Power From On High
by Gregory A. Prince
Ordinances: The Endowment
[p.115]The final scene of the Savior’s earthly ministry, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, was the injunction by the resurrected Christ to his closest disciples to take the gospel message to all nations. Before they could begin their missionary journeys, however, they were directed to remain in Jerusalem until they were endowed with “power from on high” (Luke 24:48). Jesus previously had called and ordained these men, thus authorizing them to act in his name, but their failure to work miracles demonstrated that authority alone was insufficient.1 The admonition to remain in Jerusalem underscored the necessity of both authority and power.
The Latter-day Saint experience was similar to the New Testament antecedent. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received divine authority in 1829 and immediately began a ministry. By late 1830, however, unsuccessful attempts to work miracles made it clear that a second dimension was necessary. A revelation in January 1831 invoked the memory of the ancient disciples, promising the elders an endowment of power. The fulfillment of that promise came that June, as a pentecostal outpouring followed ordination to the “order of Melchizedek” or “high priesthood.” Thereafter the elders were both authorized and empowered to perform supernatural works. By late-1832 Smith recognized a need for further empowerment of mission-[p.116]aries and established a School of the Prophets through which a second pentecostal experience occurred early the following year. Yet another endowment of “power from on high” occurred upon completion of the Kirtland House of the Lord in 1836. The final stage in the development of the Latter-day Saint doctrine of endowment occurred in Nauvoo, Illinois, from 1842 to 1844. Although several new elements were present in the Nauvoo endowment, its primary focus remained unchanged: the empowerment of the elders in preparation to carry the gospel message to all nations.
The most ambitious missionary effort of the early church occurred in 1830 when Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, Parley P. Pratt, and Peter Whitmer traveled from New York to the western border of the United States to preach to indigenous Native Americans. Because the missionaries breached protocol by not obtaining approval of their plans from General William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, their unauthorized preaching to the tribes around Independence, Missouri, led to a quick reprimand from the local Indian Agent and a proscription of further preaching to the tribes.2 Thus the purpose of the journey was thwarted. However, the expedition proved to be significant. Because Pratt had lived in Kirtland, Ohio, the missionaries visited that town on their way to Missouri, baptizing the most important convert of their journey, Campbellite preacher Sidney Rigdon.
While Rigdon was convinced that their message was of God, he was troubled by the apparent limits to their power. According to a local newspaper account, Cowdery attempted without success to work miracles in Kirtland, which Rigdon criticized.3 As the mission-[p.117]aries continued west, Rigdon traveled to New York to meet Smith.
Rigdon arrived in New York in December 1830.4 A revelation through Smith, occurring days after Rigdon arrived and for which Rigdon served as scribe, addressed the empowerment of missionaries, implicitly acknowledging their lack of power:
And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless:
Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment, that ye should go to the Ohio: and there I will give unto you my law, and there you shall be endowed with power from on high, and from thence, whomsoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do, for I have a great work laid up in store:
For Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand (BC XL:27-29, 2 Jan. 1831).
This revelation clearly parallels the injunction given by Christ to his disciples, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke:
Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day;
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but [p.118] tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (24:45-48).5
By February 1831 the Latter-day Saint community had migrated to Kirtland. Shortly after arriving there, Smith received two revelations concerning the anticipated endowment. The first indicated that personal preparation would be necessary: “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power” (BC XLV:16). The second reinforced the continuity between ancient and modern by emphasizing both the pentecostal nature of the endowment and its empowerment of missionaries: “Inasmuch as they are faithful, and exercise faith in me, I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together. And it shall come to pass that they shall go forth into the regions round about, and preach repentance unto the people; And many shall be converted …” (BC XLVI:2-4).
Coincident with these revelations, Smith, with Rigdon as his scribe, was revising the King James Bible. In Genesis, Chapter 14, he added sixteen new verses describing the ancient order of Melchizedek and its extraordinary powers6: “Every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God …”7
As the time of the endowment approached, it became apparent [p.119] that it would embody two biblical themes: the New Testament Pentecostal outpouring of “power from on high” and the Old Testament order through which such power would be conferred. The linking of the two was explicit in a subsequent revelation through Smith to Ezra Thayre, which coupled “endowment” with “ordination”: “Let my servant Ezra humble himself and at the conference meeting he shall be ordained unto power from on high and he shall go from thence (if he be obedient unto my commandments) and proclaim my gospel unto the western regions with my servants that must go forth even unto the borders by the Lamanites for behold I have a great work for them to do and it shall be given unto you to know what ye shall do at the conference meeting even so amen.”8
The much anticipated conference began on 3 June 1831, lasted for several days, and involved most of the elders then belonging to the church.9 Several participants wrote of the experience, giving a generally consistent account of pentecostal experiences.10 The endowment culminated in the ordination of several elders to the “order of Melchizedek.”11 Having “tarried at Kirtland,” they now felt empowered [p.120] to proceed with their missionary labors, confident that they were on par with the ancient disciples.12
The empowered elders undertook, as their first task, a journey to Zion (Independence). A local newspaper chronicled their enthusiasm as they set out for Missouri, stating, “They still persist in their power to work miracles. They say they have often seen them done—the sick are healed—the lame walk—devils are cast out;—and these assertions are made by men heretofore considered rational men, and men of truth.”13 In spite of the anticipation, the aftermath of the endowment appears to have fallen short of expectations, causing some members of the new order to leave the church. One of them, Ezra Booth, wrote shortly after the return from Missouri: “They have been hitherto unsuccessful in finding the lame, the halt, and the blind, who had faith sufficient to become the subjects of their miracles; and it is now concluded that this work must be postponed …”14
Although Booth had left the church by the time he wrote this letter, the minutes of a general conference held shortly after the elders returned from Missouri lend credence to his account. During that conference Smith stated “that the order of the High-priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.”15 This statement signalled two important theological changes. First, the [p.121] power inherent in high priesthood was now viewed primarily in an “other worldly” context. That is, rather than focusing on present, verifiable phenomena, it shifted to the there-and-then, marking the beginning of the unique Latter-day Saint theology of afterlife. Second, it separated the concepts of endowment and high priesthood. Whereas the June 1831 endowment included ordination to the high priesthood, such priesthood now began to develop independently. The concept of endowment lay dormant for a full year thereafter.
In spite of the 1831 revelation that the endowed would “go forth among all nations,” the work of the elders remained confined to the United States and Canada. A revelation late in 1832 called for these elders to return to Kirtland for further preparation, implying that the 1831 endowment was no longer sufficient. The elders were instructed to assemble themselves for intense preparation, both spiritual and intellectual, for their “ministry to go forth among the gentiles, for the last time.”16 To comply with this mandate, Smith organized a School of the Prophets.
The school opened in January 1833, an event marked by washing the feet of the students,17 fasting and prayer, and a pentecostal outpouring similar to that accompanying the June 1831 endowment.18 Although the term “endowment” was not used, the school’s continuity with the 1831 endowment and with later Kirtland and Nauvoo endowments is evident. Its purpose was to prepare the elders as missionaries and to receive a pentecostal outpouring.
