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Temple Ritual Altered 4

From The Salt Lake City Messenger No. 75, July 1990
Jerald and Sandra Tanner

No More Penalties

We have already noted that the Mormon leaders have now removed the ''Most sacred'' penalties which have been in the temple ceremony since the days of Joseph Smith. We feel that this is a really vindication of our work and of that of the 'many other ministries laboring with the Mormons. We have always felt that these penalties were not compatible with Christian teachings and have strongly opposed them in print for over twenty years.

We have continually expressed our belief that Joseph Smith borrowed the penalties from Masonry after he joined that secret organization. Although Masonry had been very unpopular since the late 1820's, Smith was not ashamed of his association with the lodge in 1842. The following appears in Joseph Smith's History under the date of March 15, 1842:

"In the evening I received the first degree in Free Masonry in the Nauvoo Lodge..." (History of the Church, vol 4, p. 551)

The entry for the following day contains this statement:

"Wednesday, March 16.--I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree." (p. 552)

The Masons had some very bloody oaths in their ritual. Capt. William Morgan, who had been a Mason for thirty years, exposed these oaths in a book printed in 1827. After publishing his book, Freemasonry Exposed, Morgan disappeared and this set off the great controversy over Masonry which was still raging when Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.

In any case, on pages 21-22 of his book, Morgan revealed the oath that Masons took in the "First Degree" of their ritual:

"...I will... never reveal any part or parts, art or arts, point or points of the secret arts and mysteries of ancient Freemasony... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots..."

On page 23, Morgan went on to show that the Masons who went through the first degree were also taught to draw

"your right hand across your throat, the thumb next to your throat, your arm as high as the elbow in a horizontal position."

In the past, Mormon leaders have argued against the charge by critics that changes have been made in the temple ceremony. Our examination of the evidence, however, reveals that their statements were not correct. Serious changes have been made in the ritual, and these changes have tended to obscure the fact that the penalties were derived from Masonry. For example, it is clear from many early sources that the promise given when one received "The First token of the Aaronic Priesthood" was derived from the oath given in the "First Degree" of the Masonic ritual. In Temple Mormonism, published in 1931, p. 18, we find this information concerning the Mormon ritual:

"The left arm is here placed at the square, palm to the front the right hand and arm raised to the neck, holding the palm downwards and thumb under the right ear.
"Adam--'We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots.'...
"Sign--In executing the sign of the penalty, the right hand palm down, is drawn sharply across the throat, then dropped from the square to the side."

The bloody nature of this oath in the temple endowment was verified by an abundance of testimony given in the Reed Smoot Case. For example, in vol.2, page 78, J. H. Wallis, Sr., testified:

"...I agree that my throat be cut from ear to ear and my tongue torn out by its roots from my mouth."

A very important letter has come to light which also confirms the gory wording of this oath in earlier times. It was written by the First Presidency of the Mormon Church (President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith) to Lorenzo Snow, President of the Salt Lake Temple. Some months prior to the time tile letter was written, President Woodruff recorded in his journal that he had met with George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, Lorenzo Snow and other church officials--including representatives who presided over four temples--and "spent three hours in harmanizing the Different M{ode?]s of Ceremonies in giving Endowments." (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Oct.17, 1893, vol. 9, p. 267) The letter was written about ten months after the entry in Woodruff's journal and contains this revealing information:

"As a result of the conference of the brethren engaged as ordinance workers in the several Temples, held at Salt Lake Temple, some time ago, the following slight corrections have been adopted by us...
"In the creation on the fifth day a grammatical error occurs. The word 'their' is used instead of 'its,' the word their, therefore, is changes [sic] to its....
"The words 'that my tongue be torn from its roots in my mouth,' were substituted for from the roof of my mouth.'" (Letter from the First Presidency, August 31, 1894, LDS Historical Department, CR 100, 14, #2, Volume 8:16-17, typed copy)

Some time in the first half of the 20th century, a major change was made concerning the penalties in the endowment ceremony. The bloody wording of the oath mentioned above was entirely removed. Nevertheless, Mormons were still instructed to draw their thumbs across their throats to show the penalty. In the account of the ritual which we published in Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 468, the reader can see how the wording was modified to remove the harsh language regarding the cutting of the throat and the tearing out of the tongue:

"...we desire to impress upon your minds the sacred character of the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign and penalty, together with that of all the other Tokens of the Holy Priesthood, with their accompanying names, signs and penalties,... They are most sacred and are guarded by solemn covenants and obligations of secrecy to the effect that under no condition, even at the peril of your life, will you ever divulge them, except at a certain place that will be shown you hereafter. The representations of the penalties indicates different ways in which life may be taken....
"Adam, we give unto you the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood...
"The sign of the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood is made by bringing the right arm to the square the palm of the hand to the front, the fingers close together and the thumb extended. This is the sign. The execution of the penalty is represented by placing the thumb under the left ear, the palm of the hand down, and by drawing the thumb quickly across the throat, to the right ear, and dropping the hand to the side....
"Now repeat in your minds after me the words of the covenant, at the same time representing the execution of the penalty.
"I, ________ (think of the new name) do covenant and promise that I will never reveal the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, together with its accompanying name, sign and penalty. Rather than do so I would suffer my life to be taken."

