Episode 114: Book Club: Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

44 comments on “Episode 114: Book Club: Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith”

  1. Anonymous Reply

    I wonder how Linda and Valeen would have approached the book if they had written it after leaving the church. They were both faithful, active members when they wrote it.

  2. Alyssa Reply

    Just finished listening to the podcast. Good stuff! (I’m the “Alyssa” from the podcast, FYI.)

    There were a couple of things from the book I thought were interesting, but didn’t quite make it into the podcast that I thought I’d throw out there for fun…

    First of all, I do think this book has a bit of a feminist agenda to reshape the way we think about the Relief Society and the fuzzy relationship it had to the priesthood. The authors postulate that Joseph might have originally envisioned the Relief Society as a select group of women to whom he would give the female endowment. At the meeting where the RS was first organized, he said: “I am glad to have the opportunity of organizing the women, as part of the priesthood belongs to them.” After setting their first meeting date, he said: “I will organize the sisters under the priesthood after a pattern of the priesthood.” In many of his early addresses to the RS, he spoke of being good Masons, ancient orders, keys, tokens, examination, order of the priesthood, degrees, secrets, candidates, lodges, signs and rules, in preparation for an endowment for both men and women. He said: “The society should move according to the ancient Priesthood. … I will make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day–as in Paul’s day.” But the authors of the book speculate that as the RS became increasingly popular and its membership ballooned, Joseph probably realized that it could no longer accomplish that purpose and abandoned the idea.

    Also interesting to note are the performance of faith healings by the laying on of hands by women to other women in RS meetings. When the men in Nauvoo grumbled about this practice, Joseph addressed the subject in one of the RS meetings: “If the sisters should have faith to heal the sick let all hold their tongues. … Respecting the females laying on hands… there could be no devils in it if God gave his sanction by healing—that there would be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water.”

    As I said in the podcast, I think it’s really interesting that Sister Beck has encouraged us to study the history of the Relief Society. Is this what she intends for us to find? I doubt it, but I’d like to think there could be the possibility of her suggestion to read these kind of accounts as being a somewhat subversive act. Reading these kind of historical accounts really opens up a space for an interesting discussion about women and the priesthood. It doesn’t seem that it was out of the realm of possibility in Joseph’s mind. And maybe in encouraging sisters to study this is a way of encouraging dialogue about possibly reclaiming things that the early sisters had which modern-day LDS women have been denied. (Kinda doubt it, but it excites me anyway.)

    Okay, this novel-sized comment is done now.

  3. Chris Reply

    This is Chris (the call-in on the podcast). I also wanted to mention that I am a direct line descendant from the Joel Johnson family line (Benjamin, Almera, Delcena) and continue to be astonished that my own family refuse to acknowledge that polygamy during this time was nothing but sealing of widows to the prophets for protection.

  4. Buffalo Reply

    Poor Emma. First the church used her as a convenient villain, now they’re using her to promote Joseph. Joseph just used her, period.

    • Anonymous Reply

      The church’s recent obsession with Emma (the musicals, plays, books, songs, etc) and the false portrayal from faithful (non-scholarly) LDS sources literally makes me sick to my stomach. All one has to do is Google “Emma Hale Smith” and you find almost nothing but faith-promoting tripe – especially in the images search. Grrrr.

    • Brock Sampson Reply

      So I admit that I haven’t read the book yet, but I have a question to those who have. I’ve read a bit about Scientology’s leaders (L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavidge) and I see how complicit their wives were in pulling things off. When I think of Emma, (and I admit, i’m of the opinion that Joseph Smith was not really a prophet) I can’t help but think of her as his accomplice.

      So that’s my question, how complicit and knowing was Emma in everything?

  5. George Miller Reply

    Alyssa – I think that you comment about Joseph Smith’s agenda for the Relief Society is an interesting one, especially the comment about them being “good Masons.” I was raised to sublime degree of Master Mason in Nashville and I am currently serving as the Senior Warden of my lodge here in Ann Arbor. Additionally, I am a 32 degree Mason in the Scottish Rite (NMJ) and I belong to several research bodies. I have had a long time interest in the Mormon-Masonic connection and will be presenting a small portion of research at the next MHA conference.

    As part of my interest I have spent a considerable amount of time looking at the issue of Joseph Smith’s plans for the Relief Society. My own research has led me to the conclusion that Joseph Smith intended to make the Relief Society into a Masonic Lodge. Zilpha hinted at a connection in the podcast, but she got a few things incorrect.

    Most scholars of Mormonism have looked to the French Rite of Adoption which “adopted” women as Masons. She also said that American Masons didn’t do this. This is just incorrect. Before the Morgan Affair there was a degree system which inducted women known as the True Kindred degrees which included the three degree: True Kindred, Heroines of Jericho, and the Good Samaritan degrees. These degrees emerged to prominence in the upstate New York and were conferred on the wives and daughters of Masons.