Another feature of the school eventually became an integral part of endowment theology. The revelation initiating the school mandated construction of “an house of God” in which the elders would meet.19 Details of the proposed structure developed over the next few months. In a meeting in May 1833 Jared Carter proposed that a school [p.122] house be constructed “for the purpose of accomodating the Elders who should come in to receive their education for the ministry.”20 Smith countered that “the Lord would not except it,” and insisted instead on a house of worship.21 Two days later such a building was endorsed by revelation.22 A revelation the following month specified the design and dimensions and reinforced the relationship between the ancient and modern disciples: “Yea verily I say unto you I gave unto you a commandment that you should build an house in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high, for this is the promise of the Father unto you. Therefore, I commanded you to tarry even as mine Apostles at Jerusalem.”23
The new endowment, then, would bear strong similarities to the 1831 endowment. It was to be exclusively for the elders carrying the gospel to all nations; it would require a gathering at Kirtland; and it would involve a pentecostal outpouring. It went beyond the 1831 endowment by requiring the construction of sacred space in which the event would occur. Construction of the Kirtland “House of the Lord”24 began in June 1833 and continued for nearly three years.
[p.123]While the work proceeded in Kirtland, harrassment in Missouri prompted the formation of Zion’s Camp, a body of elders whose intent was to march to Independence and, by military action, “redeem Zion.”25 The expedition failed. As this became apparent, a revelation assigned blame for the failure, then linked the future redemption of the Missouri settlement to the empowerment which would be part of the new endowment:
Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church, and not individuals, they might have been redeemed, even now …
Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion …
And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high; for, behold, I have prepared a greater endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them ….26
The wording of the latter verse is significant, for by a “greater endowment” it signaled continuity with its 1831 predecessor yet allowed for expansion of the theology.27 Two months later, following his return to Kirtland, Smith cautioned patience on the part of his Missouri brethren, reminding them of the link between the endowment and the redemption of Zion: “You will recollect that the first elders are to receive their endowment in Kirtland before the redemption of Zion.”28 The following year Smith reminded the high council [p.124] in Kirtland: “the Lord has commanded us to build a house, in which to receive an endowment, previous to the redemption of Zion; and that Zion could not be redeemed until this takes place.”29
In the winter of 1835-36, as the Saints awaited completion of the building, they anticipated a second expedition to Missouri during the summer of 1836: “I expect that the elders will be sent out as soon [as] the endowment takes place and I think likely that Roger [Orton] will goe east but don’t know wether he wil come that way or not[.] they intend to get all they can to go up to Misouri next sumer to redeem Zion.”30
At the solemn assembly in late March 1836, during which the endowment would occur, the redemption of Missouri would be a prominent theme: “Presidents Joseph Smith, Jun, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery met in the Most Holy Place in the Lord’s House and sought for a revelation from Him to teach us concerning our going to Zion and other important matters.”31 The following day leaders would “prophesy upon each others heads, and [pronounce] cursings upon the enimies of Christ who inhabit Jackson county Missouri.”32 In spite of the expectations, Jackson County would remain out of reach of the Saints and the redemption of Zion would cease to be part of endowment theology.
Although Zion’s Camp failed, it served as a proving ground for a generation of church leaders. Following the expedition, with completion of the House of the Lord and the endowment still a year away, Smith was shown in vision the lofty reward given to camp members who had died. Furthermore, he was admonished to organize two groups of leaders, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and the seventy.33 [p.125]The following week he called a meeting of Zion’s Camp veterans and instructed the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon “to pray each one and then proceed to choose twelve men from the Church as Apostles to go to all nations Kindred tongue and people.”34 Although the injunction to travel to foreign nations had been given several years earlier, this was the first time a group of men was designated for the task. It has remained the primary responsibility of the twelve ever since.
One week later Cowdery gave a charge to the twelve, telling them that they would now be required “to preach the gospel to every nation,” but that, like the ancient apostles, “you are not to go to other nations, till you receive your endowment. Tarry at Kirtland until you are endowed with power from on high.”35 Although other men would participate in the new endowment, it became clear that the most important recipients would be the twelve. Early in November 1835 Smith wrote to the twelve: “Thus came the word of the Lord unto me concerning the Twelve saying … they must all humble themselves before me, before they will be accounted worthy to receive an endowment to go forth in my name unto all nations.”36
A week later, at their request, Smith met with the twelve and promised that this endowment, like its 1831 predecessor, would confer power over tangible things, though adding a caveat:
You need an Endowment brethren in order that you may be prepared and able to over come all things. Those that reject your testimony will be damned. The sick will be healed, the lame made to walk, the deaf to hear and the blind to see through your instrumentality. But let me tell you that you will not have power after the Endowment to heal those who have not faith, nor to benifit them… . But when you are endowed and prepared to preach the gospel to all nations, kindred and toungs in there own languages you must faithfully warn all and bind up the testimony and seal up the law.37
Throughout the winter of 1835-36, the twelve and other officers in Kirtland prepared themselves while working to complete the [p.126] House of the Lord.38 Unlike 1831, when the endowment culminated in an ordinance, this time several ordinances were prescribed to prepare for the endowment. In January, as they were about to begin the preparatory ordinances, Cowdery wrote, “O may we be prepared for the endowment,–being sanctified and cleansed from all sin.”39 Four days later the First Presidency and other church leaders met in the attic of the printing office. After washing and perfuming their bodies, they moved to the House of the Lord to attend to the ordinance of anointing their heads with holy oil. After Smith was anointed, the rest of the First Presidency placed their hands on his head and pronounced prophecies and blessings, whereupon he experienced a vision of the Celestial Kingdom.40 Two weeks later another preparatory ordinance was begun, the “sealing” of the anointing blessing with uplifted hands.41 Participation in the preparatory ordinances would continue throughout the winter and involve male church officers of all ranks, including priests, teachers, and deacons.42
[p.127]As the time of the solemn assembly approached, enthusiasm and expectations increased, spilling over into the non-Mormon press in a manner similar to the 1831 endowment: “They assure you, with the utmost confidence, that they shall soon be able to raise the dead, to heal the sick, the deaf, the dumb, and the blind, &c. Indeed, more than one assured me, that they had, themselves, by the laying on of their hands, restored the sick to health.”43
The Kirtland House of the Lord was dedicated on 27 March 1836 in a ceremony attended by hundreds of men, women, and children. Two days later the solemn assembly began. Inasmuch as its purpose was the endowment of elders to pursue their missionary labors, only men attended. The assembly began on 29 March with Joseph Smith, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery meeting for prayer. A small group of other church leaders joined them later in the day, and Smith told them that “the word of the Lord” required that they remain in the building throughout the day and night to prepare for the activities of the following day. Accordingly, they spent the day and evening in prayer, in the final preparatory ordinance of washing each other’s feet, and in partaking of bread and wine.44 Thereafter they “prophesied and spoke in tongues and shouted Hosannas the meeting lasting till day light.”45
The following morning, 30 March, most of the officers of the church, about 300 men, met in the House of the Lord. The washing of feet proceeded throughout the morning, being completed by noon, whereupon
the brethren began … prophesying and blessing and sealing them with Hosanna and Amen until nearly 7 o clock P.M. the bread and wine was then brought in, and I [Smith] observed that we had fasted all the day, and lest we faint; as the Saviour did[,] so shall we do on this occasion, we shall bless the bread and give it to the 12 and they to the multitude, after which we shall bless the wine and do likewise; while waiting I made the following remarks, that the time we were required to tarry in Kirtland to be endued would be fulfilled in a few days, and then the Elders would go forth ….46
