Masonic Ritual and Lore
[p.99]In answer to our question, as to what it was that Joseph had thus obtained, he said it consisted of a set of gold plates about six inches wide, and nine or ten inches long. They were in the form of a book.… On the next page were representations of all the masonic implements, as used by masons at the present day.
—Fayette Lapham,1 citizen of Wisconsin
As the third decade of the nineteenth-century began, an anti-Masonic movement had surfaced among some eastern churches. In 1820 Baptists at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, had mounted a resistance to Freemasonry.2 The Presbyterian Pittsburgh Synod had declared in early 1821 the Masonic Lodge unfit for Christians, and the same year the General Methodist Conference forbade its Pennsylvania clergy to be Masons.3 Nevertheless, Freemasons were solidly part of the American establishment. Earlier fears that Freemasonry was connected to deism and Jacobism had largely been assuaged.4 Significant numbers of the order were church members, and many Protestant clergy served as chaplains of local lodges. Hence a Masonic sermon at the close of the 1810s could demonstrate the same regard for the Bible as a pietistic Christian sermon might: “Take from Masonry the validity of the Bible … and total darkness will ensue. If the unhallowed feet of the deist, presumes to step [p.100] upon the pavement, spurn him from thence. No DEIST OR STUPID LIBERTINE CAN BE A MASON.”5
In 1825 the Masonic Lodge of New York had a membership of 20,000 in 480 lodges, and there were additional irregularly organized or not yet recognized lodges.6 In the United States Masons represented nearly one-ninth of American voters. Nearly half of the lodges were in New York.7 That is why the nation could hardly have anticipated the explosion of rage which followed William Morgan’s abduction and disappearance just after he had published an exposé of Masonry. New York governor De Witt Clinton, himself a high-ranking Mason, offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the kidnappers and for information about the whereabouts of Morgan.8 Clinton’s abhorrence of the affair was widely shared by Masons, who joined non-Masons in community meetings to draw up resolutions urging that justice be done.9
The kidnappers were tried in Canandaigua,10 but the public was convinced that their sentences were too light and that others had been involved. The press covered the trial, and every paper carried an increasing number of stories about the Masonic controversy.11 Public interest was so intense, however, that forty-six anti-Masonic papers sprang up in New York, and seventy others appeared in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, and a few other states.12 By 1829 anti-Masonic papers were in Lyons, Canandaigua, Waterloo, Troy, and Seneca Falls. In 1828 the anti-Masonic Palmyra Freeman came on the scene.13
Anti-Masonic conventions convened already in 1826, and twenty such conventions were held in New York in 1827. Half of them were in West Bloomfield, Bloomfield, Manchester, Farmington, Seneca, Vienna, and Victor (all hosting one), and Canandaigua (hosting three).14 Manchester and Farmington were close to the Joseph Smith, Sr., home. In October an anti-Masonic convention appointed Martin Harris to the Palmyra committee of vigilance,”15 and the Wayne County convention resolved not to elect to public office any Mason or one who did not treat seriously Morgan’s abduction.16 A distinct feature at the conventions was the enactment and parody of Masonic ritual by ex-Masons for the sake of lampooning Masonic “secrets.”17
Lodges in western New York condemned the abduction, and chapters in Canandaigua and Pultneyville disavowed it publicly.18 Soon after, Palmyra Lodge No. 112 published its repudiation.19 [p.101] Manchester Lodge No. 169 with over 100 members dissolved in December 1828, the same month when all lodges in Monroe County disbanded.20 Lodges in Richmond and Naples, Ontario County, followed suit by March 1829.21 From 1827 to 1834 the number of lodges reporting to the Grand Lodge of the state of New York had diminished to between ninety and fifty lodges.22
Church bodies and individual congregations divided over the Masonic question. Baptist churches convened at Milton, New York, 27 September 1827 and adopted a fifteen-point condemnation of the Freemasons.23 In January 1828 the Baptist Society Convention at Le Roy, New York, resolved to ask all members who were Freemasons to leave the lodge or face eventual excommunication.24 In June the Genessee Consociation resolved: “That the Consociation will neither license, ordain, or install those who sustain any connexion with the institution of Masonry, or who will not disapprove and renounce it; nor will we give letters of recommendation in favor of such persons to preach in any of the churches in our connexion.”25 Baptists around Palmyra were at war with each other.26 Revivalists who had united in camp meetings were divided over the lodge. Methodist Lorenzo Dow and Presbyterian Charles Finney were on opposite sides, while others, including Free-will Baptist David Marks, were perplexedly undecided.
