Overview of the Temple Endowment and Masonry
In previous overviews I’ve highlighted how Joseph Smith used surrounding influences to create his theology and scriptures, and this overview is going to illustrate how Joseph Smith did just that to create the temple endowment ceremony.
Joseph Smith introduced select members of the church to the newly created endowment ceremony in May 1842, just seven weeks after being initiated as a ‘Master Mason’ himself in Nauvoo, Illinois. This is crucial to understanding how Joseph Smith used the Masonic ceremony to create the endowment ceremony in just about every element including the clothes, signs, tokens, penalties, and text.
DISCLAIMER: Below I am going to outline how Joseph Smith used the Masonic ceremony to create the endowment, but I will not post any of the current text of the endowment ceremony out of respect to members of the church who hold this text to be sacred. I will, however, include elements of the Masonic ceremony which will be very familiar to members as well as highlighting parts of the endowment ceremony that have been removed or edited since Joseph Smith’s creation of the ceremony. This is not to reveal the ceremony, but to illustrate how Joseph Smith pulled almost exclusively from the Masons and in the years since the church has attempted to remove some of the Masonic elements and uncomfortable teachings.
I will also be citing text from the church’s 2019 "Now You Know" video on the temple ceremony and Masonry, because it represents the church’s main apologetic response to the striking similarities between the two ceremonies.
The temple ceremony is an incredibly emotional and triggering subject for both believers and nonbelievers alike. As I’ve mentioned in the previous overviews, my disbelief began with polygamy and the ban on those with African descent because those were the only two problems I knew about and they just never made sense to me.
However, the temple ceremony is what shattered whatever I had left mentally with belief in the church. As a convert no one prepared me for the temple ceremony including the garments, which no one ever told me about until the “temple prep” class. The biggest shock, however, was during the initiatory. This has been changed now, but pre-2005 you were completely naked under a white “shield,” and during the initiatory a temple worker rubs oil on points of your body to cleanse you for the endowment.
During this ceremony, an elderly man touched my inner thigh just a few inches from my groin and from that moment on I was completely in shock for the rest of the day. I am not saying that he sexual assaulted me – it was probably two inches away, but it was close enough that had anyone else done it I would have screamed and ran straight out. Unfortunately I did not have the courage to do this, and the rest of the ceremony to me was, to put it nicely, weird and confusing.
I’m telling you this upfront because it was my experience, but it also colors my feelings about the temple ceremony. It also made the shock of learning that this ceremony was Joseph Smith lifting the Masonic ceremony all the more impactful, and I know from talking to so many others that their reactions were similar to learning about the origins of the ceremony.
As I said at the beginning, I am going to use the church’s "Now You Know" video on the temple ceremony as a framework, because it gives their perspective on how much of the ceremony influenced Joseph Smith’s creation of the endowment, which I think will be helpful to presenting both sides and keeping us on track here.
So with that said, let’s start the text of the church’s video (I'm skipping the introductory paragraphs):
"Masonry wasn't new to the thousands of Latter-day Saint converts already living in and around Nauvoo at the time. Although new to the faith, some members of the church, even those within the ranks of church leadership, were already Masons. Eventually, over 1,500 members of the church were listed as freemasons in Nauvoo alone, more than in all the rest of Illinois. In towns across early America, many elected officials were Masons. President George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and many signers of the Declaration of Independence were also Masons."
This part seeks to do nothing more than to try and make everything feel more normal and common. It's also ironic because as we discussed in the surrounding influences overview for the Book of Mormon, there was a large anti-Masonic fervor across Joseph Smith's milieu which made its way into the text of the Book of Mormon.
