Monday, November 11, 2013

Book explores connection between Freemasonry and Mormonism

Book explores connection between Freemasonry and Mormonism

Standard-Examiner correspondent
There are historians who believe there is a complex historical connection between Freemasonry, an organization with origins to local fraternities of Freemasons, and Mormonism, a popular name given to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Michael Homer, an award-winning author who has published numerous articles in the fields of law and Mormonism, delves into the historical parallels in his recently published book, “Joseph’s Temples: The dynamic relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism” (University of Utah Press, $34.95).

Homer said the connections between the two may be challenging and controversial, but are worthy of further consideration even in the 21st century.
"For many years, there has been a gap in scholarship on the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism,“ said Homer. ”In fact, the subject was almost verboten. But in recognizing the historical importance of this topic, both Mormon and non-Mormon historians have encouraged me to pursue this book-length survey and I am excited to share the results.” 

The focus of the book looks at the rituals performed in Latter-day Saint temples, with more than 140 temples in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, and traces many of their origins back to the rituals performed in Masonic Lodges, the basic organizational unit of Freemasonry.

Homer begins by recounting how Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early church leaders were Masons at one time, but recognizes that modern Mormon church prophets and leaders have attempted to downplay the parallels between Mormon ritual and doctrine with that of Freemasonry in the early nineteenth century, saying that Joseph Smith received the temple endowments before he became a Freemason.

Homer explains the history behind the ceremonies used in both Freemasonry Lodges and Mormon Church temples. “Many nineteenth-century Mormons who were serious students of Freemasonry believed that the endowment was a restoration of the ritual introduced in Solomon’s temple that had been partially preserved by the Craft (of Freemasonry),” said Homer.

Several church leaders, including apostle Melvin Ballard and E. Cecil McGavin, an instructor in the LDS Church education system in the 1930s, are quoted in Homer’s book.
In their statements, they explain that Joseph Smith received revelation for the temple endowment ceremony long before he joined Freemasonry, doing so “to fraternize with the prominent leaders in the political and religious world, and that he had a complete knowledge of the temple ceremony before he became affiliated with the Masons,” said McGavin.

However, Homer points out that some LDS church leaders feel differently, such as Reed Durham Jr., director of the LDS Institute of Religion at the University of Utah, who concluded in 1974 that the Mormon temple endowment “had an immediate inspiration from Masonry,” and that “most of the things which were developed in the church at Nauvoo were inextricably interwoven with Masonry.”

Homer states that Durham then said that the connections between Masonic rituals and the endowment were “so apparent and overwhelming that some dependent relationship cannot be denied,” with connections between the signs, tokens, obligations and penalties of the two rituals.

In several sections of his book, Homer notes that Smith taught church members that the most important lessons they needed to learn was the Masonic skill of keeping a secret, including the Mormon Church’s early practice of plural marriage, which has since been abolished.

Homer also points out that the murder of Joseph Smith may have been led by discord between the Mormon Church and Freemasons, who accused Smith of plagiarizing their rituals. The mob that killed Smith on June 27, 1844, included Freemasons, who were criticized for not heeding their fellow Masons in distress.

On July 15, 1844, the local newspaper published an editorial confirming that both Joseph and Hyrum were Masons in good standing, according to Homer’s research. The editorial continued on, saying “they were shot to death, while, with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress … and that Joseph’s last exclamation was ‘O Lord my God!’, which is the first few words of the Masonic distress call.”

As Homer concludes his book, he declares: “While Joseph’s temples were not a literal restoration of Solomon’s Temple, they are also not a mere pirated copy of Masonic rites. But the first Mormon prophet did use and adapt a Masonic formula and extrapolated some of Masonry’s teachings that were developed during the previous one hundred years in England, France, and America.”