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HomePersonalGospel Q&A: What Connection Is There Between the Temple Endowment and Masonic Ceremonies?

Gospel Q&A: What Connection Is There Between the Temple Endowment and Masonic Ceremonies?

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Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “What connection is there between the temple endowment and masonic ceremonies?”

Do you have a question you’d like to see answered? Send us an email at or leave it in the comments below.

With respect to both ceremonies, I will not delineate specific details of either Masonic ceremonies or Latter-day Saint Temple endowments. In more general terms, however, I will discuss how there are some connections between the two.

The earliest Masonic documents date back to the 1400s. Masonic orders started out exclusively as guilds of stonemasons but eventually, others infiltrated the ranks and turned them into fraternities promoting the betterment of mankind. Originally, though, “Masons told a story about how their ancient forebears had learned stonemasonry, used it to build Solomon’s temple, protected the temple site, and held knowledge about their craft as a closely guarded secret.”

In the United States, a number of prominent founders and politicians were part of Masonic fraternities including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Paul Revere.

Joseph Smith and a few other prominent early leaders in the Church became Freemasons when a chapter was formed in Nauvoo in December 1841. On May 3, 1842, Joseph Smith organized a small group of men to prepare them to receive their endowments. The next day, Joseph Smith administered endowment ordinances to nine men, all of whom were Masons at the time.

The Church freely admits in these resources that there are similarities between the practices of the Freemasons and the endowment. The men who experienced both the Masonic rituals and the temple endowment, however, did not feel that the endowment was a copycat of the Masonic rituals. “Willard Richards, writing Joseph Smith’s history, taught that the introduction of the endowment in Nauvoo was ‘governed by the principle of Revelation.’”

Heber C. Kimball agreed. In a letter he wrote to fellow Apostle Parley P. Pratt then on a mission in England, he said “We have received some precious things through the Prophet on the priesthood.”

“He told Pratt that Joseph believed Masonry was ‘taken from priesthood but has become degenerated.’”

In other words, Joseph believed the Masons had some truth, but that over centuries, some of it had been lost. Much the same could be said for a variety of faith and cultural traditions. Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley found similarities between the endowment and ancient Egyptian customs (among others). He said:

“Did Joseph Smith reinvent the temple by putting all the fragments—Jewish, Orthodox, Masonic, Gnostic, Hindu, Egyptian, and so forth—together again? No, that is not how it is done. Very few of the fragments were available in his day, and the job of putting them together was begun, as we have seen, only in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Even when they are available, those poor fragments do not come together of themselves to make a whole; to this day the scholars who collect them do not know what to make of them. The temple is not to be derived from them, but the other way around. … That anything of such fulness, consistency, ingenuity, and perfection could have been brought forth at a single time and place—overnight, as it were—is quite adequate proof of a special dispensation” (emphasis added).

Eternal truths and ordinances restored to the earth after a great apostasy are likely to have been cut with other beliefs and influences during the interim years of apostasy. This is reasonable, logical, and expected.

“Some critics of Mormonism see similarities between the rites of Freemasonry and LDS temple ceremonies and assume that since Joseph Smith was initiated as a Freemason shortly before he introduced the Nauvoo-style endowment he must have plagiarized elements of the Masonic rituals. This viewpoint leads them, in turn, to conclude that the LDS endowment is nothing but a variant form of Masonic initiation and therefore not from a divine source,” an article from FAIR (Faithful Answers, Informed Respone) states.

Those who experienced both, however, believed that the endowment was of divine origin and sourced from revelation, not fraternal rituals.

Despite the similarities, the differences are notable and profound. Many of these are found in this video describing the purposes of each.


Among the differences are the purposes of each. Freemasonry’s purpose is self-improvement and the betterment of mankind. The endowment is for making covenants with God and preparing for Eternal Life. Freemasonry generally excluded women while Joseph Smith insisted that the endowment was essential for women. Ultimately, “the endowment did not simply imitate the rituals of Freemasonry. Rather, Joseph’s encounter with Masonry evidently served as a catalyst for revelation.”

This was a typical pattern of revelation for Joseph Smith as it remains today. Joseph received line upon line. He was led to one thought, one principle so that he could grow and develop into another. He was led to a powerful scripture in James which brought about the First Vision.

He came to the Lord seeking repentance and knowledge of his standing before Him when Moroni came to Joseph for the first time to teach him about the existence of the gold plates.

He was mourning the loss of a friend and had been recently reading 1 Corinthians 15 when he first taught the revelation of baptism for the dead.

As each of us studies what we know, we will receive more knowledge and more inspiration. It’s no wonder that Joseph was led to Freemasonry, learned some initial teachings there, and then was led to further revelation.

If we want to know for ourselves if the temple of the Lord and the ordinances we receive there are divinely inspired, let’s stop asking social media and go to the temple for ourselves.

We will learn line upon line and will not understand all of the Lord’s purposes in the endowment in one or several or even a number of years of visits to the temple, but we can know that the temple and the covenants we make there are a source of peace. If we are worthy and prepared to be in the Lord’s house, we will know His peace for ourselves. That peace cannot be replicated by the adversary. That peace only comes from the Lord.

If we don’t yet understand all we’d like to about the temple, let’s keep going, and trust that we, like Joseph Smith, will be enlightened and inspired line upon line. That growth and that peace are all we need.

Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.

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Rebecca Wright
Rebecca Wright
Becca loves audiobooks, dark chocolate, singing, hiking, walking,  going out with her husband, and raising their chickens and children. She still wants to meet her hero Sheri Dew, see flowing lava and a blue whale in person, and uplift others with her words.

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