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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 11

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.

“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin
Fair use, to illustrate article's context.

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.”


Place of “belief” in Masonry; illustrated in naturalization laws; the Great Light and “living oracles”; the Deity; many gods, including female deity; attitude of Mormon church toward Masonry.

THE unthinking Craftsman, and sometimes those who are in a position to know, find a stumblingblock in the fact that a Grand Lodge does, or should, consider the matter of “belief,” in connection with qualifications of applicants for the degrees, for membership by affiliation, or for the privilege of visitation. Attention will be directed to certain facts presently which-in addition to those set forth in the preceding pages-may help to a more nearly correct appreciation of the actual situation in Utah, and of the principles which through the years have determined, and do now determine, the position of the Grand Lodge of the Beehive state. But first, it is quite worth our while to take a little nearer view of a claim often made in behalf of Masonry, but which like many another assertion that comes, presumably, from authoritative sources, should be received with a due amount of caution.

The impression quite generally prevails that Masonry does not presume to question a petitioner concerning his belief, or religion. “He may believe what he pleases,” so the Craft is informed by those who have given the matter hardly a second thought, “so long as he accepts the one Masonic dogma, of the existence of God, the Great Architect of the Universe.” But is that true? Do Grand Lodges stop with that? Is there one Grand Lodge, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries, that is content to take as it stands, Article 1 of the “Charges of a Freemason,” for example, and abide by the definition of “religion,” found therein?

Hardly. The creed-maker must needs come forward with his pet targum! [1]

To point out the fallaciousness of the assumption under consideration may seem to be a work of supererogation, but there may be some readers of this, who have been misled by oft-repeated declarations. Significant testimony relating to the matter in hand will be drawn from two sources. First, from records. Space permits only the briefest references. Here is a great eastern jurisdiction, with more than 100,000 members on its rosters, laying down in its Constitution as an essential part of the foundation of its Masonic edifice, the dogma of Monotheism in connection with belief in Deity [2]. As will be seen from later paragraphs in this study, that one word has a very direct bearing on the Utah situation, and would ,exclude Latter Day Saints from Masonic affiliation in the jurisdiction referred to.

Down along the Mexican border is another great jurisdiction-great in many respects-which has placed in its Code the requirement, that must be met by all applicants, of “a belief in the Divine authenticity of the Holy Bible” [3]. Eastward, but still in the most southern tier of states, is another jurisdiction which has adopted a “Declaration of Masonic Faith as to God and the Holy Bible” and has nailed it down by requiring that it shall be read in each lodge, that it shall be spread upon the minute-book, and that report that this has been done shall be made to the Grand secretary by the secretary of the lodge, and further, that this “Declaration” shall be printed in the next Manual [4]. And yet, that creed contains no less than five distinct, qualifying, dogmatic, doctrinal statements with reference to Deity. Turning East again, we hear a Grand Master declare in his annual address: “Our Book of Constitutions teaches us that that Sublime Person, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, is Christ, the Son of the Living God; and if our Book of Constitutions does not so teach, then is our Masonry a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal”; and a Grand Orator of the same jurisdiction asserted that. “True Masonry ...... recognizes the church as having been founded by God, with his Son Jesus Christ as the Chief cornerstone” [5]. Illustrations such as these could be greatly multiplied, did space permit, or the occasion require them.

The other line of evidence is to be found in the ritual, lectures and ceremonies of Masonry. For obvious reasons this cannot be presented here. But one cannot follow a candidate through the work of the several degrees, from the first question that is asked till the work is completed, and note the explicit teachings touching religion, and scarcely less definite implications and inferences, and have much room for doubt that Masonry does make very considerable demands in this respect. Masonry does claim, and exercise, the right to insist that the candidate shall profess belief in certain principles. Failing to meet this condition, and his petition would not even be presented to the lodge, to say nothing of proceeding with the work. The fact is no less apparent that the range of inquiry within which the search for information concerning an applicant may be prosecuted, is not fixed by any “immutable landmarks,” for the law on “qualifications” varies greatly in the different jurisdictions. Masonry has erected certain standards to which applicants must conform; it does pass on qualifications; necessarily, too, it must, and does, rate character, and in order to judge character, somewhat must be known concerning the stuff that has gone into the making of character. And so it comes about that when the desired information is not at hand, many questions are asked, or should be asked, which do not find place on the forms of petition. Circumstances might be such that members of an investigation committee would desire to satisfy themselves whether or not an applicant for initiation is a drug addict, or a user, or maker of intoxicants, or a “libertine”; whether he abuses his wife, neglects his children, defrauds his creditors, or is wedded to the gaming-table. And it is within the province of this committee to make enquiries with reference to the physical condition of a petitioner; whether he is a cripple, or subject to any chronic or other disease which might lessen his efficiency, or cause him to be a burden to the lodge. All these intimate matters of health, moral qualities, business, social and domestic relations of a candidate are of vital concern to the lodge, and upon them it should be fully advised.

