prophet during the course of his early ministry, long before he got to Nauvoo. Further, many aspects of Latter-day Saint temple worship are well attested in the Bible and elsewhere in antiquity. In the minds of early Mormons, what seems to have distinguished authentic temple worship from the many scattered remnants that could be found elsewhere was the divine authority of the priesthood through which these ordinances had been restored and could now be administered in their fulness. Coupled with the restoration of the ordinances themselves is the rich flow of modern revelation that clothes them with glorious meanings. Of course, temple ordinances — like all divine communication — must be adapted to different times, cultures, and practical circumstances. Happily, since the time of Joseph Smith, necessary alterations of the ordinances have been directed by the same authority that first restored them in our day.
Response to claim: "why doesn’t the LDS ceremony more closely resemble an earlier form of Masonry?"
If Masonry had the original temple ceremony but became distorted over time, why doesn’t the LDS ceremony more closely resemble an earlier form of Masonry, which would be more correct rather than the exact version that Joseph Smith was exposed to in his March 1842 Nauvoo, Illinois initiation?
Joseph Smith used ritual elements known to him and his followers to teach a uniquely restorationist view.
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Why isn't the temple ceremony based upon an earlier version of Freemasonry rather than what existed in Joseph Smith's time?
Question: Why isn't the temple ceremony based upon an earlier version of Freemasonry rather than what existed in Joseph Smith's time?
If one assumes that any part of the ritual is based upon Freemasonry, then Joseph Smith used ritual elements known to him and his followers to teach a uniquely restorationist view
Those that make this claim confuse the ordinance of the endowment (with its focus on covenants and the relationship between God and His children through the mediation of Christ) with the presentation of the ordinance (a ritualized pedagogical dramatization which imparts knowledge in a way that can aid memory, encourage contemplation, and lead to additional personal revelation).
The trouble here is that we know that Masonic ritual practices do not trace to the temple of Solomon or to any time close to it. If one assumes that any part of the ritual is based upon Freemasonry, then Joseph Smith used ritual elements known to him and his followers to teach a uniquely restorationist view.
Evidence of the restoration of the temple rites has been documented by many Latter-day Saint scholars. Much of the endowment comes from Joseph Smith's translation of Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham and from revelations he received early in his prophetic career.
Freemasonry has zero links to the Solomon’s temple. Although more a Church folklore, with origins from comments made by early Mormon Masons such as Heber C. Kimball, than being Church doctrine, it’s a myth that the endowment ceremony has its origins from Solomon’s temple or that Freemasonry passed down parts of the endowment over the centuries from Solomon’s temple. Solomon’s temple was all about animal sacrifice. Freemasonry has its origins to stone tradesmen in medieval Europe – not in 950 BC Jerusalem.
This is correct. Some circumstantial and disparate data has been marshaled before by many LDS and Mason scholars to try and link freemasonry to Solomon’s temple and the original church of Christ, though nothing definitive has been put forth to date. The currently available historical data is simply to sparse to put anything plausible together.
Response to claim: "If there’s no connection to Solomon’s temple, what’s so divine about a man-made medieval Scottish secret fraternity and its rituals?"
If there’s no connection to Solomon’s temple, what’s so divine about a man-made medieval Scottish secret fraternity and its rituals?
The ordinance of the endowment has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not Freemasonry has a connection to Solomon's temple. The ritual is simply a teaching tool - a means to an end, rather than the end itself.
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Why would Joseph Smith use a non-religious vehicle for presenting a temple ordinance?
- Question: What is the value of a ritual presentation?
- Question: Why do we continue to use such a participatory style of teaching in the 21st century?
- Question: Do the temple endowment's similarities to Masonic rites have ancient roots?
The Church does not claim that the divine nature of the endowment is dependent upon a connection to Solomon's temple.
Question: Why would Joseph Smith use a non-religious vehicle for presenting a temple ordinance?
The Endowment is not a Masonic ritual
First off, the endowment is not a Masonic ritual. Freemasonry has no actual relationship to Solomon's temple, and has no actual religious elements. No one ever became a Mason in an LDS Temple and no one has ever been endowed in a Masonic Lodge. However, rituals have proven pedagogical value. Some critics of the temple ceremony would seem to want to paint the LDS Church and the faith as some sort of restorationist version of Calvinism where an unflinching and unforgiving God metes out eternal separation of families. This ignores the reality of the universalist nature of LDS theology and its view of a supremely loving Father providing a plan where ALL of His children can continue to advance and make themselves better both as individuals and as wider families through the atoning sacrifice of Christ..
Question: What is the value of a ritual presentation?
Ritual forms are a useful teaching tool in a semi-literate society
Nothing is divine about Freemasonry and indeed Freemasonry has rejected any and all attempts to portray it as a religion. However, masonic ritual forms are very useful as a teaching tool, particularly in situations such as were found in Nauvoo in the 1840's where many members could not read. The 1850 Illinois census was the first to gather data on literacy. According to the aggregate data taken from the census, in 1850 almost 11% of all white adults 20 and older in Illinois couldn't read or write. 
Literacy was higher in the East. However, the literacy of the populous areas to the east is a poor marker for what it would have been on the western frontier. Women in particular often had markedly lower literacy rates than men. This lower literacy rate for women was also true of the western frontier, with some affidavits from women in Nauvoo signed with an X: they couldn't even write their own names. Even in 1870, 24 years after the exodus from Nauvoo, 11.5% of the total white population of the United States over age 14 was functionally illiterate.  Consider also the introduction of immigrant groups among the Saints from Scandinavia and other countries.
Thus, a participatory form of teaching the temple concepts makes perfect sense. Using ritual forms found in masonry as instructive tools to teach a divine message is what we are dealing with here.
Question: Why do we continue to use such a participatory style of teaching in the 21st century?
Participatory teaching mechanisms are far superior to simple reading
Temple teaching mechanisms through participation are far superior to simple reading regardless of whether one is literate or not. In addition, layered meanings through enactment and participation enable multiple levels of understanding that is much harder to achieve from simple written texts. The temple is more symbolic than literal by design: even to the extent that early 19th century Illinois was "literate," that might not have meant much by present day standards. Many of those on the frontier who were literate had no schooling beyond early teen years; the majority definitely weren't what we would call "bookish."
What were they instead? The culture of folklore, memorization and recitation, oral transmission of tradition and mores was very much in place. Reading and writing was not necessarily their primary mode of learning and navigating through society and the world. How many books did most households even have? Typically a family Bible, and not much else. A lot of Bible exposure was memorization and recitation, not poring over the pages. As an Illinois frontier resident in 1840, one would not have spent most evenings curled up by candlelight with a book. Much more likely, one would be gathered around a fireside with family and friends, talking and sharing stories. Or, one would just go to bed after working hard all day and because one couldn't afford to keep lamps and candles lit for long.
So why continue to use the participatory teaching style today if one of the reasons for it may have been to compensate for literacy and lack of "bookishness" of early 19th century pioneers? The fact is that even today we learn more and deeper truths through participatory symbolism and the layered meanings we find in the temple dramas. We are a people of stories. We gain more from stories than theological arguments. Indeed, our theology is framed in terms of stories, and the participatory teaching play is another form of teaching theology through story.
Question: Do the temple endowment's similarities to Masonic rites have ancient roots?
Some have asked if the temple endowment’s similariites to the Masonic ceremonies have any ancient roots. One Latter-day Saint writer, Greg Kearney, wrote a blogpost responding to a critic of the Church who outlined many of the similarities (with mistakes that were pointed out by Kearney). His list including his commentary will be reproduced as well as some additional commentary by the author of this article:
All Seeing Eye
The all seeing eye is indeed used by the Masons but also by many others. It is found on the revers of the Great Seal of the United States for example. It’s name is actually the “Eye of Providence” and has its origins in ancient Christian architecture.
Anointing with oil
A very old practice found in Christian (Exodus 29:7, 20; 30:22-23; 40:15; Leviticus 8:12; 14: 15-18; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Samuel 16:1,13; Psalm 133:2 and footnote 2a). Jewish and Islamic traditions. It is not, however, found in the Masonic tradition outside of the setting of a cornerstone with wine, oil and corn.
Both groups use them. The reference comes from the Bible; the symbology is different, however. The LDS use can be traced to Gen. 3:7 (See also 1 Samuel 2:19; 22:18; 1 Chronicles 15:27; 2 Samuel 6:14 where these aprons were worn by priests officiating in ordinances in temples) “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” The Masonic usage refers to aprons worn by stone masons in quarries. The aprons themselves differ. The Masonic one is white lamb’s skin; the LDS apron in green representing the fig leaves spoken of in the creation story.