As you'll see with other troubling issues with Mormonism, the church will often point to others who also believed in similar ideas to try and imply there's nothing to see here. Two great examples of this are how the church likes to point to racism in the country in the 1800s to explain why the church claimed as doctrine a ban on blacks from receiving the priesthood, or how in the seer stone "now you know" video, they talk about how others believed in the magic of stones in Joseph's time as a way to normalize Joseph's use of a seer/peep stone to search for buried treasure and then translate the Book of Mormon. Back to the video:
"In the years prior to becoming a mason, Joseph Smith had received instruction from God; revelations about eternal promises which God desire to make with church members. These promises are often called covenants. Some of these covenants, along with instruction about the purpose of life, are presented to members of the church in a ceremony called the endowment held in holy temples.
So does the temple endowment ceremony borrow from Masonic ritual at the time? Latter day Saints in Nauvoo, who experienced both Masonic rites and the temple endowment, did notice some common characteristics between the two ceremonies, specifically the common methods of presentation and clothing of the participants. They acknowledge parallels between masonry and the temple ceremony, as given to Joseph. Based on their experience with both, they concluded the temple ceremony was of divine origin."
This is the part of the video that everyone needs to pay the most attention to, because it concedes that early members who were Masons immediately noticed how similar they were to the point that they considered the Masonic ceremony of divine origin that was restored back to its divine origins by Joseph Smith. But don't take my word for it, here are some quotes from early members:
"We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing." (Heber C. Kimball, 13 Nov. 1858, Manuscript History of Brigham Young pg. 1085)
"There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry. Bro[ther] Joseph says Masonry was taken from priesthood but has become degenerated, but many things are perfect." (Heber C. Kimball letter to Parley Pratt, Temples of the Ancient World, p.577
"Many have joined the Masonic Institution this seems to have been a Stepping Stone or Preparation for something else, the true Origin of Masonry." (Journal of Joseph Fielding, 1844)
"Certain mystic rites which are practiced throughout Christendom claim antiquity with Solomon's temple." (President Franklin D. Richards, 1 Dec. 1890, "The Temple of the Lord," Juvenile Instructor 26)
"He [Joseph Smith] told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, p.96
"If the Free Masonry of today is a remnant and corruption of the true signs and tokens of the Priesthood revealed in the days of Solomon, when the Temple of Solomon was built, then it is easy for us to understand and believe that the mythology of the north is simply a corruption of the true Jehovah-worship, as Abraham knew it and taught it to his children." (Elder Andrew Jenson, Conference Report April 1913)
"Joseph, the Prophet, was aware that there were some things about Masonry which had come down from the beginning and he desired to know what they were, hence the lodge. The Masons admitted some keys of knowledge appertaining to Masonry were lost. Joseph enquired of the Lord concerning the matter and He revealed to the Prophet true Masonry, as we have it in our temples. Owing to the superior knowledge Joseph had received, the Masons became jealous and cut off the Mormon Lodge." (President Franklin D. Richards, Rudger Clawson Diary, 4 Apr. 1899, Rudger Clawson Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah)
I hope these quotes explain why this part of the video is so disingenuous - early members thought the connections between the two were actually a good thing because they believed that the Masonic ceremony had ancient origins from Solomon's Temple - and this was because Joseph Smith himself was teaching this very idea. Now what the church also does not tell you in this video is that the Masonic ceremony did not begin until medieval Europe, and that Solomon's Temple was about animal sacrifice and had nothing to do with the Masons or the church's endowment ceremony.
So to simplify the above paragraphs: Early members of the church thought the close connection between the Masonic ceremony and the endowment was divine because Joseph Smith himself was teaching that the Masonic ceremony was the "apostate endowments," which he could only come to know as prophet from God. We now know the Masonic ceremony did not originate until around 2,000 years after Solomon's temple, which was about animal sacrifice and had nothing to do with Masonry anyway. And none of these inconvenient facts are mentioned in the video. Even FAIR Mormon concedes this fact. Again, this is an area where Joseph Smith saw an idea he liked, molded it to fit what his desire was, and then taught his members the God had restored what was lost in the 'great apostasy.'
To be clear, here is a question and answer exchange from FAIR Mormon:
Q: Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that Masonry came out of the endowment?
