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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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Temple Endowment in Lost Pages (Part 6 of 12)

It has been generally accepted that the LDS endowment ceremonies are based on Masonic ceremonies Joseph learned in the 1840s.  However, historian Don Bradley says there are clues to masonry in the Book of Mormon’s lost pages that are also related to the LDS temple endowment ceremonies.

Don:  This [non-Mormon] Fayette Lapham guy, he’s not just confabulating. He’s remembering what Joseph, Sr. told him and the narrative that he gives has everything to do with temples.  It’s Nauvoo endowment stuff. The thing is, Lapham was never a Mormon, was never a Latter-day Saint.  He wouldn’t come through the temple. At this time, neither would Joseph, Sr.  Joseph, Sr. never goes through the Nauvoo Temple.  He dies before the endowment is instituted. So why is there Nauvoo endowment material in the lost pages of the Book of Mormon narrative translated in 1828? Joseph Smith doesn’t become a Freemason until 1842. That’s 14 years later. I had been absolutely convinced that Joseph didn’t know anything about the Nauvoo endowment until he becomes a Freemason in March 1842.

GT:  Yeah, that’s the traditional story.

Don:  I thought, “[Joseph became] Freemason in mid-March 1842. In early May like five weeks later, [we have the] endowment.”  You sort of connect the dots. Sure, that’s causation. This is what I was thinking. I’m not saying they’re unrelated, but Joseph has much of the structure and content of the Nauvoo endowment in his mind, as he’s bringing forth the Book of Mormon in 1828, because so much of it’s already there.  In my mind, this was interweaving with the different narratives about the First Vision that I had, different pieces of evidence about what was in it. I was looking at parallel narratives in Latter-day Saints scripture.  Abraham, Enoch, Moses, how did they become seers? The brother of Jared is the big one. So the brother of Jared, I’d never read this narrative this way. We don’t read it this way. But think about this.  I just told the narrative from Joseph Smith, Sr. of how the Nephites got the interpreters.  How did the Jaredites get the interpreters? Ether 3 says, “The Brother of Jared,” whose name, by the way is withheld from us, right? It’s secret. It’s esoteric. There’s sort of like an idea of secret, sacred names.

GT:  Mahonri Moriancumer.

Don:  Later that’s revealed, but it’s deliberately withheld. So we call this guy “the brother of Jared” in the narrative. The brother of Jared goes up on a mountaintop while he’s on an exodus, kind of like Sinai, right? Joseph Smith in Nauvoo says anciently mountaintops were temples.  When God’s people didn’t have the means to build the temple, like in the days of Moses and the Exodus, he says, God accepted mountaintops as the place to give people keys, to give the endowment.  Joseph says this explicitly in a Nauvoo sermon and I quote the exact sermon in my book, in chapter 14 about Mosiah the First.  So the brother of Jared is on a mountaintop. That should cue temple. He talks with the Lord through the veil. It doesn’t mean a cloth veil, of course, like in the temple, it means the veil that that cloth veil represents. But he hasn’t dialogue with the Lord through what it calls the veil.  I don’t know that sounds kind of familiar to me.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Don Bradley believes that there are parallels to the LDS Temple endowment ceremony that were in the Lost 116 Pages of Book of Mormon.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Don!

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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Surprising Word of Wisdom Insights from an Apostle

One of Mormonism’s most well-known revelations is the Word of Wisdom.  Apostle Lachlan MacKay of the Community of Christ discusses the historical context of the Word of Wisdom.  It turns out that 19th century saints had no problem serving wine at weddings, and beer wasn’t forbidden.  While many of us have heard of Prohibition, Temperance, and strong drinks, did you know that alcohol was used for ritual cleansing in the Kirtland Temple?

Lachlan:  You get to Kirtland Temple and it expands a little bit.  They would do a ritual cleansing outside the temple in the schoolhouse behind the temple or sometimes in Joseph’s home, so with cinnamon whiskey and perfumed water, ritual cleansing.  Put on clean clothes.  Go to the third floor of the temple, anoint the head with oil, sealing or confirming blessing of that anointing and then feet washing downstairs.  That took weeks, so it’s not something you do in an afternoon.  They spent months or years in preparation for that.

The process took weeks, and through that process, they understood that they were then empowered by the Holy Spirit and could go into the world.  We wouldn’t allow our missionaries to go oversees until they had been endowed with power.  So even 1839, most of the members have left Kirtland.  There are new missionaries who were not there in the 1830s.  Joseph had them detour through Kirtland—Theodore Turley, John Taylor among them.  Brigham Young goes with [them] so that they can be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and only then could they sail to the United Kingdom.

GT:  Oh wow.  You also had mentioned they didn’t bathe everyday like we do now.

Lachlan:  Yeah, so I think that cinnamon whiskey would cleanse,[1] it would sterilize.  It would make them smell better, so it was purification physically, spiritually, in every way in preparation to go to the temple.

But that’s not all.  Lachlan also tells about his fear of having a Word of Wisdom cook during youth camps!

GT chuckles:  And then you also mentioned something about eating meat sparingly.  I think you said some people wouldn’t eat between Easter and, was it Thanksgiving?

Lachlan:  Thanksgiving.  Yeah, I know Community of Christ members, this would not be typical at all, but I do know members who would not eat meat between Easter and Thanksgiving, which meant that whenever I visited there was tuna noodle casserole {chuckles}, because they didn’t consider fish meat.  We do a lot of camps in Community of Christ, both as youth camps and family camps.  My greatest fear as a kid was having a Word of Wisdom cook:  not much meat, lots of whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables. Now I spend a lot of time at camps, and my greatest fear is that we won’t have a Word of Wisdom cook.

What about the use of tobacco for cattle?

GT:  Ok.  There’s another reference that I wanted to mention.  In fact I was going to ask this in the class today but I didn’t:  the reference to tobacco.  It says for “for all sick cattle.”[2]  Tom Kimball was nice enough to send me a copy of Mormonism Unvailed, the first anti-Mormon book ever that Dan Vogel just recently put some awesome footnotes in there.  I do remember E.D. Howe, who was definitely an anti-Mormon, a little bit over the top.  It was kind of interesting to read that book.  One of the things that he made fun of was the Word of Wisdom.  He said, “well if you’re supposed to use this for sick cattle, what are you doing?”  {everyone chuckles}  [Joseph] didn’t prescribe that very well.  Do you have any idea what that reference was?

Lachlan:  I was just having a discussion with somebody who saw that it was often used for poultices,[3] maybe that’s the bruised part of the tobacco more than anything.  The cattle part, this might be highly speculative, but it’s one of the things I want to track down.  I was at the tow path on a canal in New Hope, Pennsylvania not long ago, reading an interpretive panel, and it talked about how the mules as they got tired would be given tobacco!  {chuckles}

Lach has a lot of other amazing insights!  Check out our conversation…..

Don’t forget to listen to our interview with Greg Prince on the Word of Wisdom, as well as our previous episode discussing why the Word of Wisdom led to James Strang’s death in Michigan.

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[1] D&C 89:7 reads, “And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.”

[2] D&C 89:8 reads, “And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.”

[3] a soft, moist mass of material, typically of plant material or flour, applied to the body to relieve soreness and inflammation and kept in place with a cloth.