Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Religion & Spirituality
  3. General Religion

“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 9

See also

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.”


Certain teachings of Mormonism appear to be in conflict with fundamental principles of the Fraternity; power of priesthood well-nigh absolute.

UNDER any circumstances great care should be exercised in the selection of material for membership in Masonic Lodges. This holds true everywhere and at all times and is a duty that in an especial sense devolves upon those who in a representative capacity first pass upon the qualifications of applicants for our mysteries in Utah, and the same holds true elsewhere. A number of reasons for this might be given, some of which it is the purpose of the following chapters to set forth.

At the outset it should be stated that the historic, well known and consistent position held by the Craft of this jurisdiction, practically from the very inception of organized Masonry, back in ’65, to the present time furnishes one reason for caution on the part of Utah investigating committees, in particular [1]. Further, there is a notable tendency on the part of some who are young in Masonry, and of others who, though older, are inclined to be lenient toward a relaxation of requirements, to take account only of the superficial and to base their conclusions and action upon an imperfect apprehension of facts which cannot be ignored with safety. In what follows attention is directed to certain facts no one of which, perhaps, taken alone may seem to be of any great consequence, but which in the aggregate are worthy of serious consideration. In seeking to attain the object in view we may pass boundaries which, somehow, have acquired a pseudo-sanctity and find ourselves in fields all too rarely entered by those who, for the time being, are charged with the duty of guarding well the outer portals of the Craft.

That there may be no uncertainty as to what is here undertaken, the statement may be made that we are dealing with the general subject of “Mormonism and Masonry,” and that the particular phase of the subject upon which we now enter relates to the eligibility of any would-be applicant for the mysteries of Freemasonry, who at the same time is a member of the Latter-Day Saints’ organization.

Masonry requires of its initiates, among other things, that they shall come of their own free will and accord. By implication, principle and teaching it assumes that those who come into its fellowship are, and will remain, free, from any influence or power that might interfere with the performance of such duties as may devolve upon them by reason of such membership [2]. In order to ascertain the facts, a petitioner for the degrees in Utah is required to furnish a list of the fraternal and religious organizations with which he is now, or has been affiliated. This .is not done in criticism of any organization that may, or that seems to, curtail the freedom of thought or action of its adherents. Such criticism does not fall within the province of this study, or of Masonry. But Masonry, like all other organizations, both claims and exercises the right to erect such standards as may seem to be necessary; to formulate and apply tests; to pass upon the qualifications of those who knock at its doors, and to decide in any and every case whether the requirements thus laid down have been, or can be, satisfactorily complied with. In the exercise of these and all other powers and prerogatives Masonry is a law unto itself.

With the ground thus cleared we may now proceed to consider certain facts the bearing and significance of which can hardly be mistaken. Those who are authorized to speak for the church have left little room for doubt that the Latter Day Saints’ organization makes such demands upon its adherents that the results do not accord with the genius of Freemasonry.

For example. The utmost emphasis is laid upon the authority and power of the priesthood. A man may not honestly differ from the presiding priesthood without being guilty of apostacy and subject to excommunication. Indeed, this is carried so far that even to criticize the authorities is declared to be a dangerous thing. One should do as the priesthood directs, whether one likes it or not.3 Such teachings differ not at all, in principle, as the present writer sees the matter, from those enunciated by the authorities back in ’69. Said George Q.

Cannon on one occasion, Brigham Young being present, “It is apostacy to differ honestly with the measures of the president. A man may be honest even in hell.” And President Wells said, on the same occasion, and wills nothing wanting in the way of emphasis: “One might as well ask the question whether a man had the right to differ honestly with the Almighty” [4].

These unqualified and rather startling assertions afford less grounds for astonishment when the fact is remembered that they imply the acceptance of another doctrine quite as unusual as the one involved. This basic principle is that the President of the church is “the very mouthpiece of God”; “His vicegerent on earth,” and the sole channel through which He communicates His will and purposes concerning all that pertains to His kingdom on earth.

If illustrations of the practical workings of the power of the priesthood are desired, they are easily to be found and their meaning appears to be perfectly clear [5].

