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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 1

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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.”

CHAPTER I

Laying foundations; rapid growth; introduction of Masonry; how this step was regarded by Masons elsewhere; forces that unfavorably affected Nauvoo Masonry.

IN the latter part of April, 1839, the first steps were taken toward the establishment in Illinois, of a semi-theocratic community under the leadership of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. Similar attempts had been made by this teacher of a new faith at Kirkland, Ohio, and at several points in the state of Missouri, all of which had come to a disastrous conclusion. The why of these failures does not lie within the province of these chapters.

On the date named certain of the Mormon leaders came up from Quincy, some fifty miles down the Mississippi River, whither they had fled from their troubles in Missouri [1], and definitely fixed upon a location for a new settlement. The site of this new Zion included the straggling village of Commerce.

Missouri contains the center of the Zion of God; there Adam dwelt; there the smoke of his sacrifices rose to God, and to that spot he will return and gather the hosts of God. 75th s-anl. Conf. Rpt., p. 72. On the first of May, the initial purchase of land was made by a committee headed by Joseph Smith. Soon other extensive holdings were secured and a year later, when a post office was established there, the Postmaster General rechristened the place “Nauvoo,” in deference to the wishes of the settlers.

To this chosen spot came the Saints in large numbers, especially from Missouri, where multiplied troubles had beset them. In consequence of this movement Nauvoo experienced a phenomenal growth, for those times. Within two years from the date of the first purchase of land by Joseph Smith the population had grown from almost nothing to more than three thousand, and when Grand Master Jonas instituted Nauvoo Lodge, March 15th, 1842, between eight and ten thousand people made their homes there. Three years later Nauvoo enjoyed the distinction of being the largest city in the state of Illinois, and, with the exception of St. Louis, it had no rival in the Northwest.

These people, for the most part, came originally from the older sections of the country and from foreign lands, more particularly from England, and were largely the fruits of the aggressive missionary policy which has distinguished this church from its inception. Among those who were attracted by the proclamation of this new evangel were a number who were, or had been, members of the Masonic fraternity. Prominent among these were Dr. John C. Bennett, an Ohio Mason; Heber C. Kimball, one of the first apostles and a trusted friend of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who had received the degrees at Victor, New York; Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s older brother, who likewise was a New York Mason, and others. Of this number, too, was W. W. Phelps, a renouncing Mason of the anti-Masonic period and for a time, at least, a bitter foe of the Fraternity [2].

Early in the summer of 1841 these Masons addressed a communication to Bodley Lodge No. 1, located at Quincy, in which they asked for the usual recommendation in order that they might establish a lodge at Nauvoo. This request was denied, the reason assigned by Bodley Lodge being that “* * * as these persons are unknown to this Lodge as Masons, it was thought prudent not to do so.” A recent writer informs us that not only was the recommendation withheld, but also that Bodley Lodge protested against the granting of a dispensation to the Nauvoo brethren [3]. However that may be, on October 15, 1841, ten days after the close of Grand Lodge, Grand Master Jonas issued a dispensation authorizing a lodge at Nauvoo, and five months later, March 15, 1842, he paid an official visit to that place and set the lodge to work.

In this connection it may not be amiss to note the fact that the Grand Lodge of Illinois was barely one year old when the Nauvoo dispensation was granted, and that there were few, if any, over one hundred members in the constituent lodges of the state. The natural desire for increase of numbers may have influenced the action of Grand Master Jonas in this instance. But there were other considerations. The fact should be remembered that he was a practical politician, having been trained in the Kentucky school of politicians during the stormy political period from 1828 to 1833, when he was in the legislature of that state. And at this time he appears to have been a candidate for a seat in the lower branch of the Illinois legislature, to which he was elected a few months after he had instituted Nauvoo Lodge.

These facts should be borne in mind, too, in connection with the highly laudatory letter concerning Nauvoo and its people which he published in his paper immediately after his return home from this official visitation, which covered three days, and during which he was the personal guest of the Mormon prophet [4].

From the very first, the movement to establish a Masonic lodge in Nauvoo appears to have been regarded with suspicion and distrust by Masons elsewhere in the state, more particularly by the members of Bodley Lodge No. 1, at Quincy [5]. This attitude may have been due, in part, at least, to the tales and rumors of misdoings which had followed the Mormons from Ohio and Missouri. But there were other factors. The history of the period now under review points unmistakably to certain political, religious, social and personal forces and considerations which were not without a positive and a very great influence on the character and fortunes of the Mormon lodges, and which did much to shape Masonic opinion concerning those lodges and their membership. At the risk of a seeming digression, space must be given here to a consideration of some of these elements of the situation, for otherwise we shall find ourselves without either clew or background.

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Footnotes:

[1] The following from a “dodger,” bearing date of Feb. 28, 1839, indicates the circumstances of these people at the time under review. “Public Meeting of the Citizens of Quincy.” “A public meeting will be held this evening at the Court House for the purpose of devising ways and means for the permanent relief of the distress existing among the strangers who have lately been driven from Missouri, known as the ‘Latter Day Saints’; and for affording them immediate aid, as their wants are pressing, a collection will be taken up at the close of the meeting for that purpose.” For proceedings of this meeting, see History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, Vol. 3, p. 270

[2] Life of Heber C. Kimball, Whitney, pp. 26-27; Catalogue of Anti-Masonic Books, Gassett, p. 88 ; Hist. of Freemasonry in N. Y., McClenachan, vol. II, p. 518. Records available do not show that Phelps had any part in organizing Nauvoo Lodge

[3] Reynolds’ Hist. of .Freemasonry in Illinois, p. 154; Mormonism and its Connection with Freemasonry,

1842-3-4, Nauvoo, Ill., Smith, The American Tyler, Feb. 1, 1905

[4] The Ashler, Jan., 1860, article reproduced in The Masonic Trowel, vol. 1 of the year following. The letter of Grand Master Jonas was published in the Columbus Advocate, March 22, 1841, and reproduced in

Times and Seasons (Nauvoo), issue of April 1st

[5] Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Illinois, 1842, pp. 52-53

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To learn more about Mormonism, see: Mormonism - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

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