The first edition of Morgan’s exposé appeared in 1826 from Batavia, and in 1827 English editions were printed in New York City, Rochester, and York, Canada. A French edition was published in Boston in 1827 and a German edition in Waterloo, New York (twenty-five miles from Palmyra), in 1828. The Rochester Daily Advertiser said of the Canadian run on Morgan’s book: “McKenzie at York, published an edition, with a sort of historical preface, and sold a couple hundred copies the first day. M. McFarlane, of the Kingston Chronicle, had still greater success, having disposed of 1733 in four days.”27
Appeals for Morgan’s family were published far and wide. A letter published in Batavia several weeks after Morgan disappeared reappeared in a number of papers and expressed the typical sentiment: “His distressed wife and two infant children, are left dependent on charity for their sustenance.… All persons who are willing to serve the cause of humanity, and assist to remove the distressing apprehensions of his unfortunate wife are earnestly requested to communicate to one of the committee.”28 McFarlane at the Kingston [p.102] Chronicle intended to donate the proceeds from his printing to Mrs. Morgan.29 The same concern surfaced in the Book of Mormon: “Yea, why do you build up your secret combinations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also the book of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?” (Morm. 8:40)
The charge of “secret combinations” had been hurled at the Masonic Lodge for years. In fact, there were several points developed against the Masons and repeated over and over in the anti-Masonic conventions, town assemblies, books, and newspapers, most of which appeared in the Book of Mormon. (1) The Masonic Lodge was one of those combinations which George Washington had warned the country about in his presidential farewell address.30 (2) The Masons were a secret society, but to what end now that their secret rituals were known?31 (3) Masonic oaths were blasphemous in themselves but also pledged Masons to carry out institutionally authorized murder.32 (4) Masons had taken over the judicial system, which meant that a Masonic judge could not be counted on to mete out justice to any Mason who was guilty or party to a case.33 (5) Masons claimed the fight to judge and punish their members by their own laws.34 (6) Freemasons had usurped power, controlled the government, and proposed to destroy it.35
All the fearful aspects of the Infidel International were revived in Masonry, and Morgan’s fate could have been anyone’s. The image of the Masonic Lodge as a deistic, subversive, and terroristic society with dark ritual came once again clearly into focus. The Jacobins were back and they were wearing lambskin aprons.
But Joseph Smith revealed that all this had happened before. A secret society had subverted the early Jaredite civilization, and the Gadianton band brought the later Nephite and Lamanite societies to ultimate ruin. Sworn to secrecy by oaths, known to each other by signs, loyal to each other even though guilty of heinous crimes, in control of the judiciary and making their own laws, the early secret societies destroyed good government and true religion.36 Their secrets were so seductive that people easily could be tempted to want them for themselves. Neither their secrets nor charitable works should be known among good people, but the consequences of their influence should be broadcast as a warning not to get involved.37 As an example that this devil-led38 activity could not be assumed to be dead simply because it was ancient, it was foretold that when the [p.104] Book of Mormon came to light the same activity would be causing problems among the populace (Eth. 8:18-26).
The Book of Mormon not only condemned “secret combinations,” it included stories and objects and rituals which drew on and seemed to confirm certain Masonic beliefs. In 1826 at the time the Morgan story broke and the anti-Masonic movement was building momentum, Joseph Smith, Jr., was ending a six-year career as a “money-digger”—career which drew on popular folk magic notions. In the years immediately after Morgan, Smith’s interest in ancient power and ritual drew increasingly on Masonic lore instead. Money-digging was an activity which people in New England and New York had pursued for some time. In 1825 Vermont’s Windsor Journal complained that “even the frightful stories of money being hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd, are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths.”39
At the Smiths’ earlier home in Tunbridge, Vermont, a man was told in a dream of a treasure chest buried on an island in Agre’s Brook near Randolph. He took a crew to the site, dug a hole fifteen feet square and eight feet deep, and allegedly found the chest lid. One of the crew pierced it and cried out: ‘”There’s not ten dollars a piece.’ No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than the chest moved off through the mud.”40 In the late 1840s the Smithsonian Institute and the New York Historical Society jointly sponsored an exploration of the mounds in western New York. The explorer reported that “most of them have been excavated under the impulse of an idle curiosity, or have had their contents scattered by ‘money diggers,’ a ghostly race, of which, singularly enough, even at this day, representatives may be found in almost every village.”41
The stories and court testimonies about the Smiths’ money-digging activities show the same characteristics as stories about such activities in general. Joseph Jr. used his seerstone to locate a cache at some distance. Then he accompanied a crew which included his father and brother Hyrum to dig it up. They enacted a magic ritual consisting of drawing a circle around the site and marching around it, and are said to have sacrificed a dog or sheep and sprinkled its blood on the ground to nullify the effect of the charm which kept them from the treasure. But someone in the crew usually spoke at the wrong time or enacted the ritual incorrectly, and the chest moved off through the ground out of their reach and sight.42
[p.105] During 1825-26 young Joseph worked as a money-digger for Josiah Stowell in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and boarded with Isaac Hale nearby. He often spoke of his activities when he went to Colesville, New York, a little way across the state line. William R. Hine of Colesville recalled that Smith spoke about his seerstone and money-digging activities, claiming “that he could see lost or hidden things through it. He said he saw Captain Kidd sailing on the Susquehanna River during a freshet, and that he buried two pots of gold and silver. He claimed he saw writing cut on the rocks in an unknown language telling where Kidd buried it, and he translated it through his peepstone.”43
In later years Smith’s mother recalled her son’s use of magic rites in his youth and told her intended public: “let not my reader suppose that … we stopt our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business we never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation.”44 Abrac, from Abracadabra and Abraxis, is a magic word or formula used on amulets to work magic charms.45 Eighteenth-century Masons were said to know how to conceal “the way of obtaining the faculty of Abrac, which implied that they knew how to get it.”46 Hyrum Smith was a member of the Mount Moriah Lodge, Palmyra Lodge No. 112, sometime previous to 1827, and may have provided this Masonic lore in the pre-Morgan era.47
As 1827 dawned and the Morgan trials heated up, Joseph Smith returned to his father’s house at Manchester with his new bride, Isaac Hale’s daughter Emma. Within a few weeks anti-Masonic conventions came to Farmington and Manchester. Smith still practiced money-digging in 1827,48 but he also spoke of golden plates which he had located with his seerstone.49 By August Smith had decided to discontinue his money-digging.50 In September he recovered the plates from which he would read in 1829 that God had cursed the land so that the riches, weapons, and tools of long-ago people behaved just like the objects of New England treasure hunters: “Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land” (He. 13:33-36); “the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again” (Morm. 1:18).
