In a video, the Church discusses the historical connections between Joseph Smith and Freemasonry, highlighting similarities and differences between Masonic rituals and Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies.

Oct 24, 2023
Audio/Video Media
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

"Joseph Smith and Masonry," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed October 24, 2023

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith, Sr., Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Joseph Smith, Jr., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Internet Public

Was Joseph Smith a Mason and if so, what connection does it have to temple worship practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Well, there could be some confusion between the similarities and the differences between Masonic ritual and the way Latter-day Saints worship in the temple of the Lord.

Let's explain: the term "Mason" or "masonry" refers to Freemasonry, a worldwide network of fraternal organizations dating back hundreds of years that promotes morality and service to others. And yes, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a Freemason. Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum was also a Mason and a member of a Lodge in Palmyra, New York, and their father, Joseph Smith Senior, was also known to be a Master Mason in Canandaigua, New York, as early as 1818. While prophet and president of the church, Joseph joined the Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo, Illinois, on March 15, 1842, rising to the level of Master Mason just a day later under the recognized authority of the Grand Master of Illinois.

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 1500 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.

In the years prior to becoming a Mason, Joseph Smith had received instruction from God, revelations about eternal promises which God desired 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 acknowledged 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 and considered 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. The temple ceremony was not an imitation or copy of masonry; it was a 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, 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 exaltation, eternal life with God through Jesus Christ in His atonement. And this temple ceremony draws upon the revelations from God for its content. 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 return 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.

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