Mormons, Masonry & The Morgan Affair

W.Bro. K. H. Montgomery, Norwood 90, A.F.& A.M, G.R.A

The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), or the Mormons are a religious organization which everyone knows or at least has heard of, Not everyone however is aware of the special relationship which the Mormons and the Masonic Order have.

The purpose of this paper is not to judge or condemn the Mormon faith but rather to examine the origins of this religion and reveal its ties to Masonry.

The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. Smith was born in the state of Vermont in the United States in 1805. His family later moved to Palmyra, New York and subsequently settled in nearby Manchester in 1815.

The basic belief of the Mormon Church is that Joseph Smith received direct contact from the angel Moroni and others sent by God. He was communicated information which resulted in him being able to write the newest testament of the Bible which Mormons refer to as the "Book of Mormon". Smith began his church in 1830 and proscribed certain teachings of faith which his followers then and still practice.

Joseph Smith is said to have had his first direct contact from God in 1820 when he was fifteen years old. His second contact came in 1823 which is the first year William Morgan was known to have appeared in Batavia, New York.

For those who don't know, William Morgan is the person who was responsible for creating what is now known as the Morgan affair. MORGAN alleged he was a member of the craft and subsequently became a member of the Royal Arch. Morgan turned against the craft and in 1826 published an alleged expose of the Masonic order in New York, N.Y. On September 11 of the same year Morgan was arrested for petty theft. The next day he was released and was escorted against his will by several men to Fort Niagara in the Canadian frontier. He was held until September 19 and from here he disappears. Some say "the Masons got him", others say he travelled off and settled on a far away island never to be heard of again. What really happened, no one knows,"but the results of his disappearance and it's effect on the craft were enormous.

An anti-Mason crusade arose to such an extent that by August 1828 an Anti-Masonic political party was created. This party had candidates entered in the 1832 and 1836 presidential elections and the effect on Masonry was disastrous. In 1827 for example, the Grand Lodge of New York had 227 Lodges represented. By 1835 there was only 41. The craft in Upper Canada was effected as well.

Joseph Smith was no doubt aware of the anti-Masonic movement that had swept the continent and at this stage of his life one wonders what affect this had on him. It is known that in 1826, or the first year MORGAN surfaced, Joseph Smith was heavily involved in the occult sciences and he was nearly arrested for that activity. We also know that he hadn't officially resolved to start his own church as in 1827 he unsuccessfully tried to join the Methodist Church. Whatever his thoughts, it was only three years lat er that Joseph Smith created the church of Latter Day Saints ... the Mormons.

We can probably assume that Joseph Smith perceived the Masons to be a very powerful organization who had the capability of severely dealing with those who were perceived to be enemies. This would not be unreasonable as this is what almost everyone else thought.

The Mormon Church grew quickly and it was not long before they decided to move west. A first stop was in the state of Missouri and the group soon after settled in what is now Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith is noted to have been supported by his older brother, Hyrum Smith who not only was a convert to the new religion but was one who was or shortly after became a member of the craft. Having the first name Hyrum one wonders if the family had previous Masonic affiliations.

On February 1, 1841 the Mormons organized what they called the Nauvoo Legion which consisted of six companies which were led by Lieutenant General Joseph Smith Jr. The Legion numbered almost five thousand men and its function was to yield obedience to the institutions of the United States AND to protect the saints (the Mormons) from mobs. The Legion was to be used by the Mayor of Nauvoo and could have been called out by the governor of the state of Illinois.

This force of men would have been intimidating to non-Mormons to say the least. It is interesting to note that on May 18, 1842, John C. BENNETT resigned the mayorship of Nauvoo and Joseph Smith himself was elected to that position.

This is where it gets interesting, On the 15 October 1841 the new Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, Abraham Jonas, issued a dispensation to form a lodge at Nauvoo. The founders of this new lodge, all Mormons, included Hyrum Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Newel K. Whitney and Elijah Fordham.

