Episode 144b: Mormonism and Masonry: The Background Part 2

John Larsen talks to George Miller about the history of Masonry prior to Mormonism.

Episode 144b

71 comments on “Episode 144b: Mormonism and Masonry: The Background Part 2”

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Hey Guys- This is George Miller. I hope that everyone who hears this podcast will enjoy the content. If you have finished the second podcast, you will note that the story is not yet finished. We have plans for another recording stint in the near future to finish off this series. Please feel free to ask ANY questions about the content here. If the question can be quickly addressed in the forum, then I will be happy to do so. John and I have plans to have a Q&A session at the beginning of the next podcast consisting partially of the questions asked in this forum. So this is your chance to get your screen name mentioned on the podcast.

    John made me promise to spend the next few evenings interacting with the AWESOME members of Mormon Expression community instead of being predominantly only a lurker. I will do my best to do so. Enjoy the podcast. 🙂

    • Megan Reply

      I am so delighted that you’re doing this – I remember reading a thread you posted on at NOM a while back that gave some really fascinating detail about this stuff and I wished at the time that there was a lot more. This is brilliant, and I’m pleased to know there’s going to be more!

  2. Fifth Columnist Reply

    George, I have been following your discussion with Wade Englund over on MDD (it takes a lot of patience to interact with Wade so Kudos to you). Are you planning to spill the beans and explain what Joseph Smith was doing with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and why?

    I don’t have any other specific questions, but I want to say thank you for the work you have done. I think you will make a huge and lasting contribution to mormon history. The masonic connection provides so much explanatory power for so many things in early Mormon history. Very few people have really dug into like you have.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hey FC- Wade is a well meaning man with a very good heart who has vigor and passion in his discussion; and for that Wade is to be applauded.

      You asked about what I hinted at on MDD. As I stated there, I plan to present that information at the next MHA. This is why I was so close lipped about what I had found. There are multiple reasons for that, in part, its because there are numerous implications of my finding which I have yet to followup on. This will take at least a year and I need a head start on the competition before this goes public. I already have a rock solid story and enough to present at MHA, but if I am right about what this predicts about the rest of the KEP, then it has the potential to fully explain not only the KEP project, but also Joseph Smith’s methodology in the production of the Book of Mormon.

      I have discussed with John a little about what I would like to discuss in the next podcast, while I won’t be spilling the beans, I will be framing the KEP and BoA projects in a way that will delight John. IOW it will probably make both sides of the street mad. Given your interest in the MADD discussion, I think that discussion will right up your alley.

  3. InvisibleChurch Reply

    Here’s a questin I also posted over at the NOM board:  I’m currently listening in the part where you are talking about the history of Masonry dating back to the early 15th century, with a constructed mythology dating back further. You also mention that many other guild rituals, passion plays, etc., have existed for a long time prior to that. My question is: Do you allow for the possibility that elements of the ritual (if not the ritual as a whole) can be traced to prehistory? Here’s an example in a context completely removed from both mormonism and masonry: I noticed at a recent graduation ceremony that the kids all move the tassels from one side of the hat to the other to symbolize “moving to another level”. Struck by the familiar symbolism I did a little internet research and found that the symbol is supposedly traced back to Celtic prehistory. There are many others, all of which suggest adoption of truly ancient elements into much later secret societies, even if the overall rituals are not really ancient. What are your thoughts on this?

    IC

  4. InvisibleChurch Reply

    Here’s a questin I also posted over at the NOM board:  I’m currently listening in the part where you are talking about the history of Masonry dating back to the early 15th century, with a constructed mythology dating back further. You also mention that many other guild rituals, passion plays, etc., have existed for a long time prior to that. My question is: Do you allow for the possibility that elements of the ritual (if not the ritual as a whole) can be traced to prehistory? Here’s an example in a context completely removed from both mormonism and masonry: I noticed at a recent graduation ceremony that the kids all move the tassels from one side of the hat to the other to symbolize “moving to another level”. Struck by the familiar symbolism I did a little internet research and found that the symbol is supposedly traced back to Celtic prehistory. There are many others, all of which suggest adoption of truly ancient elements into much later secret societies, even if the overall rituals are not really ancient. What are your thoughts on this?

    IC

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hey IC- Thanks for the question. I can give you a very brief answer, but I will also add this question to the list for an extended treatment in the next podcast. Without a doubt the men who crafted, recrafted and reformed the Masonic ritual borrowed both symbols and ritual elements from their environment. Some of these symbols and ritual elements do have long ancestries. However, the various elements of Masonic rituals and symbols all have UNIQUE origins and evolutionary paths coming down to the present. When these unique elements were finally brought together they also acquired new meaning and contexts. The problem for, say a Mormon apologist, is that these novel meanings and contexts are largely what looks most closely like Joseph Smith’s ritual.

      • InvisibleChurch Reply

        Thanks – I listened to the rest of the podcast (great job by the way!).  I understand your point that there is no “thread” that be seen linking the rituals to ancient equivalents, and that the rituals themselves are replete with “improvisations” that can be traced as they evolve.  My suggestion (and question) with the tassels example is that one can point to bits and pieces – specific elements – of the ceremony that have much earlier antededents and made it into the masonic and related rituals.  I would guess that this phenomenon is what causes a lot of misconceptions…it’s interesting to point out truly ancient elements and themes that “made it in”, but that doesn’t explain where the whole thing started.   

        Looking forward to the next podcast!

    • Anonymous Reply

      We are going to push this over the recording cliff in the next two weeks. After that it is John’s call when to drop it in the feed. Personally, I am looking forward to another For Dummies or Top Ten List rather than hear my own voice. I think these episodes are the only ones to which I will not be listening.

  5. Guest Reply

    George, if I were interested in a good volume history on Masonry, something readable and interesting to an educated but non-specialist audience, and that avoided either sensationalism on one hand or apologetics on the other, what would you recommend?

