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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 6

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.”


Grand Lodge orders ignored; Masonic Temple at Nauvoo dedicated; final action by Grand Lodge; closing scenes in the life of Joseph Smith; the EXPOSITOR, and its destruction; arrest of the prophet and Hyrum Smith and their death.

THE drastic action provided for by the resolutions with which the last chapter closed, would seem to have been sufficient to solve all the problems connected with Mormon Masonry. But such was far from being the case. Subsequent events clearly demonstrated that it is one thing to adopt resolutions and quite another to enforce their provisions. The records show among other things, that soon after the close of Grand Lodge, the Grand Master dispatched a messenger to Nauvoo to secure the dispensations and books of the three Lodges there; that both the message and the messenger were treated with contempt; that the request for books and records was denied, and that the representative of the Grand Master was informed that the Lodges intended to proceed as though no action had been taken by Grand Lodge [1]. And this declared purpose, apparently, was carried out by all three of the Nauvoo Lodges, although the evidence at hand touching continued Masonic activities there, is general in character, for the most part.

From the historian of Illinois Freemasonry, we learn that Bodley Lodge No. 1, being disturbed by the situation at Nauvoo finally took steps to make known to the proper authorities the actual conditions in the Mormon capital. The records of Bodley Lodge show that at a meeting held April 1, 1844, the situation was fully discussed, all the available facts presented, and the secretary was directed to notify the Grand Master that the lodges in Nauvoo and Keokuk continued to work, and that notice had appeared in public print that the lodges of Nauvoo would dedicate their Masonic hall in that place on April 5, the members of those lodges claiming that they had received no notice of the action of Grand Lodge withdrawing their dispensations [2].

The journal of Joseph Smith furnishes certain interesting details of the exercises connected with the dedication of the Masonic Hall which are not to be met with elsewhere.

Under date of Friday, April 5, (1844) , he records that he attended the ceremonies; that about five hundred fifty Masons “from various harts of tote world” were present and took part; that a procession was formed, which was accompanied by the Nauvoo brass band; that the exercises were in charge of Hyrum Smith, Worshipful Master; that the principal address of the occasion was given by Apostle Erastus Snow; that he, Joseph Smith, and Dr. Goforth also addressed the assembly, and that all the visiting Masons were given dinner in the Masonic Hall, at the expense of the Nauvoo Lodge [3].

An echo of these dedicatory exercises is to be found in action taken by St. Clair Lodge No. 24, Belleville. The records show that this lodge disciplined one of its members for having marched in the procession on the occasion named. The position of the Lodge in this matter was that the brother participated in the work of a clandestine organization, and such appears to have been the view of Grand Lodge, as set forth in resolutions adopted at the annual communication of 1846. The matter had come up, repeatedly, it seems, in the form of questions as to the standing of former members of the Nauvoo lodges, but was not clarified until the adoption of the report of a special committee, to which it had been referred, at the communication of Grand Lodge in the year just noted above [4].

Because of its bearing upon several important matters, particularly upon the Masonic standing of Joseph Smith at the time of his death, the resolution referred to in the text is here given in full. Although this was not adopted by Grand Lodge until some two years after the tragedy in Carthage jail, the principles set forth in this resolution appear to have been recognized and accepted by Grand Lodge, even before the action taken, which revoked the authority under which the Mormon lodges were working. The resolution follows:

“Resolved, that it is the sense of this Grand Lodge, that suspension of a subordinate lodge by this Grand Lodge, only affects the standing of its individual members so far as they participate in disregarding the edicts of the Grand Lodge after the first information thereof coming to their knowledge, and providing such individuals by their act shall not have been the cause of the action of this Grand Lodge declaring such Lodge suspended or clandestine.”

This interpretation of the position of Grand Lodge seems to leave little room for the good standing of any of the members of the Nauvoo lodges who lived or were in Nauvoo during the period between October 3, 1843, and October 9, 1844, when final action was taken by Grand Lodge.

Another fragment of proof that Nauvoo Lodge, at least, continued its activities after its dispensation had been annulled is furnished by the prophet’s journal. As will be seen, presently, certain men who had stood high in church councils, had become estranged, and were dissatisfied with some features of church government and practice, as well as with the arbitrary exercise of “one-man power” by Joseph Smith. They proposed to themselves the task of changing this condition, so far as it related to civic affairs, and to this end provided themselves with a printing outfit, and laid their plans for the publication of an opposition paper. Through its columns they hoped they could reach the people in advocacy of the repeal of the Nauvoo charter, do away with the teaching and practice of polygamy, and bring about correction of oilier abuses complained of.

