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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Salt Lake City Masons, Mormons In News

Brethren in Salt Lake City were discussed in a lengthy article in Friday's Salt Lake Tribune. Have a look here.

Also, Brother Mark Koltko-Rivera, himself a Mormon, discusses Brown's few references to Mormonism in The Lost Symbol in a separate article, Mormons off the hook in Brown's book.

However, one of Brown's major themes -- that human beings have the potential to be gods -- echoes Mormon teachings.

"That should resonate with Latter-day Saints," says Mark Koltko-Rivera of New York City, a Mormon high priest and Master Mason. "I know this is our doctrine that causes the most trouble with other Christian churches. But it is a central belief that we should be more open about and celebrate."

It would have made fictional sense for Brown, who visited several Utah LDS and Masonic sites in 2006, to create a Mormon character as his anti-Masonic foil. After all, antagonism between the two groups goes back a long way and often was contentious, even violent.

In the 1840s, many LDS leaders, including church founder Joseph Smith and apostles Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, became Masons and organized a Nauvoo Lodge under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. It wasn't long before nearly every male Mormon in the area had joined.

At the same time, Smith introduced LDS temple rituals that included secret handshakes, signs and symbols like the all-seeing eye, the compass and square (tools of the mason's trade) along with the sun, moon and stars that paralleled Masonry.
Soon, other Masons felt that the Mormons were dominating the fraternity. The Nauvoo Lodge was suspended in 1842. Many Mormons believed that Masons contributed to the murder of their prophet June 27, 1844. Smith reportedly began to utter the Masonic distress call, "O Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" as he fell to his death from a second-story window after being shot by a mob.

In 1859, a Masonic lodge was established by Johnston's Army at Utah's Camp Floyd, but it didn't accept Mormon candidates. At the same time, Young forbade Mormons from joining and refused to allow any Mason to hold priesthood leadership positions in the church.

It wasn't until 1984 that LDS President Spencer W. Kimball removed the prohibition against Latter-day Saints becoming Freemasons. Later that year, the Grand Lodge of Utah discontinued its own ban on Mormon membership so that, in the ensuing years, many LDS men have returned to this part of their heritage. In 2006, Glen Cook became the first Mormon to serve as the state's Grand Master.

Some people suggest that Smith copied Masonic rituals for his LDS temple, but Koltko-Rivera thinks that's too simplistic. Instead, he says, it was just the trigger for Smith's divine inquiries.

"Masonry prepared Smith for a vision of the Latter-day Saint endowment," Koltko-Rivera says. "The two ceremonies are complementary. Both are fascinating but in very, very different ways."


  1. A clarification to Ms Stack's article.
    While the prohibition on secret and oath bound organizations was removed from the LDS Handbook of General Instruction during President Kimball's presidency, that did not entail a specific removal on discouragement of Latter-day Saint participation in the fraternity.
    Further, contrary to the view expressed in the article, some of us point to the historical evidence that the LDS Church had already introduced the Temple and its ordinances before Joseph Smith became a Mason.
    For further information on the subject, I would shamelessly plug the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge on Oct. 24, 2009 and Lonsdale Lodge, Ulverston, England, where this will be the subject of a lecture.
    On the most minor note, the undersigned served as Grand Master in 2008, not 2006.

  2. Salutations and Felicitations to all Brethren:

    It is always good to hear from M:.W:. Cook, PGM. However, I respectfully beg to differ regarding the chronology to which he alludes.

    It is certainly true that Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple, and instituted temple ordinances there, before he became a Mason. However, the Kirtland ordinances are not the ordinances that are at issue in the usual discussions of the Masonic Lodge and the LDS Temple. Rather, it is the much more developed ordinances given in the later Nauvoo Temple that are at issue.

    Joseph Smith reported that he received the First Degree of Freemasonry on the evening of March 15, 1842 (as reported in History of the Church, vol. 4, pg. 551 [HC 4:551]. He reported that he received the Third Degree the following day [HC 4:552].

    The first account that we have of Joseph Smith administering the temple ordinances is his report that he administered these ordinances to such brethren as Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, on Wednesday, May 4, 1842, in his private office (where, incidentally, the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge sometimes met at that time) [HC 5:1-2].

    Thus, the administration of the ordinances followed Joseph Smith's Masonic initiation by about 7 weeks. To my way of thinking, this is the relevant chronology to be addressed.

    I do address the issue of the relationship of Masonic ritual and the LDS Temple in a post just yesterday at my blog directed to Latter-day Saints (all are welcome), at http://themormonldsblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/salt-lake-tribune-article-on-lost.html?showComment=1255924668312#c3042617558459154922 . Ultimately, I need to complete my book on the subject.

    Should any brethren from the New York City metro area be heading to the PA Academy of Masonic Knowledge for the Oct. 24 meeting, please contact me through my own Blogger Profile, if you would care to have a paying passenger.

    Peace to all.

  3. D'oh Department: I also posted a much more a propos set of comments regarding Ms. Stack's articles at my blog directed to Masons, "Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend," at http://themasonicblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/two-salt-lake-tribune-articles-on-lost.html . Enjoy.

  4. I agree that the LDS presentation of ordinances continued to develop, even to our present time. Nevertheless (in respectful disagreement with my Brother x 2), I find they were pre-saged in our LDS scriptures and in Joseph's comments to others.
    I would also refer readers to the new Mormons and Masons by Daniel Brown (NOT the similarly named book by Scharrfs) which provides a timeline. While he gets some minor matters of Masonic ritual wrong and seems to lose the thread toward the crtical denoument, it is still worthwhile.

  5. Do you mean "Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons" by Matthrew B. Brown?

  6. Q: Do you mean "Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons" by Matthew B. Brown?

    A: Yes.


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