REBUTTAL TO MORMONS AND MASONRY


The below comments were received in response to the Mormons and Masonry section of this web page.
Received October 18, 1996:
In regard to your "Mormons and Masonry" piece as well the portion of "common misconcepotions" section referring to the Mormon temple ceremony, the way I see it is this.

I. The Judeo-Christian Origins of the Mormon Temple Ceremony

The temple ceremony (especially the current one) is beautiful and will probably attract more people than it repels. The modern temple ceremony is an excellent Christianization of the ancient Jewish temple. The key figures of the ancient temple were sacrifice and the symbolism of the holy place, the veil and the holy of holies.

In our temple, Christ has replaced the bloody sacrifice of the ancient temple with his once and for all sacrifice on the cross (cross-- see: D&C 138:35 And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross). Now, instead of bloody sacrifices we offer ourselves, our time, talents and so forth. This is the sacrifice of the modern temple. (Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a **living sacrifice,** holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service).

To serve in the ancient temple, the priesthood was limited to a select group. But now it is open to all, including endowed women who are promised to become "priestesses" in the temple and now function in priesthood ordinances in the initiatory sessions (Iím ready--fire away ). As the ancient priesthood wore special robes and miters (Exodus 28:3-4) so do we wear the robes of the holy priesthood (including the women, youíll note).

The architectural focus of the ancient temple was the Holy of Holies which was separated from the holy place by a veil. The Holy of Holies symbolized the presence of the Lord and the veil thus represented the separation of man from God. Only the High priest could enter the holy of holies and that only once a year (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9:1-7).

It is highly significant to me that when Christ died the veil of the temple was ripped (Matthew 27:50-51 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent). Upon His death, this ripping of the veil symbolized the end of separation between man and God on the basis of sin. The secured veil was no longer a fitting symbol for the relationship between God and man.

Our temple has a similar layout. The ordinance room (also called the terrestrial room) symbolizes man apart from God. The veil is there but it is "ripped" (separated) into small sections corresponding to the "New Testament" veil that appeared after Christís death. When Mormon Christians approach the veil, how is it that the pass through? I wonít get specific, but the symbols are CLEARLY directed at Christís suffering and death on the cross (not, I might point out, in Gethsemane). So it is by symbolically taking Christ's sacrifice upon ourselves that we pass through the veil of separation between man and God. What could be more Christian? Anyone who reads the temple ceremony canít help but be impressed with its fundamentally Christian character. Yet, this being the case, some individuals, such as yourself, deny this and focus on the similarities between the temple and Masonic ritual. To do this, you have focus on a few discrete similarities at the expense of a whole host of differences.

II. The Mormon Temple and Masonry

I see the relationship between the two ceremonies this way: Joseph joined the Masons and was a natural. he advanced to the highest degree in three days--it normally takes years! (He really must have been a genius) When it was all over, I can easily imagine him saying to himself, "I can do better!"...and he did. This is not to say that he wasnít inspired. I just happen to think that this is how inspiration works. I see Masonry as a starting point for Josephís exploration of Temple ritual. Up to this point, the Mormon temple was merely a glorified meeting house. However, after the introduction of the Masonic catalyst, Joseph started to develop the Mormon temple ceremony which was ultimately confirmed by inspiration.

The method used to achieve inspiration in Mormonism can be found in D&C 9 which indicates that one should "Study it out in [oneís] mind then ask [God] afterward if it should be right." I see Masonry as providing the impetus for further study, primarily in the Bible. It provided that framework for Josephís questions. To this extent and to this extent only, I agree that Masonry is the origin of the Mormon endowment ceremony. Are there resemblances? Yes, trivial ones. Are they relevant? No. Are the central messages and symbolic schemes similar? No, absolutely not. Is Masonry behind the Mormon temple ceremony? As an impetus, yes. As a catalyst, perhaps. As a "source," no, not according to any reasonable definition of the term.

Mormons occasionally get a copy of a Masonic ceremony, read it and say it has no similarity to the LDS temple. The mistake they usually make is that they read the more common Scottish rite. Joseph and Hyrum were Yorkists. I had to really struggle to find a copy of the York rite! I can easily tell you the things that are the same. the first two signs and token of the Aaronic priesthood correspond to the signs and tokens of the York rite apprentice and fellow-craft. The position, formerly known as the "five points of fellowship" in the Mormon church, upon which the final token of the Melchizedek priesthood used to correspond to the "five points of fellowship, upon which a new Master-Mason receives the "grand Masonic word." However, the current LDS temple ceremony drops the "five points of fellowship" appellation and alters the position so that it is now more "three points of fellowship." The idea of the left shoulder signifying "lesser" while the right shoulder signifies "greater" is common to both rites (though the nature of the clothing is different). Thatís it. In those specific areas that similarities are clear. In every other area, they are totally different. Joseph Smithís version is much more "religious." Also, the Masonic rite seems quite disconnected while the Mormon ceremony holds together pretty well (especially the latest version).