    • Anonymous Reply

      The answer to that question really depend on how much reading you want to do. Do you want a single volume or a course of study? Are you interested in a good overview of Masonry or are you interested in a certain time period, say for example Joseph Smith’s era? Are you interested in particular in a discussion of the Mormon-Masonic connection, or on Masonry in general? How scholarly do you like your books? I promise that anything I recommend will not be cooky conspiracy theory laden drivel nor will it be apologetic in its character.

      • Guest Reply

        Single volume to start. And maybe some good authors who write in the area that I might be able to pick up for more nuanced topics. 

        A good, broad history would be of most interest, but if also had more narrow recommendations some of the specific topics you discussed in your podcast would be of interest, such as the William Morgan affair, or the introduction of the more dramatic elements into the ritual (the Noah story you said fell by the wayside, the Abiff story, etc.). More interested in the topic of Masonry than the Mormon-Mason connection.

        And if it isn’t asking too much maybe some of the words you alluded to that go into the symbolic philosophy behind the order and rituals?Of course, if in my ignorance I’m skipping the most fascinating author or study of which you know, feel free to recommend that as well!Thanks tons. Look forward to any recommendations you have!

        • Anonymous Reply

          So to start out with it sounds like you would like a good overview to familiarize yourself Masonic history and the nuts and bolts of the workings of a lodge. I have three titles to suggest along those lines which are written for a general audience.

          Cooper, Robert L.D. Cracking the Freemasons Code: The Truth About Solomon’s Key and the Brotherhood. (2007) Atria Books.
          Morris, Brent. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry (2006)
          Hodapp, Christopher. Freemasons For Dummies (2005)

          The first on the list is the most academic, though very accessible, and is written by the Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. It is one the best introductory books on the craft and his rendition of Masonic history is good. While I don’t usually like to recommend the Idiot’s and Dummies guides, these are both well done. Of the two Brent Morris’s is much more scholarly while Hodapp’s is a bit more personal.

          After reading a good introductory text, if there is one book alone that is a must read for Mormon’s interested in the craft, I would unquestionably suggest Bullock’s book.

          Bullock, Stephen. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840. (1998) The University of North Carolina Press.

          His book starts with a good overview of Masonic development in England and then moves quickly into the development and evolution of Masonry in America. It gives a very good analysis of the Morgan Affair which is very evenhanded and accurate. FWIW Bullock is a professionally trained academic historian and a non-Mason who became interested in Freemasonry from an academic perspective. I will warn you that as opposed to the first three books I listed, Bullock’s book is much more scholarly and thus a bit of drier read. Despite that, it is a fascinating read, and my own research into the time period has found him to be HIGHLY reliable.

          If you are interested in the early development of Masonic ritual then the best book out there is Stevenson’s work on the evolution of Masonry in Scotland.

          Stevenson, David. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590 to 1710. (1990) Cambridge University Press.

          Stevenson is also a non-Mason who is academically trained in history. His analysis of the early development of the Freemasonry and the ritual is top notch. His prose can get a little dry at time, but the content here is excellent and high quality.

          That should give you enough reading to keep you going till at least the next podcast.

          • Guest

            Awesome. Thanks. Barnes and Noble online made some money today.

          • Nathan R Kennard

            Thank you GeorgeMillerPM and John Larsen. Your recommendations GeorgeMillerPM seem detailed and your descriptions insightful. I learned a lot from these podcasts.

          • Nathan R Kennard

            Thank you GeorgeMillerPM and John Larsen. Your recommendations GeorgeMillerPM seem detailed and your descriptions insightful. I learned a lot from these podcasts.

  6. Eric Reply

    What a cruel cliffhanger!!  But I am glad, John, you’re taking the time on this subject and spreading it over many podcasts.  Dehlin would be proud.

    • Anonymous Reply

      John and I joked about this amongst ourselves. Sadly this is just not the kind of topic that can be adequately handled in 60 minutes.

  7. Fred W. Anson Reply

    That was one of the nastiest cliff hangers I’ve seen “heard”!  I felt like I was watching Dr. Who with my ears! 

    Well done. 
    I’m hooked. You wicked twins of the microphone! 

    😉 

    And I hope that one of the future podcasts addresses what is, to me, the “elephant in the room” whenever Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo Temple Endowments are discussed: 
    If Joseph Smith claimed to be “restoring” Christianity to it’s pristine, uncorrupted, truly Biblical state, why is that the Nauvoo Temple Endowments are so clearly a plagiarized form of Masonic rites and rituals having nothing to do with the Temple rites and rituals that are in the Bible?

    • Anonymous Reply

      Fred- There is not a Masonic elephant in the room, but a herd of Masonic elephants in the room. Once you see all of them, I think you will be able to see that they are marching in a specific formation that will explain pretty clearly what Joseph Smith was doing.

  8. Anonymous Reply

    Fred- There is not a Masonic elephant in the room, but a herd of Masonic elephants in the room. Once you see all of them, I think you will be able to see that they are marching in a specific formation that will explain pretty clearly what Joseph Smith was doing.

  9. Ozpoof Reply

    Grown men in 2011 acting like they were in a treehouse – no girls allowed and secret passwords and such.

    Freemasonry stopped being legitimate as soon as it admitted non stone cutters, and the necessity of identification became just another way to exclude people.

    Mr Miller knows that the ritual in Mormonism was stolen from Masonry. He told us how he knows, yet he still believes in Mormonism. Sorry, but that’s cult-think in my opinion.

  10. Helaman's Wife Reply

    George, in the 1980’s, one of my religion professors at BYU said that our temple’s endowment similarities with Masonry actually proved our church was a true restoration.  My testimony hadn’t completely formed, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to devote my life to Mormonism, but the idea that our temple rituals connected us to the truth, though out time, became a founding belief I based my testimony on.  My understanding, which I passed onto many in the past 25 years since then, was that the Masons who quarried the stone to build Solomon’s temple were exposed to temple rituals and they in turn incorporated those very things into Masonic rituals.  

