Freemasonry and Mormonism
Michael S. Thomas
For years, in
fact for as long as I can remember I've heard that the LDS (Mormon) Church
"discouraged" its members from joining the Masonic Fraternity. This was often
a source of wonderment for me since it was well documented that Joseph Smith
Jr., the founder and first leader of the LDS Church, had been made a Master
Mason while in Nauvoo, Illinois. Additionally, many of the prominent men of
the early LDS Church were avid Mason's, men such as Brigham Young
Smith's successor, Hyrum Smith -Joseph's brother, Wilford Woodruff, and George
Albert Smith, successive leaders of the Church, to name a few.
to me, was the Masonic prohibition some of the Fraternities Grand Lodges, had
against LDS church members joining the fraternity.
As to the first
point, I've satisfied myself that there has never been a general statement by
the Church specifically discouraging its members from joining the Masonic
Fraternity. There may be some local church leaders who discourage it for
whatever reasons, but those local leaders speak only to their own
congregations, and not to the general membership of the church. Even
then it is usually to individual circumstances and not in broad generalities.
On the second
point, concerning the Masonic prohibition, it is indeed a fact that the
Fraternity excluded members of the "Mormon" Church, from joining. This
prohibition, although unmasonic because it was based upon a religious
preference, may have had some justification based upon history and the Masonic
experience. This situation has since been corrected, at least in the Utah
there's still much misunderstanding from members of both organizations towards
the other. Why do these misunderstanding persist? The answer may be found by
examining the persecutions which were experienced by both organizations around
the 1830's and 1840's. I've concluded that individual members, not
incompatible dogma instigated and perpetuated the schism that has existed.
I hope to
explain from the points of view as both a Mason and a Mormon, some of the
events which created the schism between these two organizations. This is not
meant to be an examination of belief and practices of the Church or
Fraternity, although certain aspects may need to be touched upon as
In my research
to present a factual history, I've found that most of the literature dealing
with this subject is out-dated. Most of the publications dealing with the
subject written by Masons, point out
various reasons why that particular author thinks the Mormons are incompatible
with the fraternity, and attempt to show why the fraternity was justified in
denying membership to LDS members. Others are extremely critical of the Utah
Lodges for not allowing LDS members the privileges of membership in the
Fraternity based upon their religious beliefs. The resources which I've found
for either position, fail to reflect the current practice of the Fraternity of
admitting all honorable men regardless of their creed, so long as they have an
unfeigned belief in Deity. Similarly, there are many misunderstandings as to
the purposes of the Masonic Fraternity among LDS members, who attach an
erroneous "Secret Society" definition to it.
I believe it is
uninformed individuals, not organizational teachings, that perpetuate these
erroneous misunderstandings and the blind acceptance of false information. For
example according to The Salt Lake Tribune: "...There is no specific
Mormon prohibition of masonry, but church spokesman Don LeFever said the
church discourages it members from joining it or similar groups. 'The church
strongly advises its members not to affiliate with organizations that are
secret, Oath- bound, or would cause them to lose interest in church
this would seem to indicate that holding any public office which requires an
oath would be discouraged. Yet the real facts are that members are encouraged
to be politically and civically active. Or that joining the Boy Scouts, which
has the Scout Oath would also be discouraged, yet the LDS Church is an ardent
supporter of that organization.
administered in the Masonic Ceremonies bind one to be honorable, honest, to
obey civil law, and to keep confidences. Encouragement is also given to search
out and live the teachings of Holy Scripture, specifically the Holy Bible in
the United States. All of this is compatible with LDS teachings and beliefs.
In fact, one of
the statements of belief taught by Joseph Smith to the church was: " ...
If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we
seek after these things."(2)
experience and knowledge of the Freemasons, this is certainly a praiseworthy
organization. Since the Fraternity openly publishes its membership list,
states its purposes, gives public tours of its buildings, openly contributes
civically to the community, and donates books containing much of this
information to public libraries, It can't truthfully be called a secret
society. when a Mason promises to keep secrets, what he is promising, is to
keep all confidences "sacred and inviolable". A laudable trait in any moral
organization or society!
A statement made
by a member of the First Presidency of the Church in 1934, also clearly shows
that there is not a Mormon prohibition against masonry: "The Mormon
Church has no quarrel with Freemasonry or any other organization which is
formed for a righteous purpose ... A Mason who may become a member to the
Mormon Church is in no way restrained from affiliation with his lodge..."(3)
has never been refuted, or retracted.
Most of the LDS
authors who write on this subject, seem to focus on why its members shouldn't
be denied Masonic membership, based upon their adherence to the tenets of the
LDS Church. However, most of these works were written prior to 1984,
during a time when there was a Masonic prohibition against Mormon membership
in the Utah lodges. Nowhere did I find an LDS author suggesting that and LDS
member shouldn't join.
