Mormons and Masons
The following is a 11/30/98 letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune
Mormons and Masons
I would like to respond to recent comments made in this Public Forum regarding Masonry and the LDS temple ceremony. The ceremonies in Masonry are in no way descended from the time of Solomon’s Temple. Masons use the biblical legends about the temple in their stories and lessons, which is something they inherited from the medieval building guilds.
Back in the Middle Ages, when most people couldn’t read, and the Bible was available only in Latin, stories from the Bible were acted out in church to teach the biblical lessons to the common people. At first, the priests acted out the stories, but over time, the various trades and guilds became responsible for acting out particular legends. The stone masons had as their part the legends of the building of Solomon’s Temple, and eventually they worked it into their own lodge ceremonies as well.
How could Joseph Smith have found anything of the true Solomon Temple rites in Masonry to “restore” or “undistort”? Modern Masonry began in 1717. The ceremonies of Masonry come from three sources: the medieval stone-mason guilds of England, the “Englightenment Era” philosophies that were current when modern Masonry was getting started (middle 1600’s to 1717, the date of the first modern “grand lodge”) and the “magickal” or hermetic writings that came from North African, Byzantine and Moorish sources, and were also being rediscovered by philosophers and scholars in England in the decades before the founding of modern Masonry.
These three sources get all tangled up, which is why there were so many bad Masonic histories written for so many years. None of those sources had any connection or contact with a ceremonial tradition from Solomon’s Temple.
Outside of the details of the priestly ceremonies that anyone can read about in the Bible (especially in Leviticus), there is nothing or almost nothing known of temple ceremonies. Joseph Smith saw and participated in Masonic ceremonies and simply borrowed them for his own use. There was no “restoration” from Solomon’s time going on.
Salt Lake City