    I wasn’t smart enough to discover (until recently) that Joseph Smith had ties and exposure to Masonry.  I actually believed that he received the temple endowment straight from revelation… and the fact that it mirrored Masonry so well was evidence of Joseph’s calling as a prophet, seer, and revelator.   I’ve been to Zedekiah’s cave more than once and have felt such a connection to the past and the future… thinking that the Masons back then learned at least temple signs and tokens, even if they didn’t have a true understanding or the true authority to validate it all.

    I’ve left the church, for many reasons, so this issue is only one of many… but I’d just like some clarification after the fact.  You said in the podcast that there was no record of Masons beginning back in the time of Solomon’s temple… but that it is or was the belief of many that it all began long ago.  Have you ever heard much about Zedekiah’s cave (Masons still meet there)?  Is the idea in church circles the same as it was when I was at BYU?  Do Mormon apologists claim that the  temple endowment has it’s origins in Solomon’s temple, or even back to Abraham or Adam?   Do you know if it is still actively taught that the LDS endowment is connected back to Solomon’s temple even though there is no historical account or record of Masons back then?

    I remember feeling so excited to learn… from the same and other BYU religion professors… that Jesus and Joseph weren’t carpenters in the same sense we think of carpenters now… with wood.  They were “stone cutters” or masons… who could build stone buildings making the blocks of stone fit perfectly without the need for mortar.  I loved to think of Christ as a Mason… I thought it was poetic… proving the truth of the church or something.

    After going through the temple for the first time (before my mission, temple marriage and very active church life for 20+ years), my first and strongest impulse was to leave the church… that it couldn’t be true.  But then, I remembered what I’d learned at BYU… and I stayed.

    I clearly have a very limited knowledge base and understanding.  My memory is faulty… but it is very true that I based part of my testimony on the idea of our connection and similarity with Masonry.   Is this common… for these ideas to make such a difference in testimony?  Could you address what is currently believed in LDS circles regarding the endowment and Masonry and your opinion of these beliefs?  Thank you. 🙂

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hello HW- It is funny you should bring this up. At a practice night at the lodge a few nights ago, a bunch of us were discussing Freemasonry in Israel. At least once a year the Freemasonry hold a degree near Zedekiah’s Cave. We were all saying how amazing thrilling it would be to travel to Israel and participate.

      The fact that the temple was built does necessitate the existence of Masons to build both the first and second temple. However, there is no convincing evidence that there was any secret ritual passed from these stone masons down to the present day Freemasons. In fact the evidence to the contrary is substantial. 

      When I was at BYU in 1996ish there was still a professor who taught the idea that there was a connection. However, in recent years this rhetoric has died down. In 2005 Greg Kearney gave a presentation at the FAIR conference which largely changed the tenor of the discussion. Matthew B. Brown followed up on this trend in his book “Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons” and recently Kerry Shirts has via podcast advanced the same idea that there is no genetic connection between Mormonism and Masonry. However, they do posit a philosophical connection which none of them have fully worked out.

  11. Vikingz2000 Reply

    This is a great series of podcasts, so thank you George Miller and John Larsen.

    While listening to this podcast and the Mormon Stories podcast with Greg  Kearney who is a multi-generational Mormon and Master Mason, I can’t help but wonder, “Is this really Jesus?  Is all of this esoteric stuff really part of, let alone essential to the religion of Jesus of Nazareth and of what the New Testament apostles preached?”  For me, Mormonism would be better named ‘Smithism’ as I fail to see the connections with the simple gospel that Jesus taught requiring only simple rituals such as baptism, etc, rather than all of the intricacies Joseph Smith inaugurated and declaring them to be mandatory for Christian salvation.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hey Vikingz- Just to stir the pot a bit my friend, are you so sure? We have little to nothing of Jesus’s preaching. In fact all we have is Mark’s gospel which was adapted by Luke and Matthew with the addition of the Q material; and John’s gospel is clearly a later edition and much more complicated in its Christology. Modern scholars have provided a fair amount of evidence that Jesus was of the Enochian Judaic Essene tradition. Their practices were anything but simple. Many of the offshoots of Christianity such as the Gnostics were also anything but simple. Why have you chosen to only accept the Christian tradition which is preserved in the New Testament? We know that since Joseph Smith’s time that Mormonism itself has paired down its teaching to make it more simple. Why do you think that this was also not the case for Christianity?

      In the end though I think you are missing the interesting historical question. Why did Joseph Smith think that early Christianity had all these complicated rituals which he believed he was restoring?
      [Note: I am NOT arguing that early Christianity looked like the system Joseph Smith created.]

      • Vikingz2000 / Me from Cali Reply

        I am not blowing smoke in your ear, George, but dialoguing with everyone here in such an in-depth and patient manner is truly remarkable.

        “Why have you chosen to only accept the Christian tradition which is preserved in the New Testament?”

        With regard to this question I suppose the operative word is ‘only’.  If you are a TBM you can ‘plead’ the Ninth Article of Faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”  Although I find Mormonism’s claim that it is the “one and only true church” suspect, I am still very amenable to the notion that God can indeed reveal more, but more with regards to what and for what purpose?  I am not of the opinion that sitting in an LDS temple participating in a ritual, much of which has been ‘borrowed’ from a purely human invention, i.e, Free Masonry, listening to and made to feel coerced into adhering to quilt inducing, quasi cult rhetoric to ‘pay and obey’, cogent for personal salvation, much less revealed by God Himself.  And what I mean by ‘salvation’ may be what we read in 1 Peter: 

        “13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

        14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:

        15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

        16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

        17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

        18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

        19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

        20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

        21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

        Sure, we can speculate about what we don’t emphatically know with regard to what the Christ may also have taught, but to be sure, I don’t think my ultimate salvation is dependent upon arcane ritual based upon Free Masonry.  I think “all we really need to know we learned in Kindergarten.” — the simple gospel which is simply beautiful based upon:

         “36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

        37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

        38 This is the first and great commandment.

        39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

        40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

        As for the question: “Why did Joseph Smith think that early Christianity had all these complicated rituals which he believed he was restoring?” it is moot in the extreme. We can ‘think’ all we want with regard to what Joseph Smith was thinking, but we’ll never know.  As I said, the question is moot and it’s relevance has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what Jesus has already suficiently instructed (commanded) us to do in order to enter into His Kingdom.  Hence, the answer to your third question is what you already infer, i.e., an interesting, historical question, but nothing, however, pertinent to salvation.