Freemason sentiment was expressed by Grand Master J.M. Orr in 1878: "We
say to the priest of the Latter-day Church, you cannot enter our lodge rooms
... Stand aside, we want none of you. Such a wound as you gave Masonry in
Nauvoo is not easily healed, and no Latter-day Saint is, or can become a
member in our jurisdiction."(4)
is important and revealing because I think it will give us a basis for
understanding the feelings that existed on both sides of the issue. I believe
that this "wound" refers to a series of events which will be treated in more
detail later, but generally refers to young LDS Lodges violating some of the
fraternities ancient landmarks and a general belief and accusations by
Mormon's at the time, that it was the Masonic Fraternity who was responsible
for the murder of Joseph Smith, or at least for the failure of the killers to
be brought to justice.
Interpretive Approach Used in This Paper
this subject, it has been my experience that the interpretation of events and
the cause and effect relationship, differs depending upon the experiences and
background of the person examining those events. I might use the analogy of
three blind men describing an elephant through their sense of touch for the
first time. The one on the side describes it as a wall, the one at the trunk,
as a snake, and the one at the tail, as a rope. Of course each was right in
relating his own experience, yet each was wrong because they were limited in
their total experience.
several cause and effect incidents, I have always tried to take the most
charitable of possible interpretations towards the organization being
considered. Kind of "The benefit of the doubt" type approach.
Early Mormon History
some of the feelings which exist today, it will be necessary to present some
history of the period in which the conflicts began. Although persecution of
the church started in earnest in Missouri, the schism between the Masons and
the Mormons seems to have had its beginnings in Illinois.
The early LDS
Church suffered numerous persecutions and hatred in Missouri, which became
increasingly bitter as the church grew. The Church was anti-slavery in a slave
state, and as it grew, so did its political clout. While it's true that
the hierarchy didn't dictate to the members how they should vote on any
particular issue, those that were joining the church found themselves to be
like minded people, and in-spite of the absence of direct guidance from church
leaders on political matters, the indirect influence was certainly there, and
having a common belief system they tended to vote as a group. Also the
encouragement of foreign converts to emigrate and join with the church in
Missouri, resulted in a steady growth of its political power base.
with some of the unique doctrines of the church led to an intense public
resentment. This resentment and the resulting persecution grew more
severe as time went on, eventually culminating in the Governor of Missouri,
Lilburn W. Boggs declaring in 1838 that all Mormons were to either be driven
from the State or exterminated. He apparently felt that the only way to
end the feuds and near civil war conditions between the Mormons and
Non-Mormons, would be to eliminate one of the sides in the dispute, even if it
was by genocide.
It was under
these conditions that the church members fled from Missouri to Quincy,
Illinois where they were welcomed with opened arms and immediately taken in
with a great deal of hospitality.
warm reception was largely for the same reasons which had caused them to be
driven from Missouri, that is their political influence.
candidates for public office felt that if the Mormons could be swayed to their
agendas, they would have a great advantage over their opponents. But whatever
the reason, it was a welcome change from what had been left behind in
In May 1839, the
Church began purchasing land in Commerce, Illinois a farm or two at a time at
first, until very large tracts of land were owned. This soon became the
central gathering place for the Church and eventually the name was changed to
Nauvoo. A liberal Charter was obtained from the State Legislature, granting it
official recognition as a city. The Charter also granted broad authority to
pass laws, establish district courts, police departments, city councils, a
standing militia (giving official and lawful sanction to the Nauvoo Legion),
privileges granted in the Charter by the State Legislature, and with the
majority of the residents being Mormon, the constitutional separation of
church and state relationship was unintentionally, but predictably violated.
leaders of the church were also elected to the most important city positions,
giving them almost exclusive political as well as ecclesiastical authority
over the church and community. As might be predicted, many civil laws were
enacted which reflected the religious beliefs and values of the majority,
often to the displeasure of the minority of non-LDS residents of the city.
Nauvoo grew so rapidly that by the time the church started it's western exodus
it is reported to have been three times the size of the then current Chicago.
resentment of local citizens grew as a result of the political clout the
church was gaining, still tending to vote as a group but inconsistently for
any one party at any particular time.
"Leaders of the
opposition considered Mormonism much more than religion as that term was
generally understood. Mormonism meant a rapidly expanding close-knit economic
and political group which, if not checked, might possibly gain complete
control of the state. As the largest single organization occupying the
state's most populous city, the Mormons had gained the balance of political
power in Hancock County by 1843. It was this threat of
economic-political control more than any specific religious doctrine that
unified the anti-Mormons into vigorous militant groups.
church leaders denied any ambition of a political nature, but outsiders noted
that Mormons tended to vote more or less solidly although not consistently for
the same party."(5)
The Masons had
experienced some of the same public resentment and suffered many of the same
persecutions, but for different reasons than the Mormons. The Masons had
received a lot of attention and criticism for what the public called "blood
oaths". By way of explanation, the oaths which are administered during the
initiation rituals describe certain penalties for violation of a Masons
promises not to make public the Fraternities modes of recognition, ritual,
etc. These penalties, however are only symbolic and date back to situations
that existed in the middle ages when the violation of these promises could
have put many lives in jeopardy. The most severe punishment which could be
inflicted by a lodge in the 1800's, and today, would be expulsion from
however, had no understanding of the symbolic nature of these penalties, nor
even what they were, except that they included the taking of life. Most people
mistook them to be very literal. It was during these circumstances, that
events known today as the "Morgan Affair", ignited the anti-Masonic feelings
of the period.
