This entry is part 11 of 13 in Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­son.

1. Intro­duc­tion: Out of respect to believ­ing mem­bers, I will not lay out all of my con­cerns with the LDS tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny. How­ev­er, there are cer­tain aspects of the tem­ple that are spo­ken about pub­li­cal­ly by Church lead­ers that are worth dis­cussing in more detail.

2. Sim­i­lar­i­ties between LDS Tem­ple Cer­e­monies and Freema­son­ry: The LDS tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny has many par­al­lels to Mason­ic rites, and for good rea­son: Joseph Smith intro­duced the rites into the LDS tem­ple about two months after becom­ing a Freema­son him­self.

The unde­ni­able sim­i­lar­i­ties between the LDS tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny (espe­cial­ly pri­or to 1940) and Mason­ry Rit­u­als of the 1830s are accu­rate­ly sum­ma­rized by both Richard Pack­ham (Sim­i­lar­i­ties Between the Freema­son­ry of the 1830s and the Mor­mon Endow­ment (pre-1940)) and the edi­tors at Mor­mon­Think (Mason­ry details in the LDS tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny). For a more thor­ough and detailed analy­sis of the sim­i­lar­i­ties between Mason­ry and Mor­monism, you can read Michael W. Homer’s arti­cle Sim­i­lar­i­ties of Priest­hood in Mason­ry: The Rela­tion­ship Between Freema­son­ry and Mor­monism. (Dia­logue, Vol. 27, No. 3.)

Faith­ful Mor­mons that are aware of these sim­i­lar­i­ties usu­al­ly rec­on­cile the issue by echo­ing what the ear­ly prophets pro­claimed: Masons orig­i­nal­ly pos­sessed the true tem­ple ordi­nances from the orig­i­nal true church that exist­ed in Old Tes­ta­ment times (and at least since Solomon’s Temple).

Many mem­bers believe this for two pri­ma­ry rea­sons. First, prophets such as Heber C. Kim­ball said as much: “We have the true Mason­ry. The Mason­ry of today is received from the apos­ta­sy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is cor­rect, but we have the real thing.” (Stan­ley B. Kim­ball, Heber C. Kim­ball and Fam­i­ly: The Nau­voo Years, p. 458.) Sec­ond, many Masons (par­tic­u­lar­ly the less edu­cat­ed) in the ear­ly 1800s believed that Mason­ry rit­u­als orig­i­nat­ed dur­ing Solomon’s time.

Some Lat­ter-day Saints hold to the view that Mason­ry derived from King Solomon’s Tem­ple, because it is the­o­log­i­cal­ly less com­pli­cat­ed to do so than to accept Masonry’s his­tor­i­cal roots.

3. Mason­ry Devel­oped Dur­ing the Dark Ages: The prob­lem with link­ing the LDS tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny to Mason­ry is that Masons could not have had the true tem­ple ordi­nances from Old Tes­ta­ment times. Solomon’s tem­ple was destroyed in 422 B.C.E., and Mason rit­u­als date (at ear­li­est) to 1425 A.D. (although many schol­ars main­tain that the rit­u­als orig­i­nat­ed in the 1700s). Mason­ry orig­i­nat­ed in Britain as a trade guild, though it incor­po­rat­ed sym­bols dat­ing back to var­i­ous cults in antiq­ui­ty. Mason­ry thus comes from an era that LDS doc­trine asso­ciates with the great apos­ta­sy. For Mor­monism to copy its crown­ing ordi­nances from rites that emerged dur­ing the dark ages presents a problem.

Greg Kear­ney, who is active LDS and a Mas­ter Mason, states as fol­lows on FAIR: “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no his­tor­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port a con­tin­u­ous func­tion­ing line from Solomon’s Tem­ple to the present. We know what went on in Solomon’s Tem­ple; it’s a rit­u­al­is­tic slaugh­ter of ani­mals.” He also adds that “Mason­ry, while claim­ing a root in antiq­ui­ty, can only be reli­ably traced to medieval stone tradesmen.”

4. Tem­ple Changes: Pre­vi­ous iter­a­tions of the endow­ment (through 1990) includ­ed blood oath penal­ties and the Five Points of Fel­low­ship, both of which were iden­ti­cal to Mason rit­u­als (although nei­ther was root­ed in reli­gion). I will not dis­cuss any addi­tion­al changes in this doc­u­ment, but the changes have been rather sub­stan­tial over the years. But here is the pri­ma­ry point: why were these type of pagan rit­u­als includ­ed in the tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny in the first place?

5. Pur­pose of Tem­ples: Con­cern­ing the pur­pose at the tem­ple, Brigham Young said: “Let me give you the def­i­n­i­tion in brief. Your endow­ment is, to receive all those ordi­nances in the House of the Lord, which are nec­es­sary for you, after you have depart­ed this life, to enable you to walk back to the pres­ence of the Father, pass­ing the angels who stand as sen­tinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, per­tain­ing to the holy priest­hood, and gain your eter­nal exal­ta­tion in spite of earth and hell.”

The bulk of the tem­ple cer­e­mo­ny revolves around learn­ing and demon­strat­ing the key­words, signs, and tokens that Brigham Young men­tioned. This seems both bizarre and unfair. Does the eter­nal sal­va­tion, eter­nal hap­pi­ness, and eter­nal seal­ing of fam­i­lies real­ly depend on know­ing spe­cif­ic signs and tokens that are vir­tu­al­ly iden­ti­cal to those found in Mason­ic rituals?

6. Con­clu­sion: Per­haps this is a per­son­al issue, but I have always been puz­zled with the dis­com­fort­ing feel­ings (and lack of spir­i­tu­al wit­ness) I expe­ri­enced in the endow­ment cer­e­mo­ny, which is sup­posed to be one of the holi­est cer­e­monies in the Church. So much of the cer­e­mo­ny focus­es on signs, tokens, and cer­e­mo­ny itself. Ini­tial­ly, I believed that if I attend­ed the tem­ple more fre­quent­ly, I would receive addi­tion­al insight into the cer­e­mo­ny and its sym­bol­ic nature. How­ev­er, this has sim­ply not been the case. On my mis­sion, I attend­ed the tem­ple near­ly every week on prepa­ra­tion day. I con­tin­ued to attend the tem­ple through­out col­lege. My atten­dance slowed down once I start­ed grad­u­ate school, but over­all, I have attend­ed near­ly 200 tem­ple ses­sions. But even after all of this, I sim­ply have not had the type of enlight­en­ing and uplift­ing tem­ple expe­ri­ence that I had hoped to enjoy.

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­son« Leav­ing the Church, Part 10 — ProphetsLeav­ing the Church, Part 12 — Mis­cel­la­neous Concerns »
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

Are there any doc­u­ments cit­ing direct par­al­lels between the var­i­ous Mason­ic rites and Tem­ple ordi­nances? How close­ly do the two match?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x