Oliver Cowdery indicated that Smith had found the plates in [p.106] 1823 within this same context of treasure hunting. Smith tried three times to get the chest containing the plates, but his motives were impure and he was shocked away and deprived of his strength: “What was the occasion of this he knew not—there was the pure unsullied record, as had been described—he had heard of the power of enchantment, and a thousand like stories, which held the hidden treasures of the earth.”51
Smith’s early money-digging activity was not unrelated to his career as translator and prophet. In 1827 he began to tell stories about his ability with the stone to see golden plates buried in the earth. After he had received the plates, his stories began more and more to display characteristics of Masonic lore. When Cowdery described Smith’s recovery of the chest containing the golden plates, he listed the contents of the box. There was a breastplate used as chest armor. Three small pillars stood upright and upon them “was placed the record of the children of Joseph and of a people who left the tower far, far before the days of Joseph.” The pillars “were not so lengthy as to cause the plates and the crowning stone to come in contact.”52 Lucy Mack Smith spoke of four pillars.53 Joseph Smith also listed the glasses which he called the Urim and Thummim, the Sword of Laban, and the ball or compass.54
Each of these objects would have had special significance for Masons, including the pillars. In the Explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board, the newly Entered Apprentice Mason learns that three pillars support the Masonic lodges. They are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty and represent Solomon, King of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre; and Hiram Abiff. The Second Degree Tracing Board Lecture teaches that Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem had two great pillars at the entrance. They were cast from molten brass, made hollow, contained the constitutional rolls, served as the archives, and were topped by two spherical balls on which maps of the terrestrial and celestial globes were represented.55
One use of the pillars in Masonry is found in the Enoch Legend of the Royal Arch Degree.56 The degree teaches that the Christian world owes to Masonry the preservation of the Book of the Law (the five books of Moses) and its rediscovery when it was lost.57 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, foresaw the flood of Noah’s time. He had an underground temple built and erected two pillars over the entrance. One was of brass to withstand water. The other was of marble to withstand fire. On the marble pillar Enoch engraved [p.107] hieroglyphics which told of treasure concealed in the underground temple. (A variant ritual had the marble pillar describe a history of the Creation and the Secret Mysteries.58) On the brass pillar Enoch engraved the principles of Masonry and events connected with the Tower of Babel.59
The brass pillar survived the Flood, but the marble pillar was broken up. When Solomon sent three Master Masons to explore the ruins of Enoch’s temple, they found some marble fragments engraved with hieroglyphics and took them to Solomon, who had the pieces assembled and placed them in the Sacred Vault—a room beneath his temple known only to him, to Hiram of Tyre, to Hiram Abiff, and to the three Master Masons.60 The Book of Mormon makes reference to plates of brass containing a history of the Creation down to the Tower of Babel, plus the “mysteries of God.”61
The Royal Arch taught that three other Master Masons lived through the Babylonian captivity and were released by Cyrus to return to Jerusalem. When they came to the pavilion near the temple ruins, they offered themselves to Haggai, Joshua, and Zerubbabel as assistants in rebuilding the temple. They set to work clearing away the ruins of Solomon’s temple and discovered his secret vault. They found a box on a pedestal and took it to the Grand Council, which opened the box and found the Ark of the Covenant. On the lid in a triangular form were three characters. Inside the box were the long lost Book of the Law, the pot of manna from Sinai, Aaron’s rod, and a key to the characters on the lid. The council used the key to decipher the box lid characters, which were sacred characters spelling the name of God.62 This fits with the Masons’ claim to have preserved the highest respect for the name of God, to have the true name of God in both its written and pronounced forms.
The early stories from 1828 and 1829 tell of Smith’s warning all that any one who saw the plates would incur God’s displeasure and probable death. In June 1829 he revealed that three could see the plates and live (D&C 17). This is similar to the Enoch Legend in the Royal Arch degree. After the three Master Masons were allowed to see the gold plate engraved with the forbidden name of God, a band of workers was impatient to discover the secret for themselves and went to the ruins of Enoch’s temple, descended through the nine arches into the secret chamber, and died as the arches collapsed upon them.63 Only three who were worthy could see the characters and live. So it would be with Smith and the golden plates.
[p.108] David Whitmer said that when he and Oliver Cowdery viewed the plates (Martin Harris could not see them at first but would only a few minutes later be visited by the angel), they were overwhelmed by a brilliant light: “In the midst of this light, but a few feet from us, appeared a table, upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban and the directors.”64 This sword—with a hilt of pure gold (which had rusted away by the time Smith found it65)—had been used in the Book of Mormon to decapitate Laban (1 Ne. 4:7-18). In Masonic legend, a mason decapitated one of the assassins of Hiram Abiff. As in the Book of Mormon, the Masonic protagonist found his nemesis asleep and killed him with his own sword.
