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Masonic Connections in Oliver Cowdery’s Family (Part 1 of 7)

Clair Barrus has been studying Mormon history since before Al Gore invented the internet!

Clair:  Well, to show my ancientness, I was actually online in 1984, on the internet, when only engineering firms and universities were on the internet.

GT:  Was this like Prodigy or AOL or something else?

Clair:  It was before. I remember when AOL and Prodigy came online. This was pre-anything. You had to be working at an engineering firm, and some universities had access.

GT:  So like the ARPANET?

Clair:  Oh, yeah, it was the ARPANET. Yeah, it was pre-internet. It was the ARPANET.

GT:  Wow, you’re very experienced.

Clair:  Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. (Chuckling)

I was surprised to learn that it isn’t just Joseph Smith who has connections to masonry and magic.  It turns out that Oliver Cowdery has a family history with magic and masonry.  Clair Barrus will tell us more.

Clair:  Let me start with Oliver Cowdery and his father William Cowdery. I think there’s some interesting early Masonic influences that may have come through Oliver Cowdery. Oliver Cowdery’s father was actually involved very early on in a group called, the New Israelites. When you think of New Israelites, compare that with Latter-day Saints.  New and Latter are related, and Saints and Israelites are related. So, you have an interesting relationship just in the naming there. The New Israelites were a very interesting group of people up in Vermont that William Cowdery was involved with. They used rods a lot. They were rodsmen, and they would use rods to get revelations through. Then they created a religious movement and they had a dietary code/restrictions, just has an interesting parallel to the Word of Wisdom. They wanted to build a new Jerusalem. They actually would use their divining rods to gather underground gold and had vast heaps of gold and they were going to use that gold to pave the streets of their new Jerusalem.  They got a revelation. Nathaniel Wood, who was the leader, got a revelation that they should build a temple. Now this is interesting because think about it. What temple builders are there in American religious history? The Mormons or the Latter-day Saints and the New Israelites and the Masons. The Masons are symbolic temple builders.  The interior of every Masonic Lodge is a temple. That was it before Joseph Smith, so I think this is an interesting, unique parallel.  If anyone knows of another temple builder before Joseph Smith, I would love to know, please let me know.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Clair Barrus tells about the masonic connections in Oliver Cowdery’s family.

Don’t miss our previous conversation about Masonry and Mormonism with historian Cheryl Bruno!

405: Mormon-Mason Similarities/Differences (Bruno)

404: Joseph Smith’s Masonic Connections (Bruno)

403: Masonry from King Solomon to Kirtland (Bruno)

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*Impact of Protests on Apostles (Part 7 of 7)

If you’d like to check out this episode, please sign up for my newsletter.  It’s completely free.  Go to GospelTangents.com/newsletter  to find out how the apostles reacted to these protests against BYU.

Matt:  President Kimball said in 1975. Let me get this right. If I don’t lift the ban, my successor won’t do it, nor will my successor’s successor. Of course, he’s talking about Benson and Mark Petersen. So that was President Kimball, saying very clearly if I don’t do this, they won’t. Harold Lee was just intractable. He refused to lift the ban and Joseph Fielding Smith, too. It’s interesting how people evolve because Elder Kimball, I don’t want to give you the sense that he’s a racial progressive. One of the things that his son talks about is my father shared some of the same prejudicial views towards black people that other people of his generation did. Clearly, that’s easy to believe if you realize that we’re all products of our environment, right?  But what’s unique about Kimball is not that he had prejudicial views, it’s how he evolved and that he saw that it was the right thing to do to further the advance of the church. That’s why I admire him so much is that he knew that there were obstacles. David O. McKay had the same obstacles, different personalities in the Twelve, but the same obstacles. I think I can make a strong argument that President McKay might have lifted the ban in the 1950s had it not been for some of the hardliners there. What’s different between President McKay and President Kimball, is that Kimball recognize that it was worth fighting for, it was worth going to bat for. I don’t want to say that McKay didn’t think it wasn’t worth it. But Kimball spent a lot of time nurturing relationships with the personalities that he had to work with the most, which is McConkie. I’m not sure about Petersen, how much of the one on one, but I do know with Elder McConkie, he spent extensive time with him working him through these issues. We talked about how McConkie gone to Brazil several times in the weeks and days leading up to the revelation. So when they went to the temple in June of 1978, it wasn’t like the manuals, say, “Oh, I just had a revelation one day.”  No, this is something they knew they we’re going to change when they got there. I’m not trying to take away from their revelatory experience and the inspiration of it all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that President Kimball knew the ban was going to go that day and I’m quite certain that the others knew that it was going to go, too. It was just a matter of being unified and probably feeling that last-minute inspiration that they felt they needed to have.

What are your thoughts on Matt’s research on the ban?

Dr. Matt Harris describes how Pres Kimball got the apostles on board with the 1978 revelation.  This is the group of apostles from 1969 that did not overturn the ban under President McKay when many of the protests took place.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Harris!

352: BYU Law School Almost Lost Accreditation

351: Civil Rights Investigation at BYU

350: Sports Protests Against BYU

349: Race & Religious Minorities at BYU

348: How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?

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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?