Now, to maintain that the most powerful of all character-shaping forces should be excluded from the field of inquiry, and that no standard may be erected by which the religious bearing of a life may be calculated--that these are matters of indifference to a Masonic Lodge, or, if you please, “none of its business”-is an absurdity, in the opinion of the present writer. Certainly, such a contention does not conform to facts or to practice. The statement may not be necessary, and the writer’s fear of being misunderstood may be groundless, but he would remind his readers that in dealing with this phase of the subject, he has in mind, always, religion not sectarianism.

In this connection, and as further emphasizing the importance that may be attached to a state of mind, to a “belief,” as a determining factor in the evaluation of character, the decision of a Salt Lake Judge, in the Third District Court, is illuminating and suggestive. The matter came up on the petition of an alien to become a citizen of the United States.

In framing the naturalization laws under the statute certain requirements are set-forth. Failure to satisfy any one of these conditions results in defeating application for citizenship. Among other declarations required the petitioner must state under oath that he is not “a polygamist or believer in the practice of polygamy.” And further, he must make it “appear to the satisfaction of the court,” that he is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.6 In the case under consideration the applicant for citizenship took oath as required, with reference to being a polygamist and his belief in the practice of polygamy. At the hearing, however, he was interrogated with respect to fulfillment of conditions required for admission to citizenship. The testimony showed, with reference to belief in the practice of polygamy, that the petitioner based his disbelief in the practice upon the conviction, and upon no other ground, that so long as they exist, the prohibitory rules of church and state should be obeyed. He did not disbelieve in it because of any objection to the practice itself:

“* * * * apart from its relationship to ecclesiastical and legal prohibitions he does believe in it now.” He was willing to obey the law, and to have it obeyed, but it was shown that he did not believe in, and was unsympathetic with, the forbidding canons of both church and state.

The Court held that “One cannot honestly believe in a practice apart from the fact that it is against the law, and at the same time be honestly attached to the law forbidding it.” And further that “* * * since his testimony shows a lack of attachment to the law against polygamy, a law fundamental in our scheme of government, he has failed to fulfill that important condition requiring petitioners to show to the satisfaction of the court that they are ‘attached to the principles of the constitution’” [7]. Admission to citizenship. was therefore denied him.

The point to which attention is specially directed in this incident is the significance attached to a “belief,” as disclosing an unfavorable attitude of mind toward the laws of the land. Masonry, like citizenship acquired through naturalization, is a privilege, not a right, and a privilege conditioned upon compliance with certain requirements, and those requirements are fixed by the written and unwritten laws of the Fraternity.

Another matter, not without significance in this connection, concerns the Book of the Law. Masonry directs the attention of its initiates to the Bible, “the inestimable gift from God to man as the rule and guide to his faith and conduct.” The Great Light, in Anglo-Saxon Masonry, occupies a prominent and well known position in the Ritual and Lodge room. For these reasons the attitude of the Latter Day Saints’ organization towards this “moral manual of civilization” is of no small significance [8].

The Bible is accepted as the “Word of God, so far as translated correctly” [9]. The Book of Mormon is equally the word of God, as also are the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price-these are the standard books of the Mormon church [10].

In this respect, then, there would seem to be little ground for objection, for with four bibles surely, a Book of the Law could be placed upon the altar, and if not one, then two; or three, or all four. But there is another angle to this feature of the subject. Among the many doctrines, or principles, held by the Mormon church-and in this instance, given place among its fundamental teachings, is that of continuous, or “immediate revelation.” By this is understood that the President of the church, who, as we have seen, is the “very mouthpiece of God,”11 may at any time substitute something better than any one of the four books named, or than all of them together, and such pronouncement would be the very word of God, binding alike upon all the adherents of that faith. “The whole of them, (i. e. the four books listed above) are not all we need * * * the Lord has his ‘mouthpiece to say what shall be done and how it shall be done and on what occasion it shall be done’” [12].

The authorities of the church are the “living oracles of God and they are word pore to the L. D. S. than all the Bibles, all the Books of Mormon and all the Books of Doctrine and Covenants that are written. If we could have but one of them, give me the living oracles of the Priesthood for my guidance” [13]. “When compared with the living oracles,” declared Brigham Young, “those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of the Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.”