KEARNEY: It would be if you believed that Freemasonry has a continuous historical line from King Solomon’s Temple to the current. Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence to support a continuous functioning line from Solomon’s Temple to the present. We know what went on in Solomon’s Temple; it’s the ritualistic slaughter of animals.
Back to the video:
"And consider that the ideas within the culture that surrounded Joseph Smith frequently contributed to the process by which he obtained revelations from God regarding the Temple endowment as well as other subjects. Not surprising, since God uses many means to inspire his prophets and help them receive revelation."
This is a concession the church also makes in so many other areas, because everything that Joseph Smith created points to ideas that were in his milieu during the the 19th century. The internet has made it impossible to ignore how almost every one of Joseph Smith's productions can be traced back to ideas of his lifetime. There is a reason that church patriarch and historian Richard Bushman says this about the Book of Mormon:
"And then there is the fact that there is phrasing everywhere–long phrases that if you google them you will find them in 19th century writings. The theology of the Book of Mormon is very much 19th century theology, and it reads like a 19th century understanding of the Hebrew Bible as an Old Testament. That is, it has Christ in it the way Protestants saw Christ everywhere in the Old Testament. That’s why we now call it “Hebrew Bible” because the Jews never saw it quite that way. So, these are all problems we have to deal with." (Richard Bushman)
The problem is that once you can trace almost everything Joseph Smith produced to ideas around his time, it is hard to then believe it was all restored by God. I will cover a summary of all of the ideas that Joseph Smith introduced that can be traced back to contemporary sources from his milieu in a future overview, but here are just a few of the ideas that Joseph took from the "culture that surrounded Joseph Smith" that we've already covered:
The priesthood restoration was changed to include the Melchizedek priesthood, a concept brought over by Sidney Rigdon
Joseph Smith's use of the Adam Clarke Bible Commentary when producing his Joseph Smith translation of the Bible
The story of Joseph Smith's First Vision is very similar to dozens of accounts during Joseph's time, which happened in the years before Joseph first recorded his account
The Word of Wisdom was taken from the Temperance Movement, which was happening just before Joseph received the Word of Wisdom revelation
The Book of Abraham incorporates ideas about the pre-existance and astrology that were also spoken of during Joseph Smith's time, which we highlight in our annotated Gospel Topics Essay on the Book of Abraham
I'm just not sure what more to say here. These are all ideas that were taught to me as being revelation from God while an active member, but now the church is falling back to Joseph being inspired by the ideas and teachings around him because the evidence is so overwhelming. If Joseph Smith was merely aggregating ideas into theology, why are we to now believe it was from God when we received spiritual witnesses that those ideas originated with Joseph Smith and direct revelations from God?
More to the point, when these ideas and revelations are proven to be nothing more than incorrect beliefs from the 19th century, what does that leave us with? In this case, Joseph Smith was teaching that the Masonic ceremony was the original endowment ceremony that was lost in apostasy, but we now know that the Masonic ceremony was not invented until thousands of years later. Any idea that this is an ancient ceremony is factually untrue, which means either Joseph Smith made it up or God was tricking Joseph Smith like we are taught to believe with the Book of Abraham. Either one is a problem, and this is a pattern we see with almost every problematic chapter of church history.
Back to the video:
"The temple ceremony was not an imitation or copy of masonry. It was revelation from God. Yes, the presentation methods may have parallels to Masonic ritual, but the content of the instruction, the covenants, and truths introduced by Joseph Smith as part of the endowment, were revealed to him prior to his encounter with masonry.
So what are some key differences between Masonic rituals and the temple endowment ceremony practiced by Latter-day Saints? Masonic rituals are based on legend, promote self improvement, brotherhood, charity and fidelity to truth for the purpose of making better men, who in turn make a better society. In the endowment ceremony, one of many important ceremonies held in sacred temples, men and women promise God to obey His laws for the purpose of gaining exultation, eternal life with God through Jesus Christ and his atonement, and this temple ceremony draws upon the revelations from God for its content."