Another artifact in the Palmyra chest—the Liahona or compass—also seems related to Masonic lore. The pillars of the Second Degree Tracing Board were topped by globes, one of the earth and one of the universe. In the Enoch Legend the brass pillar was topped by a metal ball containing maps, “directions of the world and of the universe, and which also acted as a sort of oracle.”66 The “directors” which Smith listed as one of the relics in the stone chest contained two spindles, one of which pointed the way for Lehi and his family through the wilderness (1 Ne. 16:10). As occasion demanded, writing appeared on the ball to inform the refugees of the Lord’s ways according to their “faith and diligence.”
The final object, the breastplate, was also Masonic. The Royal Arch Degree provided for the installation of the Grand Council, whose principals following the return from Babylon were Joshua, Haggai, and Zerubbabel. Their priestly, prophetic and kingly offices continue in the Masonic Lodge. During the installation of the Joshua-elect, the candidate kneels before the chair of his office while biblical passages are read describing Moses instituting the Aaronic priesthood. Over Aaron’s robe Moses bound an ephod over which he put a breastplate. He put the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate and then put a turban upon Aaron’s head and a golden plate upon the turban to make a holy crown (Lev. 8:7-8). Many of the stories about Smith’s translating the golden plates indicate that he sometimes wore the breastplate with the glasses (Urim and Thummim). In Masonry, the Most Excellent High Priest of the Royal Arch wears “a breastplate of cut glass, consisting of twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.” One objection that the Saratoga Baptist Association had against Masons was “their wearing garments in simulation of those worn by the Jewish High Priests; [p.109] making and carrying in procession a mimic representation of the ark of the covenant; making and wearing similar representation of the breastplate; inscribing on mitres, ‘Holiness to the Lord.'”67
The Book of Mormon describes the breastplate and other artifacts as relics of authority passed down from leader to leader.68 Smith also used the relics to help establish the authority he needed to defend God, but once established he needed them no longer. This is seen by the fact that long before the translation process was completed, Smith had substituted the seerstone for the glasses. It performed exactly the same function. The angel reclaimed the spectacles and plates after the translation process was completed at the end of June 1829. Smith kept the stone.
Though the relics of succession were only used by Smith in the beginning, the Melchizedek priesthood, important also to Masonry, eventually became a permanent part of Mormonism. During Masonic observances regarding the Order of High Priest in the Royal Arch, Bible passages which dealt with the priesthood of Melchizedek were read.69 The Aaronic priesthood came by heredity, but that of Melchizedek by special dispensation from God. In July 1828 an article designed “to show that Masonry is a religious institution” listed as one of its points that “its priests are consecrated High Priests forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”70
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are said to have received the Aaronic priesthood on 15 May 1829 when they were baptized at the hands of John the Baptist, who was acting on the orders of Peter, James, and John, who held a higher priesthood.71 When Smith completed the translation process he received the Melchizedek priesthood.72 Carrying the mantle of a dual priesthood, possessing the relics of succession, and having in hand the translation of the golden plates, Smith was now in proper position to defend God.73
The Book of Mormon established a claim to the Melchizedek priesthood in Alma 13, maintaining that the “Lord God ordaineth priests after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son.” A person who exercised “exceeding faith and good works” was “called with a holy calling” and could be “ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God.” “This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his fore-[p.110]knowledge of all things.” Melchizedek “was also a high priest after this same order … who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.” In Smith’s later book of Moses, Adam, Abel, Seth, and Enos had the same priesthood, as did Enoch.74 They also all had instruments for seeing into the future, making them “seers.”
It should be noted that in 1829 and still in 1830 the Melchizedek priesthood for Smith was a symbol of authority and nothing more. Not until June 1831 did Smith induct others into this higher priesthood and begin to make of this order the administrative hierarchy it was later to become.75 David Whitmer supports this observation in his comment that early Mormonism had no Melchizedek priesthood.76
The Mormon notion of temples also borrowed from Masonic ritual, based on biblical accounts that God revealed a new, divine name to Moses (Ex. 6:3) and said that this name would dwell in a temple to manifest his presence.77 The Nephites in the Book of Mormon built temples. Using Laban’s sword as a model, Nephi armed his people so that they could protect themselves from hostile Lamanites while building an edifice. With tools of masonry in one hand and swords in another, Nephi’s workmen built a temple like Solomon’s, though less imposing.78
The Masonic Enoch foresaw that an Israelite would discover the buried treasure after the Flood, which he also foresaw. The Book of Mormon indicated that Joseph Smith was an Israelite, a descendant of the biblical Joseph (2 Ne. 3:6-7, 15) and a seer (Mosiah 8:13; 28:11-16). From June to December 1830, Smith dictated a vision in which Enoch, high atop a mountain, saw a vision of many biblical and Book of Mormon events (Moses 6:35-36; 7:3, 38-43, 69). Enoch was a seer (Moses 6:35-36), and all signs indicated that the descendant he saw in vision was Joseph Smith. In March 1832 Smith revealed that he was Enoch (D&C 78:1), and he would carry that identification into his death
Joseph Smith’s interest in Egypt was also connected to Masonry. Even before Smith’s Canandaigua trial for glass-looking in January 1828, John Sheldon had reportedly written a letter in Masonic hieroglyphics to General Solomon Van Rensselaer, the Revolutionary War hero.79 At the time it sensationally underlined the claim of the Explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board: “the usages and customs of Masons have ever corresponded with those of the Egyptian philosophers, to which they bear a near affinity.… they [p.111] concealed their particular tenets … under hieroglyphical figures.”80
The Saratoga Baptist Association at Milton, New York, in 1828 took that claim seriously, charging in the second of its fifteen-point indictments that Masonic rites “correspond with the Egyptian.”81 The Egyptian obelisks upon which Champollion and Seyffarth had recently turned public attention were said to have been inscribed with Masonic hieroglyphics.82 Combining the Egyptian on the marble pillar fragments, which Solomon could not translate, with the unknown script in which God’s name was written on the gold plate in the Royal Arch might produce “reformed Egyptian,” which could only be translated with a key which worked by revelation. Like Solomon, Smith received revelation in the manner of a Masonic priest.