In about 1825,
William Morgan, a Freemason in New York, announced that he would publish an
expose' on Freemasonry, revealing its rites, rituals, modes of recognition,
etc. Shortly after he made this announcement, Mr. Morgan mysteriously
disappeared, never to be heard from again. With nothing but rumor and
speculation to go on, the Masonic Fraternity was accused of his kidnapping and
murder for violating his oaths to the Fraternity. As tension built
anti-Masonic political parties began to spring up, and met with so much
success among an outraged and misinformed population, that a national
"Anti-Masonic Party" was officially organized. On two occasions they even had
legitimate candidates for the office of United States President. The
persecution became so severe that many lodges folded and went out of existence
for lack of membership. But by 1835 the storm had passed and the
Fraternity began the process of healing and recovery.
Salt in Open Wounds
these two organizations suffered would naturally make them suspicious of
outsiders, no matter who the outsiders were. While the Masons had been thus
persecuted, and understandably sensitive to public opinion, hearing all kinds
of false accusations about their Fraternity being a secret society,
administering blood oaths, and protecting its members from prosecution for
crimes they committed, the LDS Church published its Book of Mormon. A passage
from that book was taken by many to be speaking about the Masonic Order.
Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Neophytes, insomuch that
they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants
and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in
whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not
suffer for their murders, and their plundering, and their stealing. And
it came to pass that they did have their signs, and their secret words; and
this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant,
that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by
his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this
covenant. And thus they might murder, and plunder and steal, and commit
whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country
and also the laws of their God."(6)
Except for the
recent persecutions and a similarity to the publics accusations of the time,
Masons probably would never have thought that this had been written about
them, since anyone even superficially familiar with the Masons, know that the
Fraternity would itself condemn any such behavior by its members, and they
would immediately be expelled from the Lodge and turned over to Legal
authorities for lawful disposition.
described in this passage would be as loathsome to any Mason, Mormon, or any
other God fearing citizen. But since these things had been so widely spoken
against the Fraternity by ignorant people, to see them in print again by a
sect who was claiming it to be scripture, would naturally incite a great deal
It can easily be
seen why it would create fears of renewed persecution, and why it would be
interpreted as a statement of the Church against Freemasonry. However, had
this actually been the case Joseph Smith and most of the early church leaders
would never have joined the Fraternity, most of whom joined after the Book of
Mormon was published.
It was during
this rebuilding period for Freemasonry, the persecution of the LDS Church, and
this era of political clout in the Church, that all these circumstances
combined into a series of events that would end in a schism between the Masons
and Mormons, leaving a feeling of bitterness and misunderstanding between the
two organizations for over a century and a half.
Mormon Interest In Freemasonry
examine the interest Joseph Smith had in the Masonic Fraternity and why he
joined. As previously stated, he and his new church had suffered numerous
persecutions and had many atrocities committed against them. Early in his
ministry, as the church was being organized, Joseph lamented: "I
continued to pursue my common vocations in life... all the time suffering
severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and
irreligious ... and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and
to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to have been deluded to
have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me..."(7)
persecutions continued to build and become more violent in intensity. Joseph
fervently wanted them to end, for both himself and the Church. Several of his
associates, including his brother Hyrum, were Masons and familiar with the
Fraternities teachings of a belief in God and the brotherhood of man. They
convinced Joseph that the fellowship they would find within its Lodges would
give them solace and respite from the persecutions and prejudices, as well as
a degree of protection from the violence.
"If ever a man
was in need of sympathy and the friendship of good men, that man was Joseph
Smith. It was under these circumstances that Joseph Smith became a
member of the Masonic Fraternity. He hoped to find there the friendship
and protection which he so much craved, but which had been denied him outside
of his few devoted adherents."(8)
Masonic Interest In Mormonism
If the foregoing
establishes any valid reasons for the Mormon interest in Freemasonry, we
should now examine why the Masons allowed the Mormons to establish Lodges
under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. To discover this, we must
look towards the Grand Master at the time, one Abraham Jonas A "Master
Politician" , Abraham Jonas became the Grand Master of the Illinois Grand
Lodge through a series of unlikely events, as described by one noted Masonic
Author, Mervin B. Hogan, concerning Illinois Grand Lodge elections.