This is a very common apologetic approach, but it again deflects from the bigger problem. As we detailed above, Joseph Smith taught early members that the Masonic ceremony was the apostate endowment, but here we're being told that while it's from God, the presentation doesn't have anything to do with the ceremony. This is something the church would not be saying if research showed any link between Masonry and Solomon's Temple as Joseph Smith and others taught.
The church states as fact that "Yes, the presentation methods may have parallels to Masonic ritual, but the content of the instruction, the covenants, and truths introduced by Joseph Smith as part of the endowment, were revealed to him prior to his encounter with masonry." But if this is the case, why not provide the revelations that show it was given to him before he became a Mason?
In my experience in the temple, two of the big things we were told not to talk about or show were the signs/tokens and the words at the veil to get into the Celestial Kingdom. While we make covenants with God during the endowment, we make a lot of those same promises in other ceremonies in church (baptism, sacrament, ordination, etc). So if the presentation is not the divine part from God, why are we not allowed to talk about the signs/tokens or text at the veil with non-members? It's confusing, because if Joseph had these revelations before becoming a Mason as the video declares, why are these crucial parts of the ceremony taken directly from the Masons?
Below are the handshakes that the Masons used in their ceremony. I am not posting the handshakes in the Mormon ceremony, but if you have been through the temple these might look familiar:
Beyond the grips, here is the text of the Masonic ceremony as the member is given the signs and tokens of each grip:
Worshipful Master: Pass. What is that?
Senior Deacon: The pass-grip of a Fellow Craft.
WM: Has it a name?
SD: It has.
WM: Will you give it to me?
SD: I did not so receive it; neither will I so impart it.
Again, I am not going to post the church's current endowment script, but I hope you can understand how similar that is if you have been through the temple.
Furthermore, the word "parallels" that the church uses is simply not accurate. We do not post temple videos/scripts/etc because we know they are sacred to members, but just to highlight what is the same between Masonic ceremonies and the temple endowment:
The Compass and Square
“The candidate then enters, the Senior Deacon at the same time pressing his left breast with the point of the compass…As he enters, the angle of the square is pressed against his right breast.”
These same symbols are on the church's temple garments. I had no idea as a member that I was wearing Masonic symbols on my underwear, and I can understand why the church does not want to tell members that, but it's really creepy in hindsight to know that I was effectively wearing Masonic clothing underneath my normal clothes.
Again, if the endowment was a revelation from God long before Joseph was initiated into Masonry, why is it so unmistakably similar in the most sacred of ways?
Both the Masonic ceremony and church endowment ceremony begins with a washing and anointing.
Giving Members a New Name
This is another area I was shocked to learn originated from Masonry. In both the Masonic and church endowment ceremonies, members are given a "new name" that they will be known by. Again, this one floored me because i was told this new name was given via revelation at the temple as the name you were known as in heaven. I have since learned that every person that goes through the temple on a given day is given the same new name (all men get a man's name, all women get a woman's name), which means that it is not by revelation, but based off an index of names to use on a given day.
The Five Points of Fellowship
The Masonic ceremony included what is known as the "Five Points of Fellowship," which is where the "Worshipful Master" and the "Senior Deacon" place their bodies in a way that aligns "foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and cheek to cheek or mouth to ear." (Masonic Texts) This is a very close and intimate alignment that would never be allowed at a church dance, but was used in the temple ceremony until being removed in 1990, likely because it is extremely uncomfortable for women to place their breasts against those of the male temple workers.
Regardless, this is another area that is now removed but that Joseph Smith had originally taken directly from the Masonic ceremony.
The Penalties for Revealing the Signs and Tokens
The Masonic ceremony included penalties to their initiates that if they revealed the signs and tokens they were given, harm would come to them. This was a way to ensure secrecy, which is exactly what Joseph Smith needed as the endowment ceremony was introduced just as Joseph Smith was ramping up polygamy.
