Freemasonry and the Gospel


By Loyal to the Word


            There is a definite link between Freemasonry and the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. The rituals of the Masonic Lodge and that of the temple endowment are very similar, and in some instances practically identical. Critics of the Church make the charge that Joseph Smith developed an obsession with Masonry and simply pilfered from Masonic ritual to incorporate into his own religion. But the faithful recognize that there is much more to the picture here. Though Joseph did receive inspiration relative to the temple endowment through Masonry, it is far too simplistic and incorrect to assume that the Prophet simply stole the rituals. This article will discuss Masonry and its connection to the Restored Gospel.


What is Freemasonry?


Freemasonry, or just “Masonry,” is a very old fraternity which teaches service and self-improvement, and is based on religious principles and incorporates instructive rituals. It is not a religion, but a requirement to join is that the initiate believes in a Supreme Being. This fraternity welcomes membership from all different faiths and teaches moral precepts that appeal to all God-fearing people. Masonry is linked to the craft of stone masonry, and incorporates the tools of this craft in its teaching and symbolism. Hence the name, “Masonry.” However, there is disagreement as to what the significance of the full title, “Freemason” is. “It could describe a mason who worked with freestone, which is a fine-grained limestone or sandstone…but it could also refer to his status as a member of a guild, or the freedom to ply his trade in a municipality” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 10). “Free” may also be a derivative of the French “frere,” meaning “brother” (ibid, p. 74).

Masonic ritual is structured around a ritualistic drama concerning a man named Hiram Abiff, who purportedly was the architect of Solomon’s Temple. The drama involves the death of Hiram Abiff at the hands of evil men, and incorporates and teaches principles of moral living. A prospective Mason is initiated through three degrees of this ritual, the first being that of “Entered Apprentice,” next “Fellow Craft,” and third, “Master Mason.” Within the Masonic Lodge and incorporated in the rituals is a “volume of sacred law” which is usually the Bible, but can be the religious text of any nation in which the Lodge is found.

While the first Masonic Lodges were established in 1717, all agree that Freemasonry is much older than that. How old is a subject of much debate. It is said by some that Masonry has been practiced for centuries by stonemasons who built the great cathedrals of Europe. Some say that the rituals date back to the time of Solomon’s temple. Some Masons believe that Masonry goes back to the beginning of man and that Adam was the first Mason. It is true that Masonry can be “traced back to the operative stonemasons of medieval England” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 11). But in reality, nobody really knows the origin of Freemasonry, although claims to its origin will be made in this paper from the Latter-day Saint perspective.






Right: Freemasonry incorporates many symbols which have special meanings to the initiated. 






Below: A chart illustrating the degrees and branches of Freemasonry. Although the Scottish Rite has 33 Degrees, Masonic teaching still considers a Master Mason the highest level of Masonry.



The Link between Masonry and the Endowment


            Joseph Smith joined the Masonic Lodge on March 15 of 1842 and advanced through the three degrees of the Order by the evening of March 16 – an unusually rapid advancement in the Order (Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, p. 304). Months later, in May 4 of 1842, Joseph administered the endowment ceremony for the first time in the upper room of his red brick store to a select inner circle (History of the Church, 5:1-2). The two rituals, Masonry and the endowment, are strikingly similar. Anyone who becomes acquainted with one would immediately recognize obvious similarities with the other. Some of the phrases, elements, and handclasps of the two rituals are identical or virtually identical. What can account for this seeming obvious theft of ritual? Heber C. Kimball, himself a Mason, noted, “There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry” and then he related, “Bro[ther] Joseph says Masonry was taken from priesthood but has become degenerated” (Dahl & Cannon, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, p. 414). Benjamin F. Johnson reported that, “He [Joseph Smith] told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as sectarian religion was the apostate religion” (ibid.). Likewise, Joseph Fielding while in Nauvoo wrote, “Many have joined the Masonic institution. This seems to have been a stepping stone or preparation for something else, the true origin of Masonry. This I have also seen and rejoice in it” (Joseph Fielding Diary, Writings of Early Latter-day Saints, p.145).

            It is apparent from Joseph Smith’s teachings and actions that Freemasonry is a corrupted form of the ancient endowment. Joseph recognized this as he was initiated into Freemasonry or shortly thereafter, and by this means received revelation from God concerning the fullness of the endowment ceremony as it was since the beginning. The endowment represents “those ordinances…which had been hid from before the world was” (D&C 124:38). It is not a public form of worship, and it requires that those who enter into it be initiated. The same goes for Masonry. Through the years Masonry kept its rites closely guarded in secret, thus preserving much of the purity of the rituals.

            What is the history of Freemasonry? How is it that the endowment came to be corrupted into the fraternity of Freemasonry? It is obvious that Masonry is older than the 1700’s, and older than the cathedrals of Europe, or even Solomon’s temple. The endowment, from which Masonry is derived, commenced “before the world was” (D&C 124:38), and was administered to Adam. All faithful Saints who lived under the law of the Melchizedek Priesthood received the endowment similar to how we do today. Joseph Smith taught, “We all admit that the Gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same? (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 59). The Prophet Joseph further taught, “Adam received commandments and instructions from God: this was the order from the beginning. That he received revelations, commandments and ordinances at the beginning is beyond the power of controversy” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 168).

