Question: What criticisms are associated with the temple ritual and its relationship to Freemasonry?

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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]

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