The Latter-day Saint usage of the symbol derives from the Book of Mormon’s “Deseret” which means “honeybee”. Hugh Nibley has proposed a very plausible ancient Egyptian etymology for deseret that stems from the Egytian term that refers to the “bee crown” of the lower kingdom of Egypt
Square and Compass
Found in both the LDS temple and among the Masons. Their symbolic use differs in each, however. The endowment does not use a physical square and compass as the Masons do. Hugh Nibley provided abundant evidence of the use of such symbols in ancient iconography
Emblem of the clasped hands/Special Handshakes
A very old symbol of brotherly love that can be found on tombstones in New England. Found even on the graves of women who would not have been Masons. This emblem has been well documented in early Christian iconography by Todd Compton and Stephen Ricks
Solemn Assembly in the Temple
This has no Masonic equivalent unless you consider a Grand Lodge meeting to be a Solemn Assembly (which Masons do not). Solemn assemblies have existed since the time of ancient Israel. They were held on Feast Day at the end of Passover (Deuteronomy 16:8), the end of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-36), and on special occasions such as the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 7:9-11). Joel prophesied that solemn assemblies would be held in times of crisis (Joel 2:15).
Special Garments applied to initiates
The temple garments worn by the Latter-day Saints the first time they attend the temple are the same as they use every day. Priests in ancient Israel wore breeches that were an inner “garment, extending from the wasit to just below the knee or to the ankle, and covering each leg separately.” They were made out of find-twined linen (Exodus 28:42; 39:28; Leviticus 6:10), and since they were considered to be one of the “holy garments” belonging to the House of the Lord (Leviticus 16:4), they could only be worn by the priests, not by any of the other Israelites. Masons have special clothing, not undergarments, which symbolically show that they come to the lodge without any material possessions including clothing. Masons do not have symbolic clothing worn outside the lodge.
The phrase: “Holiness to the Lord”
The Masonic as well as the LDS usage of this phase comes from the Bible (Exodus 28:36 “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”)
Moon symbol, Star symbols, Sun symbols
Mankind have been using the symbols of the heavens long before the establishment of Masons. Latter-day Saints use it in connection to their belief in the three degrees of Glory as recorded by Paul in the New Testament— who compared the three degrees of glory to the sun, moon, and stars (1 Corinthians 15:40-41).
New Name given
Practice is found in scripture (Saul becomes Paul, for example). The Masonic as well as LDS practice comes from the Bible. See for instance Revelation 2:17. Matthew Brown wrote:
There is some evidence that, upon their enthronement, the kings of Israel took upon themselves a new name or throne name. One commentator states that “the accession ceremony in Judah included the conferment of a coronation name by the deity,” and he suggests that traces of this conferral can be seen in 2 Samuel 7:9 and 1 Kings 1:47. Generally, the act of “renaming is associated with a change in the status or condition of the person receiving the new name. The giving of the new name can be a sign that the receiver of the name is coming under the authority of the giver of the name.” In the Old Testament, new names are often indicative of adoption onto someone’s household and are thus equivalent to the conferral of a high honor upon the recipient. In the words of another scholar, the king “receives a new disposition expressed, according to oriental custom, in the giving to him of a new name, which indicates his new, intimate relationship with the god who has chosen him, and whom he represents.
Special Prayer circle
No such practice in Masonry. There is substantial evidence for this practice in early Christianity.
Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood
Not found in Masonry. Obviously found within the Bible (Hebrews 7)
Blood/death oaths of secrecy with morbid gestures and words describing penalties agreed to if secrets are revealed.
Mormons going through the temple post-1990 may not be familiar with these. Curses were associated with many covenants made by ancient Israelites for failure to live up to covenants
Location (possession of) Throne of the “Holy of Holies”
Masons make no claim to possession of such. Neither do Latter-day Saints. Both groups make a reference to in in connection to the Temple of Solomon (Exodus 26:33–34)
In both cases clearly a reference to the Bible usage (Exodus 26–27).
Thus the parallels shouldn't be of concern to those that wish to see the antiquity of the ceremony. Joseph Smith tells us that the restoration is a "whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations". But "not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times" (D&C 128:18). These parallels, gathered from across the dispensations, seem to fit this pattern of restoration and substantiate Joseph Smith's claims.
Response to claim: "Is God really going to require people to know secret tokens, handshakes, and signs to get into the Celestial Kingdom?"
Is God really going to require people to know secret tokens, handshakes, and signs to get into the Celestial Kingdom? If so, Masons, former Mormons, anti-Mormons, unworthy Mormons as well as non-Mormons who’ve seen the endowment on YouTube or read about the signs/handshakes/tokens online should pass through the pearly gates with flying colors.
The author ignores the spiritual component of the ordinance and focuses only on the physical aspect. A better question to ask is, "Would Masons, former Mormons, anti-Mormons, unworthy Mormons" want to attempt to enter the Celestial Kingdom in this manner, knowing that the God that they no longer believed in was on the other side of the veil?