        For me, religion and it’s accompanying rituals is *somewhat* relative to the adage: “Money talks, BS walks.”  In other words, “Our thoughts, words, and actions based upon the intentions of our hearts is what counts for salvation, but the oft’ times inane rhetoric, prayers, and ritual is meaningless without our pro-active, God directed *meaningful* action(s).  I don’t think participating in LDS temple rituals ad nauseam is what makes you ‘holy’, or saves anyone any more than sitting quietly in a corner reading the bible does.  To be sure, it can be a catalyst for knowledge — instruction, awareness and inducing feelings of obligation leading us to action (hence: “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge” — J.S. Jr.), but it is not just knowledge alone what is going to save us, but rather acting upon that knowledge — the only pertinent commandment being to love God by loving our neighbors whether they be friends or enemies. How many Mormons have I known, including myself, who have spent untold hours in the temple participating in a ritual that does absolutely nothing to relieve actual pain and suffering in the real-time world?  Answer: Too many.  And yet many of these LDS actors (me included) will walk  out of the temple wearing a glow of holiness, which is only a self-deluding pretense of same.  How much more effective would it have been had they spent that Saturday morning actually visiting the sick and suffering?  How would those actions have made them truly holy?  Think Mother Teresa, Doctors Without Borders, etc.  And with regard to “salvation for the dead”? I don’t think it is too untenable to suggest that a person, once resurrected sometime during the Millennium possessing again a tangible body, can be baptized for him or herself.

        Just my thoughts.  Keep up the great work!

        • Anonymous Reply

          Thanks for your thoughts. FWIW I think your sentiments are well reasoned and practical.

      • Martin Jacobs Reply

        GeorgeMillar asked “Why have you chosen to only accept the Christian tradition which is preserved in the New Testament?”

        Perhaps because anything else is, by definition, not Christian tradition.

        • Anonymous Reply

          What about the wealth of Christian scripture written during this period which did not make it into the New Testament? By whose definition is that Christian tradition? 

          • Fred W. Anson

            George what scripture are you referring to? 

            It can’t be the Gnostic Gospels since they came much later:  The 2nd – 4th Centuries to be precise. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnostic_Gospels#Dating )

          • Anonymous

            Sorry for the confusion Fred. When I said “this period” I was referring to the time of Christ’s death till the canonization of scripture. This canonization process took almost two hundred years beginning in roughly 200 AD-400 AD with a very rough consensus beginning to be reached by the mid 200s. That being said IMHO the reason for the consensus largely amalgamating on the four gospels we have to day, is due less to their early genesis, but more importantly to their borrowing from each other which provided apparent (though not real) consensus among the Christian community about Christian doctrine and history. 

            During the late 100s to the early 300s there were indeed many gospels which were circulating among the early Christians. As you mentioned the Gnostics did indeed create many scriptures, and I, as most scholars I believe, do consider the gnostics as one of many in the Baskin-Robbins of Christian flavors that have existed throughout the long history of Christianity.

          • Fred W. Anson

            But George, the Gnostics and their accompanying gospels were never considered orthodox for good reason: 

            1) They were clearly  Pseudepigraphic since they were written too late to be written by who they claimed to be written by. 2) They contained a clear theological agenda that was outside of established orthodoxy. 3) They contained doctrine that was in direct contradiction to Apostolic teachings such as: 

          • Fred W. Anson

            But George, the Gnostics and their accompanying gospels were never considered orthodox for good reason: 

            1) They were clearly  Pseudepigraphic since they were written too late to be written by who they claimed to be written by. 2) They contained a clear theological agenda that was outside of established orthodoxy. 3) They contained doctrine that was in direct contradiction to Apostolic teachings such as: 

          • Anonymous

            The gospels we have are CLEARLY pseudepigraphic, they clearly disagree with each other on numerous historical events and their views of Christ differ from each other with each one coming from a slightly different faith community. You claim that they contain doctrines that are in clear and direct contradiction to the apostolic teaching, but so are the teaching of Paul in direct contradiction to Jesus’s and the suspected Apostolic teachings. My only point is that the Christian Gnostics considered themselves Christian as do scholars. The views of the Gnostics are unorthodox today, but the Gnostics were a relatively robust component of the early Christian religious movement.

            Not that any of this has anything to do with Joseph Smith, it is simply history.

          • Fred W. Anson

            I’m sorry George but your claim that “tthe four gospels we have are CLEARLY pseudepigraphiche four gospels we have are CLEARLY pseudepigraphic” is only “CLEAR” if the only voices that you’re considering are liberal scholars.   Now if you want to say, “In my opinion, 

          • Utah Webmaster

            I just finished listening to the entire podcast and am now catching up
            on the forum here. I agree with GeorgeMillers thoughts here. My
            feeling is that the NT is unreliable from a perfect historical
            perspective. There are less than a handful of original manuscripts from
            the 1st or 2nd century and even then they are not complete copies. I
            would recommend people start watching debates on YouTube by Bart Ehrman
            who seems to be leading off in this area. Once you watch enough you can
            then purchase his many books. Fact: We dont have a perfect snapshot of
            Christ’s teaching, ministry.