            It therefore follows that the endowment has been administered in every dispensation, beginning in the most ancient annals of history. Over time, when the people apostatized, like other principles of the Gospel, the once true form perpetuates in a corrupt version. The temple endowment of ancient days survived in the memory of the people. Hugh Nibley relates,


After a lifetime of study Lord Raglan assures us that when we study all the rituals of the world we come up with the discovery that the pristine and original ritual of them all, from which all others take their rise, was the dramatization of the creation of the world. And Mowinckel sums up the common cult pattern of all the earliest civilizations: “It is the creation of the World that is being repeated.”
(Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 361 - 362)


Tracing the Corruption of the Ancient Temple Endowment into Modern Freemasonry


The Egyptian Endowment

            It should come as a very interesting fact for Latter-day Saints to know that the ancient Egyptians practiced a form of the endowment. This should not be surprising, however, since the Book of Abraham, an Egyptian source, specifically states that,


Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. (Abraham 1:26, emphasis added)


Hugh W. Nibley, a well-known Latter-day Saint scholar, notes that “the oldest known book in the world” is “a text prepared for the presentation of the endowment on the occasion of the founding of the First Dynasty in Egypt, that of Menes, a drama, staged in the temple of Memphis for its dedication and the king's coronation” (Nibley in Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World: Rituals and Symbolism, p. 589).

            This ritual drama commences, as explained by Nibley, with a “Council in Heaven at the foundation of the world and proceeds to tell of the choosing of the Only Begotten to inherit and preside; of the rejection of the counterclaims of Seth,” which is the Satan-like Egyptian character. The drama goes on to recite that the God of this Egyptian text “establish[ed]…the ordinances of the temple, central to which is a baptism representing death and resurrection.”  At the point in the drama when this occurs, “All hail the plan of the Most High God presented to the Council.” Afterward the Creation of the earth is described, in which “Every living thing is invested with his divine power, shared by ‘gods, mortals, beasts, all creeping things and other forms of life.’” Also, “Man is spiritually begotten and physically formed, the future ruler of the earth, endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell, etc….The earth being prepared with all good things to receive him…” It is at this point that the Egyptian God declares, “All who do good will be for eternal life, and all those who do evil for eternal bondage. This law is to be the measure of all things…” When all this was done, the text states “And God finished his work . . . and was pleased with it.” Nibley continues,


The heavenly plan was then implemented and carried out on earth as messengers came down and men were instructed to build temples where they could rehearse this same creation story at the beginning of each year, and as fields and cities sprang up around these holy centers.... Then comes the episode of Osiris, who nearly dies but is rescued from the depths at the last moment and revived as the resurrected one. Emerging…triumphant over the waters, he proceeds to the veil and beyond “in the footsteps of his father, the Lord of Eternity, to the great throne,” where he is received with happy homecoming and is embraced by the heavenly family; the Ancient of Days takes him into his embrace and conducts him to his throne.
(Nibley in Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism p. 590, emphasis added)


            The Egyptians took their rituals and concepts of life after death with great seriousness. No doubt this is because the memory of the original endowment was still permeating their way of life. In the 1800’s an Egyptian tomb was excavated which had mummies wrapped with square and compass tools laid upon their breasts (Hugh W. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, p. 111). This was apparently common to do in the particular dynasty from which the mummies came (ibid).

This so-called “Egyptian endowment” was an early form of a corrupted endowment. Other such forms would follow through history, but it remains as a prime example of the way in which these ordinances perpetuated in a corrupt form. Freemasonry did not develop directly from Egyptian rituals (though it was influenced by them), but rather it was the perpetuation of the endowment as it was had among the early Christians. We shall proceed below to show the development of the endowment into Freemasonry over time.


Early Christian Endowment

            The Early Christians, of course, having the fullness of the Gospel, also practiced the endowment in much the same way that we do today. Passages of ancient texts clearly reveal this. It is apparent from ancient sources that Jesus taught his disciples the ordinances of the temple endowment during the mysterious forty-day ministry after his resurrection (Acts 1:3). Edwin Hatch, a Christian historian, confirmed that the Early Christians “had mysteries which they disclosed to the initiated only after long preparation, and with an oath not to divulge them” (as quoted in Darrick T. Evenson, The Gainsayers, p. 82). Scholars of Early Christianity are aware that they practiced a mysterious drama which “included a representation of the creation of Adam, and a ‘ritual handclasp’” (ibid., p. 76).

Hugh Nibley notes that, “Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem, a particularly valuable witness, since he is the last church father to be in close contact with the old Jerusalem rites” explained a little regarding some of the rites of Christians. He mentions in his writings that they received a washing ordinance which Cyril refers to as a “baptism.” Nibley goes on:


The baptism in question, Cyril explains, is rather a washing than a baptism, since it is not by immersion. It is followed by an anointing, which our guide calls “the antitype of the anointing of Christ himself,” making every candidate as it were a Messiah. Elsewhere he describes this rite specifically as the anointing of the brow, face, ears, nose, breast, etc., “which represents,” he says, “the clothing of the candidate in the protective panoply of the Holy Spirit,” which however does not hinder the initiate from receiving a real garment on the occasion.
(Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 363 - 364)


            It is interesting in this connection that Paul in the New Testament told the Galatians Saints, “as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27, emphasis added). “Put on” in this passage is translated from the Greek “enduo,” which carries the context of putting on a garment (New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Greek # 1746).