    Careful examination of the comments made by Joseph Smith to the sisters, the format of voting on members, the format of the meetings, and other factors strongly suggest that Joseph intended to turn the Relief Society into a Masonic lodge along the lines of the True Kindred. In fact we know he was successful as a few diary entries from women of the period state that they received Masonic degrees including the True Kindred degrees.

    You note further that Joseph Smith intended to give women the priesthood. I think it is abundantly clear that this was his plan. We know that Joseph Smith viewed Freemasonry and the Priesthood as having been virtually synonymous in the days of Adam, and it was this organization that Joseph endeavored to recreate as part of the restoration. In fact Joseph Smith DID setup such an organization in the form of the Holy Order, or as John C. Bennety called it – Order Lodge, or as it was also know the Quorum of the Anointed. Joseph Smith modeled this organization in part on a Masonic degree known alternately as the Order of Melchizedek, Order of High Priesthood, or Holy Order of High Priesthood in which the offices of prophet, priests, and king were given and in which the initiate was anointed with oil. It was in this Masonic organization that Joseph Smith was anointed a Prophet, Priest, and King and in which Emma received the same priesthood offices.

    • Alyssa Reply

      That’s absolutely fascinating, George. I’m aware of the influence that Masonry had on the temple ceremony and that Masonry became extremely important to Joseph in the Nauvoo years, but I would really like to explore all of the connections more. Fascinating stuff. (Side note: doesn’t it just dig at you how the church calls the Nauvoo Lodge the “Cultural Hall” when you do the tour?)

      One of the unfortunate aspects of Joseph’s death is that he wasn’t able to carry ideas like this to fruition. Granted some of his later theological musings were a little out there (King Follett anyone?), but can you imagine how many gender inequities could have been prevented early on if he had been around long enough to give women the priesthood? The modern LDS church would be so fundamentally different—and in a good way.

      • George Miller Reply

        Most scholars have treated the Masonic influence as beginning in Nauvoo when Joseph Smith was officially joined a Masonic lodge. However, the influence is strong and deep throughout Joseph Smith’s prophetic career. (BTW- Having toured Nauvooo 10+ times I can ephatically say that it DOES dig at me everytime I hear the building called the “Cultural Hall.”)

        Actually I don’t think the KFD was in anyway a late theological musing, as Joseph Smith was laying the groundwork for this as early as Kirtland (possibly even New York). Like you I do wonder if there would be more gender equality had Joseph Smith survived. For all intents and purposes the Holy Order was the defacto governing body of the church after ~1843, and of course there were multiple women in that governing body. As full voting members of the Holy Order, who knows what might have happened. That being said, I think it is important not to idealize what was going on at the time with regards to gender equality. There is some evidence that Joseph Smith was slowly turning a bit misogynistic during this period of time, so his survival certaintly didn’t insure gender equality.

        • Alyssa Reply

          Dang, you’re schooling me, George. But it’s all good because I actually like being disabused of misconceptions by people who have studied more than I have. What books/articles would you recommend for studying more about Masonry and early Mormonism? One thing that particularly puzzles me is that if Masonry was important to Smith even earlier than the Nauvoo years as you suggest, why does the book of Mormon seem to have a (perhaps superficial) anti-Masonic theme in it—for example, portraying “secret combinations” as evil and what not)? Or is that a little too early?

          I think your point about Smith’s misogynistic tendencies is well taken. For that matter, you’re right to call me on the carpet for arguing based on a hypothetical situation. We really can’t know what Smith would have done had he survived, and therefore it’s all speculation.

          That being said, while we can’t really make an argument based on what might have happened, one thing I think we can say for sure is that we have seen that women in the church did seem to have more autonomy within church government and larger church culture than they do have now—even compared to the days of polygamy. If Maxine Hanks’ now infamous book _Women and Authority_ is to be believed, women gradually began to be stripped of the ability to give faith healings first in public, then in private (ending somewhat officially around 1936 under Joseph Fielding Smith). For nearly a century, Mormon women believed that they held the priesthood through their husband, but this (folk?) doctrine was gradually hedged up and snuffed out during the twentieth century. (Although puzzling vestiges of the doctrine remain in aspects of the temple ceremonies.)

          Then came the final blow: correlation. Under Harold B. Lee, the auxiliaries ceased to be autonomous organizations with their own curriculum, magazines, meetings and finances and they were forever afterwards governed by priesthood (e.g. male) authority. Just to make sure that dead horse was well-beaten enough, Belle Spafford was released as Relief Society General President in 1974—a calling which had previously been considered a lifetime one in the same way as the church president’s calling. This new practice sent the very clear message that RS presidents who dared to question their new overlords would promptly be released.

