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Is Book of Mormon anti-Masonic? (Part 3 of 7)

Historian Dan Vogel said the Book of Mormon was very anti-masonic in one of my previous interviews with him.  Cheryl Bruno disagreed with that notion, saying the Book of Mormon was anti-spurious masonry.  I asked Clair Barrus to weigh in on this issue.  What does he think?

Clair:  There are two forms of masonry, according to George Oliver, who has some fascinating parallels with what Joseph Smith’s Mormonism, in that there’s a spurious masonry, and then there’s pure masonry. The story goes clear back to the time of Adam. Well, God is the original Mason, and he architects the universe, and then he creates Adam.

GT:  So this is a Masonic tale that you’re telling me, right?

Clair:  This is a Masonic tale, yes.  Then he creates Adam and then he tells Adam the true Word, the ineffable word, which is kind of the secretive name of God. He tells Adam, the word.  It’s called in masonry, the word or the ineffable word. Then Adam passes that down, almost kind of like priesthood. He passes it down through his genealogical lines. It goes clear down to the time of Solomon and they end up with it and then and then they lose it. Long story short, the keeper of the word gets murdered and they lose the word and it’s lost. We’ll talk about this word here in a bit. But Cain breaks off and creates a spurious, evil, bad, misappropriated masonry, and he starts this line of adulterated masonry, spurious masonry, if I understand it, right.  I’m oversimplifying, and I hope Cheryl’s not shaking her head, going, “Oh man, Clair’s kind of got it right.” But, this is not my area of expertise.

GT:  When we post this, she can weigh in on it.

Clair: She can weigh in on it, yes. But that’s generally speaking, correct. So now you go to the story of William Morgan, 1826. He is going to publish an exposé of masonry. The masons supposedly freak out. William Morgan goes to jail in Canandaigua just a few miles south of the Smiths. Joseph Smith, Sr. happens to be serving time there for some debt. I think it is debt related issues. Then, later, the Masons bail out William Morgan. When he steps out of jail, they arrest him. They take them up to one of the Great Lakes. They toss him in, so the story goes.  We don’t know the details, but this is kind of story that percolates out.

GT:  The thing that always bugs me is our founding fathers were masons. George Washington was a Mason. I believe Thomas Jefferson was a Mason, like everybody was a Mason. The Constitution used a lot of Masonic principles. So it’s interesting that in 1791, when George Washington is the president until, I don’t remember exactly the year that Andrew Jackson was elected, probably 1828, I believe.

Clair:  Something like that.

GT:  Somewhere around that timeframe. So we go from the founders of our of our nation are good masons to this William Morgan murder, and now they’re public enemy number one.

Clair:  It was an overreaction. Sure. These masons were upset about William Morgan trying to expose their Masonic secrets. But the overreaction was bad and that happens in in the world all the time. Overreaction is often worse than what they’re originally reacting to. So in the Book of Mormon, you have this anti-Masonic stuff popping up.  There’s two ways to interpret it. It’s either anti-masonry, or its anti-spurious masonry.

Check out our conversation….

Anti-Masonic postcard

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Clair Barrus!

407:  Oliver Cowdery’s Rod of Revelation

406:  Masonic Connections in Oliver Cowdery’s Family

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Message to Critics & Believers of Joseph Smith (Part 6 of 6)

One of the things I find really interesting about Dr. Larry Foster is that he seems to disagree with both critics and supporters of Joseph Smith.   In our final conversation with Larry, we will close up some loose ends and seek to find a middle ground that best explain Joseph Smith.

Larry:  I think it’s really hard for people who have the sort of complete hero worship idea, or sort of a pasteboard saint, to really understand Joseph Smith. It’s really hard for people who think he was just a total scoundrel and crook and con man and confidence man, or whatever it was, to see him properly. I think that there’s an element of both in him. So, my latest piece on trying to reconcile the fact that so many people for so many years, have either thought that he was a true prophet of God that could do no evil, or he was a terrible scoundrel and con man.

I think that the fact that so many people have had those opposing viewpoints [means that neither can be the whole truth.] I always believe that most people are trying to do the right thing or be honest, unless I see otherwise. So, I think there’s something that’s very special about Joseph Smith. There’s also some stuff about him that looks like he’s manipulative, and so forth. So, I argue that he was genuinely committed to his religious beliefs and ideals, but that he was also willing to cut corners and even lie or make false statements in order to try to accomplish his goals.

GT:  Now, I just spoke with Dan Vogel recently.

Larry:  Yeah, we’re very much on the same page on this.

GT:  So, you would go with pious fraud?

Larry:  No, I don’t use that. [I call him] a sincere charlatan. That was the term that I developed. I think pious and fraud both are [problematic.] Pious sounds like you’re not really true, and fraud is fraud. I mean, charlatan, trickster would be better, maybe than charlatan. But I think that he really had a genuine religious vision and ideals. I also think that he was willing to manipulate other people as part of that in ways that from outsiders’ perspective look like he was a fraud. If you don’t bring the two together, you can’t understand the overall dynamic. He was a great man. He was also a flawed man. And he, of course, recognized that the prophet is a prophet only when it’s acting as such. But even though he was acting as such, sometimes he may have deviated.

Dr. Larry Foster addresses both fans and critics of Joseph Smith.

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Critiquing Book of Abraham Apologetics (Part 9 of 9)

Historian Dan Vogel will conclude his discussion on the Book of Abraham.  He will tell why he thinks some apologetic arguments about the Book of Abraham just aren’t valid.

Dan: [Hugh] Nibley tried to say, and the current apologists repeat it, that, “Oh, these characters in the column is just an exotic way of organizing all three documents, so that they know where to go to each paragraph, that’s the same.” The problem with that is that they really don’t begin each paragraph. They begin each part of the translation.

When you look really close, it’s not a paragraph where each character appears. Sometimes the paragraphs are split right in the middle of a sentence and another character, or there’s a fragment of a sentence, just about five words to a character. So they’re dividing the text up to line up with the characters. They’re not arbitrarily put in there for decoration or an exotic way of organizing the paragraphs. It’s very obvious. At the top of the third translation of the Book of Abraham, the one that has three verses in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps. At the top says, “Translation of records have been found in the catacombs of Egypt.” And in the other column “character.” Then Phelps takes the first character and numbers it one, the second character he numbers it two. Then over here he underlines, Chaldea one. Abraham two.

Then there’s a third character he wrote, which is a real elaborate one that is dissected in the alphabet. But it doesn’t number it, because it has a lot of parts. The other two just have one part. This one has a lot of parts. You read all over the place trying to match it up. But the translation next to it, if you look in the grammar, and you find that character, that’s the translation given that character.

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Historian Dan Vogel critiques various apologetic arguments on the Book of Abraham.

Check out our other conversations!

294: Lost Book of Abraham?

293: How We Got Book of Abraham

292: First Vision Conflicts

291: 1835 Account of First Vision

290: Making a Case for Melchizedek Priesthood in 1831?

289: Methodist Visions

288: Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks off Everyone

287: Dan Vogel Was a McConkie Mormon!