Many writers who are familiar with both the Masonic rituals and the Mormon temple rituals (the "endowment") have remarked on their similarities as well as their differences. Many early Mormons were also Masons, and acknowledged the similarities, usually asserting that the endowment was the purer, uncorrupted form, restored to its original purity, sometimes referring to the endowment as "celestial Masonry." In the years since Joseph Smith became a Mason and (two months later) instituted the endowment in its full form (1842), both Masonry and the endowment have undergone considerable changes. Both have done away with the original penalties, for example. And there were many essential differences between the two, even from the beginning. However, when one looks at the similarities between the Masonry of the 1830s in America and the Mormon endowment, one cannot help but see the likenesses, and the question arises whether Joseph Smith simply plagiarized essential features of Masonry to produce his own ritual.
The following comments about early 19th century Masonry are based on William Morgan's Illustrations of Masonry, 1827, Online here.
Some of the similarities are rather superficial, and thus less significant. Both rituals....
- take place in "temples"
- require special clothing
- involve oaths
- consist of moral and historical instruction, presented dramatically
- are not public; for the initiated only
- present "secret" knowledge
- require oaths of secrecy
- give the initiate a "new name"
- involve several levels of advancement
- have a grip, sign, and name at each step of advancement
- have three penalties indicating how life may be taken
- involve special symbols, such as the compass and the square
Some of the similarities are so striking, however, that their relationship is unmistakable. They are given here in no particular order, since the order of presentation in both ceremonies differs slightly:
Freemasonry (1820s) Mormon Endowment (pre-1940) Candidate is taken to a preparation room, where all his clothes are removed except his shirt. He is given a pair of underdrawers. Patron removes all clothing, goes to a booth where he is clothed in a white undergarment. Candidate is conducted to the door, where he is caused to give, or the conductor gives three distinct knocks, which are answered by three from within; the conductor gives one more, which is also answered by one from within. The door is then partly opened, and the Junior Deacon generally asks, "who comes there? who comes there? who comes there?" Patron is led to the veil of the temple, where a worker gives three distinct taps with a mallet. Another worker asks from behind the veil, "What is wanted?" Senior Deacon presses the point of a compass against the candidate's naked left breast. Symbol of the compass is in the patron's garment over the left breast. Meaning of the compass: "to keep us in due bounds with all mankind, but more especially with the brethren" Meaning of compass: "an undeviating course leading to Eternal Life, a constant reminder that the desires, appetites and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set, and that all truth may be circumscribed into one great whole." Point of the mason's square is pressed against the candidate's naked right breast. Garment has symbol of square over right breast. Meaning of the square: "to square our actions" Meaning of the square: "exactness and honor in keeping the covenants entered into this day" "I also present you with a new name; it is CAUTION" "With these garments I give you a new name which is never to be divulged to anyone ... The name I give you is [a name selected from the Bible or the Book of Mormon]." Grip of Entered Apprentice:"The right hands are joined together as in shaking hands and each sticks his thumb nail into the third joint or upper end of the forefinger." Grip or First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood: clasping the right hands and placing the joint of the thumb directly over the first knuckle of the other person's hand. Due-guard (or Sign) of Entered Apprentice: bring hands to front, palms one inch apart, the Master then draws his right hand across his throat, the hand open, the thumb next to the throat, and drops it down by his side. Sign and penalty of First Token of Aaronic Priesthood:
Sign: Raise right arm to the square, palm forward, thumb extended
Penalty: place thumb under left ear, draw thumb quickly across the throat, drop hand to the side (done while reciting the penalty oath).
Oath: "I do hereby...solemnly swear...that I will ...never reveal... what I am about to receive... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, [and] my tongue torn out by the roots,..." Oath: "We ... covenant and promise that we will not reveal any secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood... Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots." The Master and candidate holding each other by the grip of the Entered Apprentice, the Master says:
'What is this?'
Ans: 'A grip.'
M: 'A grip of what?'
Ans: 'The grip of an Entered Apprentice Mason.'
M: 'Has it a name?'
Ans: 'It has.'
M: 'Will you give it to me?'
Ans: 'I did not so receive it, neither can I so impart it.'
(A similar dialog is repeated at each degree)
Peter gives Adam the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood
Peter: 'What is that?'
Adam: 'The first token of the Aaronic Priesthood.'
Peter: 'Has it a name?'
Adam: 'It has.'
Peter: 'Will you give it to me?'
Adam: 'I cannot, for it is the new name, ....'
(A similar dialog is repeated at the veil for each of the four tokens)
The name of the grip is BOAZ The name of the grip is the patron's "new name" Entered Apprentice is given an apron of white lambskin, "an emblem of innocence" Patron puts on a green apron "to cover your nakedness" Due-guard of Fellow Craft Mason is given by raising the left arm until that part of it between the elbow and shoulder is perfectly horizontal, and raising the rest of the arm in a vertical position, so that that part of the arm below the elbow, and that part above it, forms a square. Sign of the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood is given by raising the left arm to the square, palm forward, right hand extended forward at the waist, with hand in cupping shape. Penalty (called the "sign") is given by drawing your right hand flat with the palm of it next to your breast, across your breast, from the left to the right side, with some quickness, and dropping it down by your side Penalty: placing the right hand across the chest with the thumb extended and then drawing it rapidly from left to right and dropping it to the side (done while reciting the penalty oath).. Wording of oath: "binding myself under no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open, and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder... to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field and vultures of the air ..." "Should we [reveal the secrets of the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood], we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field." Pass-Grip (also called the "token") of Fellow Craft Mason is given by taking each other by the right hand as though going to shake hands, and each putting his thumb between the first and second fingerswhere they join the hand, and pressing the thumb between the joints.
Real Grip is given by putting the thumb on the joint of the second finger where it joins the hand, and crooking your thumb so that each can stick the nail of his thumb into the joint of the other
The Grip is given by clasping the hand and pressing the thumb in the hollow between the first and second knuckles of the hand. Name of Fellow Craft pass-grip: Shibboleth
name of real grip: Jachin
Name of Second Token of Aaronic Priesthood: patron's own given name Sign of Master Mason is given by raising both hands and arms to the elbows perpendicularly, one on either side of the head, the elbows forming a square. The words accompanying this sign in case of distress are, "O! Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow"s son?" As the last words drop from your lips, you let your hands fall in that manner best calculated to indicate solemnity. Sign of First Token of Melchizedek Priesthood (pre-1930): The Sign is made by bringing both hands to the square, palms to the front.
After 1930s: extending right hand, palm down, thumb extended; left hand extended, hand in cupping shape.
Sign of Second Token of Melchizedek Priesthood: elevating both arms above the head to represent the crucifixion. The word "Pale" is spoken, the arms dropped to the square, "Hale," and then to the sides. "Hale"--thus--"Pale, Hale, Hale."
(Since 1990 the words are "O God, hear the words of my mouth!" repeated three times.)
Due-guard (penalty) of Master Mason is given by putting the right hand to the left side of the bowels, the hand open with the thumb next to the belly, and drawing it across the belly, and let it fall; this is done tolerably quick. Penalty of First Token of Melchizedek Priesthood: right thumb is placed over left hip, drawn quickly across the belly, hands drop to the side (done while reciting the penalty oath). Wording of oath: "...binding myself under no less penalty than to have my body severed in two in the midst, and divided to the north and south, my bowels burnt to ashes in the centre, and the ashes scattered before the four winds of heaven.." Wording of penalty (First Token of Melchizedek Priesthood): "Should we [reveal these secrets], we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out." The pass-grip of the Master Mason is given by pressing the thumb between the joints of the second and third fingers, where they join the hand Grip of the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood is given by placing the thumb on back of hand and the tip of forefinger in the center of palm, representing the piercing of the hand by a nail. It is called "The Sign of the Nail." Name of the pass-grip of the Master Mason: Tubal Cain Name of the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood: "The Son," meaning the Son of God Master's grip is given by taking hold of each other"s right hand as though you were going to shake hands, and sticking the nails of each of your fingers into the joint of the other"s wrist, where it unites with the hand. Sometimes called "the lion's paw." Grip of Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood is given by clasping the right hands, interlocking the little fingers, and placing the tip of the forefinger upon the center of the wrist. Called the "patriarchal grip" or "sure sign of the nail." Candidate is "raised" on the Five Points Of Fellowship by the Master: 1) inside of right foot to inside of right foot; 2) right knee to right knee; 3) breast to breast; 4) left hand to back; 5) mouth to ear. In this position he receives the secret word whispered, while hands are clasped in the Master's grip. Patron converses with "God" through the veil, on the Five Points Of Fellowship: 1) inside of right foot to inside of right foot; 2) right knee to right knee; 3) breast to breast; 4) left hand to back; 5) mouth to ear. In this position he receives the secret name of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood while hands are clasped in the Patriarchal grip. Secret Master's word, whispered to candidate on the Five Points of Fellowship: "Mah-hah-bone", which he is told means "marrow in the bone." Name of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, given by God through the veil on the Five Points of Fellowship: "Health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the Priesthood be upon me, and upon my posterity through all generations of time, and throughout all eternity."
ConclusionEven Masonic scholars and historians admit that the Masonic rituals did not originate in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (as the Masonic legend relates), but were an outgrowth of the European builders' guilds of the late Middle Ages. This weakens the Mormon belief that the endowment ritual was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It seems much more obvious that Joseph Smith used basic elements from the 19th century Masonic ritual, and the Mormon endowment ritual is not ancient at all. The fact that the endowment has changed so much since its introduction in Nauvoo in 1842 also belies the Mormon claim that Joseph Smith was restoring the purity of the original (Adamic) ceremony.
- Book of Mormon, Ether 8:19