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Freemasonry and the Origins of
Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances

By Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Published by The Interpreter Foundation
in cooperation with Eborn Books

Over 150 color photographs and figures

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Eborn Books


Reviews of Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances

Related Review

This is an elegant and elevating publication. It offers lots of information, answers many questions, and leaves much to ponder.

— John W. Welch, Professor of Law Emeritus, Brigham Young University

The topic of this book has been of interest to me for decades. Over the years, many researchers have asked me about similarities between the endowment introduced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Freemasonry, often pointing out similarities to me. I explain that Joseph adopted and adapted, the then-popular pedagogical system of Freemasonry to teach eternal principles and that therefore they should look for the differences between the endowment and Masonic rituals if they want to find the essence of what the Lord revealed to Joseph.

What I have enjoyed about Jeff’s work over the years is that, unlike many students of this topic, he has not confused form and substance. His work has tracked the substance of the endowment ceremony to ancient sources and shown that the Lord revealed much of it to Joseph before he reached Nauvoo and joined a Masonic lodge established there. I trust that reading this book will heighten your intellectual comprehension and deepen your spiritual understanding.

— Richard E. Turley, Jr., former Assistant Church Historian

From the all-seeing eye on the Salt Lake temple to the turbaned angel and compass and square on the Nauvoo temple’s weathervane, and from ritualized hosanna shouts to traversing the veil, Latter-day Saint temples share elements in common with Freemasonry. Why? And how does this square with modern temple worship as a restoration of ancient temple practices? Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s closely argued and beautifully illustrated Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances illuminates these mysteries, beginning with a concise history and appreciative explanation of Freemasonry.

With intellectual rigor and spiritual insight, the author compares Latter-day Saint temple worship both to the modern Masonry amidst which it emerged and to the ancient Near-Eastern and early Christian rituals it restores. He presents Joseph Smith’s revelation of ancient temple ritual and his encounters with Freemasonry not as competing accounts of the origin of Latter-day Saint temple worship but as aspects of one and the same divinely guided process. I can’t imagine anyone coming away from this book without deeper insight into the origin and meaning of temple worship.

— Don Bradley, historian, author The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Missing Stories

While Freemasonry certainly isn’t a necessary prerequisite to understanding the doctrines learned within the Holy Temple, my membership as a Mason has given me a quicker comprehension of the magnificence of eternal principles. I am grateful for the blessings of the Temple and for the knowledge that those fundamentals I learned years ago have an even more significant impact when viewed with an eternal perspective.

— From the Foreword by William S. Kranz, longtime Freemason

Though many previous histories of Freemasonry in the early days of the Church have appeared over the decades, my interest is much narrower: how Freemasonry relates to the origins of the Latter-day Saint temple ordinances. That seems to be the central question about Freemasonry for most Church members, but it has never received a thorough and systematic treatment.

As is well known, there are elements of the Nauvoo temple ordinances—for example, some of the signs and tokens and related language—that are almost identical in form to those used in Masonic rites. Since modern Freemasonry is largely an 18th century creation, similarities like these seem to undermine Joseph Smith’s claims that the temple ordinances are ancient, going back to the foundation of the world.

In this book, I discuss why divine revelation and Joseph Smith’s participation in Freemasonry are not competing explanations for the origins of temple ordinances. Rather they are, along with other important elements such as the revelations he received during his Bible translation project, complementary parts of the same interwoven process. On the one hand, the Prophet’s awareness of temple- and priesthood-related matters spurred his interest in learning more about certain aspects of the Bible and Freemasonry and his encounters with Freemasonry and the Bible served as a catalyst to prayerful inquiries about temple-related topics. The full suite of temple ordinances first shared with the Saints in Nauvoo constitute the answers that came to those prayers.

It is striking that whatever elements Joseph Smith may have borrowed from Freemasonry, he seems to have used his prophetic gifts to bring them closer in line with ancient precedents. There is relatively little in the ordinances that does not have a plausible counterpart in antiquity. And more will surely be found as time goes on.

The second half of the book provides a detailed comparative analysis. What is new here is the attempt to look systematically at each of the elements of the temple ordinances one-by-one in light of precedents in the Bible, ancient sources, and Freemasonry. In contrast to exposés of the temple ordinances and Freemasonry, I avoid direct discussion of confidential aspects of the rituals themselves. My hope is that presenting the temple ordinances in the context of the Bible and ancient traditions—and with an eye to relevant perspectives from Freemasonry—will make the comparisons more rich and meaningful.


Table of Contents

Introduction to Freemasonry

1. Roots and Branches of Freemasonry

2. The Lodge Among the Latter-day Saints

The Restoration of Temple Ordinances

3. A Temple Tutorial in the Early Ministry of Joseph Smith

4. Bounded Flexibility in Adjustments to Temple Ordinances

Comparing Rites

5. Something Old, Something New

6. General Comparisons

7. Initiatory Ordinances

8. Ritual Gestures and Language Patterns

9. Endowment

10. Traversing the Veil

11. Sealing

12. The Fulness of the Priesthood

13. Nauvoo Temple Architecture, Layout, and Furnishings

14. The Two Crowning Adornments of the Nauvoo Temple

15. A Review of Comparisons and Their Implications

About the Author

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (PhD, Cognitive Science, University of Washington) is a Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola, Florida (; His professional writings have explored a wide range of topics in human and machine intelligence ( Jeff has been the recipient of several awards and patents and has been an adviser for initiatives in science, defense, space, industry, and academia worldwide. Jeff has written detailed commentaries on the Book of Moses and Genesis 1–11 and on temple themes in the scriptures. For Church-related publications, see Jeff was a missionary in France and Belgium from 1975–1977, and his family has returned twice to live in France. He and his wife, Kathleen, are the parents of four children and fourteen grandchildren. From July 2016-September 2019, Jeff and Kathleen served missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission office and the DR Congo Kinshasa Temple. They currently live in Nampa, Idaho.

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