Such a challenge of the prophet’s power could not pass unanswered, and, as it were, in kind. At a council meeting, April 18, 1844, William and Wilson Law and Robert D. Foster were excommunicated from the church, and under date of April 30th, Joseph Smith wrote in his journal: “A complaint was commenced against William and Wilson Law in the Masonic Lodge &c” [5].

Such was the situation with reference to the recalcitrant lodges when Grand Lodge met, October 7, 1844. If there was any uncertainty as to the significance of the action of Grand Lodge at its session the year before, no such criticism would apply to its pronouncement on this occasion. A brief statement of the facts in the case was followed by resolutions which declared that all fellowship with those lodges was withdrawn; that the members thereof were clandestine; that all who hailed therefrom were suspended from all the privileges of Masonry within the jurisdiction of Illinois, and that the Grand Lodges of other jurisdictions “be requested to deny them the same privileges.” Another resolution directed the Grand Secretary to notify all Grand Lodges with which the Grand Lodge of Illinois was in correspondence, of the facts, and to publish the same “in all the Masonic periodicals” [6].

This terminated the official connection of the Grand Lodge of Illinois with the Masonry of Nauvoo Records of action taken with reference to. the lodges at Warsaw and Keokuk are to be found in the proceedings for the years 1845 and 1846, but these are of no special interest to us in this connection.

The story of the closing months of the life of the Mormon prophet is one of exceptional interest to the student of the period now under review. And this, not so much as biography, but as a basic part of the story of his people with which it is inextricably interwoven, and to which it gave vivid and fadeless color. We should be drawn too far afield from the purpose of this study if time were given to the details of that story, but pause must be made for such a hasty glance at succeeding events as will serve to round out this part of the narrative.

With the advent of spring, (1844) events moved rapidly toward the fatal culmination in Carthage jail. Early in May the prospectus of the expositor made its appearance in Nauvoo, and one month later, Friday, June 7th, the initial and only number of that publication issued from the press. The Expositor was published by the small coterie of men, including Emmons, Wilson and William Law, the Fosters, Higbees and others, most of whom had been prominent in church and civic affairs, and some, even, had been made the subjects, or beneficiaries, of special revelations. Now, however, although insisting upon their loyalty to the Mormon church, they had taken up the cudgels against what they considered the arbitrary rule of Joseph Smith, and in opposition to some of the doctrines he was promulgating, and practicing [7]. The Expositor was to be the organ of this dissenting party, and, promoted as it was by men of ability, who had enjoyed exceptional opportunities for securing first-hand information concerning the abuses and evils they proposed to correct, this project was fraught with gravest consequences to the prophet. In the light of these facts may be found a sufficient explanation of tile intense bitterness and unparalleled excitement which this publication aroused, and equally of the prophet’s declaration that “he would rather die tomorrow and have the thing smashed, than live and have it go on” [8].

As noted in a previous paragraph, the first number of the Expositor made its appearance Friday, June 7th. The prospectus issued a month before had stirred up great excitement in Nauvoo, and proceedings of one sort or other had been instituted against the promoter of the enterprise. But the paper itself seemed to sweep the people, and more particularly the authorities, off their feet. The City Council met at ten o’clock on the following morning and remained in session until six-thirty that evening. The entire day appears to have been devoted to the taking of testimony as to the standing and character of the men who had thrown this firebrand into their midst. To one removed by more than three-quarters of a century from the excitement and passions which marked those early June days, the proceedings of the Council are something of an enigma [9]. The men being investigated were not strangers in the community-they were well known there, and, as noted elsewhere, several of them had held positions of trust and influence in church and city. Apparently, they had given ample and satisfactory proof of their loyalty and devotion to the new faith, and had been acceptable to their superiors up to the time when they expressed dissatisfaction with certain conditions in Nauvoo. Then witnesses were called to show that these men were the vilest of the vile; they were “bogus-makers” (counterfeiters, adulterers, highway-robbers, murderers, “covenantbreakers with God and their wives,” and guilty of nearly every crime in the catalogue. And the testimony seemed to show that these misdeeds were not due to some sudden outbreak of devilishness, but had been characteristic of these men from the beginning of their connection with the church!

No decision was reached on Saturday and the Council adjourned to meet on Monday following, June 10th. Upon coming together at the appointed hour on Monday the discussion was renewed. An entry in the prophet’s journal shows that the entire day was given to this all-important subject [10]. From the first, Joseph Smith, who was Mayor, urged the destruction of the printing plant from which had come the obnoxious publication.