Because the penalties have since been removed from the church's endowment (in 1990), I am going to post the Masonic penalties with the church's penalties as well. As I mentioned above, if they were removed from the endowment they are clearly not sacred, and thus I feel are fair to post because every member should know what used to go on in the temple. For the quotes below I am using the pre-1930 penalties from the endowment ceremony (images are from the Masonic ceremony):
Masonic Penalty: "having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly violate this my Entered Apprentice obligation."
Endowment Penalty: "We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this... Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots.”
(Masonic position and movement: Explanation of the Entered Apprentice sign: Draw the right hand rapidly across the neck as represented and drop the arm to the side. This action shows the penalty of having the throat cut and the tongue ripped out.)
Masonic Penalty: "having my left breast torn open, my heart plucked out, and given to the wild beasts of the field and the fowls of the air."
Endowment Penalty: "We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this... Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.”
(Masonic position and movement: Explanation of the Fellow Craft sign: The action of cupping one hand over the left breast and drawing it quickly across the body signifies the heart being ripped out if the candidate should violate his Fellow Craft obligation.)
Masonic Penalty: "to have my body cut in two, my bowels removed and burned to ashes which are then to be scattered to the four winds of heaven."
Endowment Penalty: "We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this... Should we do so, we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out.”
(Masonic position and movement: Explanation of the Master Mason sign: The sign is made by drawing the thumb quickly across the waist to the right hip, then dropping the hand to the side. This action shows the stomach being ripped open.)
The text of these penalties is horrific enough, but what is even more insane is that each of these penalties is associated with a certain position and movement which is detailed above from the Masonic ceremony with image above. Please understand that not only did the endowment ceremony use these positions and motions, but remnants of them remain in today's ceremony which you will understand if you have gone through the temple.
While I'm glad the church finally removed the penalties in full after 1990 following the church conducting a survey of its members (not via revelation), I kind of wish they were still there as that could have been the final push to get me to walk out and never look back. Apologists might call this "presentism" to say that this is creepy, but to me this is creepy, horrifying, and not from God.
Furthermore, if the church wants to pretend that the endowment is not an "imitation" of the Masonic ceremony, then why were the penalties a part of the ceremony with the exact same movements of slitting your throat, ripping your heart out, or having your bowels gush out? It's barbaric and while this is effective to keep members from not talking about polygamy to outsiders, it is horrifying to think that people went through with this until 1990.
Clothing Used in Endowment Ceremony
The clothing is almost identical in the Masonic ceremony as in the temple endowment ceremony. A picture below is from the Royal Arch Masons in Illinois, which shows that they used the hats, aprons, and robes that will look familiar to anyone who has gone through the temple endowment.
Symbols Used in Masonry and the LDS Temple
Beyond the similarities in the use of clothing, handshakes, penalties, washings, signs, tokens, and structure, there are many symbols that are used in both Masonry and the LDS temples.
Both the Masonic lodge and LDS temples use the same symbols such as:
All Seeing Eye
Five Points of Fellowship
Use of the phrase "Holiness to the Lord"
Sun, Moon, and Stars
While the church wants to call all of these just "parallels," I don't know how else to make it clear that Joseph Smith created the endowment ceremony from the Masonic ceremony and then taught that the Masons had the original endowment. As we mentioned above, Joseph Smith created this endowment right as he was introducing polygamy to other members, which required extreme secrecy and penalties for talking about it outside of the temple (where other polygamous members would be). This is also why members have to wear garments featuring the symbols of the temple, which as we mentioned above were identical to how the Masons used these same symbols. In other words, every day when you put on your garments, you are wearing Masonic symbols.
I know the apologetic response is that the purposes were different, and that's true in the sense that Masons were not being "endowed with power" before being sealed in secret marriages, but if you look above between Joseph Smith taking the Masonic rituals and then teaching the members that they had the original endowment that fell into apostasy, it makes a lot more sense than claiming they are merely parallels with no connection in origin, purpose, or divinity. Combine that with the other areas where we can see Joseph Smith pulling from ideas around him, and it becomes a clear pattern that these are ideas and doctrines created by Joseph Smith, not God.