"As a result of
evident dissension among the ... lodges, the six lodges represented were
unable to elect anyone present to the principal office. Rather obvious
speculation suggest that as a desperate last move an absent dark horse was
introduced into the picture. This personage was Abraham Jonas. ... Since Jonas
was not present, Adams adjourned the Grand Lodge until Tuesday, April 28, 1840
as the announced date for the regular installation of the newly elected and
appointed officers. At this later date, Jonas again was not present so
Adams... installed Jonas by proxy.... It appears to be virtually certain that
Abraham Jonas was totally without interest, concern, or the slightest
aspiration relating to the Illinois Grand Mastership. ... (Adams) attended to
the Organization of the Grand Lodge, and persuasively enlisted Jonas to their
common cause of individual political preferment."(9)
Mr. Jonas had a
political agenda in running for various public offices, and bad been convinced
by Adams that by courting Mormon favor, he could more effectively promote his
own civic aspirations.
Grand Master involved in the post "Morgan Affair", he undoubtedly hoped to
stimulate the growth of the Fraternity after its precipitous decline during
the anti-masonic era. The Mormon Lodges would greatly increase the size of the
Illinois Grand Lodge.
many of the older, established Lodges in the State felt that the Dispensations
granted to the Mormon lodges had not been done according to Masonic
regulations. That, combined with the hard-feelings which existed among Masons
because WGM Jonas had made Joseph Smith a "Mason at Sight", cost the Mormon
lodges much of the needed support from their closest sister Lodges.
Attempts To Expand
young church embraced the Fraternity, and enthusiastically set about to
establish Lodge in their communities. So many new lodges were being created
that the distances, modes of transportation, and means of communication, made
it difficult for a new lodge to be properly supervised in its work.
Additionally, the closer non-Mormon lodges felt no desire to assist the Mormon
Lodges, feeling they were "inadequately familiar with them".
In their zeal to
grow and prosper, many mistakes were made and many Landmarks violated.
While the Nauvoo Lodge was under Dispensation, from March 15, 1842 to August
11, 1842, the Lodge Initiated 286 candidates, and Passed and Raised nearly as
many. Additionally, the Mormon Lodges, balloted on several candidates at
one time, which was a serious violation of Masonic protocol. Other
violations included using the Masonic Lodge for city offices, a church
warehouse, and as a meeting place for the newly organized Mormon Women's
Many of the
violations were not uncommon among new lodges of the period, Mormon and
non-Mormon alike. However, the seriousness of these errors in judgement were
amplified by the nature and general perception of the church as an
organization. The church seemed a radical organization. They didn't feel an
obligation to follow the established conventions of the time, but boldly
established many new doctrines, practices, and rituals. The counsel and
correction which was offered by Masonic authority to correct some of these
irregularities, undoubtedly was seen by the Mormons as interference and as
jealousy from their sister Lodges, as well as additional persecution.
culminated in the Mormon Lodges being declared "Clandestine" and they were no
longer recognized by the Illinois Lodges. Even this was seen as
harassment and largely ignored by Mormon Lodges who continued to Initiate,
Pass, and Raise candidates. Their determination and inflexibility was
considered by many as hardheadedness and arrogance.
It's hard to say
with certainty that Masonic jealousy didn't play some small role in the
revocation of the Mormon Charters. The persecutions of previous years,
the zeal with which the Masonic Fraternity guards its ancient land marks,
combined with the tide of public opinion against the Church, and seeing the
rapid growth of the lodges in LDS communities, the neighboring Lodges feared
that the Grand Lodge would eventually be controlled by Mormon Masons, possibly
destroying the Fraternity as an ancient institution with new innovations,
thereby destroying its usefulness, and reducing it to the mere status of a
local men's club.
membership figures for the year 1842 in Illinois is telling, and in hindsight
makes the rising tide of ill will somewhat predictable. Mormon Lodge
membership in two of the lodges were: Nauvoo, 285 and the Rising Sun
Lodge at Montrose, Iowa Territory, 45.
non-LDS Lodge Membership at this same time by Lodge, Bodely No. 1, 25; Harmony
No. 3, 23; Springfield No. 4, 43; Columbus No. 6, 16; Macomb No. 8, 22, Juliet
No. 10, 25; Rushville, UD, 10; Warren, UD, 8. (10)
This gave the
growing Mormon Lodges 330 members while the older established non-Mormon
Lodges had only 172.
The Schism Completed
With the events
of this period as a back drop, let's examine the alleged involvement of the
Masonic Lodges in the martyr of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
period of anti-Mormon sentiment, Thomas C. Sharp from the City of Warsaw,
assumed leadership of the anti-Mormon movement. Mr. Sharp edited the
influential Warsaw Signal, a prominent newspaper of the time.
Mormon political power sharp organized an anti-Mormon political Party in 1841,
urging Whigs and Democrats to come to his support. Searching for issues upon
which to challenge Mormon power, Sharp criticized the establishment of the
Nauvoo Legion, the city charter, the prophets expansive land transactions, and
the solid Mormon vote.(11)
Thomas Sharp was so key in
public against the Mormons, I will here include several of his quotations,
which he published by the Warsaw Signal in 1844.