        • Hermes Reply

          The fourth-century definition is arbitrary.  In the end, what you have throughout Christian history is a wide variety of different institutions and scriptures.  Some of us like one flavor, while others prefer another.  Rarely is one utterly, irredeemably awful.  (Also rare is the one that does not claim some kind of universal validity which seems overblown to modern outsiders.)  

          • Fred W. Anson

            OK, then what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: We need to accept all the Mormon splinter groups, prophets, revelations, and scriptures as just as valid and “orthodox” as the LdS  Church’s established orthodoxy. 

            After the LDS Movement is only 181-years old (184 if you date from the first meetings rather than the publication of the Book of Mormon).

            In other words: Orthodox or Heretic, there is no difference. 

            And in the end “Man [REALLY] is the measure of all things”. After all isn’t that the logical end state of: “Some of us like one flavor, while others prefer another”?

        • Anonymous Reply

          Fred- FWIW I have to say I really don’t want to be having this conversation.
          “I’m sorry George but your claim that “the four gospels we have are CLEARLY pseudepigraphic” is only “CLEAR” if the only voices that you’re considering are liberal scholars.”
          I have read both liberal and conservative scholars on this subject, and the scholarly consensus opinion on this is that the gospels were not written by eye witnesses. Feel free to contradict my on this point and I will eat my words by you providing the percentage of top tier scholarly university professors in the field of religion who regularly publish in top tear peer-reviewed journal and/or publish books in academic presses who hold the position that the writers of the four gospels were eye-witnesses.

          “…  any period but the first century would be completely extraneous and irrelevant.”
          This point is irrelevant as most academic New Testament historians date the production of the gospels to the first century. What you have to provide is that the writers of the New Testament were eye-witnesses living at the time of Jesus as you are claiming. I have seen no convincing data on this, and the bulk of data argues against this position.

          “And the contradictions are in fact similar enough to be evidence of first hand accounts by eye witnesses as frequently seen in courts of law.”
          I have read this literature and I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading the works of an apologists right out of FARMS/MI or FAIR. Eye witnesses with access to family members would never give us two completely different and obviously ahistorical accounts as the divergent birth narratives given in Matthew and Luke.

          As for Paul, he was on the far left of the apostles and the Jewish-Christian community in trying to divorce Christianity from its Judaic roots.

          “Again the EARLIEST Gnostics didn’t arrive on the scene until the mid to late 2nd Century – using The Gospel of Thomas as marker around 172 AD/CE.”
          That is simply untrue as the Paul and the Gospel According to John are warning their flocks about the Gnostic teachings, showing they were in existence a leading some of the flock in that direction.

          “Never-the-less, I have full Priesthood Authority because Xenu told me via a voice in my head that I do.”
          I’ll let the readers judge if they find your discussion here convincing.

          Frankly Fred I can’t help but think that confirmation bias isn’t bending the facts to fit your preconceived conclusion here.

          • Fred W. Anson

            YOU WROTE
            ” I have to say I really don’t want to be having this conversation”

            MY RESPONSE
            I agree. However, you’re making naked assertions that IMO need to be challenged.

            YOU WROTE
            “Frankly Fred I can’t help but think that confirmation bias isn’t bending the facts to fit your preconceived conclusion here.”

            MY RESPONSE
            George, that’s exactly how I feel about your stances in this area.
            Now that we’ve both said it, let’s leave it there and move on.

            YOU WROTE
            “Feel free to contradict my on this point and I will eat my words by you providing the percentage of top tier scholarly university professors in the field of religion who regularly publish in top tier peer-reviewed journal and/or publish books in academic presses who hold the position that the writers of the four gospels were eye-witnesses.”

            MY RESPONSE
            Well, I could respond, “OK, you first!” but I won’t. Hopefully the following will suffice:

            Richard Bauckham
            William Lane Craig
            N. T. Wright
            Craig Blomberg
            Ben Witherington
            D. A. Carson
            J. I. Packer
            John R. W. Stott
            (and I can keep going)

            YOU WROTE
            “Please provide evidence that the writers of the New Testament were eye-witnesses living at the time of Jesus as you are claiming. I have seen no convincing data on this, (and I have looked) and the bulk of data I have come across argues against this position.”

            MY RESPONSE
            I believe that I just did in my last post.

            Any work published in the first Century that contained inclusios could easily be discredited by going to the person referenced and seeking validation. These people were alive and could have discredited any so-called eye witness account with a denial.

            YOU WROTE
            “I have read this literature and I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading the works of an apologists right out of FARMS/MI or FAIR. Eye witnesses with access to family members would never give us two completely different and obviously ahistorical accounts as the divergent birth narratives given in Matthew and Luke.”

            MY RESPONSE
            Well I’m glad that you share my disdain for FARMS/MI and FAIR. However, my stance regarding the apparent contradictions in the Gospel narratives stand and where you see “obviously ahistorical accounts as the divergent birth narratives given in Matthew and Luke” I see exactly the same type of divergent cognitive recall issues that I saw when I served jury duty on an assault case. In other words, typical human behavior in regard to eye witness testimony.

            YOU WROTE
            “As for Paul, he was on the far left of the apostles and the Jewish-Christian community in trying to divorce Christianity from its Judaic roots. As the opening post in this sub-thread tries to call Christianity simple, I disagree. Jesus was a Jew as was early Christianity a Jewish sect whose adherents practiced a very complex Jewish religion. The early Christian religion was not monolithic but flowered into many different flavors, one of which was Christian Gnosticism. ”

            MY RESPONSE
            Well that’s interesting speculation but were it true then, again, you wouldn’t find Peter endorsing Paul’s ministry in 2 Peter 3:14-16…

            14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord issalvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

            …Paul recognizing Peter’s ministry and authority in Galatians 1:18…

            18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

            …as well as Paul recognizing James’s ministry and authority in the very next verse:

            19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Nowconcerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)

            Now there’s no doubt that they disagreed, the fact of the matter is that they respected, dialoged, and even differed to each other. In fact, this is recorded – objectively with neither side being presented as “better” or “more right” than the other – in the Book of Acts.

