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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 5

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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 V

The matter of Nauvoo Lodge presented to Grand Lodge; committee appointed to investigate conditions; report of committee to the Grand Master; he authorizes the lodge to resume labor; again in disfavor, and dispensation revoked.

AT the annual communication of Grand Lodge, held at Jacksonville, October 3rd, 1842, GrandMaster Jonas did not present a formal address, but appears to have given a verbal report, instead. In this connection he announced that he had granted dispensations for the organization of lodges in several communities, Nauvoo among others. He also “made an explanation and presented a number of letters in relation to Nauvoo Lodge U. D., which were referred to the Committee on Returns and Work of Lodges.” Those letters, and the Grand Master’s “explanation”! What a priceless boon they would be to the Masonic student who laboriously picks his way back along an overgrown, obscured path to that fascinating bit of Craft history! To this same committee went a communication from Bodley Lodge No 1, on the same subject, and addressed to Grand Lodge. Some of these letters have been preserved-or fragments of them- and reach us, like a half-told tale on a bit of flotsam. We would have the story completed, with all gaps filled. We would hear the Grand Master’s defense of his action, and cross-examine the witnesses!

After due deliberation the Committee having the matter in hand presented a divided report. The majority regretted that the lodge had disregarded the instructions of the Grand Master-to send up the records of the lodge but expressed the belief that probably the work done conformed to the requirements of Grand Lodge. However, evidence submitted seemed to show that the “intention and ancient landmarks of our institution have been departed from, to an inexcusable extent,” but that the actual situation could be ascertained only by an investigation of the proceedings and an inspection of the original records of the lodge. The committee therefore recommended that the dispensation be suspended till the next annual communication of Grand Lodge, and that a committee be appointed to visit Nauvoo, make a thorough examination and report its findings to Grand Lodge at its next annual communication.

The minority report partook somewhat of the character of a “Scotch verdict.” The evidence submitted had failed to establish any irregularities, but fearing that such irregularities could be shown, the third member of the committee joined his colleagues in the recommendation made [1].

A substitute resolution prevailed which provided for the appointment of a special committee whose duty it should be to proceed at once to Nauvoo, make the investigation contemplated by this resolution and report their findings to the Grand Master. He, in turn, was authorized to remove the injunction suspending labor, or to continue it until the next annual communication of Grand Lodge, according as the facts presented by the committee warranted.

This committee entered at once upon the task assigned to it and in due time reported its findings to the Grand Master. Among other matters mentioned, it found that the “principal charges” made against the Lodge [2], were groundless and without proof to sustain them. Very grave irregularities, in the judgment of the committee, had marked the proceedings of the Lodge. One of these was what is now known as “collective balloting,” referred to in a previous paragraph, and which the committee felt, interfered with the expression of individual preference with reference to applicants. Another indicated a tendency, to make a reformatory out of the lodge, and a third undesirable feature was a misuse of the black ball.

In review of the whole situation, however, although the committee found much to regret and much to deplore it was of the opinion that the case did not demand that the injunction suspending labor should be made perpetual, but “that justice should be tempered with mercy.” It therefore recommended that the Lodge be permitted to resume its work, the dispensation being continued until the next annual communication of Grand Lodge. The committee also recommended that some member of the Craft should be appointed to visit Nauvoo Lodge, remind the brethren of the irregularities to which objection had been made, and admonish them to avoid the same in the future.

In accordance with these recommendations, Grand Master Helm (Nov. 2, 1842), issued an order permitting the Lodge to resume labor, at the same time admonishing the brethren to avoid “the mistakes heretofore committed.”

The evidence at hand indicates that the Nauvoo brethren lost no time in taking up Lodge work-after an enforced respite of less than two months-and that most astonishing results rewarded their labors.

The fact should be remembered that the returns of Nauvoo Lodge, presented to Grand Lodge, October 3rd, 1842, showed a membership of 243, and that during the period of its activities, covering less than six months, there had been 285 initiations, of which number 256 had been made Master Masons. Surprising as these figures are, they are a mere trifle in comparison with what was accomplished in the eleven months following the return of their dispensation. Exact figures cannot be given as no statistical report of work done is in existence. But facts quite as significant are at hand. These are found, primarily, in the address of Grand Master Helm who, as is clearly manifest, was very kindly disposed toward the several Mormon lodges.

At the outset the Grand Master very adroitly placed upon Grand Lodge responsibility for return of dispensation to Nauvoo Lodge-he merely acted in compliance with the implied wish of that Grand Body as found in the resolutions adopted. Then he directed attention to the fact that “the whole matter is again before the Grand Lodge, upon their application for a charter.”

