In one of John Dehlin’s first podcasts (September 14, 2005), he interviewed Greg Kearney, a member of FAIR (Foundation of Apologetic Information and Research, a pro-Mormon think tank), and a several generation Mormon and master mason. Greg attended BYU, and is the member of a Farmington, Maine ward that has been around longer than any wards in Utah! He gave an interesting history of Mormons and Masonry. John discussed Greg’s background for the first almost 20 minutes, and at that point the conversation got into the history of Masonry and how it influenced Joseph Smith.
This has been a podcast I’ve wanted to transcribe for years, ever since I heard it. Greg has given a great background on the history of Joseph Smith’s involvement in masonry. I got a chuckle because I had a visitor to my blog claim on my previous post, Masonic Ceremony, that “Even the best apologists have trouble explaining where the temple rites came from. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to connect the dots.” I responded “What apologists are you talking to? Every apologist I know is well aware of [1) Joseph Smith is inducted into Masonry and is introduced to its secret handshake, multiple visual symbols, penalty enactments, etc. 2) One month later God reveals the Mormon temple endowment to him. 3) The newly revealed endowment bears remarkable similarity to the Order of Free Masons.]” This transcript is proof.
While I’ve always been familiar that the LDS Endowment ceremony had similarities to masonry, I wasn’t clear what those similarities were, or what the differences were. While the LDS Endowment ceremony uses a dramatization to discuss the creation of the world and atonement, Masonry tells a completely different story. With masonry, an initiant plays the role of Hiram Abiff. In the Masonic rite, Hiram was a stone mason commissioned by King Solomon to build the temple. Three ruffians try to force Hiram to tell them the masonic secrets. Hiram refuses and is killed. In the masonic dramatization, the initiant is ritually killed using the tools of a mason.
Kearney explains that Joseph believed the story of Hiram Abiff was true, and even some freemasons today believe that too. However, the masonic ceremony is of medieval origins, and is simply an allegory to tell the story. Kearney tells that Joseph served as chaplain of the masonic lodge, and was named a master mason on sight, without having to go through the actual masonic ceremonies. As chaplain, he was able to witness the ceremony, and adapted many of the ritualistic elements for purposes of the LDS endowment. He changed the name of many symbols. For example, masons use an apron for use in stone making; however, Joseph changed the apron to have symbolic meaning to cover our nakedness. Smith adapted many masonic elements for LDS purposes.
There are lots of cool things to learn in this interview. Among the cool things I learned was that Joseph’s father was a mason in New York, as well as his brother Alvin. Joseph also made the masonic call of distress as he was killed in Carthage Jail. Kearney also explains that the endowment and covenants are different than the ritual itself. Church leaders have separated the covenants from the ritual, so that is why the endowment has changed several times in our lifetimes.
It is a really interesting conversation. I posted a transcript of the last hour on my blog. It was about 21 pages in Microsoft Word, so I figure most of you probably wouldn’t want to read the whole thing here, but check it out if you’re interested. (If you’d like to read more of what Kearney has written for FAIR, click here. You can also listen to the audio of the interview at Mormon Stories.)
What are your thoughts? Does it bother you that Joseph used Masonic elements in the Endowment? Were you aware of the similarities?