          Perhaps we should not idealize the past, but surely we can mourn the loss of what little autonomy LDS women used to have which was essentially taken from them. At the very least, let us pine for the days when Mormon women had passionate discussions and debates about their ambiguous relationship to the priesthood, whereas today such conversations are merely relegated to the fringes. Good Mormon girls today don’t even want the priesthood, after all, and furthermore can’t even imagine why others would want it. Such a pity.

          • George Miller

            –Alyssa–
            “What books/articles would you recommend for studying more about Masonry and early Mormonism?”

            –GM–
            I hope you will forgive me for saying that while there has been some good articles and books on the subject of the Mormon-Mason connection written, even the good material has MAJOR problems. That being said I would suggest the following as a decent place to start.

            Buerger, J. The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worshipβ€Ž. (2002)

            Homer, M.W. Masonry and Mormonism in Utah (1847-1984). Journal of Mormon History (1992) vol. 18 (2) pp. 57-96.

            Homer, M.W. “Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry”: The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (1994) vol. 27 (3) pp. 114

            Homer, M.W. Why the introduce them into our inner temple?”: The Masonic Influence of Mormon Denial of Priesthood Ordination to African Men. The John Whitmer Historical Assoication Journal (2006) vol. 234-259 pp. 27.

            Vogel, D. Echoes of Anti-Masonry. American Apocrypha (2009) pp. 24.

            I give these recommendation with great reservations as there are some minor and some major problems with each of these authors’ treatments of the subject. That being said at present they are the best available in print.

            Two books I would AVOID because they are inaccurate, misleading, and badly written are the following.

            Schraffs. G.W. Mormons & Masons: Setting the Record Straight. Millenil Press, Inc. (2006).

            Brown, M.B. Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons. Covenant Communications Inc. (2009).

            –Alyssa–
            One thing that particularly puzzles me is that if Masonry was important to Smith even earlier than the Nauvoo years as you suggest, why does the book of Mormon seem to have a (perhaps superficial) anti-Masonic theme in it—for example, portraying “secret combinations” as evil and what not? Or is that a little too early?

            –GM–
            That is a great question and one to which it would take about a 20+ pages to give a complete answer. As you suggested there are passage in the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses that scholars have suggested are references to Freemasonry. As such they have suggested that Joseph Smith was Anti-Masonic in his early years but decided to become a Freemason in his later years.

            During Joseph Smith’s day Masonic legends claimed that throughout history there were two main Masonic groups. The first Masonic group was dubbed Speculative Masonry and existed before creation with God, given to Adam, and this tradition was passed from Adam to the early patriarchs like Enoch, Melchizedek/Shem, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Solomon. This Speculative Masonic line was connected with the priesthood and taught the precepts of religion. The second Masonic group was dubbed Spurious Masonry and was first propagated by Satan to Cain and it was passed down amongst his posterity and survived the flood with Ham and was subsequently passed onto the Egyptians who propagated this Spurious Masonry amongst the nations with idolatry. Eventually this Spurious Masonry would makeup the mystery traditions of the Greek and Roman cultures.

            The Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, and the Doctrine and Covenants speak of the Speculative and Spurious traditions. Joseph Smith was never anti-Masonic but instead he wrote about both traditions in Mormon scripture. The passages you allude to above in the Book of Mormon are about the Spurious Masonic tradition.

            –Alyssa–
            “One thing I think we can say for sure is that early women in the church did seem to have more autonomy within church government and larger church culture than they do have now…”

            –GM–
            You are entirely right that women definitely had more autonomy than they do today and the tradition of faith healing in one example of the respect and power afforded to women. I personally think that “Women and Authority” is a MUST read and I think it would make a great ME book club pick. I would also suggest the biography of John C. Bennett “The Saintly Scoundrel” would make a good read.

            –Alyssa–
            “Perhaps we should not idealize the past, but surely we can mourn the loss of what little autonomy LDS women used to have and which was essentially taken from them.”

            –GM–
            Amen. Hallelujah!!! You said it sister πŸ™‚ I agree with you and I wish this was an active topic of conversation in the church. As a man I also wish the men were discussing the same questions. Perhaps then the false dichotomy between Men/Priesthood and Women/Mothers could be broken down and we men could talk in depth about what it means to be a Father instead of a priesthood holder.

          • Anonymous

            I just want to say that I enjoy your comments very much. I have most of the books you suggested on Masonry and the one you recommended at the end of your comment: “The Saintly Scoundrel” about John C. Bennett’s life. It is a great book but unfortunately out of print. I bought mine used from a library who was selling it due to lack of interest. (I think I bought it through an Amazon.com seller.)