Nothing appears of record to show why action was delayed until near the close of the second day given to a consideration of the subject. Taking the recorder’s report of the proceedings, as it stands, the Council, with a single exception, was of one mind, practically from the beginning of Saturday morning’s session. Only one voice was raised against the proposed action of the Council, and that, of a non member of the church. For that reason, perhaps, he was in a better position than the others to appreciate the gravity of such a course, and to shrink from the storm which he could see would certainly follow. He suggested that in place of destroying the Expositor, a heavy fine should be imposed, naming three thousand dollars as the amount. The Mayor expressed regret that there should be “one dissenting voice in declaring the Expositor a nuisance.” An ordinance was framed to meet the expressed wish of the Mayor and adopted by the Council, and this was immediately followed by a resolution which declared the offending paper a nuisance and directed the Mayor “to cause said printing establishment and papers to be removed without delay, in such manner as he shall direct.” An order was at once dispatched to the city marshal in which that official was instructed to destroy the press, pi the type, burn any copies of the paper that might be found, and further directing him, in case of resistance on the part of the proprietors, to demolish the building. The orders were executed on the evening of the same day, June 10 ---and the die was cast [11].

The project of publishing an opposition paper in Nauvoo had come to a sudden end, but not so with the troubles of the prophet and his people. The destruction of the Expositor, under the circumstances, was about the worst thing that could have happened to Joseph Smith and his followers ---it was the match applied to the magazine.

Two days after the destruction of the printing office warrants were secured by the owners of the paper for the arrest of Joseph Smith and the members of the City Council, on a charge of riot. When the Mayor was arrested he immediately applied to the Municipal Court for a writ of habeas corpus which was granted, and he was brought before that court for trial.

After a letter written on the following morning by the wife of Heber C. Kimball has this reference to the subject: “Nauvoo was a scene of excitement last night. Some hundreds of the brethren turned out and burned the press of the opposite party. This was done by order of the City Council examination he was released and the costs of the case were assessed against the proprietors of the Expositor. The same course was pursued when members of the Council were arrested, with this difference, that the Mayor presided over the court, sitting as Chief Justice. In each of these cases the accused were discharged and the costs were taxed against the complaints [12].

As was to be expected these proceedings in no way allayed the excitement or lessened the force of the opposition which had arisen against the prophet and his adherents. Mass meetings were held in various communities in the county, inflammatory speeches were freely indulged in, and active preparations were made to use force, if necessary, to bring about the arrest of Joseph Smith and his colleagues.

Before the storm which he had so illadvisedly invoked, the prophet appears to have quailed, and presently began to make preparations to seek safety in flight. During the night of June 22, he and his brother, Hyrum, with two or three others, were rowed across the Mississippi in a leaky skiff, and the next morning O. P. Rockwell was sent back to Nauvoo to secure horses for the two men. In the meantime, pressure was brought to bear upon Joseph Smith to induce him to return to Nauvoo and give himself up, and when Rockwell came with a message from the prophet’s wife, Emma, to the same effect, and another messenger placed in his hands a letter from her, he decided to acquiesce. Several of his companions went so far as to accuse him of cowardice for wishing to leave his people in such straits. The party finally returned to the east side of the river on the night of the 23rd [13].

Two days later Joseph and Hyrum were arrested on a charge of treason, for having called out the Nauvoo Legion, were taken to Carthage jail where, on the afternoon of the 27th of June, they were murdered by a mob.



[1] Proceedings Grand Lodge Illinois, 1844, p. 130; 1848, p. 476

[2] Reynolds’ History of Freemasonry in Illinois, p. 244. In the Nauvoo Neighbor, March 13, 1844, is the following “notice,” which appears in succeeding issues of the same publication up to, and including that of April 3rd:

“Masonic Notice.” The officers and brethren of Nauvoo Lodge would hereby make known to the Masonic world, that they have fixed on Friday, the 5th day of April, for the dedication of their new Masonic Hall, to take place at 1 o’clock P.M. All worthy Brethren of the Fraternity who feel interested in the cause, are requested to participate with us in the ceremonies of dedication. Done by order of the Lodge, Wm. Clayton, Secretary. March 13th, 1844.” Between the leaves of the issue of The Neighbor for April 3rd, the writer found a timestained sheet of paper, about six by seven inches in size, printed on one side, double column, and headed: “Hymns to be sung at the Dedication of the Masonic Temple, on Friday, April 5th.” Among the songs listed were, “The Hod Carriers’ Song,” “The Entered Apprentices’ Song,” and a “Glee.” Mormonism and Masonry Chapter 6.