            There is also ample evidence for Early Christian prayer circles being practiced anciently. One ancient text, the Acts of John, preserves an account or description of a prayer circle in which Christ is leading the ritual. The text admonishes secrecy relating to the ritual, yet then proceeds to describe it somewhat as follows:


Before [Jesus Christ] was seized by wicked men and by the wicked serpent of the Jewish authorities (lawgivers, nomothetoumenoi), he called us all together and said: “Before I am given over to those men, let us sing a hymn (of praise) to the Father and so go forth ready to face whatever lies ahead.” Then he commanded us to form a circle, taking hold of each other's hand; And he himself taking up a position in the middle uttered the Amen (formula) and “pay attention to me (epakouete mou—follow my instructions).”

(Hugh W. Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 45-46).


Epiphanius of Salamis, a post-apostolic “Church Father,” chronicled in ancient times that the Early Christians would greet each other by a special handclasp, and that by this token they recognized another who was of the faith (William J. Hamblin, By Study and Also by Faith, 27 March 1990, 1: 213). And so coded handclasps were used by the Early Christians, at least for recognition purposes, and certainly for important religious rituals as well. Mention in the scriptures is made of “the right hands of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9). However, we should not expect to know many explicit details of the most secret of Early Christian rituals.

The Early Christians were known by their contemporaries for their secrecy (Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, p. 168). It is known that they baptized for the dead in secret, as Nibley explains, “all admit that the earliest Christians actually did perform certain ordinances for the salvation of the dead” (Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, p. 167). They would also initiate each other into what was referred to as “the Great Mysteries” (William J. Hamblin, By Study and Also by Faith, 27 March 1990, 1: 208), which was clearly the temple endowment, as the endowment was those “hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come” (D&C 76:7) and those “ordinances…which had been hid from before the world was” (D&C 124:38).

Over time, these rites became infiltrated and corrupted by competing Gnostic Christian sects, which were given to mystical interpretations of the Gospel. The Gnostics derive their name from the Greek “gnosis,” meaning “knowledge,” because the Gnostics claimed to have the “special ‘knowledge’ which the Lord imparted to the disciples in their secret session” (Nibley in Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism p. 599). Hugh Nibley illustrates:


It can be shown that both the Jews and Christians suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies because of the secrecy of their rites, which they steadfastly refused to discuss or divulge. When the key to the ordinances was lost, this very secrecy made for a great deal of misunderstanding and above all opened the door to unbridled fraud: every Gnostic sect, for example, claimed to have the lost rites and ordinances, the keys and the teachings, as they had been given to the apostles and patriarchs of old.
(Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 365.)


Nibley also mentions,


With the death of the last apostle, according to the earliest church historian, Hegesippus, when no one was left who could call them to account, a swarm of pretenders suddenly appeared on the scene, each claiming that he had the true gnosis, especially the ordinances, imparted by the Lord to his disciples after the resurrection.

(Nibley in Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism p. 599).


            The phenomenon of the Gnostics did not last long, but their secret rituals were preserved through history. The next notable peoples who we know of that were in possession of the corrupt endowment were the famous Knights Templar of the Crusades.


The Knights Templar 

           The order of knights known as the Knights Templar, famous for their part in the Crusades, was the next notable custodians of the secret “knowledge” of the Gnostics. The order of the Knights Templar became sanctioned by the Catholic Church during the Crusades and those who joined its ranks received pardon from all crimes, “even the worst of all, heresy” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 60). One author theorizes that freethinking philosophies such as “the various Gnostic and Dualist heresies that had gone underground to escape persecution by the [Catholic] Church” would have made their way into the Order of the Knights Templar by the means of its recruits who sought impunity from the Church persecution (ibid.). 

             In 1307, however, the Catholic Church decided to eradicate the Templars and declare them as heretics. It was due to the fabled secrecy of the Templars that many of them were able to escape the persecution and go underground (ibid, p. 62). The bitter betrayal and persecution by the Catholic Church has never been forgotten by Masons, the heirs to the tradition of the Knights Templar. The Templars eventually found safe haven in Scotland from the edicts of the Pope when Robert the Bruce was warring with Catholic-compliant England (ibid, p. 69). But even in Scotland the order of the Knights Templar would have had to remain underground for fear of clergy loyal to the Pope (ibid.). As a result, “the Templars vanish from the annals of history” in Scotland (ibid.). This is the reason for the prevalence of Masonry in Scotland and the origin of Scottish Rite Masonry. “It is perhaps no coincidence that many Freemasons regard Scottish Craft Freemasonry as the original and purest form” (ibid, p. 71).  

             Author Jack M. Driver states, “if any order had the means to survive underground it was the Templars” (ibid, p. 69). He goes on:


A man on the run needs a safe place to stay, a contact in the next town, a means of recognizing and being recognized by that contact, and the directions and wherewithal to get to the next port of call. The Templars had a two hundred-year history of dealing with espionage and counter espionage, with the use of passwords and the means of verifying identification. (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 71).


            Similarities between the Knights Templar and modern Masons also include a connection to Solomon’s Temple. The Knights Templar’s name is derived from Solomon’s Temple. Also, Masons see Solomon’s Temple “as an allegorical symbol to represent the work that a Mason undertakes to perfect himself” (ibid, p. 76), and is quite central to their rituals and philosophies.


