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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 10

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Within this series, we will reproduce the text of Mormonism and Masonry by Samuel H. Goodwin (1862-1951 AD) which was published in 1920 AD and is public domain. It was written to and for Masons/Freemasons.

Portions read like meeting minutes as it covers the inner workings of Masonic administration. Other portions deal with, as the book’s subtitled puts it, the “Origins, Connections and Coincidences Between Mason and Mormon Temple/Templar Rituals.”


Other significant facts and teachings; polygamy in Mormon books of instruction, literature, and teaching; “living one’s religion;” influence of leaders.

ANOTHER set of facts which cannot well be ignored in this study has to do with the subject of polygamy. The writer appreciates the fact that by many this is set down as a dead issue, and that others, not n few, deprecate ally reference to the matter. He is also mindful of the fact that the President of the Church, back in 1890, issued a Manifesto, in which. He advised the people that he proposed to obey the law, and to use his influence to induce them to do the same. And further, that later, this famous document was construed as prohibiting not only new plural marriages, but also a continuance of the old relations [1]. Nor is the significance of a recent incident overlooked, wherein the present head of the church-Heber J. Grant-declared, with so much earnestness that he afterwards apologized for the manner in which he had spoken, having been, as he expressed himself, “gloriously mad,” that “No man on earth has power to perform plural marriages,” and, “We have excommunicated two patriarchs who have pretended to perform plural marriages” [2].

All of this and these, for reasons that follow, do not remove the subject beyond the -purview of the Mason, or of the Lodge, that may be seeking information concerning the fitness of applicants for admission into the Fraternity. To be sure, and for reasons that are obvious, the matter under consideration does not have the interest or bulk as large as it did when Grand Secretary Diehl, in compliance with resolutions adopted by Grand Lodge, prepared and sent out his Circular on Mormonism and Masonry some forty years ago [3]. But after all allowances have been made with reference to this subject there still remain considerations pertinent to the purpose of this study, at all events, such is the conviction of the present writer. He is not convinced that this is a “dead issue,” for he remembers that a president of the church, the “very mouthpiece of God,” as we have been repeatedly assured, in the most solemn manner and without any qualification, declared concerning the doctrine and practice of polygamy:

“...... it is one of the most vital parts of our religious faith; it emanated from God and cannot be legislated away ....take this from us and you rob us of our hopes and associations in the resurrection” [4]. And a later president of the church in his statement to the court, before receiving sentence for violation of Federal law, declared: “Though I go to prison, God will not change His law of celestial marriage” [5].

The uninitiated may experience some difficulty, perhaps, when they undertake to reconcile one set of facts with another set of facts that appear to be at opposite poles. That, however, is not a part of our problem; with the facts which follow, though, we are concerned. Here is the situation:

It is known that the practice of polygamy has been abandoned, according to repeated statements to that effect by those who are in authority, and that the principle, or doctrine, is no longer taught by the church. And yet, there are certain facts and conditions which are bound to prove troublesome to any one who would take such assertions at their face value.

For example, it is a matter of common knowledge that the present head of the Mormon church is a polygamist, as also was his immediate predecessor, and as were all those who have occupied that position before him. Associated with him are other leaders similarly situated as to marital relations. These men are molders of the thought and exemplars of the principles of the organization, and they are “living their religion” [6].

This matter is not referred to here in any unkindly or carping spirit of criticism, but for the purpose of directing attention to the teaching value of such facts. “Your actions speak so loud that I cannot hear what you say,” is an adage that is not without suggestiveness in this connection. “How more forcibly could you teach it (polygamy) than by practicing it openly as the head of the church,” was a question asked President Joseph F. Smith, at Washington, for which he seemed to have no adequate answer [7]. Now, unquestionably the influence of the First Presidency, more particularly of the President of the church, is greater, more potent and far-reaching than that exerted by any other man or set of men. How can it be otherwise, all personal considerations aside, in view of the fact-as accepted by Latter Day Saints-that he is the very mouthpiece of the Almighty, and that God does actually speak through his lips?