This revised version, which remained in effect for a number of decades, seemed to be more confused than inspired. The Mormon leaders apparently desired to get rid of the most offensive wording but still wanted to retain the idea that there was a death penalty involved if the secrets were revealed.

That the penalty for divulging the "First Token" was still the cutting of the throat would of course still be very clear to those who had taken the oath before it was changed, but those who received their endowments after the alteration of the ceremony must have found the whole thing somewhat confusing. While they were still instructed that the penalty was to draw "the thumb quickly across the throat" and that the penalties represented "ways in which life may be taken," they did not have to agree that their "throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots." All they had to do was promise not to "reveal the First Token... Rather than do so I would suffer my life to be taken."

While some Mormons may not have realized exactly what they were doing when they took the penalties upon themselves, the more astute who paid careful attention to the ritual realized what they were doing and many of them were very offended. John Dart gives this information:

"In pledging to never reveal the ritual, Mormons formerly made three motions--drawing one's hand quickly across the throat, another indicating one's heart would be cut out and the third suggesting disembowelment.
"'That's why I stopped going to the temple because [the ritual] was so offensive,' said a former woman member in Salt Lake City.
"The so-called penalty gestures were criticized as 'outgrowing their usefulness' in a talk before a Mormon audience about a month ago by Keith Norman... 'I had no idea this change was about to take place,' Norman said after the modifications were introduced." (Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1990)

The recent removal of the penalties from the endowment ceremony by the Mormon leaders has been hailed by liberal Mormons as a step in the right direction. In his article, published in the Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1990, Vern Anderson told of Ross Peterson's response to the removal of the penalties:

"It [the endowment] also includes sacred covenants... Graphic depictions of penalties for breaking them, considered gruesome by some, were among the recent deletions. 'It's not as harsh,' Peterson said of the new version. 'It's more uplifting. It's softer and gentler.'"

In completely removing the penalties from the endowment ceremony, the Mormon leaders have taken out some important vestiges of Masonry which Joseph Smith had borrowed from the Masonic ritual.

The reader will remember that the article in the Los Angeles Times mentioned two other penalties that have been removed from the Mormon temple endowment. These were also derived from Masonry. In the "Second or Fellow Craft Degree," Masons bound themselves

"under no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder and carried into the valley of Jehosaphat, there to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field, and vulture of the air... The sign is given by drawing your right hand flat, with the palm of it next to your breast, across your breast from the left to the right side with some quickness, and dropping it down by your side..." (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 52-53)

This oath and the penalty was incorporated into the temple endowment in the "Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood." In the 1931 printing of Temple Mormonism, p. 20, we find the following:

"'We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.'...
"The Sign is made by placing the left arm on the square, placing the right hand across the chest with the thumb extended and then drawing it rapidly from left to right and dropping it to the side."

As in the case of the "First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood," the offensive wording was deleted from the Mormon ceremony a number of decades ago (see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 470). The "execution of the penalty," however, was still retained in the ritual until April, 1990.

In the "Third, or Master Mason's Degree," Masons bound themselves

"under no less penalty than to have my body severed in two in the midst, and divided to the north and south, my bowels burnt to ashes in the center... The Penal Sign is given by putting the right hand to the left side of the bowels, the hand open, with the thumb next to the belly, and drawing it across the belly, and letting it fall; this is done tolerably quick. This alludes to the penalty of the obligation: 'Having my body severed in twain,' etc." (Freemasonry Exposed, pp. 75-77)

Joseph Smith included this Masonic oath in the "First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood." Mormons who went through the endowment were instructed to say that if they revealed

"any of the secrets of this, the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood... we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out." (Temple Mormonism, p. 20.)

These offensive words were removed from the temple ceremony many years ago, but Mormons continued to execute the sign of the penalty until just recently:

"The sign of the first token of the Melchizedek Priesthood or sign of the nail is made by bringing the left hand in front of you with the hand in cupping shape, the left arm forming a square, the right hand is also brought forward, the fingers close together, and the thumb is placed over the left hip. This is the sign. The execution of the penalty is represented by drawing the thumb quickly across the body and dropping the hand to the side." (Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 471)

Finally, in April 1990, this penalty was entirely removed from the temple ceremony.

As we have shown, Joseph Smith received the first three degrees of Masonry on March 15th and 16th of 1842. Less than two months later (May 4, 1842) he gave the endowment ceremonies (see History of the Church, Vol. 5, pp. 1-2).

The fact that the bloody oaths appeared in the temple ceremony in exactly the same order as in Masonry seems very suspicious. In both cases the first oath mentioned the slitting of the throat and tearing out of the tongue. The second spoke of the cutting open of the breast so that the heart and vitals could be removed, and the third mentioned disembowelment. Moreover, in all three cases the same penalties were demonstrated. This all appears to be too similar to be a coincidence.