Again, I know I am beating a dead horse here, but look at these similarities the same that you would any other religious leader, church, or organization. The fingerprints are there and we have multiple early members who say explicitly that Joseph Smith taught that Masonry was the original endowment even though we know that Masonry did not even begin until thousands of years later. The moment we stop privileging Joseph Smith is the moment that we can realize that this is all his creation using surrounding sources and influence in the voice of God.
As I said earlier, we do not post pictures/scripts of the temple ceremony because they are sacred to members, but I also believe it is important to see them side-by-side so you can understand just how closely Joseph Smith lifted this material from the Masons. There is a very good summary on the Letter For My Wife website that you can look at if you would like (#6, the Endowment).
And the last section of the video:
"Though elements of the instructional methods and the clothing worn by participants in each ceremony share some characteristics, the purposes and origins stand distinct from one another. So is it okay for Latter day Saints to be Masons today? The policy is simple. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not prohibited from becoming Masons. Nor are Masons prohibited from becoming members of the church. Latter-day Saints believe that good can be found in many places. God loves all his Children and wants them to learn of Him and returned to Him through the endowment ceremony. In his temples, God reveals profound truths about His plan for the happiness of His children. Joseph Smith and Freemasonry. Now you know"
We have detailed the main points above, so at this point we'll summarize our thoughts just as the video does.
If you look at how the endowment ceremony originated, you can see it was unveiled just seven weeks after Joseph Smith was initiated into the Masons and learned their ceremony. Joseph Smith taught others that the Masonic ceremony was the original endowment that fell into apostasy, and as such members treated it as divine. We now know that the Masonic ceremony began about 2,000 years after Solomon's Temple and that Solomon's Temple was about animal sacrifice which wouldn't help their case anyway.
The signs, tokens, penalties, names, and symbols were all directly taken from the Masonic ceremony in order to create the endowment ceremony, and Joseph Smith needed the secrecy and penalties in order to keep polygamy a secret from non-endowed members (not many members were endowed before Joseph Smith died) and the public. While the church wants to call this revelation from God, using the evidence we have along with the context of how Joseph Smith created material tells us that the most logical and evidence-based conclusion is that Joseph Smith used the Masonic ceremony to achieve what he needed to at the time, and that this was not from God.
Just as Joseph Smith promised these young women and their families exaltation if they would enter into a polygamous marriage with him, Joseph Smith here is using the promise of exaltation for an endowment ceremony that is lifted almost entirely from the Masons. While the purposes of the two ceremonies are of course different - Masons were not a religious organization - the question I have to ask is that if you take out the Masonic elements, what is left?
Non-Masonic Elements of the Temple Ceremony Since Removed
There are a few parts of the temple ceremony that have been removed but did not originate with the Masonic ceremony. I will highlight just a few of those here because, again, members should fully understand what they are committing their lives to when they go through the temple and I can only wish I had access to this information before I went through.
Oath of Vengeance
Following the death of Joseph Smith, the "oath of vengeance" was added to the ceremony for members to commit to avenging the death of the prophet. From the ceremony:
“You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”
This was removed from the ceremony in the 1930s, and today is not spoken of or referred to by the church.
Cursing the Leaders of the United States
Another instance that was pretty stunning to learn is that the temple was used to curse 400 leaders of the United States during the time that they were pressuring the church to end polygamy. From Dialogue:
"In an effort that bears striking resemblance to the oath of vengeance, a list was compiled of over 400 “Names of Persons, to be held in Remembrance before the Lord, For their Evil Deeds, and who have raised their hands against the Lord’s anointed.” The list included four U.S. presidents: Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Buchanan. To secure God’s judgments against those on the list, Woodruff was instructed to gather the Twelve and wash their feet as a testimony against their enemies. The apostles were then to clothe themselves in temple robes and form a prayer circle.