            Since Zilpha is often hinting that she would be interested to learn more about Bennett, I can’t help but wish I could loan her my copy. Unfortunately that would require me shipping it to her since I live on the other side of the globe, and shipping charges from Norway are INSANE!! (It would cost much more than the book is even worth.)

            Still, if anybody can find The Saintly Scoundrel, I recommend it for learning more about Bennett’s contributions to the goings-on in Nauvoo directly leading up to the Nauvoo Expositor and Smith’s demise.

          • Alyssa

            Btw, Geroge, which day of the MHA conference will you be presenting? I didn’t see your name in the list of presenters and I wanted to possibly check that one out.

          • George Miller

            I will be presenting in the Mormon Esoterica session on Friday.

          • Brock Sampson

            Hey George, I’m jumping into this conversation way late, but in case you’re still monitoring it I wanted to post:

            Anyway, as part of my transition out of Mormonism, I spent a brief period of time in the Freemasons. I no longer participate with em, though I hold no ill will towards them either. It’s just not my cup of tea. I did make it through the Master Mason degree though.

            Anyway, I wanted to say that your explanation that Joseph knowingly wrote of “Speculative” and “Spurious” lines of Freemasonry seems a bit self-serving (to Freemasonry) to me. I’ve never seen any evidence that points to the fact Joseph was aware of the distinctions that you made between the traditions, and Grant Palmer’s book (Insider’s View of Mormon Origins) makes a strong case for the Gadianton Robbers being thinly-veiled Anti-Freemasonry.

            Also, I can’t quite tell from your posts, but you seem to be defending the idea that Freemasonry actually does have authentic ancient (beyond the 1600’s) history. In other words, do you really believe that?

            I loved learning about Freemasonry and it’s connection to Mormonism, but what I’ve found is that you either tend to get the point of view of Mormonism through Freemasonry’s eyes, or Freemasonry through Mormonisms’s eyes. Either side is tends to be pretty self-serving.

            My experience and studying lead me to the conclusion that Freemasonry is in no way ancient and while it teaches some good morals, lessons, etc… It’s no more adequate at it than say… I don’t know, Mormonism. Trying to retrofit Joseph Smith into a knowledgeable Freemason is as bad as trying to retrofit Freemasonry as a the apostate LDS Temple ritual.

            Here’s the long and short of it. Joseph Smith used Freemasonry where convenient. Anti-Freemasonry was his Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon, and the ritual became the Endowment. End of story. Trying to give either side more significance than that is disingenuous.

          • Brock Sampson

            Hey George, I’m jumping into this conversation way late, but in case you’re still monitoring it I wanted to post:

            Anyway, as part of my transition out of Mormonism, I spent a brief period of time in the Freemasons. I no longer participate with em, though I hold no ill will towards them either. It’s just not my cup of tea. I did make it through the Master Mason degree though.

            Anyway, I wanted to say that your explanation that Joseph knowingly wrote of “Speculative” and “Spurious” lines of Freemasonry seems a bit self-serving (to Freemasonry) to me. I’ve never seen any evidence that points to the fact Joseph was aware of the distinctions that you made between the traditions, and Grant Palmer’s book (Insider’s View of Mormon Origins) makes a strong case for the Gadianton Robbers being thinly-veiled Anti-Freemasonry.

            Also, I can’t quite tell from your posts, but you seem to be defending the idea that Freemasonry actually does have authentic ancient (beyond the 1600’s) history. In other words, do you really believe that?

            I loved learning about Freemasonry and it’s connection to Mormonism, but what I’ve found is that you either tend to get the point of view of Mormonism through Freemasonry’s eyes, or Freemasonry through Mormonisms’s eyes. Either side is tends to be pretty self-serving.

            My experience and studying lead me to the conclusion that Freemasonry is in no way ancient and while it teaches some good morals, lessons, etc… It’s no more adequate at it than say… I don’t know, Mormonism. Trying to retrofit Joseph Smith into a knowledgeable Freemason is as bad as trying to retrofit Freemasonry as a the apostate LDS Temple ritual.

            Here’s the long and short of it. Joseph Smith used Freemasonry where convenient. Anti-Freemasonry was his Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon, and the ritual became the Endowment. End of story. Trying to give either side more significance than that is disingenuous.

          • Brock Sampson

            Hey George, I’m jumping into this conversation way late, but in case you’re still monitoring it I wanted to post:

            Anyway, as part of my transition out of Mormonism, I spent a brief period of time in the Freemasons. I no longer participate with em, though I hold no ill will towards them either. It’s just not my cup of tea. I did make it through the Master Mason degree though.