[p.128]Having spent two days in the building without a break, Smith then left the meeting in the charge of the twelve and went home to sleep. The rest of the men remained, exhorting, prophesying, and speaking in tongues until 5:00 a.m. the following morning (31 March): “The Saviour made his appearance to some, while angels minestered unto others, and it was a penticost and enduement indeed, long to be remembered for the sound shall go forth from this place into all the world, and the occurrences of this day shall be hande[d] down upon the pages of sacred history to all generations, as the day of Pentecost …”47
Several participants recorded these events. Milo Andrus “saw the Spirit in the form of cloven tongues as a fire descend in thousands, and rest upon the heads of the Elders, and they spoke with tongues and prophesyed.”48 David Patten said that “the heavens Was opened unto them. Angels & Jesus Christ was seen of them sitting at the right hand of the Father.”49 Erastus Snow recorded that “the angels came & worshipped with us & some saw them yea even twelve legions of them[,] the charriots of Israel & the horseman thereof.”50
Other participants, while clearly a minority, were not as impressed, and two prominent leaders later denounced the proceedings. William McLellin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote that “it was no endowment from God. Not only myself was not endowed, but no other man of the five hundred who was present—except it was with wine!”51 David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, described the event as a “grand fizzle,” denying any angelic visitations.52 While it may be that these reminiscences were clouded by time and disaffection, a contemporary account by Church Historian John Corrill echoes the interpretation without the bias: “The sacra-[p.129]ment was then administered, in which they partook of the bread and wine freely, and a report went abroad that some of them got drunk: as to that every man must answer for himself. A similar report, the reader will recollect, went out concerning the disciples, at Jerusalem, on the day of pentecost.”53
There was a general understanding, both then and later, that the purpose of the endowment had been accomplished and that the elders were now enabled to take the gospel abroad. At the time Smith told the men at the solemn assembly “that they now were at liberty after obtaining their lisences to go forth and build up the kingdom of God.”54 Parley P. Pratt, writing a short time later, addressed the same issue and made the clearest distinction among early writers between authority and power: “The Saviour, having given them their authority, commands them to tarry, and not undertake their mission, until they were endowed with power from on high. But why this delay? Because no man was ever qualified, or ever will be, to preach that Gospel, and teach all things whatsoever Jesus commanded him, without the Holy Ghost.”55 Similarly, Corrill reiterated the connection between endowment and missionary labor when he wrote, “At the close of the solemn assembly meetings in Kirtland, Smith told the elders that they were now endowed with power to go forth and build up the Kingdom.”56 Decades after the event, a church catechism reflected the importance to missionary labors: “What was the endowment which the elders there received? It caused the work of God to take a mighty stride, and from that time the preaching of the gospel took a much wider range.”57
Although the expectation may have been to send missionaries to [p.130] foreign lands immediately, more than a year passed before Heber C. Kimball, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, “was unanimously appointed, set a part, and Ordained to go at the he[a]d of this mission to England to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of that nation.58 One other member of the quorum, Orson Hyde, accompanied Kimball. Over the next four years nine members of the quorum would serve as missionaries in England, reinforcing their primary role in taking the gospel to all nations.
The original intent was that there would be but one solemn assembly and endowment in the House of the Lord, as reflected not only in the revelations pointing towards the event but also in the perception of church members, one of whom wrote: “Brother Joseph Smith ses whoever is Her[e] at the endowment will always regois [rejoice] and whoever is not will a[l]way[s] be Sorry[.] this thi[n]g will not take place a gain whil time last[s].”59 It became apparent, however, that not all who required endowment had been present. Therefore, it was repeated at least three times during the following month and at least once in 1837.60 Although involving far fewer men, it included the same itinerary. Charles C. Rich wrote of his experience on 16 April: “We then continued to fast and pray until the setting of the sun when we Broke Bread and Drank wine[.] we prophesied all night pronouncing blessings and cursings until the morning light[.] there was Great manifestations of the power of God … and I was filled with the spirit of prophesy and I was endued with power from on high.”61 Wilford Woodruff, who had been away from Kirtland during the spring of 1836, participated in the endowment a year later: “April 3rd . The day had now arrived for preperations of the Elders of Israel [p.131] or at least for those that were not endowed in Kirtland[,] the strong hold of the daught[ers] of Zion[,] in the spring of 1836.”62
The departure of most of the Saints from Kirtland between December 1837 and July 1838 resulted in the cessation of further endowments.63 Upon arriving in Missouri, Smith and his followers built homes, founded new settlements, and engaged in political, legal, and paramilitary skirmishes with neighbors. Smith and other church leaders were soon imprisoned, and the Missouri governor ordered all Mormons from the state. No significant developments in endowment theology occurred during this troubled period.64
After Smith and the Saints settled in Illinois, endowment theology and practice resumed their development. In an 1839 letter, Smith revisited a concept he had first articulated in 1831: the power to seal. Whereas the earlier context of sealing had been its link to High Priesthood, he now equated it with “being endowed with power,” a concept no longer synonymous with ordination to that priesthood.65
[p.132]A year later Smith announced construction of a temple in Nauvoo. Although the connection between the endowment and the Kirtland House of the Lord was explicit prior to its construction, no such relationship was expressed in the announcement of the Nauvoo temple. Rather, it was to be a monument, “as great a temple as ever Solomon did,” which would be visited by the curious “from all parts of the world” and would enrich the Saints by “the money of these proud men received from such as come and dwell with us.”66
The following month a more religious purpose was ascribed to the temple, “a place for the Lord to meet with his people and give revelations.”67 A week later the First Presidency stated it would also be a place “where the ordinances can be attended to agreeably to His divine will.”68 These included the endowment and baptism for the dead. Below ground level it would contain a baptism font for baptisms. Above ground the Kirtland and Nauvoo buildings were similar, each consisting of large assembly halls on the first and second floors and a third-floor attic.69 Unlike the design of current Latter-day Saint temples, which revolves around specialized rooms to accommodate the endowment, the Nauvoo temple was designed like the Kirtland House of the Lord for the simple reason that as late as April 1842 no differences between the Kirtland and Nauvoo endowments were anticipated. Even when the Nauvoo endowment had developed well beyond its predecessor, no structural features were included in the building to reflect the evolved ordinance, and the endowments which were finally performed a year and a half after Smith’s death occurred in hastily arranged attic quarters.
For nearly two years after announcement of the temple, it was clear that the Nauvoo endowment would duplicate Kirtland and that only those men who had missed the one would require the other: “The Elders of Israel, who have not yet received their endowment, must [p.133] indeed look forward to the completion of the building with feelings of no ordinary kind, and inasmuch as they anticipate great blessings, let them make such efforts to facilitate the work as are worthy of them.”70
As was the case in Kirtland, the Nauvoo endowment would serve to empower new missionaries. Women would be excluded.71 In the April 1842 general conference Hyrum Smith reiterated that the Nauvoo endowment would not differ from the earlier one and that men previously endowed would not need attend:
Pres’t. H. Smith spoke concerning the elders who went forth to preach from Kirtland, and were afterwards called in for the washing and anointing at the dedication of the House, and those who go now will be called in also, when this Temple is about to be dedicated, and will then be endowed to go forth with mighty power having the same anointing, that all may go forth and have the same power, the first, second, and so on, of the seventies and all those formerly ordained.72
Only four weeks later, a new endowment was presented to a few select men including Hyrum Smith, and, contrary to Hyrum’s discourse, it differed markedly from the Kirtland endowment. In attempting to understand the dramatic and apparently unanticipated evolution, one needs to focus on a key personality of this period of Latter-day Saint history, John C. Bennett.