Necessarily it must follow that the words, the actions, the daily life of one vested with such singular prerogatives exert an influence not to be measured by any ordinary standards. It reaches the springs of action, silently but surely shapes opinion and belief, and goes far, very far, in determining the attitude of many thousands toward the institutions and the laws of the country [8].

For a man, or for men, so placed to hold and to teach for any considerable length of time, that a law with which they do not find themselves in agreement, is unconstitutional and therefore should be ignored and this in spite of the fact that the highest tribunal in the land had declared such law to be consistent with the constitution; [9] or for them to insist that the practice of polygamy “is ordained of God . . . . . . is ecclesiastical in its nature and government,” and because this is so, “it is therefore outside of constitutional law,” and hence “being within the pale of the church, its free exercise cannot be prohibited;” or, again, for the “vicegerent of God” to testify in the most conspicuous manner (though not of his own free will) that he had been, was then, and expected to continue living in known violation of the laws of his country, his church, and his God, and was willing to take his chances with the laws of his state; and for other leaders, only a little less prominent, to testify to similar conditions in their marital relations and to the possession of a like purpose with regard to the law-for such a situation to develop, and to exist for years, and to be taken quite as a matter of course, or even approved and commended and rewarded by such a considerable body of people, cannot but be productive of results that are far from being reassuring [10].

How can it be otherwise than that this attitude toward law, and these examples of the most influential men in the church, should have a far-reaching effect upon the young men and women of the Latter Day Saints’ organization? As Masons, and as citizens, we hold that it is not desirable, certainly it is not in accord with Masonic ideals and teachings, to subject young people to character-forming influences which must tend, at least, to make them indifferent to the basic law of our country [11]. Many thoughtful Craftsmen are profoundly convinced that these are times in which unhesitating and unequivocating regard for law should be emphasized on all suitable occasions, and that the all too general practice, in effect, of nullifying and repealing law by disregard of law, in place of making use of the means provided by law, is a proceeding dangerous beyond calculation; it is a positive, subtle menace threatening the very foundations of those institutions of which we boast and in which we glory.

Another angle of this phase of the subject must not be neglected. Hardly less pertinent than the matter just discussed is the fact that this principle, like the revelation which established it, continues to hold its place in the teachings, the beliefs and the literature of the Mormon people. Not only is this doctrine taught by example, and that by the most influential men in the church, but it appears in the instructional and other literature provided by the church, or issued with its approval, and in verbal instructions and testimony given at various gatherings of the people [12].

The Doctrine and Covenants is one of the four standard works adopted by formal action of the Church. It is the word of God, and is of equal authority with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price-these being the four standard books of the Latter Day Saints’ organization. In section, or chapter 132 of this book is the revelation on plural marriage. If that chapter ever taught this principle -and there is no controversy on that point-it still teaches it, for the late President of the church, Joseph F. Smith, testified under oath that it had not been annulled or repealed, and so far as known to the present writer, no action of this sort has been taken, or contemplated; it is still part and parcel of the authoritative teachings of the church, as also is the severe sentence which it pronounces upon those who fail to accept this teaching [13].

In the material provided for study in the young people’s organizations of the church considerable stress is placed on the “Lives” of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and other leaders in the history of this people, all of whom “lived their religion,” and suffered “persecution,” when the Government sought to have its laws obeyed.

These men are presented as heroic characters, whose words and example are given for instruction and emulation [14].

Not infrequently speakers, when addressing large numbers of this faith, declare their adherence to the principle under consideration, and condemn the Government for suppressing it. Several years after the Manifesto was issued an Apostle declared that the principle of plural marriage is as true today as it ever was, and that those “who prevent you from obeying are responsible to God for so doing” [15]. B. H. Roberts, in a church periodical published for the guidance and instruction of young people-members of the Mutual Improvement Associations-has a long article in explanation and defense of this principle [16].

Other illustrations of the matter under consideration could easily be assembled, but they are not deemed necessary. Enough has been said, it would seem, to make clear what is being done along this line. It is no part of the present undertaking to harmonize the contradictions which must be apparent to every observant Craftsman. The purpose here is to call attention to facts.

As these pages are written primarily for the benefit of Utah Masonry-though the subject is one that concerns Masons throughout the land-there is another point of view that should be introduced here.

