Jeffrey M. Bradshaw interprets Joseph Smith's temple teachings as emphasizing the spiritual significance of ritual gestures, akin to ancient beliefs depicted in artworks like Hans Memling's "Gates of Paradise."

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances (Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2022), 149–150

Eborn Books, Interpreter Foundation, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw
Hans Memling, Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick, III, Benjamin Franklin, Peter, Joseph Smith, Jr., Hiram Abiff, Samuel Prichard, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Michael Turnbull, Nicholas S. Literski
Reading Public

... Ans. “I asked the recommendations of a friend to become a Mason, I sought admission through his recommendations, and knocked, and the door of Masonry opened unto me.”

Going further, Cheryl Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski also mention Prichard’s 1730 exposé, which refers to the “Three Great Knocks” that killed Hiram Abiff within the legend of the third degree. They see an affinity in Prichard’s mention to the “death, transformation, and resurrection” symbolism that occurs near the end of the endowment. Three, five, and seven are important numbers in Masonry. In other degrees, the number of knocks within and without the door of the Lodge vary.

Ritual gestures corresponding to “tokens” (grips), “signs,” and “penalties” (penal signs) are also used in Freemasonry. Benjamin Franklin’s gave this famous tribute on the subject, which extolled the efficacity of Masonic signs and tokens as universal credentials:

These signs and tokens are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a password to the attention and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned; let him be stripped of everything he has in the world; still these credentials remain and are available for use as circumstances require.

Like Franklin, historian Michael Turnbull highlights the practical utility of the gestures, attributing the origins of signs and grips in Freemasonry to the everyday needs of early craftsmen:

While the techniques of building, stone- carving, and architecture could be absorbed only through a long and structured apprenticeship ..., the craftsmen (like most medieval working people) were unable to write ... and needed to be able to prove their qualifications and skills as they moved from one part of the country to another. They did this through special signs and passwords (rather like today’s credit-card [personal identification] numbers/passwords), which

they could learn only when they had completed their apprenticeship and mastered their craft. This was, in other words, a practical and sensible way of ensuring that quality-control mechanisms were in place in an industry where many unqualified workers tried to pass themselves off as experienced craftsmen.

Differing from the utilitarian emphasis of Franklin and Turnbull, Joseph Smith’s temple teachings stressed the other-worldly significance of the words and gestures. The allegorical and practical uses of signs and tokens in Freemasonry were subordinated to his understanding that that the keys of the priesthood were primarily of religious significance. In this respect his interests were more closely allied with those of the ancient world who saw salvific significance in ritual gestures.

For example, in Hans Memling’s striking fifteenth-century depiction of the gates of Paradise, a sacred grip is featured alongside other, more conventional symbols of heavenly ascent after death. The doors at the top resemble the porch and façade of an imposing gothic cathedral, flanked by musical angels. Other angels prepare the elect for entry by helping them don priestly vestments. A crown shaped like a mitre is placed on their heads, prefiguring later Masonic rites. Significantly, as a precursor to the climb of the righteous up the final stairway, Peter himself personally extends his hand to approaching men and women in a sacred handclasp. The scene recalls an image from the tenth-century Bamberg Apocalypse, where John is admitted to the New Jerusalem by a special handclasp.

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