Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Temples & Freemasonry Concerns & Questions

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Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Temples & Freemasonry Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter temples.png

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.

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Response to claim: "Just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842.Provenance of this claim:MormonThink--> Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, 535-547.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

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



Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

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

  1. Joseph Smith claimed direct revelation from God regarding the Nauvoo-era endowment,
  2. 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
  3. 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 Freemasons.

Furthermore, Joseph's contemporaries saw the parallels to Masonry clearly, and yet no one charged him with pilfering.

In order to understand this issue, a few facts need to be understood:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 after the Prophet was in 1842.
  3. Masonry was a well-known social institution in mid-19th century America.
  4. 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).
  • some similar hand actions in the course of the rituals (the LDS versions having distinct parallels to ancient Israelite temple worship and early Christian usage).

Symbolist F. L. Brink suggested that Joseph Smith successfully provided an "innovative and intricate symbology" that suited well the psychic needs of his followers. [1]


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.) [2]

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. [3] 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." [4]


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. [5]


Response to claim: "We have the true Masonry"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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.

FairMormon Response

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

Early Church leaders did believe that they had "the true Masonry."



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. [6] 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." [7]

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. [8]

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. [9]

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.” [10]
  • Heber C. Kimball (17 June 1842): “There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph [Smith] says Masonry was taken from priesthood.” [11]
  • Benjamin F. Johnson (1843): Joseph Smith “told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion.” [12]
  • Joseph Fielding (December 1843): The LDS temple ordinances are “the true origin of Masonry.” [13]
  • 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.” [14]
  • 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.” [15]
  • Church Authorities (1842–1873): “The Mormon leaders have always asserted that Free-Masonry was a . . . degenerate representation of the order of the true priesthood.” [16]


Response to claim: "why doesn’t the LDS ceremony more closely resemble an earlier form of Masonry?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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?

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith used ritual elements known to him and his followers to teach a uniquely restorationist view.



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.


Response to claim: "Freemasonry has zero links to the Solomon’s temple"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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.

FairMormon Response

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

This is correct.



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?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following 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?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 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.



Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

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. [17]

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. [18] 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.


Response to claim: "Is God really going to require people to know secret tokens, handshakes, and signs to get into the Celestial Kingdom?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 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?



Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

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?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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

Latter-day Saints do not practice "medieval" rituals in "multi-million dollar castles".



Logical Fallacy: Appeal to Ridicule—The author is presenting the argument in such a way that it makes his or her subject look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or exaggerating it.

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?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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

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.



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"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Joseph 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:

Ordinances

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). [19]





Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

"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.

Notes

  1. 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
  2. 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)
  3. William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, MS 1401 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  4. 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
  5. Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #5) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site(emphasis added)
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 85.
  12. Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review (Heber City, UT: Archive Publishers, 2001), 113.
  13. Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, Winter 1979, 145; hereafter cited as BYUS.
  14. John W. Gunnison, The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott and Company, 1856), 59.
  15. BYUS, vol. 15, no. 4, Summer 1975, 458.
  16. Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 698.
  17. 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
  18. "Literacy from 1870 to 1979," National Center for Education Statistics.
  19. "Ordinances," Guide to the Scriptures, LDS.org.


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells