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Masonic/Baconian Symbolism in the LDS Church??


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I want to apologize for the off-topic subject matter of this post. I do, however, think that it is relevant to the Forum, even if not strictly Baconian.

 

FOR YEARS, I’ve been quietly fascinated with the LDS, or Mormon faith. You’ve all seen their missionaries and their blue leather book subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” and I’m sure you can sing along to some of their musical numbers. (“Hello! I am Elder Marvin – this book will change your life!”)

It was not, however, until recently, that I discovered their Masonic and possibly Baconian history. (Ok, the Baconian part might be a stretch.)

Curiously, the unofficial symbol of the Church is the Beehive!

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          So yes… I was quietly fascinated with the LDS Church. The reason for this? The “secrecy” surrounding its Temples, and their unique and often magnificent architecture. But my fascination did not fully take off until I came across this image:

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The image in question is a digital rendering – a rendering made by the interior design firm responsible for the restoration and renovation of the famous Salt Lake Temple – the Church’s signature edifice. Although the room, with its superb Beaux Arts detailing, may appear historic at first glance, it is in fact being built as of this post.

          At this point, you may be wondering why an image of a room – albeit a beautiful one – would prove so vital to my understanding of Freemasonry, the LDS faith, and Wisdom traditions in general. The answer lies in the image itself.

          To truly understand a space, one must have accurate knowledge of:

a)     The people who built/own it

b)    Its original/current function

c)     What that function meant/means to them

The rendering depicts a Sealing Room, one of the most important and sacred spaces in the entire religion – for it is here that couples enter marriage.

Historically, LDS weddings have generated controversy, because, according to doctrine, they must take place inside a Temple. To enter a Temple after its dedication, one must possess a Temple recommendation. Of course, that excludes friends and family outside of the faith, as well as others who have failed to meet the requirements.

Everything I have said so far is in direct relation to what this space – the Sealing Room – means to Latter-Day Saints. I am not a Latter-Day Saint, nor do I ever intend to be one. So, what does the Sealing Room mean to me?

It means everything because it changed everything.

 

AFTER STARING at the image for several minutes, I scrolled down the page and read everything I just told you about LDS weddings. The picture, though, remained in my mind long after I had seen it. And that was because I had seen it before.

Well, sort of…

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          This is a Lodge Room – a room in NYC’s largest Masonic Temple. Notice the superb Beaux Arts detailing. Notice the two doors. Notice the altar in the center. Notice the arrangement of the furnishings around the altar. Look familiar?

I don’t know if this is technically a Blue Lodge Room. It does, however, appear to be set up for Blue Lodge Masonry. If we compare the two spaces, there are several noticeable differences. Perhaps the most obvious is the color scheme and architectural finishes. Others include:

a)     The three lights around the altar (absent in the Sealing Room)

b)    The replacement of individual chairs with long benches in the Lodge

c)     The raised dais at the Eastern end of the Lodge (three steps, of course,) supporting the Worshipful Master’s chair

Despite these differences, both spaces undeniably share a layout. The question, then, arises: Is there an unseen connection between the LDS faith and Freemasonry?

         

MY RESEARCH confirmed that Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church was, in fact, a Freemason. Although little is known about his involvement in Masonic activities, multiple sources state that he was initiated several years after the inception of the Church – not before.

I’m not sure if the Sealing ceremony was, in its current form, introduced before or after Smith’s initiation into the Fraternity. It would, however, appear, from early photographs of LDS Temples, that the first Sealing Rooms were much smaller than current designs, with only a few chairs and the altar at the front of the space rather than in its center.

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These early rooms bore little resemblance to the Blue Lodge, and Smith likely never foresaw their modern counterparts. So, what is the connection?

It is my belief that Joseph Smith was not the only Latter-Day Saint of the period – or even of today – with ties to Masonry. A video produced by the church states that LDS doctrine does not prohibit members from becoming Masons. It acknowledges the fact of Smith’s membership and even goes on to claim that he received revelation about the new church during his initiation.

Upon further research, I discovered that even more striking parallels to Masonry can be found in the Temple Endowment Ceremony. The ceremony was introduced in Kirtland, Ohio – the town where Smith’s followers had settled – sometime after 1820. Kirtland was the site of the very first Temple, and the only one dedicated by Smith himself.  

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The Kirtland Temple was designed and built after Smith’s own revelation. It is a simple, two-story affair, constructed in the federal style, with unusual gothic windows.  

          This building was very, very different from modern LDS Temples. It consisted of two large meeting rooms, each occupying a floor, and space in the basement for the Endowment Ceremony. I assume that marriages were also performed here. (Baptism for the Dead, the only other Temple ceremony besides marriage and the Endowment, was not introduced until after the Church had moved from Kirtland to Nauvoo, Illinois.)

 

          THE PURPOSE of the Endowment, according to the Church, is to instruct faithful members on the history of the world, (of course, through an LDS lens,) starting with Creation and ending in the “restoration of the Gospel.” Its secondary purpose is to teach these members the secret Passwords, Signs, and Tokens needed to enter the afterlife. (More on these soon.)

The Ceremony is also a coming-of-age tradition. Initially, only men over 50 were allowed to participate; in 1980, the age limit was lowered to 18 and women were granted admission. As with much of the “work” performed in Temples, the Endowment can be observed multiple times by any individual; members are encouraged to return again and again on behalf of deceased ancestors who had no opportunity to participate themselves.    

          If you already see the parallels to Masonry, it is interesting to note that this ceremony was introduced over ten years before Smith became a Mason. This becomes even more striking when it is discovered that Smith rose to the third degree after only a day in the Fraternity. To me, it seems there are only two possibilities:

a)     that Smith was influenced by Masonic teachings even before his initiation

b)    that the historical timeline is incorrect

The Endowment was originally performed with live actors and real sets, but due to the inefficiency of putting on a drama multiple times daily for a limited audience, the Church has created a film presentation that encompasses the entire ceremony.

In its first iteration, the Ceremony was conducted in a single room, divided by cloth partitions into six sections. Patrons would enter the first section, dressed in ceremonial white clothing (including aprons and possibly sashes) and be instructed on the creation of the world. Once the performers had finished their delivery, the partition was pulled aside, and everyone entered the second section. This went on until the final section, when the last partition was pulled aside to reveal a veil symbolic of death. Each patron would approach the veil, offer the token, and be admitted into the final section – a space representing the “Celestial Kingdom.”

Out of respect for the Church and its members, as well as for any Masons viewing, I will not describe the token. But many sources state that it closely resembles that of the Master Mason.

  After being chased out of Kirtland by an “anti-Mormon mob,” the Saints settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. It was there that they began building their second Temple. Smith did not live to see it completed; he was lynched by another “anti-Mormon mob” while preaching in another town. Brigham Young, his second-in-command, assumed the role of Church President, and finished the Nauvoo Temple, only to have it burnt to the ground by – you guessed it – an “anti-Mormon mob.”

                   In Nauvoo, the ceremony of Baptism for the Dead was introduced. The font in which it is performed is a large replica of the Brazen Sea – the bronze basin of King Solomon’s Temple. It’s a beautiful piece, supported by twelve oxen which represent the twelve Tribes of Israel, the twelve Zodiac, etc. To this day, every new Temple built by the Church has at least one Baptistry containing a font of this type.

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AFTER MIGRATING to Utah, the LDS began building Temples with individual rooms dedicated to the Endowment, each containing elaborate murals depicting a different scene in the drama. The rooms were built in succession, each a few steps higher than the previous, representing the spiritual progression to enlightenment. The Temples in Salt Lake City, Manti, and Logan are three fine examples of this arrangement. (Unfortunately, the Logan Temple was gutted and rebuilt in the 1970s.)

          Currently, the Church builds Temples with unconnected, unadorned Endowment rooms. It’s certainly more efficient that way, but with all honesty, I like the tradition of separate spaces with murals and live acting better – probably because it reminds me of the Scottish Rite dramas.

              

SO, WHAT conclusions can we draw? Is the LDS Church a form of Masonry with a Christian twist? Certainly, many members whom I know and respect in my community would firmly disagree. I don’t claim to have an answer, and I intentionally leave this post open-ended to encourage discussion. This may only be the second time that the LDS have been mentioned on the Forum, and I believe it is a topic worth our insight.

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I'd certainly be one of those who sees it as being modeled on Freemasonic themes (an evolution). It's not the only thing that appeared in this period that owes its existence to the frenzy there was for this sort of thing at this time. The 1800-1840 period in the US is a time called "the Second Great Awakening". It was esoteric revivalism, now called occultism, based in the receptivity of mesmerism, spiritualism and magic. Smith grew up in NY in a family that was caught up in Freemasonry's  exploding popularity on the East Coast (a similar things afflicted Nova Scotia and spawned the Oak Island stories at about the same time). It was a great time to have been a practicing con man. P.T. Barnum famously came out of this period.

There was a lot of End Times hoopla going on in the mid 1840s that fizzled and caused a splintering in groups which had adopted popular prophetic views. New prophets appeared that offered something to the disappointed. 

If you read the history, Smith and his relations set up what came to be clandestine Masonic lodges in Mormon communities. He was killed by Freemasons while he was in prison. It's pretty clear the family thought they could "move in" on the secret society trend by drawing from the Masonic appeal. They obviously had ideas of their own.

The point is that he was in the "recruitment for personal gain" business, and that his pitch had to evolve to be unique. Being killed for your cause ultimately helps to make you be a martyr and a Saint for some.

There's a similar influence of Enochian themes in both Freemasonry and Mormonism. It is ultimately what can be used to suggest that Bacon couldn't possibly have anything to do with that nonsense. Its the stuff of charlatans, and Bacon would have certainly have understood this. If not, then he is greatly misrepresented to us and should be laughed at. If there is one thing we can know for sure is that empiricists (the father of modern Empiricism in this case) aren't in the business of peddling spiritualism to explain anything in the world. Part of the appeal that I have detected (for some) is that they would want to make Francis Bacon be synonymous with the survival of these spiritually charged ideas. Bacon is like a prophet to them because he can be wrapped up in mystery and serve as a bridge into modernity.

The esoteric or spiritualist revival is black mark on Western Society and a counter current to progress. These were populist movements to go back to a lost great time. It became cultish and it still has a great base of following today. Zionism is a troubling reality that was common to these movements.

It's not surprising that some Freemasons would have wanted Bacon lumped in. IMHO, we would have wanted nothing to do with what existed in the US in the 1850s and beyond. Out of Freemasonry also came the KKK (another "Make America Great Again movement").

 

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HEY!!!

I respect you, but please don't associate the KKK with "Make America Great Again." I support Donald Trump and DESPISE the KKK. They are a sick organization and have no relation to self-respecting centrists/conservatives like myself. They didn't come from Freemasonry - Albert Pike and several other prominent Clansmen were also Masons, but that in no way connects the two societies.

I am not an Latter-Day Saint, but I think it's unfair to call Joseph Smith a con man. I don't think that we can ever say for certain what was going through his head all those years ago. So-called "Zionism" gives many good people comfort, and I find it my duty to defend them.

Thank you for listening.

M.

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