Evidently, copies of this “dodger” were distributed to the subscribers of the paper in the manner indicated and to those who participated in the exercises at the time the hall was dedicated.

[3] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. VI, p. 287

[4] Reynolds’ History of Freemasonry in Illinois, p. 255; Proceedings of Grand Lodge of Illinois, 1846, pp. 328-329

[5] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, by Roberts.vol. VI, p. 349. Historical Record, vol. VII, p. 546

[6] A curious story is told by Mormon writers and speakers-and repeated by some others, not Masons-in explanation of the action of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in annulling the dispensations and revoking the charter of Mormon lodges. Feramorz Little appears to have passed it on to Burton, who reproduces it in his “City of the Saints,” p. 350. “The angel of the Lord brought to Mr. Joseph Smith the lost key-words of several degrees, which caused him, when he appeared among the brotherhood of Illinois, to ‘work right ahead’ of the highest, and to show them, their ignorance of the greatest truths and benefits of Masonry. The natural result was that their diploma was taken from them by the Grand Lodge!!” To those who do not happen to be followers of the prophet, a more natural explanation of Joseph Smith’s ability to “work right ahead” of others, is to be found in the fact that he lived in the very heart of the region affected by the anti-Masonic excitement, 1826-1830; he was familiar with exposes widely distributed at that time; undoubtedly he, with his neighbors, had often seen “renouncing Masons” present at great public gatherings what was alleged to be all of the Masonic degrees; beyond question, he frequently attended mass meetings where the speakers vied with each other in depicting the blackness of the Masonic institution, and rehearsing portions of the work, and also, beyond doubt, he joined others in discussing the one topic of community gossip and interest. During three years of the time in which anti-Masonic excitement swept everything before it, Joseph Smith was at work upon the Book of Mormon, and his reaction to his environment, in the opinion of the present writer, is conclusively shown in dozens of passages in that book. (Cf. Note 2, p. 422) . The story repeated by Burton, above, had been passed on to Lieut. J. W. Gunnison ten years earlier, and appears in his “History of the Mormons,” pp. 59-60

[7] Historical Record, vol. VII, pp. 480, 545

[8] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts., vol. VI, p. 442

[9] See “Synopsis of Proceedings of the City Council against the Nauvoo Expositor, History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. VI, pp. 434f

[10] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, voI. VI, pp. 432, 466

[11] Following the destruction of the Expositor, “The posse accompanied by some hundreds of the citizens returned with the Marshal to the front of the Mansion, when I gave them a short address, and told them they had done right and that not a hair of their heads should be hurt for it . .. .. . I then blessed them in the name of the Lord.” This speech was loudly greeted by the assembly with three-times-three cheers. History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. VI, pp. 432-433. Compare letters to Governor Ford by Joseph Smith and Dr. Bernhisel, pp. 466-468. From an entry in the prophet’s journal it appears that the building was burned at the time the plant was destroyed. lbid p. 471

[12] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. VI, pp. 460-61

[13] The reader who desires more of detail in connection with the story of the last few weeks of the prophet’s life, will find much of material covering that particular period. Only a few references are given here, and these all give the Mormon point of view. History of the Church, Period 1, p. 545; Historical Record, vol. VII, p. 558; Life of Brigham Young, Anderson, p. 41;_ Life of Joseph Smith, Cannon, p. 471; Succession in the Presidency, Roberts, p. 117. The foregoing references relate to the charge of cowardice. A letter writer, already quoted, whose words were set down as the prophet with his friends passed the house on his way to give himself up to Governor Ford, gives vivid glimpses of the situation during the last weeks of that fateful June. After apologizing for delay in writing she said: “Since I commenced this letter, varied and exciting indeed have been the scenes in this city I have been thrown into such confusion I know not what to write. Nothing is to be heard of but mobs collecting on every side . . . . . . Between three and four thousand brethren have been under arms here the past week (letter was dated June 24th) . . . . . . The brethren from the country are coming in to aid in the defense of the city . . . . . . Yesterday... was a time of great excitement. Joseph had fled and left word for the brethren to hang on to their arms and defend themselves as best they could. Some were dreadfully tried in their faith to think Joseph should leave them in the hour of danger. Before night yesterday, things put on a different aspect-Joseph returned and gave himself up for trial.” Life of Heber C. Kimball, Whitney, pp. 350-51


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