7 Weeks After

Just seven weeks after Joseph’s March 1842 Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842.


CES Letter, Page 107

Freemasonry in Nauvoo offers too little, too late to serve as the starting point and principal source of inspiration for the major doctrines and teachings relating to priesthood and temple ordinances.

Joseph Smith encouraged Nauvoo Masonry at least in part to help those who would later receive temple ordinances. For instance, Joseph Fielding, an endowed member of the Church who joined Freemasonry in Nauvoo, said: “Many have joined the Masonic institution. This seems to have been a stepping stone or preparation for something else, the true origin of Masonry” — i.e., in ancient priesthood ordinances (Cited in A. F. Ehat, “They Might Have Known,” p. 145). 

One aspect of this preparation apparently had to do with the general idea of respecting covenants of confidentiality. In addition, the rituals of the Lodge enabled Mormon Masons to become familiar with symbols, forms, language, and patterns they would later encounter in the Nauvoo temple.

Although Freemasonry is not a religion and, in contrast to Latter-day Saint temple ordinances, does not claim saving power for its rites, threads relating to biblical themes of exaltation are evident in some Masonic rituals. For example, in the ceremonies of the Royal Arch degree of the York rite, candidates pass through a series of veils and eventually enter into the divine presence. Such language echoes New Testament teachings (e.g., Hebrews 6:18–20; Revelation 1:6, 3:21, 5:10).

Joseph Smith’s revelations contain many unmistakable references to significant components of priesthood and temple doctrines, authority, and ordinances. Many of these date to the early 1830s, a decade or more before the Prophet began bestowing temple blessings on the Saints in Nauvoo.

Eminent Yale literary critic Harold Bloom asserted that Smith’s “religion-making imagination” was of the “unfolding” rather than the evolving type, that his religious system did not transform so much by the incorporation of others’ ideas but by the progressive outworking of his original vision.

 The Nauvoo temple ordinances should not be regarded as a new and surprising development so much as the full-fledged blossoming of ideas and priesthood authority that had already budded in Kirtland — or even, arguably, when Joseph Smith experienced his First Vision, which Don Bradley sees as Joseph Smith’s initiation as a seer and as constituting a kind of heavenly endowment.  

Given Joseph Smith’s reluctance to share the details of the most sacred events and doctrines publicly, it is certainly possible he received specific knowledge about some temple matters even earlier than can be now documented. These matters include: 1) the narrative backbone, clothing, and covenants of the modern temple endowment, especially as described in the book of Moses (1830-1831); 2) the sequence of blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood described in D&C 84 (1832); and 3) priesthood keys and symbols expressed in keywords, names, signs, and tokens (from 1829).


Additional Resources:

Steven C. Harper, “Joseph Smith’s Relationships to Hermeticism and Masonry” (25min)

Masonic Initiation Rituals and Mormon Temple Ceremonies Mark Koltko-Rivera

David Seely and Jo Ann Seely on “Creation and Temple”

Jeffrey Bradshaw on “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”

Jeffrey Bradshaw on “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”

David Calabro on “The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography”

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. "Freemasonry and the Origins of Modern Temple Ordinances." Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15 (2015): 159-237.

Ehat, Andrew, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the Mormon Succession Question.” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982.

FAIRMORMON: Relationship between Freemasonry and Temple Ceremonies

Questions About the LDS Temple Ceremony and Masonry by Jeff Lindsay

The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry (2005) by Greg Kearney

Ask the Apologist: Similarities between Masonic and Mormon temple ritual

Secret Combinations and Flaxen Cords: Anti-Masonic Rhetoric and the Book of Mormon –  by Paul Mouritsen

4th Watch 9: Secret Combinations – The Masonic Mormon Connection, Greg Kearney

Secret Combinations — The Masonic Mormon Connection

Ehat, Andrew F. "'They might have known that he was not a fallen prophet' — The Nauvoo journal of Joseph Fielding." BYU Studies 19, no. 2 (Winter 1979): 133-66.

Jeffrey Bradshaw on “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”

Jeffrey Bradshaw on “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”

David Calabro on “The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography”

Brown, Matthew B. Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons. American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2009.

Brown, Samuel Morris. In Heaven As It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder. New York City, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]