Now let's consider some the things in the Masonic ritual that are NOT in the Mormon temple endowment. This is only a small fraction of the differences because I simply don't have time to list them all.

Blindfolded candidates
The use of nooses and ropes
The use of gavels
The use of bricks
The use of globes
The use of set "dance steps"
The use of trowels
Mock battles
The mock funeral for Hiram Abiff, the widows son
The anchor and ark
The use of Euclid's 47th problem
The use of winged hour-glass
The use of the Scythe
The use of a coffin
The use of a spade
The sign of the "heave over"
"Three time Three" (Three points of fellowship)
The triple tau cross
Lack of a creation story
Lack of a garden of Eden story
Lack of Biblical figures as characters in the dramas at all
Lack of references to priesthood
No women allowed

And on and on and on....The York rite Masonic order (the one Joseph Smith joined) uses all these things in its ceremony. Now I ask anyone who is familiar with the LDS endowment, do you really think that LDS service and the Masonic ritual have the same basic character?

I for one have no doubt that Joseph was *influenced* by Masonry but I also have no doubt that he VASTLY improved upon it grafting on a few select elements onto an essentially Biblical stem. Masonry is a menís service club with some awkward, if perhaps morally positive, rituals. The endowment is a beautiful microcosm of the nature of the universe. In terms of essence, the two rituals couldnít be more different.

It is also interesting that Joseph Smith made the rite MORE Christian by adding tokens relating to Christís death on the cross. Both of these are required to pass through the veil and on to "eternal life." I wish more Mormons would think about that before they go on with the "Atonement happened in Gethsemane" bit. But we canít talk about it and analyze it in public. Thus it has little effect on our theology. Ironic isnít it? This is one reason I donít complain too much when people post the text of the endowment. I think if it becomes public enough weíll just drop the secrecy. I think that would be very very good for us.

III. On Secrecy

[If you need to edit, snip this last portion please]

Mormons often believe that the posting of the temple ceremony will damage the church. I believe that, in the long run discussions such as this one could actually have beneficial results for the church. It may not have been the path we chose, but there is virtue in making the best of a bad situation.

Because of our "secret rituals" we are now often perceived as somewhat aberrant. Most people are worried about anything that is done in secret and this is especially true in a relatively open democracy like the US. As the temple ceremonies become readily available, the "mysterious" element of Mormonism will fade away and people will become less suspicious of our potential for "hidden agenda."

The early Christian church was faced with a similar publicity problem. The church service was divided into two portions, the mass of the catechumens and the mass of the faithful. The non-believers and the immature were allowed to attend the mass of the catechumens which consisted of hymns, scripture readings and a sermon, but they were excused for the mass of the faithful witch was the "mystery" of communion or the sacrament. Precisely what Christians were doing in there was a big secret. (See Chadwick, Henry, _The Early Church_, p. 32ff.) A letter from the ancient Roman Caecilius notes that the Christians follow a "secret and nocturnal rite" and reports rumors that they eat the flesh and blood of infant humans. Another Roman, Epiphanus says that they have secret handshakes to identify believers but also accuses them of having ritualized sex in the secret part of their ceremony. (These letters are reprinted in full in Benko, Stephen _Pagan Rome and the Early Christians, Bloomington: University of Indian Press, 1984, pp 55-66.) To gain perspective on our situation, I strongly recommend Benkoís book to all Mormons. These sorts of accusations will be familiar to most of us.

In any case, this issue was a publicity disaster for the early church. However, over a long period of time, truthful information about the service did leak out. Justin Martyr and Hippolytus, for example, made some relatively vague public statements and, more importantly, Roman officials made legitimate investigations (For example, Pliny, the governor of Bythnia wrote to the emperor Trajan and explained that, after his investigation, he determined that Christians took oaths "to do right" and ate and drank "simple bread and wine in memory of their God." This won the Christians a degree of legal protection that they had not theretofore know (this is not to say that persecutions never flared up again, but they were over different matters).

My point is that publicity (however offensive) of a secret rite helped them in the public relations department and it could have the same effect for us.


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