Bennett joined the church in 1840. A politician, he shepherded through the Illinois state legislature the Nauvoo Charter, a document which gave Nauvoo the legal powers of a virtual city-state. Bennett’s political skills extended into religious circles, and in April 1841, only six months after his conversion to Mormonism, he was appointed assistant president of the church. His relationship with Smith soon [p.134] soured over allegations of illicit sexual relationships.73 Although Bennett was not formally excommunicated until mid-1842, his relationship with Smith had disintegrated by late 1841. Charges and counter-charges flew between the two men, and Bennett, who was privy to the fact that Smith was practicing plural marriage, vowed to expose him and thus destroy the church. It was against this backdrop that Smith stated: “Some say Joseph is a fallen prophet because he does not bring forth more of the word of the Lord… . The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep our own secrets but reveal our difficulties to the world even to our enemies[.] [T]hen how would we keep the secrets of the Lord[? …] I can keep a secret till dooms day.”74
Three weeks later Bennett extended his campaign by appealing to two prominent church leaders, First Presidency member Sidney Rigdon and Apostle Orson Pratt:
We shall try Smith on the Boggs case when we get him into Missouri. The war goes bravely on, and although Smith thinks he is now safe, the enemy is near, even at the door. He has awoke the wrong passenger. The Governor will relinquish Joe up at once on the new requisition—there is but one opinion in the case, and that is nothing can save Joe on a new requisition and demand predicated on the old charges, on the institution of new suits.75
Faced with the most serious crisis of his ministry, initiated by one of his closest confidants, Smith turned his attention to an institution renowned for keeping a secret: Freemasonry.76 Less than two weeks after denouncing those who “do not keep our own secrets,” he petitioned to become a Mason.77
[p.135]Although he had no formal ties to Freemasonry prior to 1842, Smith was no stranger to the fraternity. His brother Hyrum had been a Mason since 1821,78 and in September 1826, one year before Smith obtained the gold plates, an incident occurred only a few miles from the Smith home which thrust the Masonic movement into the consciousness of the entire nation. William Morgan had written and published an expose of Masonic ritual, as a consequence of which he was abducted and allegedly murdered. Public outrage was fierce and long-lived, resulting in a national anti-Masonic movement and the formation of the Antimasonic Party, the first influential third political party in the United States.79 By 1831 three important exposes of Freemasonry had been published and circulated widely in this country, thus providing the uninitiated ready access to the secret ceremonies.80
On 15 March 1842 Smith was inducted into the first degree of Freemasonry, Entered Apprentice. The following day he advanced to the second (Fellow Craft) and third (Master Mason) degrees.81 In a public discourse within days of his induction, Smith first spoke of “certain key words & signs belonging to the priesthood which must be observed in order to obtaine the Blessings.”82 “Key words and signs” are concepts central to Freemasonry, and their use in the context of priesthood suggests that Smith saw a continuity between Masonic symbolism and priesthood. However, he did not yet link the symbols of Freemasonry with the concept of endowment, and Hyrum Smith’s statement two weeks later that the Nauvoo and Kirtland endowments [p.136] were to be the same suggests that it took several more weeks for the linkage to be made.83
A public discourse by Smith on 1 May 1842 suggested that the symbolism of Freemasonry, which Smith held to be an authentic vestige of an ancient endowment, had now been fused with the modern endowment and with the temple:
The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed–the rich can only get them in the Temple–the poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses… . There are signs in heaven, earth and hell, the Elders must know them all to be endowed with power ….84
Two days later Smith summoned a half-dozen men to the top floor of his red brick store, where he directed them in preparing the room for “giving endowments to a few Elders.”85 The following day he gathered nine close associates, all of whom were Masons,86 and [p.137] administered to them an endowment which maintained continuity with its Kirtland antecedent but added several new dimensions. Smith’s own record described the proceedings, including his
instructing them in the principles and order of the priesthood, attending to washings & anointings, endowments, and the communications of keys, pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the Highest order of the Melchisedec Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of days & all those plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which has been prepared for the church of the firstborn, and come up and abide in the presence of … Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the Ancient order of things for the first time in these last days. And the communications I made to this Council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but will be made known to all Saints, of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints: therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the temple and all houses which they have been or shall hereafter be commanded of god to build, and wait their time with patience, in all meekness and faith, & perserverance unto the end.87
Analysis of the Nauvoo endowment, as it was first given by Smith, is difficult because of the scarcity of contemporary records. The ceremony was not written by church leaders until 187788 and by that time reflected changes made in the intervening decades.89 Exposes by disaffected church members who had been initiated into the endowment were not written until 1846 and reflected the ceremony given in the Nauvoo temple a year and a half after Smith’s death. In spite of [p.138] these limitations, records of four of the participants allow several observations.90 The continuity between the Kirtland and Nauvoo endowments was clear. The Nauvoo ceremony included washings, anointings, and sealings, and, although a special exception was made until completion of the Nauvoo structure, it was explicitly stated that future endowments could occur only in a temple. Although no pentecostal outpouring was described in connection with the initial Nauvoo ceremony, later statements by church leaders in anticipation of the completion of the temple made it clear that a Pentecost was expected to be part of the temple endowment.91 The fact that the Nauvoo endowment went well beyond the Kirtland antecedent made it necessary that recipients of the earlier endowment participate in the new one. Furthermore, Smith’s statement that this eventually “will be made known to all Saints” extended the benefits of the endowment beyond the missionary ranks. Whereas the Kirtland endowment was patterned after the New Testament Day of Pentecost, the Nauvoo endowment reached into the Old Testament era, claiming continuity with an Adamic order which was now embodied in the endowment “for the first time in these last days.”92 The new endowment also extended to the future, into the afterlife. While the earlier endowment had emphasized here-and-now empowerment, the new ritual introduced “knowledge” as an essential element, “plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings … and come up and abide in the presence of… Eloheim in the eternal worlds.” And, of course, the similarities between Freemasonry and the 1842 endowment are obvious. In addition to “key words, signs, tokens and penalties,” the ceremonial clothing and strict obligation of loyalty and secrecy were Masonic.