Since many of those who took part in the endowment ceremonies were already Masons, Joseph Smith had some explaining to do. He, therefore, maintained that he was restoring the original temple rites which had been lost from the earth. Smith further explained that Masonry, which claimed to go back to King Solomon's temple, originally had the same ritual but that it had become corrupted.

Heber C. Kimball who later became a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, could not help but see the resemblance between the two ceremonies. In the book, Heber C. Kimball, p. 85, Stanley B. Kimball gives this valuable information:

"Heber thought he saw similarities between Masonic and Mormon ritual. In a letter to Parley Pratt, June 17,1842, Heber revealed: 'We have received some pressious things through the Prophet... thare is a similarity of preas[t]Hood in Masonry. Bro. Joseph Ses [says?] Masonry was taken from preasthood but has become degenerated. But menny things are perfect.' Later at a special conference... Heber explained further: '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.'

Mormon apologist E. Cecil McGavin wrote:

"If we manifested the belligerent spirit that many of the Masons display, we might say that Masonry is a spurious system descending from Solomon's Temple. Numerous changes and corruptions have crept in yet enough of the original remains to bear a few humble resemblances to the true endowment.... In the diary of Benjamin F. Johnson, and intimate friend and associate of Joseph Smith, it is recorded that 'Joseph told me that Freemasonry was the apostate endowment, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion'" (Mormonism and Masonry, 1947, p. 199)

Dr. Reed C. Durham, a Mormon historian who has served as president of the Mormon History Association, was forced by the evidence to admit that Masonry had a powerful influence on Joseph Smith:

"...I am convinced that in the study of Masonry lies a pivotal key to further understanding Joseph Smith and the Church... The many parallels found between early Mormonism and the Masonry of that day are substantial...
I believe that there are few significant developments in the Church, that occurred after March 15, 1842 [the day Smith became Mason], which did have some Masonic interdependence...
There is absolutely no question in my mind that the Mormon ceremony which came to be known as the Endowment, introduced by Joseph Smith to Mormon Masons, had an immediate inspiration from Masonry. This is not to suggest that no other source of inspiration could have been involved, but the similarities between the two ceremonies are so apparent and overwhelming that some dependent relationship cannot be denied. They are so similar, in fact, that one writer was led to refer to the Endowment as Celestial Masonry." (Mormon Miscellaneous, October 1975, pp. 13-14)

Some Mormon apologists who are aware of the devastating parallels between Masonry and the Mormon temple endowment believe that when Joseph Smith went through the Masonic ritual, God gave him the spirit of revelation so that he would discern which portions really went back to Solomon's temple and which parts had been corrupted by later Masons. The prophet, therefore, only incorporated the genuine God-given elements into the Mormon "endowment ceremony."

Now that the Mormon leaders have completely removed both the gruesome wording and the penalties from the temple ritual, it places these apologists on the horns of a dilemma. If God really instructed Joseph Smith to lift the bloody oaths and penalties from the Masonic ritual and insert them into the endowment ceremony, how can the present leaders of the church, who are supposed to be guided by revelation, tear them out of the temple ritual without offending God? It would appear that either the present leaders of the church feel that they know more than the God who was supposed to have spoken to Joseph Smith, or else they realize that Smith made a serious mistake when he borrowed this embarrassing material from the Masons.

The action of church authorities in dropping out some of the elements which were once believed to be "most sacred" will undoubtedly raise some serious questions in the minds of many faithful LDS people. If Joseph Smith was in error when he included these things, then it is obvious that we have no assurance that the other material he took from the Masons is really inspired. If a portion of the Masonic material he plagiarized is found to be defective, it throws suspicion on all the rest of the Masonic ritual which was incorporated into the endowment, and since there is so much Masonry in the ceremony, it would lead one to the suspicion that the entire ceremony is manmade. In Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pp. 484-492, we presented devastating evidence linking the Mormon temple ceremony to Masonry. The parallels are too close to be swept aside. This same information will be included in our new book, Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony, 1842-1990.

Those who maintain that the recent changes were really made because of revelation given to church authorities, should consider another interesting aspect with regard to this question. On Feb. 18, 1987, the church's own newspaper, Deseret News, reported that British Freemasons removed the bloody oaths from their own ceremonies:

"Beheading and ripping out the tongue have been abolished by the British Freemasons as penalties for violating the solemn code of the secret society, it was reported. Such punishments have been on the books of Freemasonry for centuries to enforce solemn obligations that inductees to Masonic lodges swear on the Bible to uphold. But, the Daily Telegraph said this week, it's the sort of thing that scares people away from the secret society."

Now, if British Freemasons realized that their gruesome oaths had a tendency to scare "people away from their secret society" and decided to make a change to accommodate themselves to current thinking, it seems very likely that the leaders of the Mormon Church see "the handwriting on the wall." If this process is termed "revelation," then it is obvious that the British Freemasons had the revelation first.

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