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Masonic Golden Plates & Temple Theology (Part 7 of 12)

Historian Don Bradley says that masonic implements were found with the golden plates.  What were these implements, and how are they related to modern LDS temple ceremonies?

Don:  Joseph, Sr. tells this guy [non-Mormon named Fayette Lapham] about the plates. He tells him that on the top plate there were the implements of masonry, as used by Masons of the present day. So I found this really interesting. Wow, Masonic stuff way back at the beginning of Mormonism.

In every single masonic lodge in the world, one of the things that they have in common is that there’s an altar. On that altar, there’s a sacred book, usually the Bible, and in Muslim countries/Islamic countries, it can be the Quran, and so on. There’s a sacred book.  Do you know what’s on top of that book?  A compass and square. You set a compass and the square on top of that sacred book.

Joseph, Sr. was very steeped in, at the very least, Masonic lore, but he is apparently also a member of a Masonic Lodge, apparently a Mason.  He’s saying, based on Joseph, Jr.’s descriptions of the plates, and by this time he would have seen them himself, actually, as one of the eight witnesses, he’s saying, the basic Masonic implements, which at minimum, are going to be compass and square, were on the top of the Sacred Book. That’s how it is in masonic lodges. So, the specific Masonic implements that are on top of sacred books in the lodge are compass and square. So of course these are significant symbols for more than just Freemasons. They’re already showing up. Joseph Smith first goes to the hill, first sees the plates, first describes the plates to his father in 1823. Joseph Smith becomes a Freemason in 1842, when he’s 36.  Almost 20 years before Joseph becomes a Freemason, he’s already describing the sacred relics of the Nephites in Masonic terms that have extra-Masonic/more than Masonic relevance for Latter-day Saints of sacred symbols. So again, why is it that it seems that Latter-day Saints would, post-Nauvoo, really recognize as part of our faith? He’s already there in the 1820s.  Everything that I’ve talked about, where these Masonic or Nauvoo temple elements are popping up:  First Vision, Joseph Smith’s first encounter with the plates in 1823, Joseph Smith’s translation of the lost pages in 1828, Joseph Smith’s translation of the extant Book of Mormon text–book of Ether, 1829. That’s all 1829, so far, before he, himself, becomes a Freemason, and already you’ve got loads of symbolic and structural content elements of the Nauvoo endowment.  There’s something going on.  Nauvoo endowment isn’t just Nauvoo.  In fact, Nauvoo Mormonism is not really just Nauvoo.  It’s already there, since you have Nauvoo elements in the stories of the brother of Jared, and Mosiah. [With] the Nauvoo temple, what Joseph is about is trying to bring people into the presence of God. This is what he says in his sermons. So you’re trying to give them keys. You can go talk to God yourself. You can stand in God’s presence.

Check out our conversation….

Joseph Smith, Sr said masonic implements were with the Golden Plates.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Don!

359: Temple Endowment in Lost Pages

358: Laban Killed During Passover

357: More than 116 Pages Lost?

356: How Much of BoM is Missing?

355: Re-Writing Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Nasty, Filthy Scrape?

354: Dating Fanny Alger

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What was Missing on Lost Pages of Book of Mormon? (Part 3 of 12)

What was on the lost pages of the Book of Mormon? Historian Don Bradley has been wondering this ever since he was in primary!

Don:  Since primary, yeah.   I think I was ten.  I was in South Bend, Indiana Ward where Notre Dame is, and Mike Standiford was my primary teacher, Blazer A. We did a unit on Church History on the Presidents of the Church. Somewhere I even got coloring sheets that were stapled together into a little book. I need to find where that’s at.  It shows Joseph Smith and Martin Harris and it tells the story of the lost pages. I remember being there in that primary class and thinking, “We’re missing part of the Book of Mormon?  What was in it?”  Because like if you grow up a Latter-day Saint, how foundational is the Book of Mormon?

Only absolutely foundational, right? As a child, you’re going to hear more about the Book of Mormon than anything and how foundational it is.  So, the idea that there was a big part of it that we didn’t have, nobody even talked about what was in it.  This was just wild to me. I think that when we encounter a funny idea, and then we encounter it over and over and over again, it ceases to become funny to us. We just get sort of inured to it.  We get used to it. That’s, I think, what has mostly happened or to a good extent has happened to us as a Latter-day Saint culture is we’re so used to the idea that part of our foundational scripture is missing, that we didn’t even give it much thought.  Isn’t that kind of weird that we’re missing? In fact, you know what part we’re missing. We’re missing the first part. We’re missing the original first part of the Book of Mormon.

Don has found clues not only in the Book of Mormon, but in various accounts of Joseph’s friends and relatives.  Check out our conversation….

Historian Don Bradley describes more about the Lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon.

Don’t miss our other episodes where Don discusses his research on the Fanny Alger relationship with Joseph Smith!