Smith was now confident that through this initiative he had reestablished his inner circle of confidants. This is indicated by the Kimball letter:
Brother Joseph feels as well as I Ever see him. One reason is he has got a Small company. that he feels safe in thare ha[n]ds. and that is not all[,] he can open his bosom to [them] and feel him Self safe[.] I wish you was here so as to feel and hear for your Self. we have recieved some pressious things through the Prophet on the preasthood that would caus your soul to rejoice[.] I can not give them to you on paper fore they are not to be riten.93
Smith made it clear that the ceremony was incomplete. He instructed Brigham Young “to take this matter in hand organize and systematize all these ceremonies.” By the time the Nauvoo temple was ready for the endowment, Young stated, “we had our ceremonies pretty correct.” In the year following the 1842 endowment, while the ceremonies were being refined, no other men received the endowment. Nor were there any developments in endowment theology.94
On 26 May 1843 eight of the ten men who participated in the 1842 ceremony met again,95 whereupon Smith “gave them their [p.140] endowments and also instructions in the priesthood on the new and everlasting covenant.”96 Because all of these men had received the 1842 endowment, it seems certain that the reason they met again was that the new form went beyond the old. Furthermore, the use of the term “new and everlasting covenant” in connection with the endowment suggests that plural marriage (synonymous at the time with “new and everlasting covenant”) accounted for the need to update the ceremony. No other records are known, however, which would shed additional light on the details of this development.
During 1843 completion of the temple was a source of concern to church members largely because they understood that the endowment was accessible to them only in the completed temple. In September, Saints in Boston and in England were urged to contribute to the temple’s completion so that two things might occur. First, the Elders might thereby be endowed “with power from on high” to “go forth and gather … from the ends of the earth.” Second, “those things hid up from the world,” including “the ordinances and blessings of His kingdom,” would therein be revealed.97
By October 1843 women received the endowment for the first time, with Emma Smith apparently the first female recipient. By the middle of the same month, at least one woman had received a patriarchal blessing promising that she would “be endowed with power, as far as ministrations and priesthood was ordained to be given unto man, and unto their help mate.”98 Unlike the endowment of males, which carried no qualification, that of females was conditioned upon sharing it with their husbands.99 Although women would part-[p.141]icipate in the endowment, the dominant theme continued to be empowerment of male missionaries.
A new focus now emerged in proselyting strategy, reversing a trend of gathering all new converts to Nauvoo. In an April 1844 general conference address, Smith said:
I have received instructions from the Lord that from henceforth wherever the Elders of Israel shall build up churches and branches unto the Lord throughout the States, there shall be a stake of Zion. In the great cities, as Boston, New York, &c., there shall be stakes. It is a glorious proclamation, and I reserved it to the last, and designed it to be understood that this work shall commence after the washings, anointings and endowments have been performed here.100
In a discourse the following day Brigham Young endorsed Smith’s proclamation and extended it to foreign lands: “Let us obey the proclamation of Joseph Smith concerning the Elders going forth into the vineyard to build up the Temple, get their endowments, and be prepared to go forth and preach the Gospel.”101 He “wished to draw the attention of the brethren, first to build the Temple and get your washings, anointings and endowments; after that to build up branches throughout the nations.”102
Even after Smith’s death, when it was apparent that the Saints would be forced from Nauvoo and their primary concern would be survival, Sally Murdock could still write in 1845: “There has been but few elders sent out since the death of the prophet but when the seventies receive their endeument they will go forth with power to all the nations kindreds tongues and people of the earth.”103
[p.142]The final development during Smith’s ministry, which continues to be the driving force behind Latter-day Saint temple activity today, was the realization that it was mandatory that the dead, as well as the living, receive (by proxy) the benefits of the endowment.104 In order to appreciate the extension of endowment theology to the dead, it is necessary to review the development of this unique Latter-day Saint view of proxy ordinances.
The foundational document, the Book of Mormon, is essentially silent on the subject of salvation of the dead. Although it speaks of the reality of a bodily resurrection, it says nothing of the relative status of beings in the afterlife. While the October 1831 conference introduced the doctrine of “sealing up to eternal life,” it was clear that only the living were to be its beneficiaries. There is no record of the subject of salvation of the dead being discussed in the church prior to 1832. On 16 February of that year Smith saw a vision of the afterlife105 in which several states of postmortal existence were portrayed. In order to inherit the highest (“Celestial”) kingdom, it was necessary that one be baptized during mortal life. By contrast, those who were otherwise good people who “died without the law” and received the testimony of Jesus after death but were not baptized while living would inherit an intermediate (“Terrestrial”) kingdom, while the remainder were consigned to the lowest (“Telestial”) kingdom.
There is no record of any discussion in the church over the next four years regarding the implications of this vision, but a vision in January 1836 made it clear that Smith had resigned himself to the fate of his dead brother, Alvin, who according to the 1832 vision was an heir to the Terrestrial Kingdom:
I saw father Adam, and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother Alvin that has long since slept, and marvled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that [Celestial] Kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life, before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time and had not been baptised for the remission of sins—Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me say-[p.143]ing all who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it, if they had been permited to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial Kingdom of God—also all that shall die henseforth, without a knowledge of it, who would have received it, with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that Kingdom, for I the Lord will judge all men according to their works according to the desires of their hearts.106
This vision represented a major shift in Latter-day Saint theology and negated an important point of the 1832 vision, namely that those dying without baptism could not rise above the Terrestrial Kingdom. It gave no hint that anything must be done by the living to allow the dead entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. Rather, the dead would be judged according to desire, and those deemed willing to receive the gospel would become heirs of that kingdom. This theology was consistent with 1 Peter 4:6: “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
That the Saints soon embraced the new doctrine is reflected in a blessing pronounced upon Woodruff in January 1837: “President Z. Coltrin ordained me as a member of the first Seventy & Pronounced great blessings upon my head by the Spirit of Prophecy & Revelation… . Also that I should visit COLUB & Preach to the spirits in Prision & that I should bring all of my friends or relatives forth from the Terrestrial Kingdom (who had died) by the Power of the gospel.”107 This statement implies that those who die without the gospel are assigned automatically to the Terrestrial Kingdom. They presumably remain there unless someone intervenes in their behalf. No mention was made of any ordinance to be performed in their behalf.
