On the heels of visiting Salt Lake City's Wasatch Lodge earlier this month, I noticed a long and complimentary article today in the Deseret Morning News about MWBro. Glen Cook, the 137th Grand Master of Utah, and the first Mormon GM of that state in a century.
The Grand Lodge of Utah prohibited LDS members from becoming Masons in 1925, and tensions between the two groups existed for decades. The ban was lifted in 1984.
Cook said the fact that membership requires belief in a supreme being and a willingness to make obligations to fellow Masons through Masonic rituals and symbols that bear some limited similarity to LDS temple ceremonies also foster a misunderstanding of what the fraternity is, and is not.
"There is no question that elements of the (LDS temple) endowment and Masonic ritual are similar," Cook said. "The question for faithful Latter-day Saints is whether that makes a difference. I tend to be a rather concrete thinker."
For those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and believe he actually saw God and Jesus Christ in vision as a precursor to restoration of Christ's ancient church, "then the rest, I would suggest, should be a corollary" of that belief.
"I think sometimes we spend too much time worrying about issues that don't really matter to our salvation."
Nothing in LDS faith or practice precludes Latter-day Saints from becoming Masons, he said, though family and church obligations may limit the amount of time Mormon men can spend in other pursuits like Masonry.
"Freemasonry should be an adjunct to your faith and not a barrier to its exercise," Cook said. "I tell people that the only secrets we have are modes of recognition and the passwords. For those, you have to look on the Internet."
The "Encyclopedia of Mormonism" addresses questions about the faith's view of the fraternity, noting "the philosophy and major tenets of Freemasonry are not fundamentally incompatible with the teaching, theology and doctrines of the Latter-day Saints. Both emphasize morality, sacrifice, consecration and service, and both condemn selfishness, sin and greed. Furthermore, the aim of Masonic ritual is to instruct — to make truth available so that man can follow it."
The ritual resemblances between the two "are limited to a small proportion of actions and words," according to the encyclopedia, and "where the two rituals share symbolism, the fabric of meanings is different."
Cook said he sees signs within the Utah fraternity that a new openness is developing toward the community at large, and toward Latter-day Saints in particular, evidenced not only by his recent installation in ceremonies that were open to the public, but also in a willingness to acknowledge the faith in ways it hasn't previously been recognized.