Stonemasons of Medieval Europe

            After the Knights Templar were forced underground, their rituals perpetuated and found convenient meaning alongside the principles of architecture that was part of the stonemason craft which built the great cathedrals of Europe. It can be readily assumed that because of specific teaching symbols used in the endowment, a ready link was made between those ancient teachings and the operative craft of stonemasonry. “What can be confidently stated however is that the use of secret words and signs which is so inherent in modern Freemasonry can be traced back to the operative stonemasons of medieval England” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 11). It was during this period that the mysteries of the endowment became associated with stonemasonry, and it was also during this time that many additional aspects and artifacts of stonemasonry were incorporated into the ritual and precepts, such as the gavel, the trowel, the plumb-rule, etc. The corrupt endowment became a readily relatable moral structure to the principles of architecture.

            A very old chronicle, called “The Regius manuscript,” written around 1390 A.D., “details the history, customs and articles of the stonemason’s craft, which was said to originate in Egypt” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 11). It is interesting that Egypt is claimed as its beginning place, when we recall the Egyptian endowment and the great care that the Egyptians gave to the mysteries of the endowment, “seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations…even in the reign of Adam” (Abr. 1:26). And Gnosticism, from which Masonry derived over the years, received much of its inspiration from this ritual environment in Egypt (Nibley in Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism p. 600-601). Within The Regius manuscript is contained, “The Old Charges, or constitutions, which it goes on to enumerate, regarding the conduct of a newly entered mason, are still in use in varying degrees in the rituals of modern speculative Freemasonry” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 11).



            The stonemasons plied the secret aspects of their craft for many generations, passing on their knowledge to others. “Most crafts were organized as local guilds…As stonemasons might often work on cathedrals, abbeys and castles in remote parts of the country, they would operate outside the remit of a town guild and would thereby affiliate themselves to a lodge connected to the construction site” (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 10). Eventually, those who were not actually stonemasons were admitted into the society and rituals of the stonemasons. In time, operative masonry, which is the actual involvement in the craft of stonemasonry, became completely overshadowed by speculative Masonry, which was emphasis on the principles of the stonemasons only. By 1717 when the first specifically Freemasonic lodges were established and Freemasonry “went public,” Freemasons were almost completely speculative Masons (ibid, p. 10-13). 

            Therefore, the progression or the descent of the true temple rites into the Masonic rituals can be displayed in this way:


Early Christians

è Christian Gnostics

è Knights Templar

è Stonemasons

è Freemasons



The Masonic Rituals


            Heber C. Kimball stated, “There is a similarity of priesthood in Masonry,” after which he reported that Joseph Smith told him, “Masonry was taken from priesthood but has become degenerated. But many things are perfect” (Ehat, BYU Studies, vol. 19, 1978-1979, #2, emphasis added).

The rituals of the Freemasons will be briefly described in order to have a quick overview of what is involved. The initiation rituals to each of the three degrees will be lightly touched on. Members of the Church who have been through the temple will be responsible for drawing out any parallels to the temple endowment, for that is not to be discussed too frivolously outside the temple. Masonic ritual will also be respected in that the portions of the Masonic ritual which are not to be disclosed to the uninitiated (i.e. the modes for recognizing other Masons - the handgrips, the signs, and specific portions of the ritual dialogue) will not be described in their particulars. The information on the Masonic rituals is taken from Freemasonry by Jack M. Driver.


The Entered Apprentice

            The candidate wishing to join Masonry is first interrogated as to his motives for joining. If his answers are satisfactorily moral, then the left side of his body is stripped bare (although in modern times, candidates simply don a special costume for this purpose, rather than having their own clothes peeled off on the one side). Originally the candidate rolled up his left pant leg and removed his left shoe, as well as removed his arm from his left shirt sleeve.

            Next the candidate has metal objects removed from him and he is “hoodwinked,” that is, a blindfold is placed around his eyes. Also he has a noose called a cable-tow placed around his neck. A ritual conversation then ensues, in which the Worshipful Master (the leader of the Lodge), ensures that the Lodge is properly guarded at the door from intruders and eavesdroppers.

            At this point each officer within the Lodge is identified and his role is explained to the candidate. Then the signs of the Entered Apprentice degree are given by all members except the candidate to show that they have been duly initiated. The signs are reminiscent of the oaths and penalties associated with the Entered Apprentice degree, which the initiate will soon take upon himself.

            Still blindfolded, the candidate is led to an officer of the Lodge who takes the ceremonial compass in hand and presses the pointed edge of it to the left breast of the candidate as he says,


“Mr. ____, upon your entering this Lodge for the first time I receive you on the point of a sharp instrument pressing into your naked left breast, which is to teach you that as it is a torture to your flesh, so should the recollection of it ever be to your mind and conscience, should you attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully.”


            The secrets referred to are the modes of recognizing another Mason, which involves handgrips, signs, and ritual dialogue. At this point a prayer is offered and the candidate thereby dedicates himself to the service of God and the brotherhood of Freemasons. This is followed by more ritual conversation between the initiate and members of the Lodge. After this, the candidate is informed that he cannot progress further without taking a “solemn oath and obligation.” The candidate kneels on his left knee, places his hands in a particular fashion around the volume of sacred law (a volume of scripture of the candidate’s discretion), which has on top of it the square and compass emblems. The initiate then swears to “ever conceal and never reveal, any of the arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of ancient Freemasonry,” upon penalty of “binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by it roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours.” Each degree of Masonry has a specific penalty associated with it.