Joseph Smith condemned current expressions of Masonry but nevertheless accepted Masonry as a truly ancient form confirming God’s relationships with humans from Adam on. He restored a Mason unencumbered by the corruptions and heresies of the lodges and churches in western New York.83 The high percentage of ex-Masons among Smith’s early converts in the 1830s, when the anti-Masonic conflict was still fresh, indicates that many were looking not for rejection but for reform. Masonic legend provided support for Christian tradition and a rich lode to mine in combating deism. Joseph Smith took what he felt was true and transformed it for his own use.84
2. S. H. Goodwin, Additional Studies in Mormonism and Masonry (Salt Lake City: Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Utah, 1932), 15-16. A notice that a Baptist clergyman in Illinois had been dismissed because he was a Freemason was captioned as “Bigotry.” Wayne Sentinel, 12 July 1825.
4. See John Robison, Proofs of A Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminate, and Reading Societies: Collected from Good Authorities, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: T. Dobson, 1793). Abbe Barruel, The Anti-Christian and Antisocial Conspiracy (Lancaster, PA:Joseph Ehrenfried, 1812).
11. Ibid., 2 Feb. 1827, carried the following advertisement just two weeks after the Canandaigua trial ended: “Trial of the Conspirators: ‘an account of the Trial of the Conspirators, on an indictment for carrying away WILLIAM MORGAN, from the jail of Ontario county, on the evening of the 12th of Sept. 1826; together with Throop’s Address. Jan. 19.'”
14. Rob Morris, William Morgan: or Political Anti-Masonry, Its Rise, Growth and Decadence (New York: Robert Macoy, 1883), 183-84. The sequence is listed as follows (pp. 347-48): Bloomfield, 11 Dec. 1826; Seneca, 13 Jan. 1827; Lewiston, 25 Jan. 1827; Canandaigua, 31 Jan. and 16 Feb.; West Bloomfield, 27 Feb.; Vienna, 12 Mar.; Manchester, 15 Mar.; Farmington, 16 Mar.; Victor, 2 Aug.; and Canandaigua, 19 Sept.
19. Wayne Sentinel, 24 Nov. 1826. The text follows: “Whereas, much excitement has been caused throughout the community, on the subject of certain imputed, improper and illegal conduct, by certain individuals said to be connected with this ancient Fraternity, towards a man called ‘Morgan.’ Therefore, Resolved unanimously, That this Lodge, impressed with emotions of deep regret, that any imputations against the conduct of persons connected with us in the solemn ties of Masonic Brotherhood, should have been made, which can be by any possible implication regarded as a violation of the laws of the government under which we so happily live, and to support which is one of the principal tenets of our order, do cordially agree with and approve of the resolution adopted by ‘The Ontario Masters’ Lodge, No. 23.'”
23. Morris, 289. Morris may be mistaken about the date. David Bernard identifies the meeting as that of the Saratoga Baptist Association, prints the fifteen resolutions in full, and gives the date as 12-15 Sept. Light on Masonry (Utica: William Williams, 1829), 361-66.
26. Palmyra Reflector, 2 Dec. 1829, notes that the Rev. Henry Davis, anti-Masonic pastor of the Baptist church in Macedon, was leaving a congregation which was suffering from internal strife. On 22 and 30 January. 1830, the Reflector states that the local Baptist church was anti-Masonic.
28. Ibid., 13 Oct. 1826. The letter was signed by a committee of ten men, one of whom signed himself “Ja’s Smith” (probably James), but the letter was reproduced in many papers and in some it was signed simply as “J. Smith.” On this basis Reed C. Durham, Jr., “Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son,” Mormon Miscellaneous 1 (Oct. 1975): 11-16, mistakenly identified the signatory as the Mormon prophet. The committee was formed of citizens from Batavia, however, and the letter is found in many forms and publications. See John E. Becker, A History of Freemasonry in Waterloo, New York, 1817-1942 (Waterloo, NY: Seneca Lodge No. 113, F. & A.M., 1942), 22-23.
30. He warned against “all combinations and associations … with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities,” because they destroyed the democratic process (“Farewell Address,” The World’s Greatest Speeches, Lewis Copeland, ed., 252-53). “Combinations” became synonymous with Freemasonry. See Goodwin, 27-29. Freemasonry was called a “combination” in Wayne Sentinel, 18 July 1828, and a “secret combination” in Palmyra Farmer, 10 Nov. 1829.