The statement is sometimes made concerning one who has applied, or is desirous of applying, for the degrees: “He does not practice polygamy; never has done so, and though a member of the Mormon church he never has accepted it even in principle. Why is not he good material for the mysteries of Masonry?” Such a statement of facts would seem to leave but one answer possible, to that question, and yet, just here is a very important consideration that is usually ignored or overlooked by those who have given little thought to this subject.

There is a principle in law which exactly illustrates the point to be emphasized here. Perhaps no statement of this is better suited to the present purpose than that to be found in the Report of the Committee on Privileges and Elections in the Smoot case. At the beginning of his argument on one of the subheads of the report, the Chairman said:

“That one may be legally, as well as morally, responsible for unlawful acts which he does not himself commit is a rule of law too elementary to require discussion.” Then in the concluding paragraph he restates the principle in these words:

“The rule in civil cases is the same as that which obtains in the administration of criminal Mormonism and law. One who is a member of an association of any nature is bound by the action of his associates, whether he favors or disapproves of such action. He can at any time protect himself from the consequences of any future action of his associates by withdrawing from the association, but while he remains a member of the association he is responsible for whatever his associates may do” [17].

Other illustrations might be given, but none that would more clearly represent the writer’s view of the problem presented by the man who would retain membership in the organization and yet be absolved from certain of its teachings and practices. The second sentence in the quotation above suggests the proper and the only honorable course under the circumstances indicated” [18].



[1] The Manifesto has been printed many times, in pamphlet form and as a part of other works. It is included in the 1914 edition of Doctrine and Covenants, not, we think, earlier. President Joseph F. Smith testified that its absence from that vol. of revelations was due to an oversight. Smoot Investigation, vol. I, pp. 291, 336. The document itself is to be found in the vol. just referred to, pp. 340-341; also in Reminiscences of Early Utah, Baskin, p. 243. For an interesting discussion of the Manifesto, see Smoot Investigation, vat. I, pp. 330-337. See Supplement, Gospel Problems, Bennion, pp. 62, 64, 87, 88, for views of the Manifesto of one who advocates and practices polygamy, and who insists that the Manifesto was a “political declaration,” and that it could not nullify a revelation from God. Baskin in Reminiscences of Early Utah gives interesting details of events which forced “the hand of the Lord,” pp. 185-186. On this subject see remarkable statement by Apostle Penrose, Deseret News, July 13, 1899, in which he refers to testimony of Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow, as the personal opinions of two venerable citizens!

[2] Salt Lake Tribune, April 5th, 1921. Cf. 91st Annual Conference Report, pp. 201-202

[3] Proceedings Grand Lodge of Utah, 1882, p. 53; 1883, pp. 24-26

[4] President John Taylor, Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, vol. II, pp. 7, 8

[5] Lorenzo Snow, History of Utah, Whitney, vol. III, p. 471. The words quoted were in answer to a statement by the prosecuting attorney, in his plea before the jury, that if the jury would convict Snow, he (the attorney) “would predict that a new revelation would soon follow, changing the Divine law of celestial marriage.” With this compare Schuyler Colfax’s Journal in The Western Galaxy, vol. I, p. 24.7, and Gospel Problems, Bennion, p. 44, and Supplement to Gospel Problems, Bennion, pp. 80, 87, 88

[6] Smoot Investigation, vol. I, p. 712; compare pp. 334, 336

[7] The question in the text was asked by Senator Burrows, Chairman of the Committee, Smoot Investigation, vol. I, p. 336; vol. IV, p. 481, also cf. vol. I, p. 195, question by Senator Hoar.