On March 15, 1842 Joseph Smith Jr. received his first degree; the other two degrees came quickly thereafter. It was not long either before certain irregularities were reported; for example, in five months the lodge initiated 256 candidates and 243 were raised. Complaints were received by the Grand Master; an investigation was ordered and in due course the dispensation was revoked. Despite this the lodge continued to work.

While this was going on one has to know that the Masonic Order wasn't the only organized body which was becoming concerned at what was happening. Joseph Smith had also introduced polygamy and it is said that he had between 27 to 84 wives. The non-Mormon community as well as the state and federal governments were becoming very concerned that this organization was becoming too strong and uncontrollable.

1844 proved to be the year where everything came to a head. Masonry was on the rebound but it was not a good year for Joseph Smith. On January 29 Joseph Smith Jr. was nominated a candidate for the office of President of the United States. On Sunday, February 25 Joseph Smith prophesied that within five years, the saints (the Mormons) would be out of the power of their enemies. On April 5 a clandestine Masonic Temple which had been erected in Nauvoo was dedicated. Prominent Masons from all over the United States were invited to the ceremony and records show that at least one Mason was disciplined for attending this clandestine function. On June 7 the first issue of the local anti-Mormon newspaper, the Expositor, was published. On June 10 the paper and other effects of the Expositor were destroyed. Joseph Smith was arrested for the destruction of that newspaper, was tried in municipal court in Nauvoo and was acquitted. On June 18 the Prophet Joseph Smith de livered his fist public sermon.

To some, the Mormons had gone too far. The Mormons were searching for new locations to settle and were looking to expand. Pressure from the U.S. Government and others resulted in the Nauvoo Legion surrendering their arms to the state of Illinois on June 24, 1844. On June 25 Joseph and Hyrum Smith were arrested and imprisoned at Carthage, Illinois. Two days later they were murdered by an angry mob. Both are considered martyrs to the Mormon church.

To what extent the Masonic Order or members of the craft had in these events is not known nor has any direct involvement ever been proven. It is however known, although not by many outside the Mormon Church, that the Masonic Order has and still plays a major role insofar as the teachings and practices of the Mormon faith apply.

The Mormon Church is structured in levels much like Masonry or its concordant bodies. A Mormon Church and a Mormon Temple are two distinct and separate avenues of worship. All Mormons can go to a Mormon church but not all Mormons can go to a Mormon Temple.

Entry to a Temple is only allowed to those who have what is called a "temple recommend" or a card which allows admittance. Same is renewable every year and is very carefully issued.

At a certain age Mormons may enter what is called the Aaronic Priesthood. From here they may proceed to the next level which is referred to as the Melchizedek Priesthood. Initiates to either one of these levels must undertake oaths and go through a ritualistic ceremony. One part of the ceremony is that called "The Five Points of Fellowship". This is done as follows; "The Five Points of Fellowship are; inside of right foot by the side of right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear. The patron and the veil worker both reach their left arms through the appropriate mark in the veil while holding right hands in the Patriarchal Grip and embrace each other, maintaining strong contact at all the points indicated with the Veil separating them, while the Veil worker gives the name of the token and the Patron repeats it back verbatim. The name of the token is; Health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the priesthood be upon me and upon my posterity through all generations of time and throughout eternity."

The Mormons also have four tokens or handclasps which are as follows;