31. Secret oaths, secret plans, secret words, secret combinations, secret signs, secret abominations, secret band, secret work, secrets—all were anti-Masonic epithets of the time. The Albany Daily Advertiser ran a column debating the use of the term “secret societies,” which suggests the tenor of the rhetoric: “whether Washington meant secret societies or political parties … is of little consequence; … the sentence—Beware of secret societies, is unexceptional—and will last for a freeman’s motto, as long as a freeman’s blood stains freemasonry.” Reprinted in the Ontario Phoenix, 31 Mar. 1830. Masonry was called a “secret society” in Wayne Sentinel, 18 July 1828, and Palmyra Farmer, 2 Dec. 1828. See also Palmyra Farmer, 10 Nov. 1829.
[p.114]32. The oaths to the first three degrees all involved the candidate’s vowing never to reveal in any way the Masonic secrets, “under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water-mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours.” This is the oath taken in the Entered Apprentice, or first degree. From William Morgan, Illustrations of Masonry, reprinted as Morgan’s Freemasonry Exposed and Explained (New York: L. Fitzgerald, 1882), 19. The oath was also printed in Wayne Sentinel, 10 Nov. 1826. Wayne Sentinel, 14 Mar. 1828, has the obligations and penalties of the Mark Masters through the Knight’s Templar degrees.
In Smith’s Book of Moses, 5:29-32, Satan and Cain enter into an oath-bound pact to kill Abel. Cain says: “Truly I am Mahan, the master of the great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.” Cain’s descendant, Lamech, also entered into a covenant with Satan and became a Master Mahan. Here Smith injects the Morgan episode and his alleged murder: “Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam; Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake” (vv. 49-50).
33. The Knight’s Templar candidate swore “to advance my brother’s best interest by always supporting his military fame, political preference in opposition to another” (Wayne Sentinel, 14 Mar. 1828). In the same issue the Royal Arch obligation for the candidate for the degree is printed: “Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will vote for a companion Royal Arch mason before any other person of equal qualifications.” Again, the candidate swore “that a companion Royal Arch mason’s secret given me in charge as such, and I knowing him to be such, shall remain as secret and inviolate in my breast as in his own, when he communicated it to me, Murder and Treason, not excepted.”
William L. Stone, Letters on Masonry and Anti-Masonry, Addressed to The Hon. John Quincy Adams (New York: O. Halsted, 1832), 75, wrote that the pledge in favor of political preferment and the word “not” in italics were interpolations but that this was the way the obligation was given in western New York.
The New York County sheriffs had the power to select and summon grand juries for courts in their jurisdiction. In those counties where the Morgan incident took place and in which there were trials, the sheriffs were all Masons, possibly all Royal Arch Masons. The Genessee County grand jury met in February 1827, where the foreman was a Knight Templar and so were several jury members. In Niagara County, where Eli Bruce was sheriff, sixteen Masons and several friendly to the Lodge were summoned for jury selection in January 1827. In April Bruce summoned the grand [p.115]jurors—of twenty-one members present several were friendly to the Lodge and sixteen were Masons—the Niagara County court of Oyer and Terminer. Two of the jurors were themselves later indicted for the Morgan conspiracy. A majority of Masons were on the jury at the May session and half of the September session jurors were Masons.
36. The following are some of the passages which deal with these topics. Combinations: 2 Ne. 9:9; 26:22; Alma 37:21-32. Secret oaths and covenants: 2 Ne. 26:22-23 (compare the contrast that Smith draws with God, who opens his courts to all, vs. 24-30); Alma 37:27, 29; Hel. 6:25; 4 Ne. 42. Masonic secrets already revealed and known: Alma 37:23-26; Ether 8:20; 2 Ne. 30:17; Mosiah 8:17, 19. Masonry out to take over and destroy the government and all freedoms: Alma 10:27; Hel. 6:39; Ether 8:9-25; 9:1, 5-6, 26; 10:33; 11:7; 3 Ne. 6:21-30. Masonic judges control the courts: Alma 11:20; Hel. 6:21, 23; Mosiah 29:28-32; 3 Ne. 6:21-30. Masons claim the right to punish their members according to their own laws and not the laws of the land: Hel. 6:21-24.
38. 2 Ne. 9:9; 26:22; Alma 37:30-31; Hel. 3:23; 6:21; 3 Nel. 6:6, 9; Morm. 8:27; Ether 8:18, 22, 24, 25; 9:1, 6; 11:15, 22; 13:18. In 3 Ne. 6:10-30 Satan caused class divisions within the church over educational, financial, and professional differences. He used the upper class desire to get ahead as a temptation to gain power and thereby managed to get the lodge started in and among church members. Compare Moses 5:29-50.
41. E. G. Squier, “Report upon the Aboriginal Monuments of Western New York,” Proceedings of the New York Historical Society (New York: William Van Norden, 1849), 54. See “Money Digger,” Palmyra Herald, 24 July 1822, which was reprinted from the Montepelier, Vermont, Watchman. The article reported that “digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing; and in this state is even considered an honorable and profitable employment. We could name, if we pleased, at least five hundred respectable men, who do, in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts, verily believe, that immense treasures lie concealed upon our Green Mountains; many of whom have been for a number of years, most industriously and perserveringly engaged in digging it up.”