Later that same year Warren Cowdery, editor of the church newspaper Messenger and Advocate, wrote a lengthy article on the subject. Echoing Woodruff’s insight, Cowdery wrote that the dead could inherit the Celestial Kingdom on condition that the gospel were preached to them and they accepted its message. He cited 1 Peter 4:6 to defend the concept of preaching to the dead. Once again, however, there was no mention of any requirement for ordinances to be performed in behalf of the dead.108
[p.144]A year later, Smith addressed the question in print: “Question 16th. If the Mormon doctrine is true what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles. [Answer] All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered unto by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged.”109
While it may be claimed that Smith referred obliquely to the performance of baptism and other ordinances in their behalf, nothing else in the historical record for this period supports such an interpretation. Indeed, Apostle Parley P. Pratt, when asked two years later, if “the thief on the cross [was] saved without baptism,” answered that he was “included in the same mercy as the heathens, who have never had the offer of the Gospel, and therefore, are under no condemnation for not obeying it.”110
Later in 1840, in the course of delivering a funeral sermon, Smith announced that the living could participate in the redemption of the dead by being baptized in their behalf.111 A year later, in commenting on the construction of the Nauvoo Temple, Joseph Fielding confirmed that prior to August 1840 the idea of baptism for the dead had not been part of Latter-day Saint theology:
The object of the Baptismal Font is also truly interesting to me, and I have no doubt to all the saints: for some time I had thought much on the subject of the redemption of those who died under the broken covenant, it is plain they could not come forth in the kingdom of God, as they had not been adopted, legally [i.e., by baptism] into it, neither could they be while there was no priesthood, they had not been born of water and the spirit, and if they should come into the kingdom without this it would falsify the plain word of Jesus Christ, yet how would those who died martyrs and all those who have lived up to the best light they have had, and would no doubt have rejoiced in the fulness of the gospel had they had it, be denied this privilege? I thought, perhaps those who receive the priesthood in [p.145] these last days would baptize them at the coming of the Savior, and this would fulfil the words of the Savior; many shall come from the east and from the west &c., and shall sit down in the kingdom of God,–but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out, as foolish virgins, but a touch of the light of revelation has at once dispelled the darkness and scattered the doubts which once perplexed my mind and I behold the means which God hath devised that his banished ones may be brought back again; every step I take in surveying the plan of heaven, and the wisdom and goodness of God, my heart feels glad, but when I have listened to the teachings of the servants of God under the new covenant and the principles of Baptism for the Dead the feelings of my soul were such as I cannot describe.112
At this time baptism was the only ordinance said to be necessary for the dead. That the endowment was not yet considered essential is no surprise, inasmuch as the Kirtland endowment had never been considered an ordinance essential to the living. In October 1842 it was first taught that the endowment was necessary for the living,113 but an article written later the same month, while reaffirming the necessity of baptism for the dead, spoke of no other ordinance essential to their salvation.114 The first hint came in December 1843, apparently following a meeting between Smith and other church leaders. Young stated: “When the Temple is done I expect we shall be baptized, washed anointed ordained, & offer up the keys & signs of the priesthood for our dead that they may have a full salvation & we shall be a[s] saviors on mount Zion according to the Scriptures.”115
The following month, in his first recorded public discourse on the subject, Smith outlined the scope of proxy work expected of the Saints:
The Saints [are] to Come up as Saviors on mount Zion[.] But how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion[?] By building their temples erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, confirmations, washings anointings ordinations, & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who [p.146] are dead & redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection & be exalted to thrones of glory with us.116
On at least three occasions during the remaining five months of his life Smith reemphasized the necessity of all ordinances of salvation for the dead.117 Although endowments were not performed for the dead until the completion of the St. George temple in January 1877, Smith clearly established the need prior to his death.
Freemasonry and the Endowment
The relationship between Mormonism and Freemasonry has been a matter of controversy since 1842. Only one week after the Nauvoo endowment was first given, Bennett wrote that Smith had “established a new lodge of his own, by inspiration, called `ORDER,’ in which there are many curious things.”118 In attempting to decipher the relationship between the two traditions, it is important to distinguish between what Smith took to Freemasonry and what he brought from it. As has been shown in this chapter, his betrayal at the hands of Bennett appears to have catalyzed his movement to Freemasonry. By selecting men who were already Masons to constitute the new inner circle, and by placing them under oaths of loyalty and secrecy similar to those they had already taken as Masons, he established some security, at least for the short-term. Because the endowment was part of a larger picture which [p.147] also involved plural marriage, the need for secrecy extended to all new initiates.119
Smith saw in Freemasonry the vestige of an ancient ceremony. Though it had no relationship to the pentecostal endowment of the New Testament, he incorporated it into the new endowment, thus transforming it into a chimera of Old and New Testament forms. He told his close friend, Benjamin F. Johnson, that “Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments.”120 Convinced of its pedigree as a degenerate form of an authentic ancient endowment ceremony, Smith borrowed liberally from the symbolism in giving form to the new ceremony.121
While there is no question that Smith believed Freemasonry dated to the construction of Solomon’s Temple, contemporary scholarship dates its origins among the trade guilds of the fourteenth century.122 Like other guilds arising at the same time, it developed for itself an elaborate backdrop of ancient origins and a labyrinth of secret passwords, signs, and handgrips which assured that as guildsmen traveled in an increasingly mobile Europe they would be able to obtain work in a new town, while non-members would be excluded. By the time of Mormonism, the Masonic legend had existed for two centuries, and all contemporary histories of the movement accepted as authentic the ancient motif, an explanation later known as the “mythical” or “imaginative” school. The first scholar to challenge this was George Kloss. His landmark work, Geschichte der Freimaurerei in England, Irland und Schottland, published in 1847, established the “authentic” or [p.148] “verified” school of Freemasonry which demonstrated that the movement began in the Middle Ages not anciently.123
There is no evidence to support the claim that Masonic ritual mirrored rites practiced in Solomon’s Temple. The Bible itself describes the rituals which bear no resemblance to either Masonic or Latter-day Saint ceremonies. Smith was correct in inferring that Masonic ritual had changed over time. The differences between the earliest known text (1696) and nineteenth-century exposes by Morgan, Bernard, and Allyn (1827, 1829, and 1831) are substantial.124 One might expect that the earlier Masonic rituals, because they were closer in time to the Solomonic rites, would be closer to the “restored” Latter-day Saint endowment. The opposite is true, however. That is, the similarities between Masonic texts and the Latter-day Saint endowment are most pronounced in the later (1827-31) Masonic rites. Early Masonic texts bear little resemblance to the Latter-day Saint ceremony.
Smith’s prophetic genius lay not in his ability to discern what might be called “objective knowledge” but rather in his understanding of “subjective knowledge,” coupled with an ability to use symbols with which his community readily identified to bring it into communion with realities that they had experienced. His use of Masonic symbolism sidesteps the issue of historicity. The substance of the endowment was independent of the form. The symbolism conveyed intangible realities totally unrelated to their original Masonic context. One test of any religious leader is his or her ability to provide the community of believers with tangible, finite symbols through which an understanding of and communion with the infinite is facilitated. A century and a half of Latter-day Saint experience with endowment theology and practice attests to Smith’s ability to provide his community with such symbols.
1. The most poignant example of this was their failure to cast an evil spirit out of a child. The child’s father, speaking to Jesus, lamented, “I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not” (Mark 9:14-26).
3. Painesville [Ohio] Telegraph, 7 Dec. 1830, reported: “When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he gave them power against all unclean spirits, to cast them out to heal all manner of diseases, and to raise the dead. But these newly commissioned disciples have totally failed thus far in their attempts to heal, and as far as can be ascertained their prophecys have also failed.” The same newspaper, in an article dated 15 Feb. 1831, spoke in detail of an unsuccessful attempt by Cowdery to heal a crippled woman, concluding by stating that “one of these people a few days ago, when put to the worst upon the subject, said that he did not think Cowdery would have attempted to do any miracles, had he have known how things would turn out… . Mr. R[igdon]. now blames Cowdery for attempting to work miracles, and says it was not intended to be confirmed in that way.” Smith was also accused of attempting without success to work miracles, most pointedly in the case of Warner Doty, a church member who allegedly died in spite of Smith’s promises to the contrary (Painesville Telegraph, 5 Apr. 1831; the same incident was referred to in the Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 7 May 1831).
4. A revelation to Joseph Smith in December 1830, only days after Rigdon arrived in New York, stated: “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works. I have heard thy prayers and prepared thee for a greater work. Thou are blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth, even as John, to prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should come, and thou knew it not” (A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized According to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830 [Independence, MO: W. W. Phelps & Co., 1833], XXXVII:3-6; hereafter cited in the text as BC).
