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freemasonry and mormonism
by 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 Joseph Smith's successor, Hyrum Smith -Joseph's brother, Wilford Woodruff, and George Albert Smith, successive leaders of the Church, to name a few.
Equally puzzling 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 Lodges.
Unfortunately, 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 background.
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 the 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 activities.'"(1)
Taken literally, 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.
The oaths 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)
From my 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)
This statement 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.
Early Utah 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)
This statement 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
In researching 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.
In interpreting 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
To understand 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.
This, combined 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.
Ironically, this warm reception was largely for the same reasons which had caused them to be driven from Missouri, that is their political influence.
Many leading 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 Missouri.
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), etc.
With the 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.
The principle 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.
Again, the 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.
Before 1844, 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 membership.
The public 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
The indignities 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.
"But behold, 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.
The acts 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 of resentment.
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
Let's now 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)
These 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.
Additionally, as 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.
Unfortunately, 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
Initially the 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 Relief Society.
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.
This attitude 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.
The lodge 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.
Comparatively, 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.
During this 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.
To counter 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 agitating the 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 time."
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!"
JUNE 19th: "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."
The above 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.
Sharp was 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,
Jacob Davis, 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.
"Whatever 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.
With increasing 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".
As was 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.
Johnston's Army 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
Seeing how 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 territory residents.
"Not 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)
Brigham withdrew 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.
The soldier's entered the valley unopposed, traveling to a site which they designated as Camp Floyd.
Generally there 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 with religion.
References To The Possibility Of Mormon Lodge's In Utah
After leaving 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.
It is 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
Amid the 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 the Mormons.
"For many 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.)
Masonry again 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
With both 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.
After much 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 lust.
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.
In explanation 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.
(While every 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)
This unofficial 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 one."(18)
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 Masonic Lodge. The resolution was laid over for one year and the following reworded resolution was presented and adopted by the Grand Lodge in 1925.
"Whereas, The 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 expulsion."
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.
"...Certainly there is great merit in the proposal, since the Resolution and Decision are contrary to fundamental Masonic law.
"...Certainly, 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.
"...Your 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 this restriction?
"The answer to these and other questions you may have in your minds are in your hands."(20)
One 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.
"Anyone reading LDS literature quickly discovers that some of their (LDS) dogma is contrary to the tenets of Freemasonry. "(21)
In my 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.
Likewise some 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 Universal Freemasonry."(22)
(3) 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.)
(11) 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.
(22) 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.
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