Masonic Lodges and Latter-Day Saint Temples
In June 22, 1834 at Fishing River, Missouri, Joseph Smith prophesied that the endowment would be revealed. On the 4th and 5th of May,1842 the endowment was revealed to the saints in the upper room of The Red Brick Store. (The Relief Society was also organized here.) There are some similarities to certain rituals that were already in practice by different groups at the time. We will explore these similarities and the logical understanding of why they exist.
D&C 105:18 But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an aendowment for them, if they continue faithful.Joseph Smith became a Mason in March 1842, advancing all the way to Master Mason the next day. This was unusual since the normal minimum wait between each of the three degrees is thirty days. It was not uncommon for visionary men in the 18th and 19th century to join the Freemasons both George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt were members of this fraternity. Joseph did not continue beyond the 3rd degree of Masonry. This is significant because that is the level you have to attain to be part of their sacred ceremony.
Joseph Smith was in search of the truth god had promised to reveal to him in many things. He viewed ordinances as sacred and was told he would find the truth in a multitude of confusion. He was told by God that he would be revealed The Endowment ceremony. In short,the endowment is a Ceremony members of the LDS Church go through to solidify their covenants with God and commit them self to these covenants with veracity and sanctity. Heber C. Kimball described the parallel to masonry as the mason rituals as being "degenerated" IE the rituals practiced in the Masonic Lodge ceremony once had truth but had fallen into apostasy over the years.
Joseph saw the Freemasons as a noble group with great values. He encouraged other Saints to join the Masons. Some might say that the Prophet Joseph adapted the teachings of brotherhood he learned from the Masons into his teachings about how the Priesthood should be conducted.
Just as Joseph did not invent baptism by immersion, he likewise did not invent the endowment ceremony. Rather, Joseph restored the endowment from its former state of apostasy and brought back the truthfulness of it.
If you or I saw the mason lodge ceremony we might not be able to discern what we were looking at. But Joseph looking at this ceremony had a moment of eureka.
The mason initiation rites go through a story of Hirum Abif a figure mentioned in the bible as a stone mason who was the Master Mason on King Soloman's Temple. The Mason Temple tells a tale of this biblical story as handed down from the Masons.
Chronicles 2:13 And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of aHuram my father’s,14 The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and ato find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father.
The complex work of a Prophet is a fascinating subject. It is clear that we do not have a first hand understanding of what talks Joseph had with God. Even most LDS skeptics agree that Joseph had a sincere nature and honestly believed he was spoken to by God and told he would restore the truth of god's plan for men in these latter days. Although some of the same movements and structure is used in the LDS endowment ceremony are borrowed from the Mason Lodge ceremony, NONE of the symbolism or context in which they are used are the same.
Why do Latter-day Saints including myself tread lightly when addressing this subject? Well, there are some things that are so simple and pure that deserve a level of sanctity and reverence. You wouldn't want to discuss your parent's sex life, although the act had to have occurred at least once for you to exist. The Temple is open to all, however as with a University, there are prerequisites to entrance. Curiosity alone is not a prerequisite or qualifying factor to enter into the temple. Keeping the commandments of God is the most important factor that qualifies entry into the house of God. Through righteous living, we can prepare ourself for entry into his house and making eternal covenants with our Heavenly Father. If we do not keep his commandments and enter in unworthily we would defile his house and he would cease to enter into it.
The work we do in our temples for both the living and the dead are sacred and pure ordinances and are performed by worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To compare our Temple work with the Mason lodge rituals is unfair. A fair summation is to sight that the Masons had many good ideas some of which were perfect, others that had become degenerated. If Joseph had sought to steal the ordinance from the Masons, he would have changed them completely. The fact that similarities exist suggest that Joseph was not trying to be deceptive in his methodology of restoration.