FAQ: Mormonism and
Back to LDS. Temples
A study of Masonry provides wonderful evidences that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
It has always been a belief of the Latter-day Saints that the gospel has been taught in all ages of the world, followed by long periods of apostasy. The rituals of the Temple were given in the beginning, and have been passed down to our day, through many different groups, in varying degrees of purity.
The more groups that can be found with these remnants the better, if they can be shown to be ancient in origin.
I recently began a detailed comparison between the elements of the LDS Endowment, and the Masonic temple ceremonies. There are many similar elements. The elements can be grouped into 4 main categories:
- Elements that can be found in both Masonry and the Endowment.
- Elements that are found in Masonry, but not in the Endowment.
- Elements that are found in the Endowment, but not in Masonry.
- Elements that can be found in Masonry, which appear in a slightly altered form in the Endowment.
The strength of this evidence is only slightly less powerful because Joseph Smith was a Mason, and had many Masonic friends. It could be, and has been, argued that the similar elements came from Joseph's Masonic connections.
So the real question becomes:
- Does Masonry have an ancient origin?
- Can it be shown that the similar elements, are also those elements with an ancient origin?
Does Masonry have an ancient origin?
First, does Masonry have an ancient origin? The answer is both yes, and no. Masonry as we know it today has its origins in (I believe) about the 1500's. However from ancient documents, (some dating back near 3000 BC.) it can be shown that many Masonic ideas have ancient origins. Most of these documents were only recently discovered.
The Church has always maintained that the certain elements of the endowment are of ancient origin, however for the endowment to be inspired it is not necessary to show that the entire endowment is old. Jesus was the world's greatest teacher exactly because he could take things from his environment and turn them into symbols of the gospel. Although it can be shown that the majority of the LDS endowment definately has ancient origins, it is not essential for the entire endowment to be old. The power of a teaching or of a ritual is found not in its age, but in its ability to bring people to Christ. If Joseph borrowed from the ceremonies around him and turned them into inspiring symbols of Christ, that is no reason to doubt his divine calling, on the contrary, it is a reason to believe that he was inspired of God.
Brigham Young taught that the Masons had roots that go back much further than their official organization.
Gave instruction to give nothing but the proper wording when washing, anointing, etc. Pres. Young once said that Free Masonry is the corruption of the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood. So would these endowments be changed if we were not particular about the proper wording of these ceremonies. Instructed the recorders to be careful, for a great responsibility rested upon them. [Footnote #1]
Can it be shown that the similar elements, are also those elements with an ancient origin?
This is where the real evidence for the Church comes from. Joseph Smith was amazing. The elements that exist in both Masonry and the Endowment are, almost without exception, those very elements that I have found in other, ancient, sources.
Those elements that are in Masonry, but not in the Endowment are, almost without exception, those very elements that I can find no ancient origin for. (Some notible exceptions being the anchor, and the coffin, both third degree Masonic symbols. The anchor can be seen drawn upon the Christian catacombs, and symbolizes the connection with God that can help us to ride out the storms of life. The other exception is the coffin of Hiram Abiff, which is very reminiscent of the legend of Osiris' coffin.)
There are many elements that are in the Endowment that are nowhere to be found in Masonry. Interestingly enough, almost without exception, I have found those elements in ancient documents.
There are many elements in Masonry which also appear in the Endowment in a slightly altered form. These are perhaps the most interesting. Perhaps a hand is turned over here, or a word is changed there. When going through the ancient documents, I have found that these seemingly small changes make all the difference in the world when trying to establish the ancient origin of the temple Endowment. These seemingly small changes also make all the difference in turning a symbol into a symbol of the Savior.
One must ask how could Joseph Smith have fabricated a ritual with such accuracy. How could anyone have created such a ritual, without divine guidance. If Joseph Smith was simply fabricating the LDS. Endowment from the Masonry with which he was familiar, how did he know which elements to keep, and which to discard? How could he have modified the Masonic ritual to be closer to the much older version that we are only now learning the details of? How could he have created such an inspiring ceremony. I have learned more about my Savior Jesus Christ while working in the temple than at any other time or place.
The similarities between the Latter-day Saint temple ceremony and the Masonic temple ceremony are one of the strongest evidences that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I encourage the interested reader to read these source materials for himself.
A good place to begin is:
- James L. Carroll "Egyptian Craft Guild Initiations," in Studia Antiqua, The Journal of the Student Society for Ancient Studies, 2006. DOC
- Jeff Lindsay's Freemasonry FAQ
- a Hebrew and Greek translation of the Bible. I have found many references to the Endowment in the Bible, however much of it is obscured by the current translation.
- "Temples of the Ancient World" ed. Donald Parry, published by FARMS and Deseret Book.
- The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments. . . 2 volumes, Edited by James H. Charlesworth, published by Doubleday.
- "Duncan's Ritual of Freemasonry" by Malcolm C. Duncan, and published by the David McKay Company, New York.
- The Gnostic Books of Jew, and Pistis Sophia.
- The Nag Hammadi library (I recommend the English translation by HarperSan Fransisco, A division of the HarperCollins Publishers, James M. Robinson, General Editor. Copyright 1988.)
- Almost anything written about or by the Gnostics (an apostate early Christian Group, who, fortunately, kept much of the Temple Endowment).
- "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (The Qumran Texts in English)" translated by Wilfred G.E. Watson, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Almost anything written by Dr. Hugh W. Nibley, but especially "Temple and Cosmos" and "Mormonism and Early Christianity".
- "My Father's House (Temple Worship and Symbolism in the New Testament)" by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and David Rolph Seely, published by Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 1994.
- The Transmission of Esoteric Knowledge & the Origins of Modern Freemasonry, or Was Mackey Right? by Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, 32°