  1. The First Token Of The Aaronic Priesthood: is given by clasping the right hands together and by placing the joint of the thumb over the first knuckle of the hand.
  2. The Second Token of The Aaronic Priesthood: is given by clasping the right hands and placing the joint of the thumb between the first and second knuckles of the hand.
  3. The First Token of The Melchizedek Priesthood or sign of the Nail: is received by bringing the right hand forward in a vertical position, fingers close together, thumb extended, and the person giving the token placing the tip of the forefinger in the centre of the palm with the thumb on the back of the hand. The name of the token is "The Son",
  4. The Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal Grip, or Sure Sign of the Nail: is given by clasping right hands and interlocking little fingers, and placing the index finger on the centre of the wrist. The name is health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the Priesthood be upon me and upon my posterity through all generations of time and throughout all eternity.
They Also have 'Four Signs and Three Penalties"; which are:
  1. The Sign and Penalty of the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood: is made by bringing up the right arm to the square (with the upper arm horizontal and the forearm vertical), the palm of the hand forward, the fingers close together, and the thumb extended. The penalty is executed by placing the right thumb under the ear, palm down, fingers close together. The thumb is drawn quickly across the throat to the right ear and the hand dropped to the side. This signifies having the participants throat slit from ear to ear and the tongue torn out by its roots.
  2. The Sign and Penalty of the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood: is made by bringing the right hand in front of you, the hand in cupping shape, the right arm forming a square, and raising the left arm to the square. The penalty is executed by placing the right hand on the left breast, and drawing the hand quickly across the chest, then dropping both hands to the sides. This signifies having one's chest ripped open and the heart and vitals torn out and fed to the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air.
  3. The Sign and Penalty of the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood: Is made by bringing the left hand forward, the hand in cupping shape, the left arm forming a square. The right hand is brought forward, the palm down, fingers close together, and the thumb extended. The thumb is placed over the left hip. The penalty is executed by drawing the thumb quickly across the body and dropping both to the sides. This signifies having the participants body cut asunder and the bowels gushing out upon the ground.
  4. The Sign of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood: (for which no penalty is mentioned) Is made by raising both hands high above the head, palms forward, fingers close together, and lowering the hands to the side three times while repeating aloud the words "PAY LAY ALE, PAY LAY ALE, PAY LAY ALE," Patrons are told this means "Oh God, hear the words of my mouth" in the Aramaic language.

Suffice it to say that some members of the group will dress in garb similar to that worn by the priests who attended King Solomon's Temple and others wear various styles of aprons. King Solomon's Temple actually plays a very important role in the Mormon church.

Mormon Temples are also interesting as cornerstones are very important and decorative trim usually consists of the blazing Sun insignia and other well known Masonic symbols.

The Mormon Church has been accused of plagiarizing from the Masons before and their official Church response is that Joseph Smith received the signs, tokens etc. from divine sources and their origins come from King Solomon's Temple and NOT Masonry. The writer would find this easier to accept had not Joseph Smith and his followers been so influenced by the craft.

A question also arises; Were the penalties taken serious by devout Mormons?, It can not be said for sure, but it is a fact that a Mormon branch existed who were called the "Danites"; a group of men who, with the tacit if not express approval of Joseph Smith, terrorized and killed enemies of the Church. This group was disbanded when public attention was gained, but seem to have reformed after the church moved to Utah. It is believed the group no longer exist.

Also of interest was; What did the Masonic Order think of the Mason/Mormon connection?, One clue is found in the Encyclopedia of Masonry by Albert Mackey and Charles T. McClenachan, first copyrighted in 1830. The only reference to the Mormons or to Joseph Smith that the writer could find was that listed under, "Book of Mormon" where it stated "This sacred book of the Mormons was first published in 1830 by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have translated it from gold plates which he found under divine guidance and secreted in a stone box. The number of Mormons is estimated at about 150,000 in the United States and 50,000 in other countries. The seat of their Church is at Salt Lake, Utah."

Considering that Mackey was a very knowledgeable person who was abreast of Masonic affairs, I would think he had to be aware of the lodge dispensation that was issued, the problems that arose and the other circumstances which existed. The fact that there is so little mention may indicate that the whole matter was an embarrassment to the craft which was better left alone.

What effect did the Morgan affair have on Joseph Smith, What effect did Masonry have on Joseph Smith, ... Brethren, I leave that to you.

Many have asked, "Is Masonry a religion?, the answer of course is "NO", but it appears that in one case it has been used as a model.


  1. LDS (Latter Day Saints) Reference Encyclopedia by Melvin R. Brooks
  2. The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction by Alphonse Cerza
  3. Mormonism, Magic & Masonry by Jerald and Sandra Tanner
  4. Whence Come We? by the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario
  5. Encyclopedia of Masonry by Albert Mackey and Charles McClenachan
  6. What's Going On In There? by Chuck Sackett