46. James Hardie, The New Free-Mason’s Monitor (New York: George Long, 1818), 203. Henry Dana Ward, Free Masonry. Its Pretensions Exposed in Faithful Extracts of Its Standard Authors (New York, 1828), 104-105, ridiculed the details of the Hiram Abiff allegory. “This is truly Free Masonry; the art of finding new arts, and the way of winning the faculty of Abrac.” Ward’s comment upon the way Hiram Abiff met his death at the hands of the assassins: “What a wonder! The Master of ‘the art of foresaying things,’ did not foresee his danger; the master of ‘the art of wonder-working,’ did not even draw a magic circle; the master of ‘the way of winning the faculty of abrac,’ did not utter a syllable of magic, did not spit out one mouthful of fire, did not make the slightest attempt to conjure a spirit to his rescue; but alas! forgetful of all his masonic defenses, he died; he basely died!”
47. Mervin B. Hogan, “The Founding Minutes of Nauvoo Lodge,” Further Light in Masonry (Des Moines: Research Lodge No. 2), 8, shows that Hyrum Smith was transferred into the Nauvoo Lodge from Mount Moriah, No. 112, New York. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, New York, NY, “Return of the Mount Moriah Lodge No. 112 held in the Town of Palmyra in the County of Wayne and State of New York from June 4th AL 5827  to June 4th AL 5828 ,” lists Hyrum Smith, but a record of his initiation has yet to be found.
48. Joseph Capron met Smith’s father in 1827. According to Capron, Joseph Jr. had a stone by which he located a chest of gold watches near Capron’s house. The chest was in possession of an evil spirit. Joseph Jr., therefore, got a polished sword and marched around the treasure site with Samuel Lawrence to fend off satanic assaults. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 258-60.
49. As early as June 1827, Joseph Smith, Sr., reportedly told Willard Chase that Joseph Jr. had had a vision of the plates. Chase’s statement is found in Howe, 240-48. Martin Harris said that Smith discovered the site by using his stone; Joel Tiffany, “Mormonism No. II,” Tiffany’s Monthly, Aug. 1859, 163, 169. The Smith family told Harris the same thing.
50. Peter Ingersoll said that he was hired by Smith in August 1827 to take him to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to pick up Emma’s furniture. Isaac Hale remonstrated with Smith to give up his money-digging, and Smith promised to do so. But on the return trip to Palmyra, Smith told Ingersoll that that would be hard to do, since others would pressure him to use the stone. Howe, 232-37. Isaac Hale also stated that Smith told him he “had given up what he called ‘glass looking.'” Susquehanna Register, 1 May 1834. By the time Smith told Harris about this decision, the reason he gave for quitting the money-digging business was that an angel had told him to; [p.117]Tiffany, 169.
53. Lucy Mack Smith, preliminary manuscript, .
54. Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Mar. 1835, 196-97. If one objects that Cowdery’s record is from the mid-1830s, there are earlier sources that mention the stone chest relics. Willard Chase, Joshua M’Kune, and Abigail Harris refer to the breastplate, Sword of Laban, the compass, and the glasses; see Howe, 240-48, 253, 267. Although Chase dated the time he heard of the breastplate, sword, and plates as 1829, the fact that he said Emma Smith was to give birth in June dates the time as 1828. M’Kune lived in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and claimed to have known Harris and Smith when they were in Harmony—from April to June 1828. Abigail Harris’s altercation with her husband, Martin, over his involvement with Smith also took place in 1828. Joseph Smith, Sr., told Fayette Lapham in 1830 that his son had found a gold hilt and chain of a large sword, a gold ball with two pointers, the spectacles, and plates. Lapham, 307. Finally Smith listed the relics in June 1829 (D&C 17).
56. The legend is found in Thomas S. Webb, The Freemason’s Monitor; or Illustrations of Masonry (New York: Southwick and Crooker, 1802), 246-60. Henry Dana Ward’s Freemasonry extracted parts of the Enoch legend from Webb. The Wayne Sentinel bookstore ran ads for Webb’s Monitor, 24 Nov. 1826, and for Dana’s book, 4 Sept. 1829. Another popular work, Jeremy Cross, The True Masonic Chart, Or Hieroglyphic Monitor, was advertised 14 Feb. 1826.
Albert G. Mackey, The History of Freemasonry: Its Legends and Traditions; Its Chronological History, 7 vols. (New York: The Masonic History Company, 1950), vol. 1, traces the legend of the pillars from the writings of Josephus as it was transformed into the Masonic legend in the middle ages. Josephus attributed the pillars to the sons of Seth, who wanted to leave the world some memory of their learning and inventions when they pondered Adam’s prediction that at one time the world would be destroyed by fire, at another by water. Therefore, “they made two pillars; the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siria to this day.” Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” Bk. 1, chap. 2, in The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, n.d.), 36.
57. Stone, 44-46, gives the Royal Arch teaching about the “book of the law” discussed in 2 Chron. 34 and 2 Kings 22, which was the “book of the law of the LORD given through Moses” (2 Chron. 34:14). Hilkiah, the priest, found the book during temple repairs. According to the teaching, Solomon had built a secret vault beneath his temple to keep the sacred treasure safe during the reigns of idolatrous kings, and only Masons knew it. After King Josiah’s time the book was hidden again in the secret vault and survived the destruction of the temple at the hands of the Babylonians. After the Jews, with Cyrus’s permission, rebuilt the temple, Ezra and Zerubbabel rediscovered the vault and the book. Then Ezra, the priestly scribe, “corrected, revised, and re-wrote some of the sacred books” of the Pentateuch (p. 45). Stone gives this as a variant tradition of the Royal Arch.
