Question: Did Joseph Smith copy Masonic material in order to create the LDS temple rites?


Question: Did Joseph Smith copy Masonic material in order to create the LDS temple rites?

The Masonic rites and the temple endowment likely trace back to the same source

It is claimed that Joseph Smith copied Masonic material in order to create the LDS temple rites. Below are several quotations from Dr. Hugh W. Nibley regarding this issue.

  • "Latter-day Saints believe that their temple ordinances are as old as the human race and represent a primordial revealed religion that has passed through alternate phases of apostasy and restoration which have left the world littered with the scattered fragments of the original structure, some more and some less recognizable, but all badly damaged and out of proper context. . . . There are, in fact, countless tribes, sects, societies, and orders from which [Joseph Smith] might have picked up this and that, had he known of their existence. The Near East in particular is littered with the archeological and living survivals of practices and teachings which an observant Mormon may find suggestively familiar. The Druzes would have been a goldmine for Smith. He has actually been charged with plundering some of the baggage brought to the West by certain fraternal orders during the Middle Ages -- as if the Prophet must rummage in a magpie's nest to stock a king's treasury! Among the customs and religions of mankind there are countless parallels, many of them very instructive, to what the Mormons do. But there is a world of difference between Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews and the book of Isaiah, or between the Infancy Gospels and the real Gospels, no matter how many points of contact one may detect between them. The Latter-day Saint endowment was not built up of elements brought together by chance, custom, or long research; it is a single, perfectly consistent, organic whole, conveying its message without the aid of rationalizing, spiritualizing, allegorizing, or moralizing interpretations." John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, eds., The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2005), xxvii-xxviii.
  • "The most consistent thing about histories of Freemasonry by its most eminent historians is the noncommittal position in the important matter of origins." Don E. Norton, ed., Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 419.
  • "[I]t was Joseph Smith who first pointed ['patternism'] out, recalling a common heritage from what he calls the archaic religion, coming down from Adam in such institutions as Freemasonry, and clearly pointing out their defects as time produced its inevitable corruption. What he himself supplied single-handedly is the original article in all its splendor and complexity." Don E. Norton, ed., Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 48.
  • "Question: Where did the Masons get the ceremonies they have today? Did they come from these documents? Answer: Their ceremonies didn't come from these documents. Nobody had the texts until recently. They do give us an interesting check. The Masonic rites have a lot in common with ours. Of course in part they do have the same source, if you trace them way back. But what a different picture you see. The Masons don't give any religious meaning to them. They think of them as symbolic, as abstract. They don't see any particular realities behind them. The rites have nothing to do with salvation, but consist only of broken fragments. . . . They have been picked up from various times and places, and you can trace them back." Don E. Norton, ed., Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 319.
  • "Did Joseph Smith reinvent the temple by putting all the fragments -- Jewish, Orthodox, Masonic, Gnostic, Hindu, Egyptian, and so forth -- together again? No, that is not how it is done. Very few of the fragments were available in his day, and the job of putting them together was begun, as we have seen, only in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Even when they are available, those poor fragments do not come together of themselves to make a whole; to this day the scholars who collect them do not know what to make of them. The temple is not to be derived from them, but the other way around. . . . That anything of such fulness, consistency, ingenuity, and perfection could have been brought forth at a single time and place -- overnight, as it were -- is quite adequate proof of a special dispensation." (Ensign, February 2007).
  • Nibley quotes the 17 June 1842 letter from Heber C. Kimball (a long term Freemason) to Parley P. Pratt in which Kimball reported that the Prophet had said, "Masonry was taken from the Priesthood, but has become degenerated." Nibley also quotes the Benjamin F. Johnson report that the Prophet had said, "Freemasonry, as at present, is the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion [is] the apostate religion." Stephen D. Ricks, ed., Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2008), 381.
  • "[T]he Freemasons . . . put heavy emphasis on the allure of Egypt and the theatrical trappings of pseudo-temples and rites." Hugh W. Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2010), 474.
  • "[There are] parallels between Mormon rituals and those of the Hopi . . . . [including an] initiation ritual [regarding parts of the body and the pronouncement of blessings] . . . . Parallels appear between the language of the Mormon temple ceremony and the Hopi myths of origin . . . . Responding to someone who asked about similarities between the Mormon temple endowment and the Masonic ceremony, Nibley wrote that the parallels between the Mormon endowment and the rites of the Hopi 'come closest of all as far as I have been able to discover -- and where did they get theirs?'" Boyd J. Peterson, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2002), 282.
  • "an extensive reading of Masonic and Mormon teachings and history should make it clear to any reader that the former is the shadow, the latter the substance. The one is literal, the other allegorical." "What is a Temple?" in Truman G. Madsen, ed., The Temple in Antiquity (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1984), nt. #71.

Notes