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Masonic Influence in the Endowment Ceremony

By Bill McKeever

Although Doctrine and Covenants 124:41 says that the LDS temple ordinances were “kept hid from before the foundations of the earth,” they are suspiciously close to those used in Freemasonry. Signs, grips, oaths, and tokens used in Mormonism are so similar that one can’t escape the suspicion Smith “borrowed” these Masonic practices, especially since he became a Mason on March 15, 1842 (Documentary History of the Church 4:550-551).

Mormon Apostle Heber C. Kimball, himself a Mason, saw a parallel between the endowment and Freemasonry. In an 1842 letter he wrote to Mormon Apostle Parley Pratt, Kimball stated (spelling intact): “…thare is a similarity of preast Hood in masonary. Br Joseph ses masonry was taken from preasthood but has become degenerated, but menny things are perfect” (The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon temple worship, p.40). The first three presidents of the Mormon Church were all Masons. LDS historian Reed C. Durham, Jr., insists Joseph Smith did in fact use the Masonic ceremony as a springboard for the Mormon ceremony. He wrote, “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 initially, just a little over one month after he became a Mason, had an immediate inspiration from Masonry” (No Help For the Widow’s Son, 1980, pg. 17).

A person need only look closely at the outside structure of the Salt Lake City Temple to see many designs peculiar to Masonry. These include the All-Seeing Eye, the inverted five-pointed star (known as the eastern star), and the clasped hands or grip. All of these were a part of Freemasonry long before Smith incorporated them. Markings in the “Garments of the Holy Priesthood,” worn by temple Mormons, also bear resemblance to the compass, square, and level of Freemasonry.

Occult Connection?

It is no secret that Smith was infatuated with occultic practices. Durham states, “All available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith the prophet possessed a magical Masonic medallion or talisman, which he worked during his lifetime and which was evidently on his person when he was martyred.” Mr. Durham describes this as “perhaps the strangest, the most mysterious, occult-like, esoteric, and yet Masonically oriented practice ever adopted by Joseph Smith” (No Help for the Widow’s Son, 1980, pg. 22).

Former LDS historian D. Michael Quinn notes that “LDS scholar Hugh Nibley has consistently turned to the occult rites of ancient Egyptian and Gnostic mystery religions to demonstrate by parallel evidence the antiquity of Mormon endowment rituals” (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, pg. 186). Quinn goes on to state that Joseph Smith’s fascination with the occult extended to the point where he “unquestionably participated in treasure seeking and seer stone divination and had apparently also used diving rods, talismans and implements of ritual magic.” (Mormonism and the Magic World View, pg. 194). In the Afterword of Quinn’s previously mentioned book (fig. 28), he states that Smith had a Jupiter Talisman when he was killed at Carthage Jail in 1844.

Prominent leaders in Mormonism who were also Masons include:

  • Joseph Smith (Founder of Mormonism)
  • Joseph Smith, Sr. (Joseph Smith’s father)
  • Hyrum Smith (Joseph Smith’s brother)
  • Samuel Smith (Joseph’s brother)
  • William Smith (Joseph’s brother)
  • Brigham Young (Mormonism’s second president)
  • John Taylor (Mormonism’s third president)
  • Wilford Woodruff (Mormonism’s fourth president)
  • Lorenzo Snow (Mormonism’s fifth president)
  • Sidney Rigdon (Counselor to Joseph Smith)
  • John C. Bennett (Assistant president to the First Presidency)
  • Willard Richards (Second counselor to Brigham Young)
  • Newell K. Whitney (Presiding Bishop)
  • Heber C. Kimball (First counselor to Brigham Young)
  • Orson Pratt (Mormon apostle)
  • Parley P. Pratt (Mormon apostle)
  • Orson Hyde (Mormon apostle)
  • Orrin Porter Rockwell (Joseph Smith’s bodyguard)
  • Lyman Johnson (Mormon apostle)
  • William Law (Second counselor to Joseph Smith)
  • William Marks (Nauvoo Stake president)
  • Erastus Snow (Mormon apostle)
  • William Clayton (Joseph Smith’s secretary)

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