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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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How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2 (Part 2 of 7)

An under-appreciated story in explaining the priesthood and temple ban was President Spencer W. Kimball’s announcement of a new temple in Brazil.  In our next conversation with Dr. Matt Harris, we’ll talk about the significant role the Brazil Temple played in changing attitudes among the apostles.

Matt:  Anyway, so when I met with Ed Kimball one long afternoon, we had dinner. When we talked and I said, “I want to share a thesis with you about your father that you didn’t write about in your book [Lengthen Your Stride.]” This thesis is this.  He’s an academic. So he knows what a thesis is. I said, “Your father wanted to lift the priesthood ban the minute he became the Church President.”

And he looked at me, his eyes got really big. And he said, “You’re right.” He said, “I wasn’t at liberty to write that.” And I said, “Well, I am.”

And anyway, I shared some of my ideas with him, that the Brazil Temple was one of the ways that he would do that. I mean, think about how ironic it is to announce the building of a temple in a nation that’s like 85% biracial. Nobody can go to the temple. Right? How crazy is that? And President Kimball had been to Brazil in the 1950s. He had apostolic, administrative oversight over Brazil. I think President McKay wanted him in Brazil. So anyway, so he’d been to Brazil. He knew the challenges of the priesthood ban there. So he’s very familiar with the people in the country. And so they announced a Temple where no one can worship.

Matt:  And anyway, so President Kimball is a masterful manager of people. In the university setting where I work in or if you study organizational behavior, this is a classic case of organizational behavior, how to deal with people, how to get them over to your position. And so, President Kimball brings him in over a period of several weeks some of the hardliners and consults with them and counsels with them. Kimball says, “We’ve got a problem in Brazil, Elder McConkie. You know that we have a new temple here. What do we do? Now this is the funny part. President Kimball knows what needs to be done. But he can’t do it without getting buy-in from the most vociferous member of the Twelve. And the most vociferous apostle opposing the ban, at least at that time. Right?

Matt:  [McConkie wrote] “Mormon Doctrine” of course where he articulates his views about the ban an African-Americans. or persons of African descent.  So he has to persuade Elder McConkie this is the right thing to do.  Elder McConkie, will be persuaded if the saints are to utilize the Brazil Temple, they have to give black men the priesthood.  That’s the short answer.  If you read Elder McConkie’s son’s memoir, Joseph Fielding McConkie writes a book about his father in 2003.  If you read the chapter on the revelation, Joseph Fielding McConkie gives the credit to his father.  “It was my father’s idea to give blacks the priesthood.”  At least that’s how I read it.  “The Brazil Temple.”  I’m thinking.  I actually chuckled when I read that chapter.  Because President Kimball knew darn well what he was doing. Elder McConkie didn’t know what was going on.

Check out our conversation….

Dr. Matt Harris claims the Brazil Temple was the key to get some apostles to change their mind about the priesthood/temple ban on blacks.

Don’t miss our previous episode with Dr. Harris!

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?

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Mormon Pioneers in Texas & End of Wightites (Part 4 of 8)

We’re continuing our conversation with Mel Johnson and we’ll finish out the Wightites settlement in Texas.  What happened to them?

Mel  49:24  After 1853 they take about a year to get down to their final colony place, down in Bandera, Texas, in Bandera County. It is West of San Antonio about 55 miles. Bandera is a typical Texas western town and county. The Frontier Times Museum is located there. I am the staff historian for the Frontier Times Museum. They have a good Mormon exhibit there and there they were for four years. That is where the colony finally dissolved, and more than half of the Wightites stayed in Bandera and their descendants are there today.

Mel  50:21  They became cattlemen, they became storekeepers, they became farmers. They owned lots and built houses in Bandera. Some are still there. An 1865 RLDS revival mission came to Bandera, Texas after the Civil War, and all of the Banderites supported the Confederacy, so did the Mormons, they were very militant, very anti-union.

GT  50:54  Because of states’ rights because the Mormons wanted to practice polygamy and they thought that was the…

Mel  50:59  And the government, the federal government had not protected them in Missouri or Illinois.

GT  51:04  Right.

Mel  51:06  And 40 of them were baptized into the RLDS church, and they had an active chapel there in Bandera for 120 years. For any of you watching and listening, I’m going to put in a plug for 2021 John Whitmer Historical Conference is going to be held in Fredericksburg, Texas. I am trying to get the leadership to organize tours down to Bandera and up to Burnet County into the cemetery.

GT  51:42  What’s the nearest airport to Fredericksburg?

Mel  51:44  San Antonio.

So there you have it!  Are you going to check out the JWHA meetings?  Check out our conversation….

Many of the Wightites joined the Reorganization.

Don’t miss our other episodes with Mel!

Melvin Johnson on Life of John Pierce Hawley

277: More on the Zodiak Temple in Texas

276: Lyman Wight & Mormon Colonies in Texas

275: Intro to Hawley