            Anyway, I wanted to say that your explanation that Joseph knowingly wrote of “Speculative” and “Spurious” lines of Freemasonry seems a bit self-serving (to Freemasonry) to me. I’ve never seen any evidence that points to the fact Joseph was aware of the distinctions that you made between the traditions, and Grant Palmer’s book (Insider’s View of Mormon Origins) makes a strong case for the Gadianton Robbers being thinly-veiled Anti-Freemasonry.

            Also, I can’t quite tell from your posts, but you seem to be defending the idea that Freemasonry actually does have authentic ancient (beyond the 1600’s) history. In other words, do you really believe that?

            I loved learning about Freemasonry and it’s connection to Mormonism, but what I’ve found is that you either tend to get the point of view of Mormonism through Freemasonry’s eyes, or Freemasonry through Mormonisms’s eyes. Either side is tends to be pretty self-serving.

            My experience and studying lead me to the conclusion that Freemasonry is in no way ancient and while it teaches some good morals, lessons, etc… It’s no more adequate at it than say… I don’t know, Mormonism. Trying to retrofit Joseph Smith into a knowledgeable Freemason is as bad as trying to retrofit Freemasonry as a the apostate LDS Temple ritual.

            Here’s the long and short of it. Joseph Smith used Freemasonry where convenient. Anti-Freemasonry was his Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon, and the ritual became the Endowment. End of story. Trying to give either side more significance than that is disingenuous.

          • George Miller

            Brother Brock- I have to say that I appreciate the points you raise here. Let me address them in reverse order. First, you suggested that I might be “defending the idea that Freemasonry actually does have an authentic ancient history.” Quite the contrary I am very aware that it indeed does NOT have an ancient history beyond the 1600s. However, I think it is also very clear from the historical record that Joseph Smith DID mistakenly believe in the antiquity of Freemasonry. FWIW I am not an apologist and I have no desire to play that role.

            Second- You make the point that you have not seen evidence for Joseph Smith knowing this distinction between Speculative and Spurious Masonry. This doesn’t surprise me. πŸ™‚ The truth is that nobody has ever presented any of the evidence to which I am alluding, and the evidence is extensive. Most Mormon Masons are not aware of what Joseph Smith was doing, because, as with Mormonism, Masonry (though largely not the ritual) have radically changed over the intervening years. It wasn’t until I began specifically studying pre-Morgan Affair Masonry that it became crystal clear what Joseph Smith was doing. Hopefully, starting with my MHA presentation, me and my research associates can begin to fill in the blanks so that the misconceptions of Vogel and Palmer can be cleared up.

          • Brock Sampson

            Ha! Well in that case I look forward to seeing more from you!

            I still have a hard time believing that the Gadianton stuff isn’t blatant anti-freemasonry, seeing as Joseph Smith didn’t become a Mason himself until much later than when the Book of Mormon was written and even when he did become a mason, he was made a master-on-site as I understand it. The Book of Mormon has so many other contemporary ideas that the anti-freemasonry and Gadianton Robbers seem like a perfect match.

            I’m very interested in seeing what you got though!

          • FWAnson

            @GeorgeM
            YOU WROTE
            “While I can understand your objection to someone “retrofitting Joseph Smith into a knowledgeable Freemason”, I have to say that the hitherto unpublished historical data I have in front of me argues strongly for this being the case.”

            MY RESPONSE
            OK, you hooked me with that one mate! How can we see this evidence? Have you or others published it yet?

          • George Miller

            As discussed above I will be presenting a small part of my data on the subject at the MHA conference in May and I will submit that work for publication soon there after. I am also working on a number of other projects which I hope to publish in the JWHA journal.

          • George Miller

            Brock- Consider this for a moment. According to Vogel, Joseph Smith was so anti-Masonic that he caused to be canonized the idea that Freemasonry was started by Satan. He did this in spite of the fact that three of his uncles, several of his cousins, his FATHER, and brother where all Masons. Does that make any sense? You are right that Joseph Smith was made a Mason at sight, but what do you make of him being declared proficient only hours later? What you may not know is that it was Joseph Smith, acting behind the scenes through intermediaries, that brought Freemasonry to Nauvoo. According to some accounts it was Joseph Smith himself who was urging almost every man in Nauvoo to become a Freemason. Joseph Smith was also quite active in the Nauvoo lodge; and at least one account discuss how Joseph Smith would stand in lodge and expound on tenants of Masonry like he had been studying Masonry for years. Does any of this fit the model Vogel’s presents? Just some things to think about. πŸ™‚

          • Brock Sampson

            Well, I agree that I don’t think that Joseph Smith actually subscribed to anti-freemasonry himself, only that he used the contemporary idea as a plot device in the Book of Mormon. Or who knows, if someone else contributed (Rigdon for example) maybe they felt strongly about anti-freemasonry. I’m of the that the Book of Mormon is 19 century pseudepigrapha, and as such, contained many other examples of contemporary issues. That appears to fit the M.O., more so than Joseph somehow being an expert in Freemasonry does in my opinion.