May 29th: "We
have seen enough to convince us that Joe Smith is not safe out of Nauvoo, and
we should not be surprised to hear of his death by violent means in a short
June 5th: "If
one portion of the community sets the law at defiance, are we bound to respect
the laws in our reaction to it?...,,
June 12th: "War
and extermination is evitable! CITIZENS ARISE, ONE AND ALL!!! Can you stand by
and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS!... We have no time for comment! Every man
will make his own. LET IT BE WITH POWDER AND BALL!"
"STRIKE THEM! for the time has fully come. We hold ourselves at all times in
readiness to cooperate with our fellow citizens... to exterminate, utterly
exterminate, the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders."
editorial comments will serve to show that Thomas Sharp was bitterly
anti-Mormon, and the reader may surmise how the Mormons felt towards him.
There was enough
evidence after the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith to be convinced that Mr.
Sharp had played a key role in inciting the actions which led to the murders.
Several witnesses testified that Thomas Sharp had been among the party that
traveled to Carthage and committed the murder.
arrested for the murders with others of note, Jacob Davis and Levi Williams.
However, none of these men were ever convicted. Not because of a lack of
evidence, but because of legal wrangling. (which wrangling did not involve the
masons, so far as I know.) It was during the pre-trial preparations that
the Masonic Fraternity became entangled in the controversy which brought
Mormon accusations of a cover-up.
In an apparent
effort to garner public support, the defendants attempted to find refuge in
the Warsaw lodge while awaiting trial. To the Fraternities credit, the
Grand Lodge of Illinois called the Warsaw lodge to an accounting for its
actions. The following describes the circumstances. "In the meantime,
the defendants were apparently trying to strengthen their position by new
allegiances within the influential Masonic order. Mark Aldrich was a member of
Warsaw Lodge No. 21, founded in January 1843. With an immediacy and urgency
that cannot have been coincidental,
Thomas Sharp, and Levi Williams were all initiated into the small Warsaw Lodge
in October and December 1844. Before spring all three had been passed to
the second degree, and Davis and Williams had been raised to Master Masons.
How much advantage the defendants expected to derive from this association is
unclear, though it is a fact that many of the most influential men in the
County and State at this time were Masons. The list includes Justice
Richard M. Young of the Illinois Supreme Court, who was to be the judge at the
trial; James H. Ralston, former states attorney; Judge Stephen A. Douglas;
former circuit judge O. C. Skinner, who was to be among the defense counsel at
the trial; George W. Thatcher, the anti-Mormon clerk of the county
commissioners court; and various members of the Warsaw Militia, such as
Charles Hay, Henry Stephens, and several of the Chittenden family.
uncertainties may exist in the benefits the defendants expected to derive from
their Masonic affiliation, there is no doubt that the state officers in the
Masonic order identified an impropriety in this maneuver and took decisive
disciplinary action. In its annual meeting in 1845 the Grand Lodge of Illinois
appointed a select committee to investigate reports that the Warsaw lodge had
violated Masonic regulations by conferring degrees upon persons who were under
indictment. In response to this investigation, officials of the Warsaw
Lodge admitted that the degrees had been conferred on Davis, Williams, and
Sharp, but pleaded that the men in question were 'worthy members of society,
and respected by their fellow citizens.' Their standing in the community 'had
not been at all impaired by the indictment, but, on the contrary, they were
regarded with greater consideration than before, from the fact that they had
been particularly selected as the victims of Mormon vengeance.' The Grand
Lodge was apparently unimpressed with the defense. A year after this
report was submitted, the Warsaw Lodge surrendered its Charter, ostensibly
because 'the members of Warsaw Lodge No. 21 have no suitable room to work
in...' This voluntary relinquishment of a Charter because of supposed housing
shortage in Warsaw was undoubtedly a face-saving disposition in lieu of
involuntary suspension for violation of regulations of the order."(12)
Mormon Exodus - Nauvoo to Utah
The death of the
Mormon leader, Joseph Smith Jr. did nothing to stop the persecution
experienced by the members of the faith. In fact rumor, and the expectation
that non-Mormons would be made the targets of Mormon vengeance, further
incited the non-Mormon population and the persecution continued to mount,
rather than subsiding in any degree. What was seen by some as arrogance by the
remaining Mormon leader's, could also have been defensiveness in an effort to
protect the members of the newly established Church.
mob action and public misinformation against the Mormons, it soon became
apparent that it would again be necessary to leave their homes behind. Brigham
Young, the new leader of the sect, turned his eye's to the Salt Lake Valley.
It was probably the hope that such a place would never be chosen by travelers
as a desirable place to be settled by others, and that such a place would
offer isolation and protection from the rest of the world. It appeared to be a
barren wasteland. Jim Bridger, a scout and explorer once declared that he
would give, a thousand dollars for every ear of corn that could be grown in
the Salt Lake valley.
