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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 4

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

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.”


Masonry established act Nauvoo; the Grand Master’s report on conditions there; Bodley Lodge No. 1 requests that investigation be made; dispensation suspended.

THE foregoing facts will aid to an understanding of the situation in the Mormon capital at the time of the planting of Masonry in that community. They also suggest that perhaps the soil in the place was not the best in which to develop the principles of our art. And further, they leave little room for doubt that the irregularities permitted in the lodge room and the “contumacious” treatment of the edicts and messengers of the Grand Master were not the only considerations, although they were quite sufficient in themselves, that had weight in determining the status of Freemasonry among the Latter-day Saints. We may now proceed with the story of the Nauvoo lodges.

As noted above, Grand Master Abraham Jonas instituted Nauvoo Lodge U. D., and set it to work, March 15, 1842. Our knowledge of the circumstances attending this interesting function is, necessarily, meagre, but such fragmentary records and vagrant bits of information, touching this occasion, as have survived, furnish illuminating glimpses of some of the conditions under which organized Masonry had its birth in Nauvoo.

Grand Master Jonas, it should be remembered, was a practical politician, and at this time had his eye on a seat in the state legislature, to which he was elected, later in the year. Under the circumstances, he could hardly close his eyes to the opportunity for securing support for his candidacy which this occasion afforded. Upon his return home he wrote a suspiciously glowing account of his impressions of Nauvoo and its people, which was published in his paper, the Columbus Advocate, and a week later reproduced in the church paper at Nauvoo [1].

Among other things the Grand Master wrote: “During my stay of three days, I became well acquainted with their principal men, and more particularly with their prophet, the celebrated ‘Old Joe Smith.’ I found them hospitable, polite, well informed and liberal. With Joseph Smith, the hospitality of whose house I kindly received, I was well pleased.”

From the prophet’s journal we derive a few bits of information touching the things that are of special interest. Unlike the Grand Master, Joseph Smith was not writing for the purpose of confounding his critics, or of making votes. Under date of Tuesday, March 15, he wrote: “I officiated as Grand Chaplain at the installation of the Nauvoo Lodge of Freemasons, at the Grove near the Temple. Grand Master Jonas, of Columbus, being present, a large number of people assembled on the occasion. The day was exceedingly fine; all things were done in order. In the evening I received the first degree in Freemasonry in Nauvoo Lodge, assembled in my general business once.” Under date of March 16th, entry reads: “I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree” [2].

From one other source a little indirect light falls upon the events connected with the institution of Nauvoo Lodge.

Not long after this lodge had been set to work, rumors of unusual proceedings therein became current. Report had it that the Nauvoo brethren set at naught certain established and well-known Masonic laws and usages. This gossip persisted and finally crystallized into open and unequivocal charges. On the 16th of July, following, Bodley Lodge No. 1, of Quincy, held a special meeting called for the purpose of considering the matter and taking such action as the facts might seem to warrant. After discussion, the sentiment of the meeting took the form of resolutions. One of these called upon Grand Master Jonas to suspend the dispensation of Nauvoo Lodge until the annual communication of Grand Lodge.

Another throws a little light back upon the events connected with the institution of that lodge. This resolution reads: “Resolved, That Bodley Lodge No. 1, of Quincy, request of the Grand Lodge of the state of Illinois, that a committee be appointed at the next annual meeting of said lodge, to make enquiry into the manner the officers of the Nauvoo Lodge, U. D. were installed, and by what authority the Grand Master initiated, passed and raised Messrs. Smith and Sidney Rigdon to the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, at one and the same time, and that the proceedings of the committee be reported for the benefit of this lodge” [3].

While this resolution shows that the Quincy brethren were not pleased with the action of the Grand Master in conducting a public installation of officers “at the grove near the Temple,” in the presence of a vast throng of people, and later making the two Mormon leaders Masons “at sight,” undoubtedly, other considerations were not entirely absent. The fact should be remembered that the dispensation granted the Nauvoo brethren was issued in spite of the protest of Bodley Lodge, and after that lodge had refused to give the usual recommendation. Further, as noted elsewhere in these pages, at this very time a contest was being waged between Quincy and Columbus over the location of the county seat, and not unnaturally, members of Bodley Lodge and the Grand Master had taken opposite sides on that question. It is almost too much to ask us to believe that reaction to these conditions finds no reflection in the resolution quoted above.

Whatever the motives responsible for this movement on the part of the Quincy brethren, the resolution brought the desired action. On August 11th, less than six months from date of its institution, the Grand Master suspended the dispensation of Nauvoo Lodge until the annual communication of Grand Lodge.

During the short period covering its activities, this Lodge initiated 286 candidates and raised almost as many. John C. Bennett reports an instance in which sixty-three persons were elected on a single ballot [4].



[1] Times and Seasons, vol. III, pp. 749-750; History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. IV, 565-566

[2] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. IV, pp. 550-552. The prophet could not-or apparently, did not-foresee how this act of his, in becoming a Mason, would rise, Banquo-like, to trouble future generations of his followers. The unsparing condemnation of secret societies, so often to be met with in the Book of Mormon, seems to conflict with the prophet’s affiliation with one of those secret societies. This seeming contradiction between teaching and practice in this matter, has frequently sent to church headquarters the question: “Why did Joseph Smith become a Mason?” The present writer, in a paper published elsewhere, has given attention to that question, and in still another study, has jotted down his thoughts on the subject of, “Anti-Masonry in the Book of Mormon.”

[3] Reynolds’ History of Freemasonry in Illinois, pp. 174-75. The matter is worthy of passing notice, that probably it was this action of the Grand Master, in making the two leaders Masons at sight, that led a present day Apostle of the church to write: “Great Masonic honors were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.” Deseret News, Editorial, July 16, 1906

[4] Sangamon Journal, July 22, 1842


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