            Since Luke (the author of Acts) was a mission companion, friend, and ally of Paul then why didn’t he paint the “Judaizers” in a negative, derogatory light in this work if your stance is correct?

            YOU WROTE
            “If you have any books published by academic presses or articles in peer reviewed journals by well respected academics that you would suggest I read that would change my mind, then please feel free to post them hereafter.”

            MY RESPONSE
            Well I would recommend anything from any of the men on my list above but if I had to pick just one it would be “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” by Richard Bauckham. Though N.T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3)” is also quite good.

            If you’re willing to accept a more vernacular, non-scholarly approach to the material Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God” gives a good, quick overview of the material in both books.

            I hope that this helps and thank you for the civil and stimulating dialog. I appreciate it.

  12. JT Reply

    George,

    This is intriguing stuff.  I’m looking forward to rest. Thank you!

    This podcast caught me at time that I am trying to think critically about Rigdon’s possible involvement in the Book of Mormon, JST, Book of Moses, etc.  So, three quick questions.  

    1.  Was Sidney Rigdon a mason?

    2.  Does Isaiah figure prominently into Masonic lore or history?  

    3.  The sequence of scenes that the “Spirit” shows Nephi (1 Nephi 11-14), each introduced by the Spirit with a peculiar “Look !”, seems ritualistic.  Does this have Masonic parallels?  It first reminded me of the scenes of Christmas past, present and future from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, then I wondered if it may be compared to the temple scenes, etc.

    Thanks.

    JT

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    • Anonymous Reply

      “Was Sidney Rigdon a mason?”  – There is NO indication that Rigdon had any interest nor connection to Masonry until Nauvoo. Rigdon became a Mason the same day the Joseph Smith did,  remained active throughout his life and received a Masonic funeral. My own findings largely rule out any substantial role for Rigdon in the the production of the BoM and I think he was largely passive in the production of the JST and Book of Moses.
      “Does Isaiah figure prominently into Masonic lore or history?” – I can’t think of any favoring of Isaiah in Masonic ritual as opposed to any other biblical author.

      While I would have to look more carefully at 1 Nephi 11-14 to pick out Masonic parallels, I would not be surprised to find such parallels. The Tree of Life itself is a very important Kabbalistic symbol and is related to Jacob’s ladder. I do have Masons, including George Oliver, who discuss Jacob’s ladder in reference to Kabbalah and in reference to the Masonic ritual.

    • Anonymous Reply

      “Was Sidney Rigdon a mason?”  – There is NO indication that Rigdon had any interest nor connection to Masonry until Nauvoo. Rigdon became a Mason the same day the Joseph Smith did,  remained active throughout his life and received a Masonic funeral. My own findings largely rule out any substantial role for Rigdon in the the production of the BoM and I think he was largely passive in the production of the JST and Book of Moses.
      “Does Isaiah figure prominently into Masonic lore or history?” – I can’t think of any favoring of Isaiah in Masonic ritual as opposed to any other biblical author.

      While I would have to look more carefully at 1 Nephi 11-14 to pick out Masonic parallels, I would not be surprised to find such parallels. The Tree of Life itself is a very important Kabbalistic symbol and is related to Jacob’s ladder. I do have Masons, including George Oliver, who discuss Jacob’s ladder in reference to Kabbalah and in reference to the Masonic ritual.

    • Anonymous Reply

      “Was Sidney Rigdon a mason?”  – There is NO indication that Rigdon had any interest nor connection to Masonry until Nauvoo. Rigdon became a Mason the same day the Joseph Smith did,  remained active throughout his life and received a Masonic funeral. My own findings largely rule out any substantial role for Rigdon in the the production of the BoM and I think he was largely passive in the production of the JST and Book of Moses.
      “Does Isaiah figure prominently into Masonic lore or history?” – I can’t think of any favoring of Isaiah in Masonic ritual as opposed to any other biblical author.

      While I would have to look more carefully at 1 Nephi 11-14 to pick out Masonic parallels, I would not be surprised to find such parallels. The Tree of Life itself is a very important Kabbalistic symbol and is related to Jacob’s ladder. I do have Masons, including George Oliver, who discuss Jacob’s ladder in reference to Kabbalah and in reference to the Masonic ritual.

      • JT Reply

        Thanks George,

        Another quick question … it’s about the 2 Nephi 26:22 verse that juxtaposes secret combinations “of the devil” and “leading by the neck with a flaxen cord.”

        I am sure you’re aware of some connect this to the Masonic “cable-tow.”  

        Paul Mouritsen writes an apologetic argument against this on the Maxwell Institute website.
        http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=12&num=1&id=310

        His argument is three-fold.

        1.   Masonry is not of the devil. 

        2.  The fact that JS’s contemporaries did not pick up on this.

        3.  “Wide use” of “flaxen cord” as a metaphor.

        Quick thoughts(especially in the light of reason 1, which you addressed).

        My inclination is to not make too much of such things but this might carry some weight when seen in the broader context of the entire Book of Mormon.

        Thanks

        JT

        • Anonymous Reply

          The verse under consideration is this on in 2 Nephi 26:22-25.

          22 And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.

          23 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.