In spite of its
barren appearance, it was a place of tremendous resources. The only thing
lacking was water to cultivate its rich soil. Irrigation systems were devised
to bring the water down from the mountains, and settlements were established
throughout the territory. The Mormon's, were determined to make this "desert
blossom as the rose".
previously mentioned, it was their hope that in a place so remote uninviting,
they might be isolated and be able to establish their "Zion" and practice
their new religion free from outside interference and influence. Likewise,
they were determined never to be driven from their homes again.
Once in the Salt
Lake valley, rumors, embellished by time and distance, traveled back and forth
across the plains. The telling of Mormon insurrections and impending rebellion
flourished in the east.
was dispatched by President Buchanan to investigate and put down any
insurrection or rebellion and to install the New Territorial Governor and
other Federal Officers. Word reached the Mormon's that the army was
coming to exterminate members of the church. The personal diary of a
resident of the valley, echoes the rumor.
"The news is
that the president of the U.S. is going to send on enough soldiers to kill all
of the Mormons off."(13)
In what Brigham
Young saw as measures of self-defense, was seen in the east as rebellion and
defiance. Mormon harassing raids were ordered against on the supply
wagons of the Army, hoping to slow them down, and keep them out of the Valley.
Further, he placed team of militia at the various passages of Emigration
Canyon, with the intention of ambushing the army as they entered the valley.
Self-Appointed Mediator Prevents Bloodshed
volatile the situation was, and certainly thinking clearly enough to know what
the outcome of these attacks would be, a federal army officer who had
befriended the Mormon's at various times in the past, entered the valley from
the southern part of the territory. Upon his arrival, he requested a
meeting with Brigham Young and managed to convince him of the folly in what
was about to take place. Colonel Thomas Leiper Kane, succeeded in convincing
Brigham Young that the Army's purpose was not to destroy the Saints, but to
assure the peaceful transfer of governmental power in the area, and to protect
unexpectedly, Kane assured his old friend that the federal troops were sent to
Utah to guarantee the installation of the new federal officials, to construct
necessary forts within the territory needed to control the Indians, and to
regulate overland emigrant travel."(14)
from his intended fight with the army. That done, Colonel Kane traveled and
met the approaching army and dissuaded its commander from taking actions
against the Mormons for the harassing raids.
entered the valley unopposed, traveling to a site which they designated as
was an uneasy and watchful co-existence, but the animosity continued between
the Mormons and non-Mormons, in large part because of the political power the
Church still exerted in the territory, and the apparent mixture of politics
References To The Possibility Of Mormon Lodge's In Utah
Nauvoo, the Mormon Church took no action to continue any affiliation the any
Masonic Lodges, although there is an account of Lucius N. Scovil using his
Masonic Ties to help secure supplies and favors for a group of new converts
traveling to the Utah Territory from the port of New Orleans in 1848.
interesting to note that in the Journal of Wilford Woodruff, fourth President
of the Mormon Church, under the date of August 19, 1860, Brigham Young is
quoted as saying, "G.A. Smith would like to go to England and obtain five
Charters for Lodges, which would give us a Grand Lodge which would make us
independent of all other Grand Lodges in the world. This is what Brother
Scovil would like to do and this could be done..."
Apparently Brigham Young didn't think it was a good thing and the Church never
organized a Lodge after leaving Nauvoo.
Freemasonry Arrives In Utah
monotonous duty in the middle of the desert at Camp Floyd, a group of Master
Mason Soldiers organized a Lodge, under a Dispensation granted on March 6,
1860 with a Charter issued to Rocky mountain Lodge No. 205 on June 1, 1860 by
the Grand Lodge of Missouri. This short lived lodge was not without
critics among non-Masons. But in this case, the criticism was not from
soldiers, membership in the "Rocky Mountain Lodge" of Masons provided a
refreshing diversion, although controversy over its secret meetings and signs
rocked the military outpost almost to its foundations. 'There is an effort
being made to get up a secret society among the soldiers and officers, one of
the privates of my company is, I understand, an important member of a lodge to
which officers belong. The soldier should have his head shaved and be drummed
out of service and the officer be cashiered.'"(15)
The Lodge was
short lived in Utah and the Charter was surrendered in July of 1861, because
of the onset of the Civil War. Johnston's Army received order's to leave Camp
Floyd. (Which had been re-named Fort Crittenden.)
came to Utah in 1866. A group of Master Mason's petitioned the Grand Lodge of
Nevada for a dispensation to work, which was granted on the 25th of January
1866. "...but recalling the difficulties with the Mormons at Nauvoo,
Illinois, and more recently with Mormons in Nevada, he attached to the
Dispensation an edict requiring the 'Lodge to exclude all who were of the
Mormon Faith.' The Lodge-objected to the restriction, not because they wanted
to admit Mormons, but because they believed any such rejection should be
theirs and not some out-of-state authority. After a stormy period, and failing
to receive a Charter from Nevada, they finally obtained one from Kansas on
October 21, 1868.