W. S. Godbe and his colleagues were cut off from the church because they presumed to deny the right of Brigham Young to restrict freedom of thought and speed, and to discipline them for opinion’s sake, and because they did not accept his financial policy. Moses Thatcher held opinions concerning his rights and privileges as an American citizen which did not accord with those of the First Presidency and the other members of the quorum of Apostles, and he “declined to take counsel.” For this he was ousted from his position as an Apostle, and disfellowshipped. Charles A. Smurthwaite felt that the President of the church should not enter the commercial field in competition with persons less highly placed, and he gave voice to this opinion to his Bishop and was cut off from the church. B. H. Roberts, noting an unmistakable partiality in the application of a church rule in the interest of one political party and against the other, entered politics without the approval of the church authorities, and was made to feel the sting of their displeasure, but later was “reconciled” with his brethren [6].

B. H. Roberts who is, perhaps, the brainiest man in the church, as he is the most independent thinker, the most prolific writer, and possibly, the fairest controversialist, recently gave frank expression, in a conference address, to his belief that the Mormon people had not always been blameless in the things they had done; that their conduct had not always been defensible; that “there was much of fanaticism, much of narrowness, and bigotry, and unwisdom on the part of individuals among the Latter Day Saints;” that the disasters which overtook the followers of the prophet in Missouri were due, in part at least, to boastfulness, over-zeal, fanaticism and unwisdom on the part of the people. Even the Prophet, Joseph Smith, the speaker pointed out, made mistakes, for which the Lord rebuked him. In these statements there would seem to be nothing deserving rebuke, yet for this frank avowal of facts, of the truth of which his historical studies had convinced him, he was taken sharply to task in the same session of the conference by the President of the church, Joseph F. Smith [7]. Such results as are here indicated, need occasion no surprise, for it must be remembered, as already remarked, that the authorities, the Priesthood, are “in very deed a part of God,” and as such they can fix, irrevocably, the ultimate status of man, for to them belongs the power “to bind on earth that which shall be bound in heaven and to loose on earth that which shall be loosed in heaven;” “to remit sin;” “to say what shall be done and how it shall be done and on what occasions it shall be done,” and when the President of the church speaks “anything as the mind and will of the Lord, it is just as binding upon us as if God spake personally to us” [8].

Those who are acquainted with the teachings and literature of the Mormon church need no proof to convince them that obedience to the Priesthood on the part of adherents of this faith, is one of the fundamental requirements, now, as it always has been. As already pointed out, denial of this principle was one of the chief offenses of those who were responsible for the “Utah Schism.” “It had been argued that we must passively and uninquiringly obey the Priesthood because otherwise we could not build up Zion,” complained E. L. T. Harrison, in “An Appeal to the People and Protest.” And such obedience appears to be required in all the relations of life-in things spiritual and temporal [9].

Some of us who are unacquainted with the refinements, modifications, or qualifications to which such teachings may be subjected in their application to individual cases may well be pardoned if we question whether a member of an organization which makes such demands upon its votaries-demands so unusual, far-reaching and seemingly opposed to freedom of action--is in any position to act freely, as our teachings require. And if he is not really free: if because of a primary allegiance such as that involved in the doctrines we have been considering, another could command instant and implicit obedience in all the concerns of life could one so circumstanced be considered good material for our Rites?

We are not unmindful of the fact that leaders of the Latter Day Saints’ organization have insisted, and do insist, that their members are as free to choose their course, to follow their preferences in all the affairs of life, as are the disciples of any other faith or philosophy of life. The reconciliation of such assertions with unquestioned facts does not lie within the field of our present undertaking. But, when issues the most vital, having to do with time and eternity, are made to hinge upon acceptance of the fundamental principle of obedience to a priesthood, then we freely confess that such assertions make an unwarranted and impossible demand upon our stock of credulity.



