"I thought I'd get your theories, mock them, then embrace my own. The usual." -House
Question #1912 posted on 12/10/2003 4:02 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Who are the masons, and what connection does Joseph Smith have to them?

- Stonecutter

A: Dear Stonecutter,

Are you in conspiracy with Jordash? What's with the sudden need to know about the oddities of early Mormon history? Don't you people know it's almost finals week and I should be studying? And yet, I can't help myself. The Board is a trying taskmaster, and one which I willingly serve. ('specially when it means I ignore my homework longer. Homework = stress. Less time = more stress. Stress = bad. Ignore stress. Procrastinate. The formula for success, I tell you.)

The masons are the world's oldest and largest fraternity--the brotherhood of man. Sorry. No more Broadway references. The formal establishment of the Masons (or Freemasons) is believed to have occurred in 1717, when the four lodges in London came together and formed the first Great Lodge. Betcha didn't know that the Shriners are a branch of the Masons.

Some masonic principles:

Faith must be the center of our lives.

All men and women are the children of God.

No one has the right to tell another person what he or she must think or believe.

Each person has a responsibility to be a good citizen, obeying the law.

It is important to work to make the world a better place for all.

Honor and integrity are keys to a meaningful life.

The Masonic lodge is both a group of Masons meeting together and the room or building in which they meet. Masonic buildings are sometimes called "temples" because the original meaning of the term was a "place of knowledge" and Masonry encourages the advancement of knowledge.

Masonic Lodges usually meet once or twice a month to conduct regular business, vote upon petitions for membership, and bring new Masons into the Fraternity through three ceremonies called degrees. In the Lodge room Masons share in a variety of programs. Here the bonds of friendship and fellowship are formed and strengthened.

Who can join? Applicants must be men of good character who believe in a Supreme Being. To become a Mason one must petition a particular Lodge. The Master of the Lodge appoints a committee to visit the applicant prior to the Lodge balloting upon his petition.

Who are the masons? Masons are men of good character who strive to improve themselves and make the world a better place. They belong to the oldest and most honorable fraternity known to man. If you think you may be interested in becoming a member, you can begin by contacting a Lodge in your area or speaking to a Mason. Most are men who go about their jobs and professions with no hint they are Freemasons except for the way they lead their lives. Many are readily recognizable by name, face, or accomplishment. George Washington and thirteen other Presidents, eight Vice Presidents and forty-two Justices of the Supreme Court have been Masons.

That, my friend, is who the Masons are. (Thanks for giving me an excuse to satiate my long-burning curiosity on the same question.) A frat of do-gooders. Taken from a Mason site from Virginia, http://www.grandlodgeofvirginia.org/whomason.htm.

What connection does Joseph Smith have with them? A sad one, really. He had hoped that by joining the Masons, he could make some friends and lose some opposition. But Elder John A. Widstoe has already explained it better than I can. What follows is attributed to him and found on http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/daily/history/people/joseph_smith/masonry_why.htm.

The Saints knew well enough the sufferings from mob persecution. Joseph Smith, the leader, looked for means to quell the rising tide of opposition.

Many of the Saints were Masons, such as Joseph's brother Hyrum, Heber C. Kimball, Elijah Fordham, Newel K. Whitney, James Adams, and John C. Bennett. These members called attention to the spirit of brotherhood and brotherly love which are the foundations of Masonic fraternity and which characterize Masonic activities: -- as, for example, from this writer,

On the rolls of Masonry, those lodges will stand highest in which not some few, but each and every member cheerfully gives of his time and labors to make the others happier, not some of the time but all of the time.

This ideal agreed well with the high ideals of the Prophet. Moreover, it was conceded that many of the prominent and influential men of the state were Masons who could be friends when needed. Association with such a fraternity might help to lessen the mob persecutions to which the Church had been subjected in Ohio and Missouri, so reasoned the Prophet's advisors.

The people of the Church needed friends. The work in Nauvoo would be hindered if opposition to the Church were allowed to grow. The Prophet and his brethren and sisters of the Church had suffered much without cause. They wanted peace. Perhaps Masonry would help. So, in the light of history, ran the thoughts of the people.

With the acquiescence of the Prophet, members of the Church already Masons petitioned the Grand Master of Illinois for permission to set up a lodge in Nauvoo. In answer they were granted permission, in October, 1841, to hold lodge meetings; but it was March 15, 1842, before authority was given to set up a lodge in Nauvoo and to induct new members. Joseph Smith became a member. At the time of the lodge organization, Joseph Smith received some of the degrees in Masonry. He was never an active Mason. His other work consumed his time and energy. His history shows that he was extremely busy at this time with a multitude of Church problems. Lodge matters would have to be left in other hands.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Nauvoo citizens were inducted into the fraternity. Soon the Nauvoo lodge had more members than all the other Illinois lodges together. It became the largest in the state. In this rapid growth, some lodge errors appear to have been made. These however could easily have been corrected.

However, Joseph's Masonic membership did not lessen the persecution. The religious claims of the Mormons were ridiculed; their political power seemed a threat; and their prosperity nettled the less successful neighbors.

The attempt to win sufficient friends through Masonry to stop persecution failed. The Masons after all were only a small fraction of the people of the territory surrounding Nauvoo.

And there you have it. Joseph Smith joined a frat of do-gooders in an attempt to create unity between the LDS and the "gentiles." Not successful.

BTW, if you are connected to (or just are) Jordash, this q was much simple than the other one.

--Grock, who really must log off and go study

A: Dear Stonecutter,
Grock summed it up pretty well. They are a group of do-gooders, who as far as I can tell have done very little (if anything) to deserve all the curiosity, and occasional persecution, they endure. Perhaps one of the reasons is that they keep secrets well: "The secret of masonry is to keep a secret" Joseph Smith (HC 6:59). I'd just like to add a few comments concerning Brother Joseph, and his involvement with them. I'm not going to expound everything there is to know about the relationship between The Masons, and the early LDS church; but I'll lead you down some interesting research paths that if followed, I think will prove quite interesting to you. Pick up a copy of Parley P. Pratt's autobiography, and read the account of a vision he had while walking through the forest. The signs he sees, that he states are known "only to the wise" can be discerned by one who has gone through an endownment session in the LDS temple. But at the time of his vision, no temples had been built, and the endownment was yet to be revealed in it's entirety. So how did Brother Pratt recognize these symbols? Tee hee. Wouldn't you love for me to answer that. I'll quote Joseph Smith on that one. "Freemasonry, as at present, is the apostate endownments, as sectarian religion is the apostate religion." The ancient temples, such as that of Solomon, were built by real masons (construction workers/brick-layers). They obviously retained much of the truths taught therein, but lost the authority, and over time lost some precious truths concerning the temple ordinances. This process occurs all the time. People remembered how the church of Christ was once run, and all religions still have bits and pieces of truth that have been handed down through memory and tradition (not revelation) even during the apostasy). Joseph Smith learned as much as He could from The Masons, after which he eventually announced that The Lord had revealed to him the complete, and unaltered endownment. It appears that Joseph Smith learned a lot from masonry, and as with most things The Lord revealed to him, had to study it out in his own mind before The Lord gave the final answers. On an interesting side-note, temples used to be schools of learning. Ancient masons, while laying brick, would wear large hats with flat tops to hold the mortar. Now where have we seen people wearing large flat hats? School graduations; where we also wear long robes. I can think of a few other places I've been where I've seen long robes, and flat hats.... Make it a matter of study and prayer. Knowledge is power, but the slightest bit of misinformation can destroy one's faith in what really is true. Be careful.