... During the
difficulty ... with the Grand Lodge of Nevada, a... group of Masons from Salt
Lake City and Camp Douglas ... petitioned the Grand Lodge of Montana for a
Dispensation to open King Solomon Lodge, U.D.. Montana granted the
Dispensation on October 22, 1866, but felt that 'King Solomon', being
identified as a polygamist, was not an appropriate name for the new lodge, so
they named it Wasatch Lodge, after the Wasatch Mountains, which partly ring
Salt Lake City. This Dispensation had no restriction on Mormons, such as the
Nevada Grand Lodge had imposed..."(16)
Defensiveness Perpetuates Divisions
organizations clinging to the memories of both real and imagined wrongs, and
determined to be vigilant in preventing any recurrences, they have for the
most part continued to politely ignore each other. As the population grew, the
conflicts between Mormon's and their non-Mormon neighbors hence, the Mason's
also escalated. The main source of animosity being the strict control of the
Church over the affairs of the area in which they lived through their
continued political influence, and volatile issue of polygamy.
The Church had
repeatedly petitioned for Statehood, and had been turned down as often as they
applied, the Congress having passed laws against polygamy, and the Church
being adamant that it was their right to practice their religious beliefs. The
situation of the Church worsened as their adherence to this doctrine remained
inflexible. As a result the Government was ready to disenfranchise the Church,
confiscating all of its property and assets.
consideration, Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto in October 1890,
abandoning the practice of polygamy as doctrine and forbidding the Church to
practice it any further. With this done, the situation started improving
for the Church generally, and Statehood was finally achieved in 1896.
Of all the
unique doctrines of the Church, polygamy was probably the one that caused the
most division both within the Church, and with their non-Mormon neighbors. The
Church saw it as their right to practice their religious principles, and the
Government saw it as outright defiance of the law. Rank and file
citizens generally viewed the practice as a barbaric custom, motivated by
Masonic Prohibition Against Mormon's Made Official
Through all of
these events, there still had been no formal prohibition against any Mormon
visiting or joining a Masonic Lodge, although an informal ban was generally
adhered to. In 1879, John 0. Sorenson, a Mason and member of Argenta Lodge No.
3, was suspended from the Craft because he joined the Mormon Church.
for the suspension based upon religious affiliation, the Grand Secretary of
Utah prepared a circular and sent it to all the Grand Lodges and leading
Masons in America by way of explanation to the Fraternity outside of Utah, who
had no understanding of the local situation.
Craftsman was free) "to join any church and embrace any creed he chooses, and
(Freemasonry) demands of him only that he shall admit the theological belief
taught on the threshold of our sacred Temple, and further, that he should be
loyal to the government under which he lives, and yield a willing obedience to
all its laws, the Masons in Utah contend that the latter important
prerequisite is wanting in Mormons, because one of the chief tenets of their
church in Utah is polygamy, which the United States Statute has declared to be
a crime, and which all civilized nations consider a relic of barbarism."(17)
prohibition continued through the turn of the century into the 1900's. In his
1904 report Grand Secretary Diehl wrote, "The pioneers of Utah Masonry knew
what they were doing when they taught the Unwritten Law of Utah Masonry, and
the present generation has experienced enough to teach that law to the next
In 1923, it was
noted in a meeting of the Grand Lodge that Utah Mormons living in other
jurisdictions could, and some did gain membership in the Fraternity, and that
being denied visitation rights in Utah resulted in "humiliation" and
"embarrassment". In January 1924 a Resolution was presented to the Grand Lodge
forbidding members of the LDS Church from joining any Utah
Lodge. The resolution was laid over for one year and the following reworded
resolution was presented and adopted by the Grand Lodge in 1925.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called the Mormon
Church, is an organization, the teachings and regulations of which are
incompatible with membership in the Masonic Fraternity, therefore: "Be It
Resolved: That a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, commonly called
the Mormon Church, is not eligible to become a member of any Lodge F.& A.M.
in this State and membership in such Church shall be sufficient grounds for
An attempt was
made to repeal the Anti-Mormon Resolution in 1927, but the Grand Lodge
rejected the appeal and what had been unwritten law became written law.(19)
Other attempts at repeal occurred in 1965 and 1983. These attempts also
failed, and this was the state of affairs between the Church and the
Fraternity for the next fifty-seven (57) years, until 1984.
*Wounds Begin To Heal*
In 1984, the
Masonic Fraternity took the first steps towards ending the long standing rift.
A resolution was presented to eliminate the prohibition, and make members of
the church eligible to join and visit Utah Masonic Lodges. The Report of the
Jurisprudence Committee, examining this resolution is interesting, in that I
think it reveals some of the issues members of the Fraternity had struggled
with for those many years.
there is great merit in the proposal, since the Resolution and Decision are
contrary to fundamental Masonic law.
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has little or no concern for
or fear of the Masonic Fraternity. They do, however, strongly urge their
members not to join organizations such as ours, insisting that any time and
energy available beyond their daily vocation and their hours of rest, be spent
in furthering the interest of their Church.