These words, quoted by President Woodruff, were spoken in the presence of Joseph Smith, who immediately arose and said: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord and he has told you the truth” [14].

Attention is directed to these teachings, not in any captious spirit, nor in criticism of those who hold these views. Such instructions, more especially those touching the relative importance of the Bible and the “living oracles” of the Mormon church, are for those who can, and who care to, accept them. The point emphasized here is that such views do concern Masons-wherever Masons are to be found-when those who hold them seek the fraternal fellowship and the more intimate relations of Lodge membership. Freemasons can hardly look unmoved, or with any measure of favor, upon the application of one who seeks the benefits and privileges of the Craft, and who yet, at any moment, because of conscientious scruples, might turn from the Great Light of Masonry, substituting for the “inestimable gift from God to man,” the dictum of some man whom accident has lifted to a place of great influence, but in whose pronouncements Masonry finds no marks of divine authority. That this may not appear in the light of a mere suppositious case, or a vastly removed possibility, the reader’s attention is invited to the paragraphs dealing with the attitude of the Mormon church toward secret societies [15].

As will be seen by reference to that passage, a late “living oracle” declared secret societies-and the connection shows that Masonry was included-are of the “evil one,” and the same authoritative voice asserted that the church had passed a resolution that Latter Day Saints who were members of secret societies were not fit for offices in the church or positions of responsibility. This latter fact has a further significance in that it indicates that such applicants as are being considered here, are not free to choose such course as might appeal to them, as was brought out in an earlier passage: pressure, of the character indicated above makes freedom of action impossible, for honors and dignities in the church are among the strongest incentives to loyalty to the organization.

In view of such facts as are here set forth: with “living oracles” whose words may at any time supersede the rule and guide of the Mason’s faith and practice, and with fairly definite information as to the character of such pronouncements, where Masonry might be concerned-members of the Craft may be pardoned, perhaps, for exercising a large measure of caution when the petition of a Latter Day Saint is presented. And the necessity for this course is not lessened by the fact that two of the four standard works or bibles of the Mormon church condemn in unsparing and unmistakable terms, all secret organizations [16].

Another aspect of the subject in hand which is worthy of more than passing notice relates itself to Deity. Masonry requires of its initiates an avowal of belief in Deity. It does not undertake to prescribe what one’s conception shall be [17], so that in this particular, Latter Day Saints would seem to be qualified to meet requirements. But these facts do not preclude a consideration of conceptions so fundamental in character and life as one’s apprehension of Deity. Speaking in a general way, according as one’s idea of God is exalted or otherwise, will the ideals be lofty or debased [18].

Here, again, the writer would disclaim any intention or attempt to criticise those whose views are under consideration. The chief object in view is to present as much information as possible concerning the influences and forces and beliefs which operate together in the task of shaping the character of adherents of the system, some aspects of which are here being passed under review.

Latter Day Saints are taught, and, we assume believe, in a plurality of gods. “When I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods” [19]. “The head God organized the heavens. In the beginning the heads of the Gods organized the heavens and the earth.” “In the beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation.” “The head of the Gods appointed one God for us” [20]. “Jesus Christ and His Father are two distinct persons, in the same sense as John and Peter are two persons.” “Each of these Gods, including Jesus Christ and His Father . . . . . . is subject to the laws which govern, of necessity, even the most refined order of physical existence” [21].

Further, not only is the doctrine of plurality of gods taught, and believed, by the Mormon people, but the materiality of the gods as well. A statement with slight variations often heard in Utah is: “God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens.”22 This doctrine “ . . . . . .affirms that God the Father, as well as God the Son, is a corporeal personage; that he has a body of flesh and bones; that he has form, and dimensions, organs and parts as to his body .. . . . .” [23] “. . . . . . the principle of procreation. By it, and through that principle the worlds are peopled ..... God possesses it, and we as His children inherit that power” [24]. “Jesus Christ and His Father are two persons . . . . . . Each of them has an organized, individual tabernacle, embodied in material form, and composed of material substance; in the likeness of man, and possessing every organ, limb and physical part that man possesses” [25]. “What is God? He is a mate. rial intelligence, possessing both body and parts. He is in the form of man, and is in fact of the same species; . . . . . . He can go, come, converse, reason, eat, drink, love, hate, rejoice, possess and enjoy ..........” [26].

Associated with this God, who “sits enthroned in yonder heaven,” is a female Deity. By this arrangement provision appears to be made for the pre-existence of spirits. These spirits possess “every organ after the pattern and in the likeness or similitude of the outward or fleshly tabernacle they are destined eventually to inhabit . . . . . . This individual, spiritual body, was begotten by the Heavenly Father, in His own likeness and image, and by the laws of procreation” [27].