5. The disciples waited at Jerusalem, as instructed, until the Day of Pentecost, at which time the Holy Ghost, as cloven tongues of fire, conferred the promised power. Thereafter they began their missionary labors. Note that the word “endue” is an infrequently used synonym for “endow” (see Oxford English Dictionary). Of the common English translations of the Bible, only the King James Version of this passage uses “endue,” while others used “clothed,” “armed,” or “invested.” Latter-day Saint sources prefer “endow,” although some retain “endue.”
6. Robert J. Matthews, in “A Plainer Translation:” Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 96, states that Genesis 14 was revised between 1 Feb.-8 Mar. 1831.
7. Gen. 14:30-31, Joseph Smith’s revision, commonly referred to as the “Inspired Version.” For a comparison with the King James text, see Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1970), 78.
8. Unpublished revelation, dated May 1831, “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 91-92, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives). Note that the ordination is to “power” not to a specified office.
10. The most informative of the accounts of the conference were: Corrill; Joseph Smith: “History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons 5 (1 Feb. 1844): 416; Parley P. Pratt: Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 68; Lyman Wight: Letter to Wilford Woodruff, 24 Aug. 1857, Lyman Wight Letterbook, Library and Archives, The Auditorium, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Missouri (hereafter RLDS Library-Archives); Newel Knight: “Autobiographical Stetch,” LDS archives; Ezra Booth: Letter to Rev. Ira Eddy, Sept. 1831, in E. D. Howe: Mormonism Unveiled, or, a Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and Delusion, From its Rise to the Present Time (Painesville, Ohio, 1834), 110; Philo Dibble: Juvenile Instructor 27 (15 May 1892): 303; Levi Ward Hancock: Diary, LDS archives; and Zebedee Coltrin: “Autobiography,” LDS archives. An attempt to raise the dead was described by Booth.
11. Corrill. This was also called the “high priesthood.” It is essential to understand that at the time of the June 1831 conference, ordination to the “high priesthood” meant neither the Melchizedek Priesthood nor the office of High Priest. The latter office did not emerge for several months following the conference, while the Melchizedek Priesthood was first formulated in 1835. See chap. 1.
12. Ezra Booth, a participant in the conference who was ordained to the High Priesthood, wrote that “many of them have been ordained to the High Priesthood, or the order of Melchisedec; and profess to be endowed with the same power as the ancient apostles were” (Ezra Booth to Rev. Ira Eddy, Sept. 1831, in Howe, 180-81). The week after the conference an article in the Painesville Telegraph stated: “The ceremony of endowing them with miraculous gifts, or supernatural power, was then performed, and they were commanded to take up a line of march; preaching their gospel, (Jo’s Bible), raising the dead, healing the sick, casting out devils, &c.” (14 June 1831).
18. One account described “many powerful manifestation[s] of the holy spirit … the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof” (Zebedee Coltrin diary, 24 Jan. 1833, LDS archives). Smith’s mother later referred to the event as a “day of penticost” (Lucy Mack Smith, manuscript history, LDS archives).
24. The word “temple” was not associated with the Kirtland building until several years after its completion, whereupon later writers, including Levi Hancock (quoted above) commonly used it. The idea of a Latter-day Saint temple had been present at least as early as October 1830 when Oliver Cowdery wrote that “the temple of God shall be built” in the lands to which the missionaries would travel (Journal History, 17 Oct. 1830). It was understood that there would be a temple in Missouri but nowhere else. Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith wrote in January 1833 that “Zion is the place where the temple will be built, and the people gathered” (HC, 1:320). A year later, J. C. Chauncey, a non-Mormon describing the encampment of “Zion’s Camp” a mile from his house, wrote that “God directed them there and there alone to build up his holy temple for the gathering of the scattered tribes of Israel” (J. C. Chauncey to “Dr. Sir,” Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, 27 June 1834, RLDS Library-Archives). After 1838, when it became apparent that the Saints would not be able to maintain a permanent foothold in Missouri, the term “temple” was applied to other buildings.
25. Detailed studies of Zion’s Camp have been written by Roger Launius, Zion’s Camp: Expedition to Missouri, 1834 (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1984), and James L. Bradley, Zion’s Camp 1834: Prelude to the Civil War (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1990).
27. The word “greater” in the “Kirtland Revelation Book,” the earliest manuscript version of this revelation, was changed in later published versions (the first being in DC, 1844 ed.) to “great” without explanation.
28. Joseph Smith to Lyman Wight, Edward Partridge, John Corrill, Isaac Morley, and others of the High Council, 16 Aug. 1834, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 329.
30. Clarissa Bicknell Orton (Kirtland) to “Dear Parents,” Jan. 1836, in L. B. Johnson, ed., The Pines Letters (n.p., 1954), 22. I am indebted to Rick Grunder for bring this book to my attention and for providing me with a photographic copy of the third chapter, entitled “The Mormons.”
31. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 152-53, 29 Mar. 1836.
38. It appears unlikely that a target date had been set for completion of the building and the Solemn Assembly. In January W. W. Phelps wrote to his wife: “The whole work continually progresses, though somewhat slowly. I cannot tell when the Endowment will take place” (W. W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, 5 Jan. 1836, in Journal History, 5 Jan. 1836).
40. This vision was canonized in 1978 and now comprises sec. 137 of Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981) (hereafter cited in the text as DC, LDS). It is significant, for it contradicts a portion of an earlier vision (16 Feb. 1832; DC, LDS, 76). The earlier vision consigned all who died without baptism to a lesser kingdom, the later one included Alvin Smith in the Celestial Kingdom. Smith “marveled” that his brother was there, since he had died before being baptized. While the LDS doctrine of baptism for the dead now responds to the fate of those dying without baptism, it took four years of reflection on Smith’s part, following this vision, to conclude that ordinances performed in behalf of the dead could assist in effecting their salvation.
49. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), 1:67, 19 Apr. 1836. Woodruff was not at the solemn assembly but recorded in his diary the account of David Patten, one of the twelve.
53. Corrill, chap. 12. This account was published in 1839. See also the account of participant William Harris, in Mormonism Portrayed; Its Errors and Absurdities Exposed, and the Spirit and Designs of its Authors Made Manifest (Warsaw, IL: Sharp & Gamble, 1841), quoted in John C. Bennett, History of the Saints: or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 136.
55. Parley P. Pratt (1837) in A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, Containing a Declaration of the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, Commonly Called Mormons (1857 ed.), 72-73.
58. Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 5, 13 June 1837, describing a conference of elders held in Kirtland on 2 June 1837.
60. Such events were recorded for 6 April (HC, 2:475-77), 16 April (Charles Coulson Rich diary, vol. 5, LDS archives), and 30 April (Lyndon W. Cook and Milton V. Backman, eds., Kirtland Elders’ Quorum Record, 1836-1841 [Provo, UT: Grandin Book Co., 1985]).
63. The single known exception occurred in November 1839. John Taylor had joined the church in May 1836 and consequently missed the solemn assembly and endowment. Called to the Quorum of the Twelve in July 1838, he was now on his way from Missouri to England with other members of the quorum. He and fellow apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and George A. Smith met in Kirtland, and on 17 November a small congregation convened in the House of the Lord. Taylor and Theodore Turley, a seventy, then received the endowment, consisting as before of washing and anointing, sealing the anointing, washing the feet, and a spiritual outpouring (see “Manuscript History of Brigham Young,” 17 Nov. 1839). The only member of the quorum who had not previously participated in the endowment, Taylor was now empowered to proceed on his journey to the British Isles.