            It will not be inappropriate to pause here and note that the temple endowment until relatively recently had similar penalties associated with its sacred covenants and obligations. Such penalties are meant to mean that the initiate would rather have such and such happen to them than to ever divulge the sacred rites to the uninitiated. It was never meant to be acted upon in the case of apostasy. Satan, on the other hand, takes the things of God and perverts them to his ends. He too administered blood oaths. He said to Cain, “Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it [Satan's secret murder plans] thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not” (Moses 5:29). Of course, in the case of Satan’s secret pacts, which are a gross perversion of true temple ordinances, there is every intention of fulfilling the bloody penalties should the pacts be broken.

            Coming back to the Masonic ritual now, the oath once said is completed when the candidate kisses the volume of sacred law. He is asked what he seeks above all other things, and he gives the answer, “Light.” The blindfold is then removed and he is taught the handclasp or handgrip of the Entered Apprentice. The grip is given along with a dialogue, in which the name of the grip is revealed to the initiate. Along with the handgrip of the Entered Apprentice the initiate is taught the two signs associated with this degree, the “penal sign,” which is the hand making a motion across a particular part of the body (having reference to the penalty in the oath), and the “due guard,” which is having both hands forward in the same position as though the initiate were holding the volume of sacred law while taking the oath. Each degree of Masonry has penal signs, due guard signs, and at least one ritual handclasp accompanied with ritual dialogue.

            Upon having done this, the candidate is presented with a white apron. They are told that the apron represents innocence, and that it is a symbol of innocence “more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle.”

            Lastly the initiate is asked by the Worshipful Master to contribute something metallic for the Lodge. But having already given up the metal objects on his person, the Mason has none to offer. This exercise is done to illustrate that the initiate should give to others in their need, since he knows how it feels to be without.


The Fellow Craft

            In the ritual for the Fellow Craft degree, the candidate is stripped on his right side, exposing his right shoulder this time, as well as the right half of his body. He is again blindfolded and this time the cable tow is looped twice around his neck. He is led around the room to the altar where the volume of sacred law rests. He kneels on his right knee, places his right hand on the compass and square which lay on the sacred volume, and his left arm is raised making a particular gesture. Like before, he then swears “of my own free will and accord” to “not give the secrets of the degree of a Fellow Craft Mason to anyone of an inferior degree, nor to any other being in the known world.” This oath is made under the penalty “to have my left breast torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder and carried into the valley of Jehosaphat, there to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field and the wild vultures of the air.”

            The blindfold is removed after the recital of the oath. The initiate then is taught the handgrips associated with the Fellow Craft degree, their associated names, and penal and due guard signs associated with this degree. For the Fellow Craft, the penal sign is again for the hand to make a motion over a particular part of the body, except that it is different from the Entered Apprentice penal sign, being reminiscent of the penalty for the Fellow Craft. The due guard sign (associated with the volume of sacred law) of the Fellow Craft is again to put the hands in the same position as they were while during the oath, as though the volume of sacred law were in front of the Mason.

            The Mason is then shown a staircase (either real or depicted), which is supposed to lead to the middle chamber of the Temple of Solomon. Each of the steps has a particular meaning. Next to it are pillars symbolizing Jachin and Boaz, the pillars which stood at the exterior entrance of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Chron. 3:17). Atop these pillars are orbs which have the effect of stressing the importance to the initiate of studying the disciplines of geography, navigation, and astronomy. The initiate is told that the purpose of Freemasonry is ultimately to perfect the individual.


Master Mason

            The Master Mason degree also begins with the candidate hoodwinked and cable-towed. However, his entire chest is bare and both of his arms are out of their shirt sleeves, with the shirt hanging from his waist. The initiate is led to the altar and kneels on both knees. He places his hands in a particular position upon the compass and square, which lay atop the opened volume of sacred law. Again, the initiate swears an oath to “not reveal the secrets of the Master Mason’s degree to anyone of inferior degree, nor to any other being of the known world,” and also swears to other moral conduct, among which is, “I promise and swear that I will not have illegal carnal intercourse with a Master Mason’s wife, mother, sister, or daughter.”  Also the initiate swears, “I will not give the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress except I am in real distress…and should I ever see that sign given or the word accompanying it…I will fly to his relief at the risk of my own life.” This part of the oath becomes significant later when we examine the death of Joseph Smith.

            The oath of the Master Mason is given at the penalty “to have my body severed in twain and divided to the North and South, my bowels burnt to ashes in the center, and the ashes scattered before the four winds of heaven, that there might not be the least track or trace of remembrance remaining among men, or Masons, of so vile and perjured wretch as I should be…”

            The blindfold is removed once the oath is taken, and the initiate is taught the signs and passwords associated with the degree of Master Mason. The penal sign is again a hand motion across a particular part of the body, but is singular to the Master Mason degree and reminiscent of the Master Mason penalty. The due guard of the Master Mason is likewise for the arms to come forward as though they were on the volume of sacred law in the same position as they were while makng the oath.

            After that, the initiate is taught the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress, which is meant to beckon the aid of fellow Masons in times of great peril. The sign involves the Mason raising his hands in the air in a particular gesture denoting distress. If circumstances are such that it is dark or otherwise hindering the visual view of the sign, a verbal sign is necessary. It begins, “O Lord, my God,” and then implores help for a widow's son (Jack M. Driver, Freemasonry, p. 46).