The Royal Arch tradition was unbiblical, since Ezra returned to Jerusalem from Babylon carrying in his hand “the law of Moses which the LORD the God of Israel had given,” Ezra 7:6, 10, 14. In fact, the Royal Arch seems to have taken its tradition from the Apocrypha. According to 2 Esdras 14:18-48, Ezra completed the scriptural restoration thirty years after the temple. During a forty-day period, Ezra, inspired by God, dictated 94 books to his assistants and was told to publish the first twenty-four but to save the rest for “the Sages.” The Book of Mormon quotes 2 Esdras 13:40-42.
When Joseph Smith translated the plates, he translated a portion but was forbidden to translate the “sealed” portion. His Nephite scribes also corrected, revised, and re-wrote the records which had come to them. Smith also kept a record which he called the Book of the Law of the Lord, which is preserved today in the office vault of the LDS First Presidency.
61. 1 Ne. 3:12, 19-20, 24; 4:24, 38; 5:10-22; 13:23; 19:22; 1 Ne. 4:2; 5:12; Mos. 1:34; 28:20; Al. 37:3-12; 63:1, 11-14; 3 Ne. 1:2. This may be the missing connection between Ethan Smith’s and Joseph Smith’s separate uses of the Two Sticks of Ezekiel 37:16. In Ezekiel the Two Sticks refer to the nations of the northern kingdom (the Ten Lost Tribes) and the southern kingdom (Judah). Ethan Smith used it like that, but Joseph Smith transformed the meaning to refer to the two nations’ records or histories. See notes 7-11, chap. 6. The Book of Mormon describes the brass plates as containing history from creation of the world to the Tower of Babel, plus “the mysteries of God.” 1 Ne. 3:12, 19-20, 24; 4:24, 38; 5:10-22; 13:23; 19:22; 2 Ne. 4:2; 5:12; Mosiah 1:34; 28:20; Alma 37:3-12; 63:1, 11-14; 3 Ne. 1:2. The plates of Lehi and his descendants were made into two sets of plates by Nephi, the larger set telling of the Nephites’ secular history and the smaller set telling of their religious history (1 Ne. 9:1-5; 19:1-6). The two sets together [p.119]also absorbed the brass plates, and the whole constitutes the “record of Joseph.”
62. Stone, 45. See also Bernard, 138-43. Smith called the spectacles a “key,” according to his mother, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 101-106.
66. Durham. Webb, 56, said that the metal globe was able to improve the mind and to give it “the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition.” For another good study of the Enoch legend’s relationship to Mormon origins, see J. N. Adamson, “The Treasure of the Widow’s Son,” Mormon Miscellaneous 1 (Oct. 1975).
71. Although this date is well established in Mormon literature, it was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments. Oliver Cowdery referred to it in “Letters to W. W. Phelps,” Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1834, 15-16. D&C 13 appeared in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. See also Smith’s description, Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1927), 1:39-41; hereafter HC.
72. The exact date is not clear, but several statements by Smith, Cowdery, and others suggest a time between 15 May and June 1829. See Lawrence C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971, 157-64, for a discussion. It would have been the natural completion of the chain of events leading to Smith’s having the proper credentials to defend God.
73. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1971), 111n, suggests that Smith may have borrowed the notion of a dual priesthood from James Gray’s Dissertation on the Coincidence between the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and Melchisedek (1810).
74. Smith seems to have been expounding the book of Hebrews in Alma 13 and extended it in the Book of Moses. The following context of Alma reflects touches of Hebrews: Alma 12:7/Heb. [p.120]4:12; Alma 12:27/Heb. 3:44:9; Alma 13:14/Heb. 7:14; Alma 13:7, 9/Heb. 7:3.
75. Moses 6. For a time only Smith and possibly Cowdery had the high priesthood. No one else was involved with this priesthood until June 1831. For the evolution of the early Mormon concept of authority, see Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 97-158.
76. David Whitmer said that the first high priests were ordained at Kirtland, Ohio, in June 1831: “To Believers in the Book of Mormon,” part 2, chap. 3, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO, 1887), 36. Whitmer said that “we had no high priests, etc. in the beginning” until “after we had preached almost two years, and had baptized and confirmed about 2000 souls into the Church of Christ” (p. 57). David’s brother John, one of the eight witnesses, was an early church historian appointed by Smith (D&C 47:69:2-8), 8 March 1831. He recorded that on 3 June 1831 the high priesthood was given to several men at a general church conference. Smith ordained Lyman Wight, who was commanded to ordain several others, including Smith, to the high priesthood, the Order of Melchizedek. John Whitmer’s History (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Company, n.d.), chaps. 7, 5.
84. Smith listed “priestcraft” as one of the evils which people needed to reject (3 Ne. 16:10; 21:19; 30:2). Observers have often noted that his use of the term probably referred to the Roman Catholic priesthood and less emphatically to the Protestant clergy.
Smith may also have had the Masonic priesthood in mind: “priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29). Candidates for Masonic degrees are said to be seeking “light,” but the high fees, expensive uniforms, and perceived collusion with politics were unsavory to the dispossessed.