[8] Smoot Investigation, vol. III, pp. 603-605 ; compare vol. I, p. 336. With the foregoing references, compare the words of a former Mormon Bishop M’Guffie: “ ....the man that is placed between God and the people, that is the law.” The Latter Day Saints, Kauffman, p. 81

[9] An Epistle of the First Presidency, etc., 1886, entire; An Epistle of the Twelve Apostles, etc., October 1.0, 1887, p. 4; The Mormon Problem, quoting opinion of Supreme Court of U. S., p. 70; Smoot Investigation, vol. III, p. 604; Blood Atonement, C. W. Penrose, p. 31

[10] Handbook of Reference, A. H. Cannon, p. 102; Smoot Investigation, Vol. I, p. 334 (Joseph F. Smith) ; 430 (F. M. Lyman) ; 718 ( B. H. Roberts) ; compare Journal of Discourses, Vol. V, pp. 1-38, 100; Inside of Mormonism, pp. ?9-80; Deseret News, Jan. 16, 1889; Smoot Investigation, Vol. IV, p. 481. Says one who is a polygamist, and who believes the Manifesto was worse than a mistake: “Many of us have entered this principle since the Manifesto, and many of the leaders, living openly in this principle, are being sustained in high positions of responsibility in the church .. . .” Gospel Problems, Bennion, p. 44

[11] Smoot Investigation, vol. I, p. 336; III, pp. 603-605; IV, p. 481

[12] Sunday School Outlines, Series B, Theological Department, Third Year, pp. 37f ; Fourth Year, pp 49-52; In these references, attention is directed to the penalties attached to failure to obey this law when it has been made known; Young Woman’s Journal, July 1910, p. 405. Joseph F. Smith, when addressing the Weber Stake Conference, at 0gden, said, of the principle of polygamy that it was “revealed to Joseph Smith by God, and the Latter-Day Saint who denies and rejects that truth in his heart might as well reject every other truth connected with his mission.” Deseret News, June 25, 1903. See also Smoot Investigation, vol. I, p. 192, also p. 193. In the Congressional Report on the Statehood Bill for Utah, May 1894, and which was favorable, these words occur, as affording one reason for granting the petition: “The Mormon Church, through all its officials, publicly, privately, and in every way possible for mortals to do and proclaim, have with bowed heads, if not in anguish, pledged their faith and honour that never more in the future shall polygamy be in the Mormon Church either a doctrine of faith or practice.” In connection with this quotation, see Gospel Problems, Bennion, p. 44

[13] Smoot Investigation, vol I, p. 108. Several years after his father testified as indicated in the text, Apostle Hyrum Smith, at an annual Conference of the church, and in the presence of his father, declared: “These revelations are written in the Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. * * * They were proclaimed by revelation as I have stated, and up to this time, after over seventy-seven years of existence of the Church, not one principle or doctrine thus revealed has been receded from by the members of the Church. We have never repudiated any of the truths revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to his successors in the office of Prophet, Seer and Revelator to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We have never relinquished our belief in any one of these doctrines and principles. * * * We have never been called upon or found it necessary in any stage of our progress to eliminate any revelation from the record. Neither have we ever denied any of them. We testify in all soberness that these revelations are from God. They are therefore the same yesterday, today and for ever, and are everlasting and essential to the salvation of those unto whom they are given.” Seventy-eighth Annual Conference Report, 1907, p. 31

Apostle Mathias F. Cowley, in an address before a Quarterly Conference, Logan, said: “None of these revelations of the prophets either past or present have been repealed . . . . . . These revelations received by our prophets and seers are all of God, and we cannot repeal or disannul them without making God out a liar and God cannot lie.” See Protest of Citizens, p. 20. Compare Lorenzo Snow, ante p. 37; Historical Record, vol. VI, p. 144

[14] 87th Annual Conference Report pp. 6, 7. See also Historical Record vol. VI p. 145 for account of release of Lorenzo Snow from the Utah Penitentiary.

[15] Salt Lake Herald, April 5, 1918, two thousand people said to have been present. Logan Journal, January 29, 1898

[16] Improvement Era, vol. I, pp. 472, 475, 478, 482

[17] Smoot Investigation, vol. III, p. 608; IV, pp. 454, 485, 486

[18] In the discussion of the matter quoted the fact is brought out, in connection with the Haymarket Riots, Chicago, 1893, “that the anarchists were not convicted upon the ground that they had participated in the murder of which they were convicted . . . . . . They were convicted because they belonged to an organization which, as an organization, advised the commission of acts which would lead to murder: Smoot Investigation, vol. IV, p. 485


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