            The initiate then leaves to put on his Master Mason’s apron. When he returns to the room, the Worshipful Master informs him that his initiation is not yet over. He is blindfolded again and the story of Hiram Abiff, the supposed architect of Solomon’s Temple, is related to him. Hiram is supposed to be mentioned in the Bible as “a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali” (1 Kings 7:13-14). The initiate takes the part of Hiram Abiff and a ritual drama ensues, enacting the murder of Hiram Abiff by renegades seeking to know the secrets of a Master Mason. The Mason at this point is lying on the ground blindfolded.

            As the initiate lies in a state of burial, the Worshipful Master, acting the part of King Solomon, gives the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress. He calls for the body of Hiram (the initiate) to rise using the handgrips of both the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft respectively. When these fail, Solomon (the Worshipful Master), steps forward and personally lifts the initiate using the “Lion’s Paw” grip (reminiscent of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah). Then the initiate is received into the “five points of fellowship,” which is like an embrace while the handclasp is held, with contact at five specific points of the body. Each of the points has a specific symbolic meaning.


In Conclusion Regarding the Rituals

            Despite the many and obvious differences, it is also obvious that there are many similarities between the aforementioned Masonic rituals and the temple endowment as it was received through Joseph Smith. The signs of Masonry are reminscent of the signs in the temple endowment. So also are the handgrips, with some of them even being identical, and their accompanying ritual dialogue being nearly identical. Did Joseph simply steal the ceremonies for his temple endowment, or were these rites actually passed on in secret from ancient times? Clearly the latter is the case, and clearly this is exactly what Joseph Smith’s associates understood to be the case. It is laughable to suggest that Joseph Smith was simply copying the endowment ritual from Masonry and hoping that no one would notice. Many of his associates in Nauvoo whom he administered the endowment to were fellow Masons who surely would have seen through the charade. But they all recognized that it was an inspired restoration of the ancient rituals.




Shown here is Figure 7 from Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith described this figure as "God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood." It shows the figure with his hands in a peculiar position and holding what appears to be a compass. 


Common Symbols between Masonry and Mormonism


            There are many symbols that the Latter-day Saints share in common with Freemasonry. Some of these were borrowed from Masonry by the Latter-day Saints. Others were originally part of the gospel and eventually found their way into Masonry along with the rest of the corrupted endowment ritual.


The All-Seeing Eye

            The All-Seeing Eye is a powerful Masonic symbol which has also been used by the Church. To both Masons and Latter-day Saints it represents the omniscience of God, or his all-knowingness. There is nothing that God does not see, no part of your life or corner of your mind that his sight cannot penetrate. Nephi said, “I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye…that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul” (2 Ne. 9:44). Also, Alma declared that the wicked “shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye” (Mosiah 27:31).

The All-Seeing Eye is a common symbol for the omniscience of God. It is found all over in Masonic symbolism. It is also found both on the outside architecture and the inside of the Salt Lake Temple. This same symbol is also found on the seal of the United States, which appears on every American dollar bill. At first glance, a person unfamiliar with the symbol of the All-Seeing Eye would think that it looks strange and creepy, yet once the meaning of the symbol is understood, it becomes a very powerful, beautiful, and effective symbol.

The All-Seeing Eye is also an ancient symbol, being found in ancient Egypt. Masons recognize a connection between their All-Seeing Eye and that of the Egyptians. A Masonic source establishes the connection thus:


On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes what has been called a hatchet, but which may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square. The All-Seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence-his guardian and preserving character-to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs (xv, 3), where he says: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding (or, as in the Revised Version, keeping watch upon) the evil and the good.” It is a symbol of the Omnipresent Deity.[1]


Above Left: A typical Masonic representation of the All-Seeing Eye. Above Right: The All-Seeing Eye on the outside architecture of the Salt Lake Temple. The All-Seeing Eye is a powerful symbol of God's omniscience, or his all-knowingness.


The Compass and Square 

            Another symbol that is common both to Masons and to Mormons is the compass and square. In the practical application of architecture and similar crafts, the compass is a tool with two prongs, one which stays fixed on a point and acts as a pivot, and the other which draws a line on a surface. The compass allows its user to sketch a perfect circle. A square is like a ruler bent in the middle at a 90º angle and is used to measure and ensure that angles of structures are straight or “square.” It was these symbols that initially led to the conformity of ancient ritual to the principles of architecture and stonemason craft. But the symbols themselves are much more ancient, and originate with the original rituals in the days of Adam. “The square and compasses are the oldest, the simplest, and the most universal symbols of masonry.”[2]


To Masons, the compass is “symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter. Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only measure of a Freemason’s life and conduct.”[3]

The square for Masons is “an emblem of accuracy, integrity, rightness” and is “a symbol of mortality, of the basic rightness which must be the test of every act and the foundation of character and society.”[4]

The “G” often found in the middle of the Masonic compass and square has a dual meaning, standing for both “God” and “Geometry” by which he made the universe. In Masonic teaching, God is called “the Great Architect of the Universe.”


Above: God is sometimes referred to by Masons as "the Great Architect of the Universe," and Masons teach that he used the principles of geometry to design the universe. That is why God is shown wielding a compass while engaged in his creative acts. 

Below: Photographs of Brigham Young in which he is wearing the emblems of the compass and square. 