Applying the author's logic to baptism, which is also a highly symbolic ordinance: "Is God really going to require people to be immersed in water to get into the Celestial Kingdom? If so, swimmers who have been immersed in water should pass through the pearly gates with flying colors."
Response to claim: "Does the eternal salvation, eternal happiness, and eternal sealings of families really depend on medieval originated Masonic rituals in multi-million dollar castles?"
Does the eternal salvation, eternal happiness, and eternal sealings of families really depend on medieval originated Masonic rituals in multi-million dollar castles? Is God really going to separate good couples and their children who love one other and who want to be together in the next life because they object to uncomfortable and strange Masonic temple rituals and a polygamous heaven?
Latter-day Saints do not practice "medieval" rituals in "multi-million dollar castles".
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Will God really deny us eternal salvation simply because we do not practice a set of, as some critics put it, "archaic medieval Masonic rituals" in Mormon temples?
The author attempts to make temples and the ordinances performed within them appear ridiculous through the use of emotional trigger words.
Question: Will God really deny us eternal salvation simply because we do not practice a set of, as some critics put it, "archaic medieval Masonic rituals" in Mormon temples?
Purpose of ritual and tokens and their role in salvation
The ritual and tokens are to show our fidelity to covenants, a central point of both the endowment and the masonic rituals. God does not need them, we need them. Or, more precisely, we need the covenants that they represent. They help us learn to be faithful to what we want to be. It is the keeping of covenants that leads to salvation, not the ritual or tokens themselves.
Response to claim: "What does it say about the Church if it removed something that Joseph Smith said he restored?"
What does it say about the Church if it removed something that Joseph Smith said he restored and which would never again be taken away from the earth?See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "The entire endowment ceremony is an ordinance...FAIR knows that Joseph Smith taught that the endowment is not to be altered or changed"
There is a difference between the ordinance of the endowment and the mechanism used in the presentation of the ordinance. The mechanism can change without changing the actual ordinance.
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Why would the Church remove or alter elements of the temple ceremony if these ceremonies were revealed by God?
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.
Response to claim: "The entire endowment ceremony is an ordinance...FAIR knows that Joseph Smith taught that the endowment is not to be altered or changed"
Oh, look here:
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, 'Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.' – Ensign, August 2001, p.22 What does “ordinance” mean? The Church’s own definition: “Sacred rites and ceremonies.” The entire endowment ceremony is an ordinance. It states as such in the beginning of the ceremony. Brigham Young is very clear that the tokens, signs, and keywords is the endowment itself and Joseph Smith was explicitly clear that ordinances “are not to be altered or changed.”FAIR knows that Joseph Smith taught that the endowment is not to be altered or changed, which is why FAIR keeps using carefully crafted terms like “presentation of the endowment” in their attempt to diminish and justify all the changes made to the endowment itself. They want us to believe that the stuff that changed were just for “special effect” or “teaching tools” which needed to be “adjusted to the needs of the audience.” Their speculation and claim is not supported by the evidence. More importantly, their speculative claim is contradicted and refuted by at least two latter-day prophets along with the Church’s current definition of what an ordinance is.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseJoseph Smith taught that the ordinances, not the endowment, were not to be altered or changed. The author continues to mix up the "ordinance" itself with the presentation of the ordinance. The author locked on to the first definition of "ordinances" in the Guide to the Scriptures on LDS.org as "sacred rites and ceremonies" and wishes to impose a fundamentalist view that this means that nothing can be altered in the "ceremony." However, take look at the rest of the definition:
Sacred rites and ceremonies. Ordinances consist of acts that have spiritual meanings. Ordinances can also mean God’s laws and statutes.
Ordinances in the Church include administration to the sick (James 5:14–15), blessing the sacrament (D&C 20:77, 79), baptism by immersion (Matt. 3:16; D&C 20:72–74), blessing of children (D&C 20:70), conferring the Holy Ghost (D&C 20:68; 33:15), conferring the priesthood (D&C 84:6–16; 107:41–52), temple ordinances (D&C 124:39), and marriage in the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132:19–20). 
"Ordinances" are "acts that have spiritual meanings" and "God's laws and statutes." The ordinances themselves do not change, but the method of presentation of the ordinance can certainly be altered.
We will provide a couple of simpler examples.
Blessing of the sacrament versus administration of the sacrament
The definition on LDS.org (which the author partially quotes) states that the blessing of the sacrament is an ordinance. It uses the exact same prayers each time, with the exception of changing the word "wine" to "water." However, the method of administration and emblems of the sacrament, have changed. When the sacrament was first administered in the early days of the Church, wine was used instead of water. The Lord later revealed that water could be used instead of wine. Originally, a single cup was passed around from which members each sipped. We now use individual cups for the sacrament. The method of presentation of the ordinance has been altered.