Whatever allowance may, and should, be made, in respect to leaving every man free to conceive of God as he will, due consideration should be given to this fact, namely: The conception of God herein set forth differs so radically from that held by Masons generally, but especially in this country, that the question might well arise, whether those who accept it-and who are absolutely within their rights in doing so would, or could, fit into the Masonic institution and system. If sincere in their faith, they could hardly feel at home in an organization, some of whose fundamental teachings are so at variance with their own beliefs and ideals. And, on the other hand, Masons are fully warranted in exercising the greatest care when considering any matter which might threaten, or actually disturb, the peace and harmony of a Lodge.

Reference has been made to the unfriendly attitude of the Mormon church toward all secret societies. The reason for this opposition, according to the late President of the church, Joseph F. Smith, “must be apparent to every intelligent Latter Day. Saint” [28]. The reader who does not come within this classification must look elsewhere for information on this point. As briefly as possible some of the considerations bearing on this matter will be given here, and in order to conserve space, all the references will be assembled under one numeral.

The Latter Day Saints’ organization is opposed to secret societies because, among other reasons:

“They are of the evil one.” Satan was the originator of secret societies, he having made Cain a “Master Mahan,” so that he might slay his brother Abel and avoid punishment; revelation has condemned them; “covenants they impose are liable to conflict with religious obligations;” a prophet of God has emphatically raised his voice against these “institutions which threaten the liberties of all people and portend the destruction of whatever nation fosters them;” membership in such organizations interferes with performance of church duties, such as attending meetings of their quorums, paying tithing and going on missions; affiliation with such societies means that the Latter Day Saint forfeits his “inheritance in the Zion of God;” such membership means that the advice of the First Presidency has been ignored and disregarded; “nothing can be permitted in the members (of the church) that is calculated to bring division and weakness to the church;” those who have been led to join such societies should repent and withdraw “from that which threatens their standing;” these organizations are no place for a Latter Day Saint, for by becoming identified with them he leaves the teachings of the gospel and plays “into the hands of the Gentiles.”29 So strong is the opposition of the church to any connection with secret societies, on the part of its members, that the authorities some years ago took drastic action, going so far as to declare that those who were identified with these organizations should not be selected for any church office, for they “are not fit to hold these offices,” and later, the President of the church threatened such with excommunication [30].

They are bound to hold secret all that transpires and to defend their members whether they are doing right or wrong .....Now, I’ll tell you what the church has done about this.

Now, such being the attitude of the Latter Day Saints’ church toward Masonry, the matter appears to be plain and beyond dispute that a person who would act in opposition to such counsel and to the most solemn and positive asseverations of such authorities-including the president of the church, who speaks for God to his people, and who binds on earth .and it is bound in heaven--would, necessarily, be a “bad” Mormon. And Masons may be pardoned, perhaps, should they seriously doubt if a “bad” Mormon can be made over into a good Mason.

We have passed a resolution that men who are identified with these secret organizations shall not be preferred as bishops, or sought for as counselors. The same when it comes to selecting M. I. A. officers. The men who have done this have disqualified themselves and are not fit to hold these offices.” Provo Enquirer, November 12, 1900. On another occasion, when addressing a Quarterly, Conference in Provo, the same speaker took up this subject and declared that “The authorities of the church have the right, and will use it, to excommunicate members who will set aside the authority placed over them by God, for all members must act in harmony with their bishops and the stake presidency.” Provo Enquirer, (Mormon) Jan. 13, 1902.



[1] The “Charges” are referred to here, because of the position they are supposed to hold, and do hold in many jurisdictions, in Masonic thought and jurisprudence, and because Article I furnishes the basis of the claim discussed in the text. An interesting example of the devastating work of the creed-monger is to be found in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England (1896), p. 3, where this Article is to be found, in its revamped form. The writer is not unfamiliar with the fact that the premier Grand Lodge never has accepted the “Charges of a Freemason” as “possessing any legislative authority, or as representing the laws for the government of the modern Brotherhood.” Hughan, letter to Lawrence Greenleaf, Colorado, under date of Feb. 11, 1899. Utah Proceedings, 1901, Correspondence Report, pp. 15-16. The matter is not without interest and bearing in this connection, however.