64. A revelation on 26 April 1838 called for construction in Far West, Missouri, of “an house unto me for the gathering together of my Saints that they may worship me” (Joseph Smith Diary, 175-76, 26 Apr. 1838; also DC, LDS, 115:8). Unlike the Kirtland House of the Lord, however, the proposed building was never associated with the concept of endowment. Its cornerstones were laid on 4 July 1838, but no further construction was accomplished.
71. A graphic example is in the patriarchal blessings of the Gribble family. On 4 October 1841 Levi Gribble, his wife Polly, and his daughter Patience all received blessings from Hyrum Smith. Levi was told, “Then shall you be a chosen vessel having received the anointing, & the enduements, in the Lords House.” Polly was “sealed with Eternal Life from this very Hour,” and Patience was sealed “up unto Eternal Life.” All three blessings are in RLDS Library-Archives, P8 f9.
77. His petition was filed 30 December 1841. See Mervin B. Hogan, ed., The Founding Minutes of Nauvoo Lodge (Des Moines, IA: Research Lodge No. 2, n.d.), 8. An extensive discussion of the relationship between Mormonism and Freemasonry is Michael W. Homer, “Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994): 1-116.
80. William Morgan’s Illustrations of Masonry by One of the Fraternity Who has Devoted Thirty Years to the Subject was published in 1827; David Bernard’s Light on Masonry: A Collection of All the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry in 1829; and Avery Allyn’s A Ritual of Freemasonry in 1831.
83. Shortly after the 1842 endowment, Heber C. Kimball wrote to fellow Apostle Parley P. Pratt (in England), “Thare is a similarity of preast hood in masonary. Br Joseph Ses Masonary was taken from preasthood but has become degenrated. but menny things are perfect” (Kimball to Pratt, 17 June 1842, LDS archives). Brigham Young later said of the 1842 endowment that “key words, signs, tokens and penalties” were an integral part of the ceremony (L. John Nuttall diary, 7 Feb. 1877, LDS archives).
86. James Adams was Deputy Grand Master Mason of Illinois and had been the first master of the Springfield Lodge when the lodge was under dispensation from Missouri (Newton Bateman, ed., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois [Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1912], 2:997). George Miller, Worshipful Master of the Nauvoo Lodge, was a Mason in 1819 (H. W. Mills, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” Annual Publications—Historical Society of Southern California 10 : 120-21). Hyrum Smith, Senior Warden and Worshipful Master, pro tem., had been a Mason at least since 1821 (Hogan). Heber C. Kimball had been a Mason since 1823 (Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball–Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982], 12). Newel K. Whitney had been a member of the Meridian No. 10 Lodge of Ohio (Hogan, 9). William Law, William Marks, Brigham Young, and Willard Richards were all Masons but of recent initiation (Hogan, 15, 21, 24).
87. Joseph Smith, draft sheet of “Manuscript History of the Church,” in the hand of Willard Richards, 4 May 1842, Historian’s Office Church Records Group, LDS archives. This date is not when this document was written. A more contemporary account is in “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 2:380, 4 May 1842.
90. See Smith draft sheet of “Manuscript History …”; Brigham Young Manuscript History, 4 May 1842; L. John Nuttall diary, 7 Feb. 1877; Heber C. Kimball diary, June 1842; Heber C. Kimball to Parley P. Pratt; George Miller to James J. Strang, 26 June 1855, in Mills.
92. A revelation dated 19 Jan. 1841 (DC, LDS, 124) speaks of “things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world” (v. 41). Although this sounds similar to the statement concerning the 1842 endowment, the fact that it reaches farther back than Adam (“before the foundation of the world”) and makes no mention of endowment suggests that it did not anticipate a newer version of the Kirtland endowment.
93. Kimball to Pratt. Ironically, Smith’s effort to surround himself with a new inner circle was ultimately frustrated. Two of the nine men receiving the endowment on 4 May 1842, William Law and William Marks, eventually turned against him. When the official History of the Church was published, the names of these two were deleted from the record, giving the erroneous impression that Smith first gave the endowment to only seven men.
94. Andrew F. Ehat makes a convincing argument that dissension over the issue of plural marriage made it inadvisable, if not impossible, for Smith to bring additional people into the group or to expand the theology. See Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982, 53-54. By May 1843 a reconciliation appears to have been achieved (61).
95. The participants in the reunion were Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, James Adams, Newel K. Whitney, and William Law. No explanation was given for the absence of George Miller and William Marks (HC, 5:409).
98. Patriarchal Blessing given to Ann Elisa DeLong by Hyrum Smith, 16 Oct. 1843, LDS archives. This is the earliest mention of an endowment for a woman in the copies of 150 patriarchal blessings prior to 1845 in my possession.
99. DeLong’s blessing said, “There are blessings to be received in common with your husband.” Several months later Father John Smith gave a patriarchal blessing to Louisa C. Jackson, promising she would “see the Temple finished and in it shall have an endowment with thy Companion” (6 Feb. 1844, RLDS Library-Archives, P8 f16).
102. Hyrum Smith, quoting Brigham Young, HC 6:322-23. The deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith two months later ultimately resulted in a decades-long delay in creating branches and stakes throughout the world. Brigham Young’s emphasis was to convert people in domestic and foreign lands and encourage them to emigrate to the Great Basin. It was only after the turn of the twentieth century that the emphasis gradually shifted back to Smith’s goal of building stakes throughout the world.
104. In 1985, 54,554 endowments for the living were performed, versus 4,857,052 for the dead, a ratio of nearly 100 to 1 (Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 23). Since 1986, endowment statistics have not been published by the church.
111. Journal History, 15 Aug. 1840. Smith and all subsequent Latter-day Saint commentators have cited 1 Corinthians 15:29 as justification for the doctrine: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”
117. These occasions were 10 March (Wilford Woodruff diary for that date); 8 April (William Clayton and Thomas Bullock reports, in Ehat and Cook, 362-64; Wilford Woodruff and Joseph Smith diaries for that date); and 12 May (Thomas Bullock report, George Laub journal, and Samuel W. Richards record, in Ehat and Cook, 368-72). In addition, Joseph Fielding reminisced in his journal, apparently written in the summer of 1844: “Much said on the Subject of the Coming or Spirit of Elijah…it is necessary that they [the dead] as well as we who are now alive should be made acquainted with the Ordinances, Signs and Tokens of the Priesthood and the Turms of Admission into the Kingdom in Order that they may come forth with those who have received it here” (Joseph Fielding journal, in Brigham Young University Studies 19 [Winter 1979]: 133-66).
119. Prior to 1842 nothing associated with the endowment, either in principle or in practice, was clothed in secrecy. Although plural marriage ceased to be part of the temple experience shortly after the turn of the century, secrecy today remains an integral part of the endowment.
122. A definitive scholarly treatment of Masonic history is Douglas Knoop and G. P. Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry: An Account of the Rise and Development of Freemasonry in its Operative, Accepted, and Early Speculative Phases (London: Q. C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978).
124. A collation of early Masonic rituals from 1696 to 1726 has been reprinted in Douglas Knoop, G. P. Jones, and Douglas Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms (London: Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, 1976).