The sacrament is no less valid because water is now used instead of wine, or because we use multiple cups instead of a single cup. The method of the administration of the sacrament has changed, but the ordinance of the manner of blessing the sacrament remains the same. By the author's logic, however, the sacrament would be invalid once the method of administration was changed.
Baptism by immersion versus administration of the baptism
The definition on LDS.org states that "baptism by immersion" is an ordinance. During a baptism, two witnesses must verify that the person was completely submerged. However, in the early days of the Church, people did not have to wear white clothing in order to be baptized - they could be baptized in regular clothing. Today, we wear white clothing to be baptized. The ordinance is baptism by immersion. The presentation of the ordinance, however, has been altered over time with the later requirement that we wear white clothing.
LDS Truth Claims: Temple Ordinances (video)
- For example, Latter-day Saint researchers noted similarities between ritual clothing used in parts of ancient Egypt and the sacred clothing Latter-day Saints use in conjunction with the endowment. See C. Wilfred Griggs and others, “Evidences of a Christian Population in the Egyptian Fayum and Genetic and Textile Studies of the Akhmim Noble Mummies,” BYU Studies, vol. 33, no. 2 (1993), 214–43. For a review of other ancient religious initiation ceremonies, see Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005).
- "Masonry," Church History Topics on LDS.org
- T. L. Brink, "The Rise of Mormonism: A Case Study in the Symbology of Frontier America," International Journal of Symbology 6/3 (1975): 4; cited in Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #15) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site
- William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, MS 1401 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- 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
- Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #5) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site(emphasis added)
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 85.
- Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review (Heber City, UT: Archive Publishers, 2001), 113.
- Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, Winter 1979, 145; hereafter cited as BYUS.
- John W. Gunnison, The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott and Company, 1856), 59.
- BYUS, vol. 15, no. 4, Summer 1975, 458.
- Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 698.
- Illinois Census 1850: A) Total population: 851,470. This is made up of 1) Total white males: 445,544 2) Total white females: 400,490 3) Total free colored (male and female): 5,436. White adult males unable to read and write: 16,633. White adult females unable to read and write: 23,421. off-site
- "Literacy from 1870 to 1979," National Center for Education Statistics.
- Hugh Nibley, “Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites” (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1955), 177–8.
- Hugh Nibley, “Temple and Cosmos” (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992) 139-73
- Ricks, Stephen D. (2006) "Dexiosis and Dextrarum Iunctio: The Sacred Handclasp in the Classical and Early Christian World," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 1989–2011: Vol. 18 : No. 1 , Article 22. off-site; Todd M. Compton, “The handclasp and embrace as tokens of recognition.” In By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 611–42. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1990).
- Both in the ancient Near East generally "and in Israel the custom prevailed that the king should take a new name at his accession" (Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 1:63). For further reading, see A.M. Honeyman, "The Evidence for Regnal Names Among the Hebrews," Journal of Biblical Literature, vol 67, 1948, 13-25. It has been pointed out by one scholar that the new name mentioned in Revelation 3:12 has a definite correlation to ancient coronation practices. "In giving of a new name to the believer [in Revelation 3:12], we might also see a parallel with the common oriental practice of giving new names to monarchs during the coronation and accession ceremonies" (Richard H. Wilkinson, "The stylos of Revelation 3:12 and Ancient Coronation Writes," Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 107, no. 3, September 1988, 500).
- Gerhard von Rad, "The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), 229.
- T. David Andersen, "Renaming and Wedding Imagery in Isaiah 62," Biblica, vol 67, no. 1, 1986, 75. One scholar detects in the combination of 2 Kings 24:17 and Ezekiel 17:11-21 a ceremony wherein a king gives a handclasp to the king of Jerusalem, bestows a new name upon him, and enters into a covenant with him by swearing an oath (see Viberg, symbols of Laq, 37-39)
- See Otto Eissfeldt, "Renaming in the Old Testament," in Peter R. Ackroyd and Barnabas Lindars, eds., Words and Meanings (Cambridge: University Press, 1968), 73.
- Mowinckel, "He That Cometh", 66.
- Matthew Brown, “The Gate of Heaven” (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 1999), 132.
- René Lopez, "Israelite Covenants in the Light of Ancient Near Eastern Covenants," CTSJ 9/2 (2003): 92-111. off-site
- "Ordinances," Guide to the Scriptures, LDS.org.