[1] Proceedings Grand Lodge Nevada, 1866, pp. 28-53 ; Grand Lodge of Utah, 1872, p. 15 ; 1882, pp. 22, 28, 78 ; 1883, pp. 16, 24; 104 ; 1880, p. 18 ; 1884,. pp. 75-76, 79, 92 ; 1877, p. 11; 1879, p. 29, and many others. For more recent expressions see Proceedings Utah, 1923, pp. 65-66; 1924, pp. 25, 56-58, 59, 81, 82

[2] Smoot Investigation, vol. IV, pp. 343, 344, 345, 346, 487-88

[3] 68th Semi-Annual Conference Report, pp. 6, 71; 83rd Annual Conference Report, p. 37. Illustrations of this abound. Said Joseph F. Smith, late President of the church: “When a man says you may direct me spiritually but not temporally, he lies in the presence of God.” Deseret News, April 25, 1895, see also same paper, December 6th, 1900. See, The Latter Day Saints, Kauffman, pp. 81f ; cf. Smoot Investigation, vol. 111, pp. 274-277

[4] Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, vol. I, p. 33. On the general subject of obedience to the priesthood, see George Q. Cannon, Contributor, vol. XXIX, p. 745 ; Smoot Investigation, vol. IV, p. 414; Gospel Doctrine, Josepli F. Smith, quoting Journal of Discourses, vol. XXIV, p. 187, 194

[5] Manual Mutual Improvement Association 1901-02, pp. 8182; 69th Annual Conference Report, pp. 5, 6, 7; 70th Annual Conference Report, p. 52; Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, Roberts, p. 368; Thatcher Mormonism and Masonry Chapter 9 Episode (B. Young Jr.) p. 14; Salt Lake Tribune, April 4, 1921; Smoot Investigation vol. IV, p. 81, 414, 416; 72nd Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 2; 75th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 5, and many other references; 68th Annual Conference Report, pp. 68, 69; Improvement Era, vol. IV, p. 230; vol. VI, p, 180; Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith, p. 45

[6] Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, vol. 1, p. 32; Thatcher Episode, p. 19, 35, compare pages 29-31; Smoot Investigation, Vol IV, pp. 78-81; vol. I, pp. 723, 1012 ; Supplement to Gospel Problems, Bennion, pp. 81-82

[7] Mt. Meadow Massacre, Gibbs, p. 5; 80th Semi-Annual Conference Report, pp. 103-104, 124, 125; Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith, p. 223; Smoot Investigation, vol. III, pp. 274, 275, 276-277

[8] 70th Annual Conference Report, p. 12; 72nd Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 2; 75th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 5; 69th Annual Conference Report, p. 17; Cf. Deseret News, Oct. 4, 1896 ; Journal of Discourses, vol. XXIV, pp. 187-194, quoted in Gospel Doctrine, p. 56; 83rd Annual Conference Report, p. 37

[9] Smoot Investigation, vol. IV, p. 348 ; 70th Annual Conference Report, p. 13; 68th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 71; Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, vol. 1, pp. 32, 33; Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 59; vol. 5, p. 100, 187; vol. VI, p. 345; An Epistle to the Presidents, etc. John Taylor, 1882, pp. 7, 8, 9, 10; Inside of Mormonism, McMillan, p. 67; Doctrine and Covenants, Section 12-1; Deseret News, April 25, 1895: Logan Journal, May 26, 1898; Improvement Era, vol. VIII, pp. 620, 623. Said President Wilford Woodruff: “I prophesy in the name of Israel’s God the day has come when the mouths of Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith and these twelve Apostles should not be closed because of the opinions of the children of men. There have been feelings that these men...... should say nothing about politics... My mouth shall not be closed upon these principles. I know it is the duty of the Latter Day Saints to unite together in your local affairs, the election of your city councils, the election of men to act for you in the affairs of state And this idea of a person being afraid of somebody because he is a Democrat or a Republican, it is all wrong. I feel like saying to you, as the President of this Church, and do state, that it is your duty to unite together and appoint good men to act in every capacity for the public welfare.” 68th Semi-Annual Conference Report, p. 71


Feel free to take advantage of the free subscription to this page so that you will get an email notification when something is posted herein—see subscribe link above, next to my name…or just CTRL+F and search for “subscribe.”

Find us on:

Main (repository) homepage





Related Videos: