Richard L. Bushman mentions "if Joseph thought of Freemasonry as degenerate priesthood, he did nothing to suppress his rival."

Richard Lyman Bushman

Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, A Cultural Biography of Mormonism's Founder (New York City, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 450

Richard Lyman Bushman
Abraham Jonas, Heavenly Father, Richard Lyman Bushman, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Jr., King Solomon, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt
Reading Public

Joseph became an "Entered Apprentice" Mason on March 15, 1842. Jonas dubbed Joseph a Mason "on sight" to allow him to officiate as chaplain while being installed. The next day Joseph rose through degrees of "Fellow Craft" and "Master Mason." Impressed though he must have been, his journal entry for the installation expressed most pleasure in the celebration following the initiation. The Masonic procession began at Joseph's store near the river and marched to the grove at the base of the temple bluff where three thousand people gathered. Joseph reported that "a Large number of people assembled on the occasion, the day was exceedingly fine, all things were done in order, and universal satisfaction manifested."

If Joseph thought of Freemasonry as degenerate priesthood, he did nothing to suppress his rival. Once the Nauvoo lodge was organized, Mormons joined in large numbers. Eleven of the Twelve Apostles became Freemasons. By October 1842, the 253 members of the Nauvoo lodge outnumbered the 227 Masons in all the other Illinois lodges combined. The Mormons organized four additional lodges over the next year. In June, less than seven weeks after bestowing the endowment on the first group brethren, Joseph celebrated "St. John's day," in honor of John the Baptist, a Masonic favorite, by riding in procession to a public celebration attended by thousands. In April 1844, the Saints dedicated the Nauvoo Masonic Hall, the finest completed building in the city.

Masonic instruction would have attracted Joseph. Masonic candidates sought light, a powerful word in Joseph's revelations. Biblical imagery was mixed generously with a conglomeration of symbols-grips, signs, tools, architecture, objects, scriptures, stories, actions, many of them references to the craft of masonry. After the ceremony initiating members into a higher degree, a lecture summarized the symbols and their importance for instilling virtue and brotherhood. The outcome was a circle of committed brethren, loyal to each other to the death, forming a bulwark against wicked world. After the Masonic installation and the first endowment ceremony, Heber Kimball wrote Parley Pratt that "Brother Joseph feels as as I Ever see him. one reason is he has got a Small Company. that he feels safe in thare ha[n]ds." Kimball probably referred to the men who had be endowed, but the Masonic lodge was one more line of defense against hostile world.

Intrigued by the Masonic rites, Joseph turned the materials to his own use. The Masonic elements that appeared in the temple endowment we embedded in a distinctive context-the Creation instead of the Temple Solomon, exaltation rather than fraternity, God and Christ, not the Worshipful Master. Temple covenants bound people to God rather than to each other. At the end, the participants entered symbolically into the presence God.

Endowment, Joseph's name for the temple ceremony, connected...

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