A Mormon Mason responds to a(nother) Mormon (part 2):
a Mormon writes:
Mormon scholars have certainly denied the existence of any similarities between the ceremonies.
Indeed they have. Some months back, I had a long discussion with Bill Hamblin on this topic, on the Mormon History Forum; Hamblin, who is an Associate Professor of History at BYU, took a similar view to the one you describe.
a Mormon writes:
Mervin B. Hogan, a Mormon and Mason [said]:
"No Mason -- or anyone else -- aquainted with the rituals of the Order can honestly claim there is the slightest resemblance of those ordinances or procedures [of the LDS endowment ceremony] to anything presented in a Symbolic Lodge of Free Masonry." (see Mervin B. Hogan, "Historicity of the Alleged Masonic Influence on Mormonism," pp. 77, 30-31)
Bro.'. Hogan is a very sharp researcher, and is perhaps one of the most informed on the issue of Mormonism and Masonry. The comment above is unfortunate, as it does not in any way reflect Bro.'. Hogan's current thinking on this subject. I know this, because I spoke with him about it shortly after the Michael Homer piece came out. We all say things that later we would wish to qualify. This is true in this case as well.
I would point out that in Joseph's own day, critics and compatriots alike noted the Masonic elements in the Temple ritual. When Joseph first restored the Ancient Order of Things in this dispensation, nearly half of that first select group were Freemasons. I would like to think that this was intentional! This Holy Order was also known as "Joseph's Lodge," as I mention elsewhere. I don't suppose that this was because of some superficial resemblences.
a Mormon writes:
Your argument is not with me or any other of the multitude of Mormons who are not in the least embarrassed that the masonic ceremony predates the temple ceremony. The early saints certainly were not!
This is my view as well. The ancient parallels are quite intriguing...but we need to be clear about which end of the box is up! Ancient parallels are indeed meaningful for members of the Church, and may in fact reflect some absolute truth in the ordiinance. But I wish to caution those who are looking at ancient parallels, that no matter what a person finds, it can no way alter the fact that much of what we have in the Temple ritual was borrowed from Masonic forms. Masonic influences on Joseph Smith started NO LATER than 1826-7, when Hyrum first demonstrated his interest in Masonry and received the degrees in Mt. Moriah Lodge. Further, Mother Smith's comments that the family "worked the Faculty of Abrac" may be a reference to ritual magic, but I am more inclined to believe that it was a reference to Masonic interests.
In addition, Oliver Cowdery's father was a Freemason, and the antiMasonic movement began in Joseph Smith's own backyard. Interestingly, Joseph Smith Sr. did some jail time with Eli Bruce, the man convicted in the abduction of William Morgan, as contemporaneous records (journal entries) will show. I cannot imagine that the young Prophet did not know the details of what appears to have been occuring not only in his own backyard, but within his own home.
But as for ancient connections...Masons have been making comparisons between their rituals and the ancient mysteries for longer than the Church has existed. I encourage those of you who have read Nibley to look at what Masonic authors like JSM Ward were saying about Masonic ritual before Brother Nibley was even out of diapers. Take a look at his wonderful book, "Who Was Hiram Abiff?" published by Lewis Masonic in England, and distributed here in the States by Macoy's Masonic. This stuff is exciting; Ward is the Masonic version of Hugh, and is enjoyable for Niblets of all ages!
That such an admission may be seen by some to be a convenient hook on which to hang their disbelief does not concern me in the least. It is not embarassing, is not an indictment, and not anything that I care to be dishonest with myself about. As a matter of faith, I believe that Joseph Smith's use of Freemasonry was inspired. The Prophet was without a doubt the premier ritualist of his time. In his recasting of Masonic ritual and its surrounding mythos, he returned it to an earlier, alternative Masonic tradition which included themes of Adam and Eve, God in the Garden, a Book of Remembrance, the raising of Noah, and the Pillars of Enoch. The Book of Abraham is so full of Masonic elements, both in its production and its lore, that it "sends me" just to think about it.
Joseph's life also seems filled with interesting Masonic coincidences, beginning with his finding of the Gold Plates, and continuing to his death.
When they died, Joseph and Hyrum --widow's sons-- both laid down their lives for their attempt to keep the secrets of the Holy Order. They were struck down like Hiram Abiff -- slain by false brethren. And, like a certain other son of the widow, Joseph's death was untimely; the Temple he was rearing was not yet finished, and the final form of his complete vision of the Patriarchal Kingdom associated with that building remained within his breast at death.
a Mormon writes:
As Eliza R. Snow said, "There is method in Mormonism -- method infinite. Mormonism is Masonic."
Don't I believe it! And, although Masonry might not be DIRECTLY drawn from the Temple of Solomon... well.... that's a discussion for another day.
Part 3 of this discussion