Committee on Jurisprudence suggest that you consider very carefully before you
cast your ballot on this highly emotional subject. Would abolishing the
Standing Resolution have any impact on membership, for good or for ill? Could
members of the LDS Church become active and valuable members, thereby
strengthening the Craft, and at the same time remain loyal to their faith?
Would such Church members fully respect our Ancient Landmark which prohibits
any discussion of religion in a Masonic Lodge? Would such members apply
individual pressure on our devotees to join their Church? Is the aim of
abolishing the Resolution and Decision solely for the purpose of enlarging our
membership? Is there any point in our taking unilateral action, without any
change in the position presently held by the leadership of the LDS Church? Are
you willing to continue to defend this deviation from Masonic law by retaining
"The answer to
these and other questions you may have in your minds are in your hands."(20)
portion of the report I here quote separately, reveals the sincere struggle
and a belief of many Masons, but with which I personally disagree. That there
are conflicts within the basic dogmas of these two organizations.
LDS literature quickly discovers that some of their (LDS) dogma is contrary to
the tenets of Freemasonry. "(21)
experience, I have found nothing in either's teachings that would be mutually
exclusive of the other, or in conflict with any basic tenets. While individual
members may differ in their belief systems, I can find nothing which excludes
the other, in the moral teachings, when fully examined.
The Results of Change
Over the years,
there has been no mass movement of Mormons joining Masonic Lodges, indeed,
none was expected. The Fraternity was making internal adjustments to align its
practice with its teachings. There have been many that have joined the
Fraternity who are active LDS, and are welcomed so long as the regulations of
the Order are observed and respected. Many of the misconceptions and
misunderstandings are being dispelled, one on one by individuals. I believe
both are enriched by the experience. Certainly, it is one of my cherished
affiliations, and never have I been asked to compromise my beliefs, or my
associations in either institution.
I have heard of
life-long Masons who have joined the LDS Church, and have unquestionably yet
mistakenly accepted as fact that the Church prohibits membership with the
Masonic Fraternity and demitted from their lodges.
LDS Members who petition Masonic lodges, get cold feet and drop out because
some superficial similarities in the ritual which exist between some small
portions of the LDS Temple rites and in the first few degrees of Masonry.
Both of these
situations are saddening and senseless. They occur because of a
misunderstanding of the facts. What the church discourages are affiliations
which would cause a person to lose interest in church activities. I have found
just the opposite to be the case. Freemasonry in no way that I've seen,
detracts from church participation, but rather encourages one to be fully
active in his own peculiar creeds.
It must be
remembered by all that Masonry readily announces and warns, that it offers no
path to salvation, only brotherhood. Salvation must be sought out in our own
places of worship and houses of faith.
I add my own
voice to that of Mervin B. Hogan:
"It is clearly
evident to anyone who acquaints himself with this creed (Mormonism) that there
are no conflicts or incompatibilities whatsoever between the teachings,
theology, and dogma of Mormonism and the philosophy, principles and tenets of
Masons Use Service, Respect to Build Friendships. The Salt Lake Tribune,
Section D1, Monday, February 17, 1992.
THE ARTICLES OF FAITH of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
History of the Church, Vol. 4, pages 535
The Relationship of Mormonism and Freemasonry. Anthony W. Ivens, The
Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 1934. Page 8. (President
Ivins was a counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church under
President Heber J. Grant.)
Mormonism and Masonry. By Cecil McGavin. Bookcraft, S.L.C., Utah. 1949. Page
The City of Joseph. David E. Miller and Della S. Miller. Copyright 1974.
Peregrine Smith, Inc.
Book of Mormon, Helaman, Chapter 6, verses 21-23
The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History, 1:27-28
(3) above. Page 179.
and Freemasonry: The Illinois Episode, Mervin B. Hogan, Copyright 1977.
See (4) above. Pages 111-112.
Carthage Conspiracy, The Trial of The Assassins of Joseph Smith. Dallin H.
Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, University of Illinois Press. Copyright 1975 by the
Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Second Printing 1976.
See (11) above. Pages 66-67
J. Allen, Diary. February 3, 1958 (Transcript), University of Utah, page 32.
Camp Floyd and The Mormons - The Utah War. Donald R. Moorman with Gene A.
Sessions. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 1992
First 100 Years of Freemasonry In Utah, Vol. 1, 1872- Gustin 0. Gooding, Past
Master of Utah Research Lodge. Published by Grand Lodge, Free and
Accepted Masons of Utah. Page 5.
See (16) above. Page 31.
See (16) above. Page 51.
of Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Utah. 1984, Odendahl, Salt Lake
City, Utah. Page 63
Mormonism and Freemasonry: The Illinois Episode. By Mervin B. Hogan. Copyright
1977 by McCoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company Inc. Richmond VA.
Additional material and arrangement Copyright 1980 by Campus Graphics, Salt
Lake City, Utah. Page 270.