             The compass and the square are indeed ancient symbols. As noted above with the Egyptian Endowment, mummies were buried in ancient Egypt with these instruments lying upon their bosoms. The expert who excavated them determined that “the square probably means ‘rectitude,’ uprightness, and that the other tool [a compass-like level] means ‘making equilibrium, . . . evenly balanced mind,’ or measure in all things” (Hugh W. Nibley, Temple & Cosmos, p. 111). Dr. Nibley goes on with respect to archeological findings concerning the compass and square:


Most challenging are the veils from Taoist-Buddhist tombs at Astana, in Central Asia, originally Nestorian (Christian) country, discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in 1925….We see the king and queen embracing at their wedding, the king holding the square on high, the queen a compass. As it is explained, the instruments are taking the measurements of the universe, at the founding of a new world and a new age. Above the couple's head is the sun surrounded by twelve disks, meaning the circle of the year or the navel of the universe. Among the stars depicted, Stein and his assistant identified the Big Dipper alone as clearly discernable. As noted above, the garment draped over the coffin and the veil hung on the wall had the same marks; they were placed on the garment as reminders of personal commitment, while on the veil they represent man’s place in the cosmos.

(Hugh W. Nibley, Temple & Cosmos, p. 111-112)


Above right: A depiction of the compass and square in antiquity almost perfectly identical to the one referred to by Hugh Nibley. 



            Masons don aprons as part of their ritual. Masons believe that their wearing of aprons is directly due to the operative stonemasons of medieval Europe using aprons in their craft. While this was no doubt a reinforcement of the apron tradition, the use of aprons has a much more ancient source. Of Adam and Eve it is written, after they ate of the forbidden fruit, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). To Masons their aprons are “an official badge of membership” in the Masonic society, and “a monition that a brother must ever understand and conform to the ethic of the Craft, so that in the Lodge, at least, a righteous, enjoyable and fruitful peace shall prevail.”[5] Masons have a different apron for each degree of Masonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.[6]





An example of a Masonic Apron


The Handclasp

            In both the interior murals and on the exterior architecture of the Salt Lake Temple can be seen a handclasp of the hands of two individuals. This symbol has been referred to from early on as the “right hand of fellowship” (Brown & Smith, Symbols in Stone, p. 139. See also Gal. 2:9). It is no doubt in one respect a symbol of a covenant or agreement made between two parties (God and man). But it is also reminiscent of the sacred temple ceremonies.

            Handclasps are also featured in Masonic images and have a likewise integral part in the rituals of Freemasonry. Masons use their handgrips as part of a teaching process which is meant to lead them toward moral living. In the Latter-day Saint point of view, however, exaltation is the desired goal. Brigham Young expressed the importance of these sacred things when he gave a concise explanation of the endowment ritual of the temple:


Let me give you a 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 enabled 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.

(Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416)



The sculpted hanclasp found on the outside architecture of the Salt Lake Temple. 


The Beehive

            The Beehive is a common Mormon symbol. So much so, that Utah is known officially as “the Beehive State.” Yet this symbol did not originate with the Latter-day Saints. It was borrowed from Masonry by Brigham Young, seeing that it was an appropriate symbol to adopt for the Saints. To both Masons and Mormons, the Beehive symbolizes industry and hard work. It is a wholesome and encouraging symbol.


Above Left: A Masonic depiction of the beehive symbol. Above Right: The Seal of the State of Utah, known as "the Beehive State," depicts the beehive, orignally a Masonic symbol. 


The Star

            The symbol of the five-pointed star or pentagram persists in Masonry, although its meaning is debated. “The masonic significance of the pentagram is controversial. While it often appears on masonic regalia and decorative illustration, nowhere is it mentioned in masonic rituals or lectures.”[7] The Latter-day Saints have also had limited use of this symbol. The five-pointed star appears on the Nauvoo Temple, and stars are among the celestial bodies which adorn the outside of the Salt Lake Temple. The meaning of the star to Latter-day Saints can be seen through the lens of the scriptures. Jesus Christ is “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16), and the “Star out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). Indeed, the five-pointed star emblem on the Nauvoo Temple was known to the earlier members of the Church as “The Star of the Morning” (Brown & Smith, Symbols in Stone, p. 102). Also, celestial bodies represent the heavens and sometimes the three degrees of glory in heaven.

            Ridiculous attempts by some have tried to make it appear that either Latter-day Saints or Masons are occult or Satan worshippers because of their use of the pentagram symbol. This misinterpretation is based on a gross historical anachronism. The pentagram did not become a symbol associated with Satanism until at least 1854, prior to which and during this time the five-pointed star enjoyed a celebrated prominence across America (Brown & Smith, Symbols in Stone, p. 192-195). It should be remembered that the Nauvoo Temple commenced construction in 1841. As well, “it was not until the late twentieth century that this nefarious and twisted combination of symbols [the pentagram’s association with Satan] was introduced into the broader culture of the world” (Brown & Smith, Symbols in Stone, p. 195).


Above Left: A Masonic Star - a fairly common Masonic symbol. Above Right: One of the star windows on the exterior architecture of the Nauvoo temple. 


Why Did Joseph Smith Join the Masonic Lodge?


            The advent of Freemasonry among the Latter-day Saints was initiated by the doings of John C. Bennett, the short-lived counselor in the First Presidency soon to turn apostate. Bennett was a fairly prominent Mason and requested that a Masonic Lodge be established in Nauvoo (Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, p. 303).

