Saturday, March 30, 2013

Did Joseph Copy The Masons?

Did Joseph Smith borrow or use elements of Masonic Ritual for the temple endowment? What purpose would it have served him to belong to this fraternity if he claimed to be a prophet of the Lord? Hopefully this article below helps to shed "further light and knowledge" on the subject. (Pun intended.) - Josh Nelson -
Some critics of Mormonism see similarities between the rites of Freemasonry and LDS temple ceremonies and assume that since Joseph Smith was initiated as a Freemason shortly before he introduced the Nauvoo-style endowment he must have plagiarized elements of the Masonic rituals. This viewpoint leads them, in turn, to conclude that the LDS endowment is nothing but a variant form of Masonic initiation and therefore not from a divine source.

Joseph Smith was initiated as a Freemason on the 15th and 16th of March 1842. But previously, on the 19th of Janaury 1841, the Lord issued a revelation wherein He stated that He was going to "restore again," through Joseph Smith, the "lost" ordinances which had once been practiced in the Tabernacle built by Moses and the house built in the land of promise -- meaning the temple of Solomon (D&C 124:28, 38). The Lord also provided a list within this revealtion of many ritual elements that would eventually be practiced inside of the Nauvoo Temple. Some of the elements mentioned in this revelation are the same ones that Joseph Smith is accused of plagiarizing from the Freemasons.

A detailed look at LDS Church history before the 15th and 16th of March 1842 reveals that Joseph Smith and some of his collegues were well aware of a number of Nauvoo-style temple ritual items early on - including ideology, vestments, actions, forms, language, and architecture. Knowledge of many of these things even predated the revelation given on 19 January 1841 (D&C 124). A careful look at the pre-1842 scriptural texts produced through Joseph Smith's instrumentality is also very instructive because they include a wealth of information connected with the rites that would be introduced among the Saints during the Nauvoo period.

Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Mormons had a definite stance on why there were similarities between the initiation rituals of the respective groups. They taught that there was an original "Priesthood" source of divinely-determined ceremonies: the Masons derived their system from degenerated branches of this source while pristine material was restored to the Latter-day Saints.

One of the strongest evidences that Joseph Smith did not plagiarize Masonic sources in order to 'create' the LDS temple endowment is that 20th and 21st century scholarship has greatly clarified the picture of initiation rites in the biblical and early Christian periods. A comparison of this picture with Joseph Smith's model and the Masonic model shows that what the Prophet gave to the Saints is indeed a restoration, while the Freemasons only possess fragments of the God-given scheme.

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