            And to that point, Joseph pontificated and considered himself an expert on many subjects. I’m guessing he just did the same on Freemasonry. It’s an esoteric enough subject and has enough Biblical elements (that Joseph was obviously familiar with) that maybe he had everyone fooled yet again. Seriously, who was gonna call him on it if he was wrong? And according to Fawn Brodie, there were serious political forces at work within that Masonic Lodge as well which could have contributed to him being declared “proficient”. All we know is that he was declared proficient, not whether he actually was.

            I’m very curious to see your work, and I don’t mean to downplay it at all. I’m just saying, my immediate gut reaction is this feels like attempting to paint Joseph as a knowledgeable Freemason retroactively, when him being an opportunist fits the evidence much more plausibly in my opinion.

          • George Miller

            –Brock–
            [Joseph Smith] used the contemporary idea [of Anti-Masonry] as a plot device in the Book of Mormon.

            –GM–
            While I understand your thoughts here, on this particular point Quinn’s analysis in EMMWV is important. The BoM claims that the Gadianton Robber (BoM)/ Freemasonry (Vogel)/ Spurious Masonry (George Miller) was started by Satan. As Quinn notes, the Anti-Masons of the 19th century never made this claim. Instead they claimed that Freemasonry was an entirely man made institution which originated in the early 1700s. Quinn then goes on to say that obviously the Freemasons also would never have made that claim. However, Quinn is wrong, this is exactly what some Masons were claiming, with regards to Spurious Masonry, starting in early 1800s. It is this Masonic view which we find wholesale in the BoM, not the Anti-Masonic view. You are correct that Joseph is borrowing from his environment, but the rhetoric of the Anti-Masonic environment doesn’t match the BoM.

          • George Miller

            Dang the space is getting VERY tight. I agree with you that the BoM is 19th century pseudepigrapha. Given that Joseph was born into a family of Masons in a time when it was VERY common for Masons to openly talk about the “ancient history” of the craft, Joseph wouldn’t necessarily have needed to be an “expert in Freemasonry” to have known about the differences between speculative and spurious Freemasonry.

            FWIW there are other sources suggesting that Joseph Smith mastered the Masonic rituals fairly quickly. While Fawn Brodie’s analysis on this is good, she makes a number of missteps. BTW there were in fact several someones who could, and probably would, have called Joseph on the carpet for just this sort of stunt. πŸ™‚

            No problem about the probing questions. Skepticism is something that should inculcated in every human.

          • Brock Sampson

            Well, you make some good arguments. Thanks for being so patient with me! I look forward to more from you. Hell, there’s a potential podcast here somewhere, maybe they’ll do a Mormon Expression on this topic sometime!

          • George Miller

            I am not sure why you think that elaborating on the Mormon-Masonic connection would be “self-serving” for either Mormonism or Freemasonry. For the most part elaborating a connection is the last thing either of the parties desire.

            While I can understand your objection to someone “retrofitting Joseph Smith into a knowledgeable Freemason”, I have to say that the hitherto unpublished historical data I have in front of me argues strongly for this being the case.

            When I first started exploring the matter in depth I was a TBM, and expected to find that the FARMS/MI scholars were right, but what I found was the complete opposite to what I had been told. What I found was that Joseph Smith was borrowing HEAVILY from Freemasonry even in New York, and that what he was borrowing was most similar to Freemasonry circa the 1820s, and that the farther back in history you went the less similar the resemblances became. Further like you have noted above, Freemasonry does have its roots in King Solomon’s temple, as had been suggested by some Mormon apologists, but instead Freemasonry started out a simple trade union which during the 1700s became a gentlemans dinner club. During the early to mid-1700s the mythical history of Freemasonry was largely constructed de novo and overtime, especially in America during the early 1800s, most Freemasons came to believe the myths were historical and they began to refer to Freemasonry as the “handmaid of religion.”

            .

          • George Miller

            EDIT: Further like you have noted above, Freemasonry does NOT have its roots in King Solomon’s temple, as had been suggested by some Mormon apologists …

  6. George Miller Reply

    Alyssa – I think that you comment about Joseph Smith’s agenda for the Relief Society is an interesting one, especially the comment about them being “good Masons.” I was raised to sublime degree of Master Mason in Nashville and I am currently serving as the Senior Warden of my lodge here in Ann Arbor. Additionally, I am a 32 degree Mason in the Scottish Rite (NMJ) and I belong to several research bodies. I have had a long time interest in the Mormon-Masonic connection and will be presenting a small portion of research at the next MHA conference.