          24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw call men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. (2 Ne. 26:22-24)

          Scholars see in this verse an allusion to Freemasonry. Mark D. Thomas has written, “The nineteenth century Book of Mormon reader would almost certainly seen this passage as an allusion to a prophesy masonry.“ (Thomas, 1999, p. 203) Dan Vogel agrees asking rhertorically, “Can anyone seriously doubt that many, if not most, nineteenth century readers understood these words to refer to the Masonic Cable-Tow?” (Vogel, 2002) 

          Critics would complain that view is problematic. “But because the Book of Mormon identifies the devil as the originator of secret combinations, the above passage stands against the notion of Masonic influence on Joseph Smith.” (Mouritsen, 2003) In this argument Mouritsen argument parallels D. Michael Quinn’s arguments on these lines. “Statements in early Mormon scriptures about the origins and purpose of secret combinations tended to reject rather than reflect the views of both Masons and anti-Masons during Smith’s time. In the eighteenth century, advocates of Freemasonry claimed that it had a divine origin with Adam, whom they described as a Grand Master, as were other biblical patriarchs. … Since the 1700s the vast majority of anti-Masons had regarded Freemasonry as a strictly modern development, denied that it was of divine origin, and defined it as a man-made conspiracy of ‘war against Christ and his Altars, [and] war against Kings and their Thrones.” (Quinn, 1998) Thus both Mouritsen and Quinn believe that Joseph Smith’s revelations that Satan is the direct author and originator of Masonic secret combinations is not reflected in the views of either Masons or Anti-Masons. Mauritsen statement also implies a deeper problem with which authors writing about the Mormon-Masonic connection with have long struggled.
          As I mentioned in this podcast, this problem is largely fixed when we realize that in fact George Oliver believed in two Masonic groups, one of which was started by Satan. In this light the above verse makes perfect sense.
          Mouritsen disagrees that if the scripture in Nephi were discussing the cable tow then “one would expect to find widespread references to this interpretation in contemporary sermons, journals, and letters. No writer, however, cites any examples of 19th-century authors who actually understood the verse in this way; and, in fact, any connection between the flaxen cord and the Masonic initiation ceremony seems to have gone largely unnoticed until the late 20th century.” (Mouritson, 64-77) Mouritsen seems unaware that this was exactly what Mormons were preaching in the 1830s. (1) On December 8, 1830 the New York Auburn Free Press ran an article on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

          Most of our readers have probably heard of the Golden Bible, which it is asserted was found not long since, in some part of Ontario. … The book which these men have pretended to translate from these sheets of gold has been printed, and they are now busily engaged in scattering copies of it throughout the country. They were recently in Painesville, Ohio on their way to a land of promise, which is before them — they do not know exactly where — but somewhere beyond the Mississippi, where they intend establishing a New Jerusalem, into which will be gathered all the descendants of Mannassah.

          These men assert that this book “was written by the prophets of God during the period embracing the time for 600 years before and several hundred after the Christian era. It predicts, we understand, almost all events which have come to pass, such as the American Revolution, &c. and that there should be secret societies and that men should be led on to destruction by a rope of flax, said to mean Cable tow. All which they believe is proven by profane history — thus supporting the authenticity of the new revelation. But why the Deity should predict events, knowledge of which would be so useful to the human race, merely to hide them in the earth until after the completion, we are not informed.” (AFP 7:28)

          The reporter is recounting a sermon given in Painsville, OH probably by Oliver Cowdery. Based on the the reporter’s context, Cowdery is probably taking the text of his sermon from 2 Nephi 25-30, a prophesy by Nephi concerning the latter-days which is interspersed among chapters from Isaiah.

          We do know that Oliver Cowdey was very interested in Freemasonry. One of Oliver Cowdery’s neighbors David Booth recalled, “Cowdery was a strong Mason, so they all said; that is all the religion he had.” (Kelly, 1881) Additionally, many of Cowdery’s family were Freemasons and it is highly likely that Cowdery was made a freemason before the Morgan Affair as his name appear as one of the founding members of a lodge after his departure from Mormonism and before he returned prior to Brigham Young’s exodus to Utah.

      • Utah Webmaster Reply

        But…Rigdon does seem to be spearheading the goal of restoring the “ancient church Christ setup”. No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie left me with a particular understanding of how much Rigdon may have influenced Joseph in the early years.

    • Anonymous Reply

      “Was Sidney Rigdon a mason?”  – There is NO indication that Rigdon had any interest nor connection to Masonry until Nauvoo. Rigdon became a Mason the same day the Joseph Smith did,  remained active throughout his life and received a Masonic funeral. My own findings largely rule out any substantial role for Rigdon in the the production of the BoM and I think he was largely passive in the production of the JST and Book of Moses.
      “Does Isaiah figure prominently into Masonic lore or history?” – I can’t think of any favoring of Isaiah in Masonic ritual as opposed to any other biblical author.

      While I would have to look more carefully at 1 Nephi 11-14 to pick out Masonic parallels, I would not be surprised to find such parallels. The Tree of Life itself is a very important Kabbalistic symbol and is related to Jacob’s ladder. I do have Masons, including George Oliver, who discuss Jacob’s ladder in reference to Kabbalah and in reference to the Masonic ritual.

  13. JT Reply

    George,

    Thanks so much for your response to my 2 Nephi 22-26 (flaxen cord = cable tow). I’m honored by your generous and through answer.  

    I’m posting this above the thread so others won’t miss it, seeing as it’s buried 4 layers.

    I’m quite the “freshman” in Mormon Studies … but eager and enthusiastic.  I deeply appreciate insights and new avenues of critical thought scholars like you open up.  I love to witness informed minds in debate – grinding their way toward truth with evidence

    I never got through the entire Book of Mormon as an active member (“chloroform in print”), but I am well on my way using Grant Hardy’s Reader’s Edition (listen to his and his wife’s Mormon Stories podcast interview).  It lives up to his promises.

    I reached 2 Nephi 22-26 the day after I listened to your discussion of the Spurious tradition and that made me alert to question the the flaxen cord business.  So, again, thank you for this additional lens to read it through.

    Two more thoughts/questions pop in my mind.  

    First relates to the matter of Joseph Smith raising to the rank of master mason “on sight.”