In order that the brethren might be fully advised concerning the general situation the Grand Master reported, that this subject had excited a great deal of discussion, both in and out of Grand Lodge; that the action taken at the last annual communication had been severely criticised; that communications had reached him from eminent Masons which called in question the correctness of that action, and vigorously protested against permitting Masonic work to be done in Nauvoo. In view of these facts, and in order that justice may be done the Nauvoo brethren, due respect be paid to the opinions of those who had objected, and regard had for the good opinion and welfare of the fraternity at large, the Grand Master urged that the course finally decided upon “should be marked by the utmost care, caution and deliberation.” Then follows this significant recommendation, which leaves little room for doubt as to the feverish haste which must have characterized the operations of Nauvoo Lodge during the eleven months in which it had been at work:

“Should you finally determine to grant a charter to Nauvoo Lodge, and thus perpetuate its existence, I would suggest the propriety, nay, the necessity of dividing it into at least four, if not more, distinct lodges” [3].

And that tells only a part of the story. In eleven months the Grand Master issued dispensations for two new lodges in the Mormon capital-daughters of Nauvoo Lodge! Here is the spectacle of a single lodge, in eleven months, increasing its membership to such an extent as to make imperative the breaking up of that membership into six additional lodges which, with Nauvoo Lodge, would make seven, and the Grand Master strongly implied that it should be still further divided-eight lodges, say, where eleven months before there was only one! Nauvoo Lodge was certainly an energetic and prolific mother of Lodges!

Somehow, figures do not seem to be necessary to give emphasis to this astonishing situation, and the only incident that comes to mind, at all comparable to this, is that one which is wrapped up in the story of the five loaves and two small fishes!

In due time this whole matter was referred to the Committee on Returns and Work. A preliminary report from this committee was to the effect that it had examined the abstract of returns of the three Nauvoo lodges (Nauvoo, Nye and Helm) and found itself unable to complete the work assigned without further explanation and amendment of the returns. At the evening session of the next day, however, the committee presented an extended report in which it reviewed conditions in all five of the Mormon Lodges there were three in Nauvoo, one in Keokuk and one at Montrose. One of these, Rising Sun No. 12, at Montrose, had been chartered.

Among its findings the committee reported that the work of Rising Sun Lodge No. 12 was irregular, that its returns were informal and its dues had not been paid. The work of Nauvoo Lodge had been mainly correct, but there were irregularities which the Committee could not understand, in view of what had already taken place; the records of the lodge had not been submitted as required by law; members of doubtful character had been accepted, and instances were altogether too numerous in which candidates had been pushed on through the Second and Third degrees without reference to their proficiency in the preceding degree.

Helm Lodge had been guilty of irregular work, and had rushed applicants through without regard to time between the degrees; it had passed and raised candidates within two days of initiation. Nye Lodge had also done irregular work in that it had received petitions for the degrees on one day and initiated petitioners on the next. The Committee found itself in a quandary as to what it should suggest with reference to Nye and Keokuk Lodges. Finally, having considered all available evidence, the Committee recommended: That the charter of Rising Sun Lodge No. 12 be suspended and the officers cited to appear before Grand Lodge to show cause why that instrument should not be revoked. That it is inexpedient and prejudicial to the interests of Freemasonry longer to continue a Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo and for the disrespect and contempt shown by Nauvoo and Helm Lodges, in refusing to present their records to Grand Lodge, their dispensations be revoked and charters refused.

That for irregular work and disregard of Grand Lodge instructions and resolutions, the dispensations of Keokuk and Nye Lodges be revoked and charters refused. The recommendations of the committee; the substance of which is given here, were adopted by Grand Lodge.

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Footnotes:

[1] Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Illinois, 1842, pp. 52, 58-59

[2] Just what was the character of these “principal charges” is not indicated by any records available to the writer. The suggestion has been made by another that they grew out of the Bennett affair, and pertained to alleged discrimination on account of religious or political affiliations. See History of Grand Lodge of Ia., Morcombe, vol. I, pp. 148-49

[3] In explanation of this recommendation the Grand Master stated that the number of members was “entirely too large for convenience in working, and is otherwise objectionable; a fact of which they are themselves aware:” The fact appears from the record, that the Grand Master’s recommendation with reference to the additional Lodges in Nauvoo, was in accordance with a request made by the brethren in that place. Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Illinois, 1843, pp. 85-86

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