    As part of my interest I have spent a considerable amount of time looking at the issue of Joseph Smith’s plans for the Relief Society. My own research has led me to the conclusion that Joseph Smith intended to make the Relief Society into a Masonic Lodge. Zilpha hinted at a connection in the podcast, but she got a few things incorrect.

    Most scholars of Mormonism have looked to the French Rite of Adoption which “adopted” women as Masons. She also said that American Masons didn’t do this. This is just incorrect. Before the Morgan Affair there was a degree system which inducted women known as the True Kindred degrees which included the three degree: True Kindred, Heroines of Jericho, and the Good Samaritan degrees. These degrees emerged to prominence in the upstate New York and were conferred on the wives and daughters of Masons.

    Careful examination of the comments made by Joseph Smith to the sisters, the format of voting on members, the format of the meetings, and other factors strongly suggest that Joseph intended to turn the Relief Society into a Masonic lodge along the lines of the True Kindred. In fact we know he was successful as a few diary entries from women of the period state that they received Masonic degrees including the True Kindred degrees.

    You note further that Joseph Smith intended to give women the priesthood. I think it is abundantly clear that this was his plan. We know that Joseph Smith viewed Freemasonry and the Priesthood as having been virtually synonymous in the days of Adam, and it was this organization that Joseph endeavored to recreate as part of the restoration. In fact Joseph Smith DID setup such an organization in the form of the Holy Order, or as John C. Bennety called it – Order Lodge, or as it was also know the Quorum of the Anointed. Joseph Smith modeled this organization in part on a Masonic degree known alternately as the Order of Melchizedek, Order of High Priesthood, or Holy Order of High Priesthood in which the offices of prophet, priests, and king were given and in which the initiate was anointed with oil. It was in this Masonic organization that Joseph Smith was anointed a Prophet, Priest, and King and in which Emma received the same priesthood offices.

  7. George Miller Reply

    BTW I loved the podcast and the choice of books was excellent. Thanks for all your hard work guys.

  8. George Miller Reply

    BTW I loved the podcast and the choice of books was excellent. Thanks for all your hard work guys.

  9. Nancy Reply

    Remember Valeen Tippetts Avery’s other book, “From Mission to Madness” Last Son of the Mormon Prophet….it made me realize that Emma raised good children and I admired their stuggle with David’s mental illness.

  10. Michele Reply

    Brilliant discussion, the first Mormon Expression podcast I’ve ever heard! I read the book a few months ago, I loved hearing the comments made in the podcast, which reminded me of the things I’d read about but forgotten..thanks for the insight.

  11. Another Andrea Reply

    This was a great book club choice, I enjoyed the book. However, I wish there had been more discussion about Emma. It seemed the discussion veered off to nearly everyone but her.

  12. Oz Reply

    Enjoyed this podcast very much. In 2008 in route to a business trip in Chicago, I spent two days in Nauvoo. Just prior to the trip I had finished Rough Stone Rolling. I had gone to Nauvoo about 10 years earlier, doing the tourist thing, doing the song, games, and dance led by the local missionaries. “Nauvoo is heaven on earth” attitude everywhere. I actually bought into it at that time. But going back this time, Nauvoo felt dark to me. Like there were secrets everywhere, but you couldn’t figure them out but you knew they were there. When I went to the visitors center I started a conversation with two of the older missionaries and started talking about Nauvoo and some of the church history stuff in Bushmans book. It was quickly apparent to me that they did not want to talk about that stuff. But one sister pulled me aside and said to me, the best person to talk to is on the Community of Christ side, Lachlan Machay. I went over there spent two hours talking with him and the others working there. They were so great and open and willing to talk about the history, I had such a good time. Well he suggested I read Mormon Enigma.

    I really liked the book a lot. At that point, the only book I read about church history was RSR. I hadn’t read much of anything, I wasn’t familiar with the various ways history can be written. I felt immediately that the authors occasionaly put there own speculation into the narrative. I’m an avid footnote checker, and I noticed areas where it seemed they might have found a “random fact” in the archives and placed it into the book as if that’s what happened on a certain day. There are at least one part (I would have to read it again to find it) where they inserted a set of facts that were actually out of order. I noticed this when I checked the footnotes because the dates did not match up.

    There were many aha moments for me…stuff I never heard before. First was the denial by John Taylor and Hyrum Smith in Times and Seasons that they did not practice “Spiritual Wifery.” It was the first time I ever noticed the code word “Celestial Marriage.” They straight out lied…I was pretty saddened by that.

    Second, the time during Relief Society when Emma tried to poo poo the polygamy as being wrong and needing to stop. I imagined in my head all of the women who were probably sitting there, who secretly were married to Joseph and others very recently, were probably totally confused or felt bad for entering into it.