355: Re-Writing Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Nasty, Filthy Scrape?

354: Dating Fanny Alger

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Rewriting Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Filthy, Nasty Scrape? (Part 2 of 12)

Oliver Cowdery has long been quoted that what happened between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger was a “dirty, filthy, nasty affair.”  But are those really his words?  It turns out that those are not actually Oliver’s words, but the words of his nephew!  In our next conversation with historian Don Bradley, Don will tell us how he came to that conclusion!

Don:  Here you’ve got Oliver Cowdery right around the time he’s excommunicated, writing to his brother, saying, something about Joseph’s dirty, nasty, filthy affair with Fanny Alger. So people are like, “Well, there you go. Oliver Cowdery at the time thought that it was adultery. So why would we think it was polygamy?”

But I noticed when I looked at the Church Archives microfilm, is that there was something funny. The word affair was written over top of another word. And I say, “What’s that word?” Because this seems to be a key, right? If Oliver originally wrote some other word, and then affair is written over it–you have to understand the letterbook was not written by Oliver. Oliver wrote the original letter to his brother. Then Oliver’s nephew took that original letter, copied it into letterbook for Oliver and the change is made in the handwriting of Oliver’s nephew. So the nephew is changing what Oliver said to something else. So the word “affair” isn’t Oliver’s word. Oliver’s original word is underneath that word and I had to know what it was, because everybody for decades cited this like, “Here you go. We’ve got the goods, it was an affair.”

So I could read some of the letters, but I wanted to be really sure. I had Chris [Smith] go look at it and he was able to read most of the word. Then we were able to get detailed images from the Huntington Library that Brian Hales has reproduced that show definitively what the word was. The original word is not affair. The word is scrape. You know S C R A P E, scrape. So if you look at what these words meant at the time, you can actually figure out what Oliver was originally saying and why his nephew changed it. So a scrape, according to the 1828 Webster’s, so just 10 years before Oliver’s letter was [written, the word scrape meant] a perplexity, a distress. It’s like a way of saying somebody got into a jam. They were in a scrape.

So, we’re talking about Joseph and Fanny Alger having gotten themselves into this jam and they need to get out of it. However, Webster indicates that this is, in his words, a low word. So this is actually not a really polite word. It’s sort of like slang. So Oliver’s nephew writes what Oliver had originally said and then he’s like, “I’m not going to leave this slang in there. This is not a great way to speak, to preserve this history.” So he just finds another word to write over it. He writes the word affair. We look at the word affair, and that word triggers all kinds of meanings.

GT:  We think sex.

Don:  We think sex. I’d invite listeners to like explore this for yourself. Go on to Google Books or some other database of 19th century texts and look at all the uses you can find of the word affair around this time, early to mid 19th century. Then look at later uses like late 19th century, 20th century. The connotation of a romantic affair, from just the word affair does not appear until around the end of the 19th century and it doesn’t come to mean pretty much talking about people having sex outside of marriage until even later than that. The word affair, actually, at the time, is a very general word rather than a very specific word. I’m trying to remember his wording there, but Webster defines affair and he actually says a word, a very broad word, a very general and indefinite signification. It’s just a really super broad word. Basically, as Webster defines it, the word just means anything that people do. It’s like using the word thing, right? Joseph and Fanny Alger had this dirty, nasty, filthy thing. There’s something that happened. Now, Oliver is pretty clear that it’s dirty, nasty and filthy. He’s very much against it. However, if you look at Oliver Cowdery’s known views on polygamy, he’s against it. He doesn’t think it’s a clean thing. He thinks it’s a filthy thing. So there’s nothing in Oliver’s wording that would preclude him referring to polygamy there, just referring to it in a very negative way. He says..

GT:  He would normally think it was negative no matter what.

Don:  Yeah. Joseph and Fanny had a dirty, nasty, filthy scrape. Or, they had a dirty, nasty, filthy thing going on between them. What was that thing? Sure, maybe it’s adultery here. Or maybe it’s illicit polygamy as far as Oliver is concerned.

GT:  So Oliver wouldn’t have made the distinction between polygamy and adultery. Is that what you’re saying?

Don:  Not necessarily. So we know that even when Oliver returns to the Church in the late 1840s, people are telling him about polygamy. He’s having a hard time believing it. He says, “I can’t imagine.” This shows a little naivety here when you hear this. But he says, “I can’t imagine that Brigham would condone such a thing.” {Chuckling}

GT:  So it sounds like Eliza [R. Snow] believed that the relationship with Fanny and Joseph was a marriage.

Don:  Yes.

Check out our conversation….

Don Bradley says Oliver Cowdery referred to Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger as a “dirty, nasty, filthy scrape” rather than “affair” as has been frequently cited.

And don’t miss our previous conversation with Don Bradley:   Dating Fanny Alger