Woodruff describes the eventual performance of this ordinance in solemn terms:
O(Orson) Pratt was vary feeble yet we all performed the ordinance of wash-ing our feet against Our Enemies And the Enemies of the Kingdomof God according to the Commandmet of God unto us.
W. Woodruff opened By Prayer And John Taylor was Mouth in thewashing of feet. At the Prayer Circle Lorenzo Snow was Mouth at the opening And Presidet JOHN TAYLOR was mouth at the Altar, and presented the Prayer written By W. Woodruff (By request of Pres-idet Taylor) And the names were presented before the Lord accord-ing to the Commandment.
It was truly a solomn scene and I presume to say it was the first thingof the Kind since the Creation of the world....Wewere 3 hours inthe Meeting & ordinances.
The actual prayer, written by Woodruff and read by President John Taylor, reads in part:
Now O Lord our God we bear our testimony against these men, befor Thee and the heavenly hosts and we bear testimony unto thee Our heavenly Father that we according to thy Commandments untous we have gone alone by ourselves and Clensed our feet in pure wa-ter and born testimony unto Thee and thy Son Jesus Christ and to the heavenly hosts against these wicked men by name as far as the spirit has manifested them unto us. We have borne our testimony against those who have shed the blood of thy Prophets and Apostles and anointed Ones, or have given Consent to their death and against those who have driven thy saints and imprisoned them and those who are still ready to deprive us of Life, Liberty and the privilege of keeping the Commandments of God.
And now O Lord our God Thou hast Commanded us that when we have done this we should gather ourselves together in our holy Places and Clothed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood should unite ourselves together in Prayer and supplication and that we should bear our testimony against these men by name as far as wisdom should dictate.
...O Lord hear us from heaven thy Holy dwelling place and answerour Peti[ti]ons Sustain thine anointed ones and deliver us from the hands of Our Enemies. Overthrow the Evil designs of the wickedand ungodly against thy Saints and break Evry weapon formed against us.
This episode is notable for a shift in the provocation to curse. In the past, curses had been performed primarily against those who rejected a proselytizer’s message. Here the curse was called downupon the church’s political enemies. (“Shake Off the Dust of Thy Feet”:The Rise and Fall of Mormon Ritual Cursing, Dialogue)
Look, I get that at this time the church was under intense pressure from the US Government and fears were running rampant, but I also have a hard time believing that God commanded that they put a curse on 400 US leaders. Furthermore, it should be noted that the curse was not effective, the leaders lived on, and the church ultimately put polygamy in this life on hold just a few years later.
I covered this briefly in the overview on Adam and Eve and the scriptures of Mormonism, but the doctrine of Adam-God as popularized by prophet Brigham Young was actually taught in the temple for a brief time.
Church leaders today disavow the Adam-God doctrine, but it was also taught in the temple as divine truth and the last paragraph of the ‘Lecture at the Veil’ illustrates the point that these ideas originated with Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations (again: while we do not post current temple scripts or pictures, because this has been disavowed by the church it is not considered sacred by the church today and I feel is fair to post in order to show how these ideas originated):
“Father Adam's oldest son, Jesus the Savior, who is the heir of the family, is Father Adam's first begotten in the spirit world and the only begotten according to the flesh (as it is written), Adam in his divinity having gone back into the spirit world and come in the spirit to Mary, and she conceived. For when Adam and Eve got through with their work in this earth, they did not lay their bodies down in the dust but returned to the spirit world, from whence they came.” (Journal of L. John Nuttall, secretary to Brigham Young, 7 February 1877)
The Adam-God doctrine from Brigham Young has caused a headache for the church as they seek to pin it on Brigham "speaking as a man," but the fact that it was incorporated directly into the temple is a problem they cannot just brush away. Just as early members stated that Joseph Smith taught them that the Masonic ceremony was the original endowment, Brigham Young stated that this idea was taught by Joseph Smith himself:
"How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revleaed to me – namely that Adam is our father and God – I do not know, I do not inquire, I care nothing about it. Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, it was created expressly for him, and after it was made he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him, and she was called Eve, because she was the first woman upon the earth. Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or who ever will come upon the earth. I have been found fault with by the ministers of religion because I have said that they were ignorant. But I could not find any man on the earth who cold tell me this, although it is one of the simplest things in the world, until I met and talked with Joseph Smith." (Prophet Brigham Young, Deseret News, v. 22, no. 308, June 8, 1873)
Not only is Prophet Brigham Young stating that this doctrine was revealed to him through God, but that Joseph Smith also taught it. Again, if you want to say that Brigham Young was simply 'speaking as a man,' then you might as well just forget everything a prophet ever says, because he is clear that this was revealed to him through God.