    Third, post Joseph. I thought reading about her sons was fascinating. Her marriage to the General, and the care she provided for so many. Including Josephs mother.

    I came away from the book with great appreciation for her. I think she was a tough, strongwilled, lets get to work type of women. I do believe, although she was tough, she was totally in love with Joseph and his strong personality/ego, won out on hers.

    One last note, I felt the book portrayed Eliza R. Snow as a self righteous “B”. I think I remember Eliza wrote in her journal “how she stood up” against Emma.

    For me, RSR and Mormon Enigma propelled me to study church history. I wrote down so many footnotes from Mormon Enigma and went to the church archives about two months after my trip to Nauvoo, to look up the quoted documents. I read the Times and Season John Taylor quote, the talk that Emma gave to the Relief Society, and a bunch of others. Mormon Enigma is one of my favorites.

      • Oz Reply

        Still in. And…have taught Gospel Doctrine for the last 3 years. Trust me, its not always easy for me. Luckily, I’ve been given a lot of freedom to tell the more accurate sides of the church history stories from the manuals. At times its tough to teach in church about the TRUTHS, when I think it could be a bunch of bologne.

        • tama Reply

          completely none of my business, but i had to ask…
          what exactly keeps you in? how do you acknowledge lies in the “one true church” and continue to remain a member? you’re a gospel doctrine teacher who doesn’t believe in some of what you’re teaching?
          please don’t think i’m jabbing at you. it’s hard to judge tone in text, so you must know that i ask genuinely. your situation just sounds so interesting to me.

          • Oz

            Tama-Its difficult to answer your questions in a few words and I think the answers are evolving as time passes. But to be honest, there are a number of things that keep me in, in no particular order. A little bit of peer pressure – fear of disappointing friends and family, hope that my membership might actually mean something. Kinda like eating at a Chinese Restaurant when we get the fortune cookie. We know its totally not fortelling your fortune, but yet we crack it open anyway, read a nice hopeful message like “financial prosperity is around the corner,” and secretly hope that it might actually come true. Know what I mean? I think the church does a good job with my children, emphasis on living a moral life, treating others kindly, teaching responsibility, opportunities to serve others, etc. And finally, when I don’t go to church, I feel sorta empty and sluggish. I’ve tested the waters with other churches and didn’t really like the way things are done elsewhere. I like being around good people who are making efforts to be better people, it makes me feel good, and want to be better. I just sorta like it, or the ideal of it. That’s just a few general reasons why I stay in.

            How do I acknowledge lies in the “one true church” and continue to remain a member?
            That’s a tough one because the Church has painted itself into a corner with the emphasis on the “one true church” thing, and yet knowingly white washes history in the name of “faithful history.” I remember seeing an interview with Bill Clinton, and I believe he was asked if he ever talked about the whole Monica Lewinski thing with his daughter Chelsea. And he said something like, “every child will one day grown up and realize that their parents aren’t as perfect as they always thought they were as a child.” I sorta feel that way towards the Church, I’ve grown up and realized/discovered that things were not as grand, truthful as I thought or hoped they were. So now, I’m trying to know who the Church actually IS, warts, skeletons in the closet, old boxes in the attic and all. I admit, it is very difficult at times.

            Gospel doctring teacher who doesn’t believe in some of what you’re teaching?
            The story of Balaam and the talking donkey in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament…I don’t believe that the donkey went Shrek on Balaam and actually started talking, but I love the story, love the principles in it. I look at the donkey as symbolic of our inner selves, some might call it Spirit…when it talks to us, warns us, tries to steer our decisions in different directions that might be better for us. Those are the types of things I look for and try to emphasize even though the story may not be true. I look for the human side of the scriptures, stories of those trying to live, survive, figure things out. It only gets irritating when it is a Church History story from the manuals. The whole story isn’t told, or there is only emphasis on one aspect and we ignore or don’t tell the other aspects of the stories. One small example from Church History is the story of the Sweet Water crossing. Its a good story, very touching, you can’t help but to appreciate the sacrifice of those boys/men who helped people. But I feel the whole story of the Willie Handcart Co. should be told in full detail. There are fascinating heroes that emerge, John Chislett and Levi Savage to name a few. There is a site that has their journal accounts of the trek. John Chislett had a little chip on his shoulder, kinda told things how it was. He expressed his disdain for Franklin D. Richards as he made a stop through the Willie camp. You get the sense he was a little pissed to be in that situation, but yet pressed on and did some pretty remarkable things during the crossing. Levi Savage stood up before the group left, expressed his concerns about crossing at such a late point in the season, and yet told the new saints that if they chose to go, he would be right there with them, no matter what. In those account you can find real motivating human stories. Those things I appreciate.

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