            The accomplished author Matthew B. Brown feels that there are “three basic reasons why Joseph Smith became a Freemason and then encouraged a large number of LDS men to follow his example” (ibid., p. 304). He lists them as 1) “get security for the Church as a whole,” 2) “to obtain influence in the United States and abroad,” and 3) “to prepare the general LDS population for the introduction of the temple endowment ceremony” (ibid.). We will briefly examine these reasons as follows:

            Reason #1: Masonry offers what John Taylor observed is “one of the strongest binding contracts that exists between man and man” (ibid., p. 305). This would obligate the fellow Masons to cease persecution of the Mormon Masons and put them under obligation to provide assistance to their Masonic brethren.

            Reason #2: It seemed apparent that an affiliation with a prestigious world-wide organization would be helpful to Joseph Smith, the Saints, and the work of God.

            Reason #3: Joseph Smith observed that, “The secret of Masonry is to keep a secret” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 329). It seems that Joseph wanted to have the Latter-day Saints used to the idea of being under strong obligations to never divulge important rituals. This was in preparation to the introduction of the temple endowment, as Joseph Fielding observed in Nauvoo, “Many have joined the Masonic institution. This seems to have been a stepping stone or preparation for something else, the true origin of Masonry. This I have also seen and rejoice in it” (Joseph Fielding Diary, Writings of Early Latter-day Saints, p.145).


The Masonic Connection to the Death of Joseph Smith


The associations between Masonry and Mormonism reach right to the very end of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is apparent that the Prophet Joseph held the Masonic teachings in some measure of esteem, for he sought to be true to his Masonic pledges. Before leaving to Carthage where he would be killed, Joseph Smith stated, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). This is reminiscent of the teachings of the Masonic Lodge, in which “The Masonic Apron is exhibited as a continual memento, both to himself and those around him, that he is under peculiar engagements to keep his conscience void of offense, both to God and man(John Sherer, The Masonic Ladder: Or the Nine Steps of Ancient Freemasonry, p. 16, emphasis added).

Later, at the time of the martyrdom, the last words of the Prophet Joseph Smith were the unfinished Masonic Grand Hailing Sign of Distress, in which he said, “Oh Lord my God” (D&C 135:1). Certainly had Joseph had time to finish his Masonic plea, he would have continued, “is there no help for a Son of a Widow?” This plea would have obligated every Mason in the mob to come to the aid of Joseph. However, the plea was savagely ignored. And it is apparent that it was the belief of the brethren that there were Masons present in the mob that martyred the Prophet. An editorial in the Times & Seasons appeared shortly after the death of Joseph and Hyrum which was “most likely written by John Taylor, W. W. Phelps, or Willard Richards,” (Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2: 287) two of whom had been eyewitness to the events. It chastises the Masonic fraternity for ignoring the plea of Joseph in his dying moments:


Leaving religion out of the case, where is the lover of his country, and his posterity, that does not condemn such an outrageous murder, and will not lend all his powers, energies and influence to bring the offenders to justice and judgment? Every good man will do it when he remembers, that these two innocent men were confined in jail for a supposed crime, deprived of any weapons to defend themselves: had the pledged faith of the State of Illinois, by Gov. Ford, for their protection, and were then shot to death, while, with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress as would have commanded the interposition and benevolence of Savages or Pagans. They were both Masons in good standing. Ye brethren of “the mystic tie” what think ye! Where is our good Master Joseph and Hyrum? Is there a pagan, heathen, or savage nation on the globe that would not be moved on this great occasion, as the trees of the forest are moved by a mighty wind? Joseph’s last exclamation was “O Lord my God!”

(Times & Seasons, vol. 5, July 15, 1844)


           After the Nauvoo era of the Church, there was a certain amount of animosity between the Order of Freemasons and the Church. While the members of the Church who had joined the Masonic fraternity in Nauvoo held its symbols and teachings in esteem, Mormons were not permitted to affiliate with the Masonic Lodge in Utah until 1984.


What about the Changes to the Endowment Ceremony?


            Since the Nauvoo days and throughout the years, there have been several minor changes to the ritual of the endowment. Many of these changes make the sacred ritual resemble Masonic ritual slightly less than before. Critics see this as an attempt by the Church to hide the Masonic origin of the endowment. Of course, the endowment did not originate in Masonry, but the opposite is true. And the major elements of the endowment have always been the same. Dr. Hugh Nibley commented on this when he observed,


The Mormon endowment, like the Egyptian, is frankly a model, a presentation in figurative terms. As such it is flexible and adjustable; for example, it may be presented in more languages than one and in more than one medium of communication. But since it does not attempt to be a picture of reality, but only a model or analog to show how things work, setting forth the pattern of man's life on earth with its fundamental whys and wherefores, it does not need to be changed or adapted greatly through the years; it is a remarkably stable model, which makes its comparison with other forms and traditions, including the more ancient ones, quite valid and instructive.

(Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, p. xiii).




          In summary, the temple endowment is of ancient origin and was first revealed to Adam. Present-day Freemasonry is a corrupt form of the ancient rituals of the endowment, which progressed from Early Christianity and Egyptian influences into the Gnostic sects, then to the Order of Knights Templar, later to operative stonemasons, and finally to modern Freemasonry. Joseph Smith restored the ancient rituals soon after being initiated into Masonry. It was no doubt at this point that he received revelation regarding the true and ancient origin of Masonry, thereby restoring the temple endowment in its fullness. Because of this connection, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is uniquely but vaguely tied to the symbols, history, and rituals of Freemasonry.



[1] on 08/10/2009

[2] on 08/04/2009

[3] on 08/04/2009

[4] on 08/04/2009

[5] on 08/04/2009

[6] ibid

[7] on 08/10/2009




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