    I suspect that Joseph saw the formal establishment of Masonry in Nauvoo as complementing his institution of the endowment in terms of achieving greater loyalty from his followers in a dangerous time.  In other words, he was leveraging Masonic oaths.  

    I cannot cite the source, but prior to this podcast I was under the impression that Masonry was new to Joseph in Nauvoo and his intitiation triggered the endowment revelation.  

    Again, I suspect that all these things were mutually reinforcing and aimed at creating circles of protection around himself. 

    As an aside, I have formed a perception of early Mormon culture as being composed of a tight circle of insiders buffered on all around by relatively clueless (and faceless) new converts (many immigrants) haplessly caught up and carried along by Joseph’s charisma in his visions of grandeur – whether they were truly inspired of God or not.   I would be happy to learn that this was not the case. 

    Second … what’s with Joseph taking Morgan’s widow as a plural wife?  That suggests a connection between Joseph and William Morgan and also Masonry going back well before Nauvoo.

    Please feel welcome to refer me to available articles rather than extensive replies.

    Best wishes,

    JT

    • JT Reply

      George,

      I just discovered Reed Durham’s 1974 article “Is There No Help For a Widow’s Son,” which may fill me in – so take that into consideration if/when you reply.

      JT

    • Anonymous Reply

      “I suspect that Joseph saw the formal establishment of Masonry in Nauvoo as complementing his institution of the endowment in terms of achieving greater loyalty from his followers in a dangerous time.  In other words, he was leveraging Masonic oaths.”
      This is a common interpretation. However, I think it is also likely incorrect under the wealth of data I have gathered. I will discuss this in the next podcast.

      “Second … what’s with Joseph taking Morgan’s widow as a plural wife?  That suggests a connection between Joseph and William Morgan and also Masonry going back well before Nauvoo.”
      There is a tentative link between William Morgan and Joseph Smith in the New York period. 

    • Anonymous Reply

      “I suspect that Joseph saw the formal establishment of Masonry in Nauvoo as complementing his institution of the endowment in terms of achieving greater loyalty from his followers in a dangerous time.  In other words, he was leveraging Masonic oaths.”
      This is a common interpretation. However, I think it is also likely incorrect under the wealth of data I have gathered. I will discuss this in the next podcast.

      “Second … what’s with Joseph taking Morgan’s widow as a plural wife?  That suggests a connection between Joseph and William Morgan and also Masonry going back well before Nauvoo.”
      There is a tentative link between William Morgan and Joseph Smith in the New York period. 

  14. MoJim Reply

    George — thanks for sharing this — very interesting stuff! I’m still skeptical of your claim that the secret combinations of the Book of Mormon were not intended as a reference to masonry. It seems to make more sense to say that Joseph Smith just changed his mind about masonry mirroring the sentiment of the rest of the country at the time — becoming a part of the anti-masonic fervor around the time the BoM was written, and then warming back up to masonry as the Morgan affair died down.

    I was unaware of the reference to a “flaxen cord” around the neck was a reference to a cable tow, but it makes a lot of sense.The most notable allusion to masonry that I’ve seen in the Book of Mormon is in 3 Nephi 4:7, where it discusses the wars between the Nephites and the Gadianton Robbers. In that verse, it describes the clothing of the Gadianton Robbers: “and they were girded about after the manner of
    robbers; and they had a lamb-skin about their loins.” I always understoof this to be a direct reference to masonry (I have also heard that in the pre-1990’s temple ceremony, Satan wore an apron which was made to look masonic — is this right?). I’d love to hear your take on this verse and Satan’s apron in the temple ceremony. Thanks!

    • Anonymous Reply

      MoJim- Your and others skepticism on this means that I will likely have to revisit this issue in the next podcast. Remember that in the temple there are two groups wearing aprons- the Spurious Satan and the Speculative Adam and Eve. The main difference here is that Adam and Eve are wearing white aprons with green leaves in a similar fashion to the white lambskin apron worn by the Masons, while Satan is wearing his Spurious non-white apron. [Today they are green but in Joseph Smith’s day they were white]. This is another manifestation of the two groups showing up in the temple ceremony.

      As to your latter question and Joseph Smith’s worry over Spurious Masonry’s leading to the downfall of modern day society, I did not go over that in the podcast, but it appears that I am going to have to do that.

  15. JT4131 Reply

    George,

    a quick two part question.

    Helaman 10:7 is obviously related to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, with “seal” replacing “bind” (or, the reverse if you suppose Helaman wrote first).

    Is the use of sealing a Masonic reference?

    If so, how many practicing Mormons do you think are aware of this?

    Thanks again

    • Anonymous Reply

      The scripture you are referencing here is Helaman 10:7 which you cross reference here to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.

      HEL 10:7  Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall SEAL on earth shall be SEALED in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

      MAT 16:19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt BIND on earth shall be BOUND in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      MAT 18:18  Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall BIND on earth shall be BOUND in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      Yes Joseph Smith in writing Helaman is borrowing his words from the New Testament. Joseph Smith was largely doing this borrowing from memory, and he is likely just misquoting, but I could be wrong here as he “liked” the term sealing. I can’t think of any Masonic reason why Joseph may have made this specific change.

      Having said that, Joseph Smith was likely influenced by both Universalist and Masonic focus on the “family of God” and on this point a few lines from Antiquities of Freemasonry are probably relevant. 

      “Our [Masonic] secrets embrace, in a comprehensive manner, human science and divine knowledge; they link mankind together in the indissoluble chain of sincere affection; and, which is of far greater import, they incite to the practice of those virtues, which may do much towards securing happiness in a future state.” (Antiquities of Freemasonry, 1823 p. 11)

  16. Will Reply

    Is there a way to email george miller? I have a question regarding satan’s temple apron. Or if someone can email me or answer on here. I’m just so confused as why satin’s apron would have masonic symbols on it if those symbols were so sacred to the early members.

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