[2] Massachusetts Code, 1923, p. 4

[3] Code of Texas, 1908, p. 186

[4] Proceedings Alabama, 1919, quoted in full, Correspondence Report of Georgia for 1920

[5] Proceedings West Virginia,, 1914

[6] Naturalization Laws and Regulations, 1915, p. 5

[7] Decision, Judge Harold M. Stephens (Mss.) 1917, pp. 2, 3, 8; cf. R. W. Young, Smoot Investigation, vol. 11 , p. 968

[8] The Builder, Newton, p. 265

[9] Articles of Faith, Talmage, (1899) p. 240f

[10] Smoot Investigation, vol. I, p. 179

[11] Apostle A. O. Woodruff, 69th Annual Conference Report, pp. S, 6, 7; Apostle M. W. Merrill, same Report, p. 17

[12] Apostle M. W. Merrill, 69th Annual Conference Report, p. 17; “Wilford Woodruff is the prophet and seer of this church . . . . . . Joseph Smith was a prophet ; Brigham Young was a prophet; Wilford Woodruff is a prophet, and I know that he has a great many prophets around him, and he can make scriptures as good as those in the Bible.” Apostle John Taylor, Annual Conference, April 5, 1897, quoted in, The Mormons and their Bible, p. 97

[13] Apostle M. W. Merrill, 68th Semi-Annual Conference p. 6; at the same Conference, Apostle J. W. Taylor enlarged upon the same subject, taking certain of Apostle Merrill’s words as a text, p. 7; for the words of President Woodruff, quoted in the teat, see same Report, pp. 22-23; cf. Y.M.M.A. Manual, 1901-1902, p. 81

[14] 68th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 23

[15] Seq15. pp. 88-90

[16] Pearl of Great Price, 1891, pp. 14-16; Book of Mormon, 1920, 2 Nephi 9:9; 26:22; Helaman 2:2-10; 7:25-27; 8:1, 4; 3 Nephi 6:25-30; 7:6-11; Ether 8:14-25, and many other passages. See also the present writer’s article on, Anti-Masonry in the Book of Mormon.

[17] The statement in the text is modified by the fact that indirectly and by implication Masonry does this very thing, beyond peradventure. To illustrate: Freemasonry lays stress upon the great principle of the brotherhood of man. Now, such a relationship necessarily strikes its roots into the greater fact of the Fatherhood of God, and fatherhood suggests certain very definite relationships, which in turn involve attributes of Deity.

[18] A suggestive sidelight on this comes from the experience of the missionaries of the Roman Church among the Goths. Ulfilas, an outstanding figure in this work, translated the Scriptures into the Gothic language, “ ....omitting from his version, however, the Books of the Kings, as he feared that the stirring recital of wars and battles in that portion of the Word might kindle into too fierce a flame the martial ardor of his new converts.”

[19] Joseph Smith, the prophet, Millenial Star, vol. XXIII, p. 246, quoted by Roberts in his, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 10. To the Mormons, the Christian conception of Deity-better, the view, for the most part held by the Christian churches-is “absurd, contradictory and unscriptural.” B. H. Roberts, Improvement Era, vol. I, p. 763; 75th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 73; Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith, p. 83.

[20] Mormon Doctrine of Deity, Roberts, pp. 10, 42, 231f; Millenial Star, vol. XXIV, p. 108

[21] Key to Theology, P. P. Pratt, pp. 34, 37

[22] Millenial Star, vol. 246, quoted by Roberts, in Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 10

[23] Improvement Era, vol. I, Roberts, p. 262

[24] George Q. Cannon, 69th Annual Conference Report, p. 20

[25] Key to Theology, P. P. Pratt, p. 34

[26] P. P. Pratt, in the Prophet, quoted by B. H. Roberts in, Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 255; Articles of Faith, Talmage, quoted by B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith, vol. II, p. 268

[27] Key to Theology, P. P. Pratt, pp. 51-52. The same thought finds expression in a favorite hymn, “Oh, my Father,” much used in Mormon gatherings. It was written by Eliza R. Snow, sister of President Lorenzo Snow, and one of the plural wives of the prophet Joseph Smith, and later, of Brigham Young. One should read all the stanzas, only part of one can be given place here:

In the heavens are parents single?

No; the thought makes reason stare.

Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.

(See any L. D. S. Hymnal)

[28] Improvement Era, vol. IV, Joseph F. Smith, p. 59; vol. I, pp. 374-376; cf. 70th Annual Conference Report, M. W, Merrill, p. 30

[29] Genesis 5:14-18, Joseph Smith’s translation; Pearl of Great Price, pp. 14, 15, 16; Improvement Era, vol. Iv. p. 59; vol. I, p. 375, 376; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 134-136

[30] For fear that the statements of the text may seem to be exaggerated, or be charged to prejudice of the writer, the exact words of the speaker are here reproduced. President Smith s subject was “Secret Societies.” Among other things he said: “Think of the fallacies and wickedness in the people doing this.


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