And, for what it's worth, Joseph Smith did teach that Adam was our God even if not as explicitly as Brigham Young later would:
"He [Adam] is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family." (Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Messages of the First Presidency, v. 1, p. 113, July 1839)
In this case Joseph Smith is stating that the "Son of Man stands before him," which means that Adam is above all of us. That would, in the doctrine of a plurality of Gods, make clear that Adam is our God as he "presides over the spirits of all men."
Again, while apologists like to say that the Adam-God doctrine was just Brigham speaking as a man, it is clear that it was anything but that considering it was incorporated directly into the temple ceremony. The fact that it was promptly removed following Young's death gives us a great insight into the fact that every prophet of the church is incorporating their own worldview into the doctrines and policies of the church, and not the direct will and revelation of God as I've outlined in previous overviews.
The temple ceremony is a very emotional subject, and I know from talking to others over the last few years that the range of emotions after going through the temple can go from being horrified to having one of the most spiritual experiences of your life. I am not looking to frame anyone's experience, but to just look at where the ceremony originated from and what that tells us about the church as a whole.
Almost every aspect of the endowment ceremony is taken from the Masonic ceremony as outlined above, and I do not think there is any escaping this fact. While the purposes of the Masonic and endowment ceremonies are different, the similarities are numerous, obvious, and line up with the historical record that Joseph Smith introduced the ceremony just seven weeks after being initiated as a Mason.
As I mentioned above, if you strip out the elements of the endowment ceremony that are not taken from the Masons, we are left with a story of the creation along with elements that are not much different than what is taught in other aspects of the church. Joseph Smith took the signs, tokens, penalties, symbols, washing and anointing, new name, and clothing from the Masonic ceremony and taught members that he was restoring the endowment that had fallen into apostasy.
However the Masonic ceremony was a product of the medieval times, and has absolutely no connection to Solomon's Temple which even FAIR concedes as quoted above. Again, either Joseph Smith was knowingly teaching members that he was restoring a lost endowment to explain the obvious similarities between the ceremonies, or he was tricked by God into thinking that the Masonic ceremony was a lost temple ceremony. As I covered in the Book of Abraham overviews, the 'trickster God' idea solves some of Joseph Smith's incorrect works, but it opens up so many other questions as to why God couldn't just reveal verifiable truths to Joseph Smith instead of setting him up to look like a false prophet.
The temple has bothered me since the day I went through it, because I had a terrible experience at the initiatory as I explained above and then had to wear garments every day to remind me of that experience. To find out later that those garments use Masonic symbols creeps me out, and I realize this colors my feelings in this overview.
That said, I know that after almost 30 different overviews, the patterns of how Joseph Smith created his theology are unmistakable and the sources he pulled from are easy to find. While I understand that as a believer the first inclination is to focus on the differences to make it work, the fact that Joseph Smith pulled from the Masonic ceremony and then taught members that it was revealed to be the original endowment that had fallen into apostasy is another one of Joseph Smith's fingerprints that he was the one creating these ideas, and that he used the voice of God to give them credibility that they never would have received on their own.
In our next section we will cover the idea of spitual witnesses and testimony, which I think is incredibly important in light of these overviews and how emotionally charged they can be.
Next Overview Topic: Spiritual Witnesses and Testimonies