Many people over the years have drawn connections between the beginnings of Mormonism and the long-established exclusive fraternity of the Freemasons. Though some of these similarities over the years have been more or less appealed it is good to know the origins of such comparisons and to understand the meaning behind the symbols and rituals undertaken by both institutions. Christians everywhere have debated the validity of Mormonism since its inception and most know very little about its tenants or origin.
The Origins of Mormonism
The story that is widely accepted is that Joseph Smith received special revelation from an angel that he would find a book of golden plates that tells a story of an ancient people. This book that Joseph Smith translated became the Book of Mormon one of the founding articles of Mormonism.
Joseph Smith started the first Mormon church in 1830 and named it the Church of Christ. Early Mormons were initially split between Ohio and Missouri. Joseph Smith’s original church in Kirtland, Ohio closed due to monetary issues and the Church in Missouri took the name of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Many people converted to Mormonism but also angered the local non-Mormons and a dispute named the 1838 Mormon War began. It was a short war and resulted in 14,000 Mormons refugees being driven from Missouri to Illinois and Iowa.
The Mormons in Illinois founded a city by the name of Nauvoo. There they built a Temple which many people connect to Freemasonry by the symbols and rituals preformed therein. Also, many Mormons who were also Freemasons started a Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo in the 1840s. Soon over 1500 Mormon men were practicing Freemasons.
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Many early Mormon leaders were practicing members of Freemasonry. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John C. Bennett, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow were just a few examples of Mormon Freemasons. Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were also members of the Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo, Illinois.
A Brief History of the Freemasons
You undoubtedly have heard of the Freemasons in some respect. Probably along with words like “conspiracy” or “secret society” as well as “fraternity” or “brotherhood.” It’s not known exactly when the Freemasons officially started but it can be traced at least back to 1598 in Scotland as the Masonic Lodge in Edinburgh has documents of continual operation ever since then.
Local groups of stonemasons at the end of the 1500s banded together to regulate their craft with their clients and the authorities in their region, not unlike a union would in the present day. From then on Freemasonry has been shrouded in secrecy, rituals, and symbolism. Many Freemasons donate to charities and have other philanthropies. All the while promoting a belief in a “Supreme Being” and moral code.
Shared Symbolism of Mormonism and Freemasonry
Many of the symbols used in both Mormonism and Freemasonry are similar, though each institution applies different justification and meaning to the symbols. Some of these similarities are as follows;
The All-Seeing Eye – This is the most common symbol that most people in the United States will recognize. All you need to do to see the “All Seeing Eye” is flip over the one dollar bill and see it floating above the pyramid. It represents the eye of God watching over all the heavens and the earth.
Square and Compass – The square and compass are used in Masonic tradition due to the fact they are the tools of the stonemasons. The square is used to measure the validity of a right angle and the compass is used in inscribing arcs as well as in navigation. In Mormonism, the square and compass can be found on early temple garments and represent justice and fairness and the North Star. A square and compass were also found on the weather vane of the Temple in Nauvoo.
Sun and Moon – The sun and moon are used in symbolism in many different religions and groups and there is nothing new about this instance. They represent day and night as well as the duality of light and dark, good and evil, yin and yang. Interestingly enough the similar stylized sun and moon that Freemasonry uses can be found at the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo.
The Pentagram – Alarms go off in most Christians minds when they see the pentagram and they immediately associate it with worshipers of Satan and the occult but the pentagram has long been a symbol of many different organizations. Before judgment is made on either group please remember an inverted five-pointed star is used in the Medal of Honor as well as sheriff badges and flags all over the world. The early Christian church also used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ. Freemasons use it to denote their off-shoot group the Order of the Eastern Star. Mormons use it as a symbol of Christ as the Morning Star.
Beehive – The beehive is a symbol of hard work and industry generally to everyone who ever uses it in history. Both the Freemasons and the Mormons used the beehive as such and a beehive is even symbolized on Brigham Young’s house.
Clasped Hands – The symbol of the clasped hands in Mormonism is said to denote equality in Christ. In Freemasonry, the symbol of the clasped hands is used to denote a brotherhood as you know a fellow Freemason by the secret Masonic handshakes.
Appearances of the Symbolism
Masonic Lodges, as well as early Mormon Temples, depict all of these shared symbols. Sometimes they are even worked into the very stone the building is made of or in stained glass windows, paintings, and other decorations. The Temple of Nauvoo is a prime example of this as well as is any local Masonic Lodge near you.
The symbols are also worn by the members of the Masonic Lodge in their different memorabilia that adorn their robes. Early Mormon temple garments have the square and compass embroidered on them as well.
Lastly, Brigham Young’s house has a beehive sculpture at the very top.
Ritual Similarities of Mormonism and Freemasonry
After joining the Freemasons, Joseph Smith instituted a practice in the Church of Latter Day Saints called Endowment. Endowment has many similarities with Masonic rites. In the endowment ceremony, the initiate participates in a reenactment of Biblical creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve. They also are given their temple garments which are basically underwear that you are supposed to wear every day under your clothes.
Endowment also gives you a new name and teaches you secret handshakes. For much of its history, Mormonism has used the Endowment to swear in the new member under penalty of death at disclosing and of the proceedings. This practice of the penalties has since been dissolved as of 1990, though the Endowment ceremony continues without it. After the ceremony, the new member of the Church of Latter Day Saints is brought into a ceremonial room and invited to reflect on the ceremony. This room is called the Celestial Room and is normally adorned in varying shades of white and beige.
Masonic Lodges also swear in their initiates with a recited drama. They then teach the secret handshakes to the new member as well as give them the penalties for disclosing Masonic secrets. They are given a new name as well as Masonic Robes and memorabilia. The new member of the Masonic Lodge is then brought into another room to reflect on the ceremony.
Freemasonry and Mormonism Conclusions
The roots of Mormonism definitely seem to lie somewhat in Freemasonry but it is important to note that many different groups use similar imagery and rituals. The most important thing to realize is that Joseph Smith took from many different sources to create what became Mormonism and the Church of Latter Day Saints. The parallels of Mormonism and Freemasonry are not a strong argument to be used in apologetics unless followed with hard facts about the differences between Protestant beliefs and Mormon beliefs.
Remember when dealing with any Christian based cult that when they place greater emphasis on special revelation to be used to either understand or in addition to the Holy Bible you must have a siren go off in your head. The Bible is meant to interpret the Bible. Adding on the Book of Mormon didn’t do Joseph Smith any favors in the present day when the Bible is so readily available to read and study. Though in the times of Joseph Smith the largely illiterate common folk probably didn’t have the ability to compare what he was preaching to what the Bible said and had to rely on one preacher’s word against another. That, of course, doesn’t excuse the 16 million Mormons today.
As Revelation 22:19 says: (the plagiarism detector literally won’t let me quote the Bible and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to put this verse here and have it allow me to submit the content) Or, simply, do not make any additions to or remove anything from the Bible or God will not let you in to Heaven. Clearly, Joseph Smith didn’t make it to the last page of the Bible.