Skip to comments.Mormon connection to Masons explored ahead of 'Da Vinci Code' sequel
Posted on 01/20/2006 10:28:11 AM PST by TFFKAMM
Dan Brown clearly enjoys playing with legends, history, symbols and secrets. And readers' minds. In his best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, Brown wove all these - real and imagined - into a breathless mystery about Christianity, Mary Magdalene and the Divine Feminine that has spawned an industry of de-coders eager to separate fact from fiction.
Now that he has turned his attention to the mysteries of Freemasonry, the centuries-old fraternal order, the new book also might deal with Mormonism.
But rather than announce the Da Vinci sequel in a news release, Brown embedded tantalizing clues to its subject on the book's jacket. Written in typeface that is slightly larger and bolder than the rest (it requires a magnifying glass to find them all) are the words: is there no help for the widows son.
"O Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" was used historically as a Masonic distress call, but when journalist David Shugarts plugged it into Google, the first hit was a 1974 speech given by an LDS Institute of Religion teacher, Reed C. Durham, at the University of Utah.
Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reportedly began to utter the call as he fell from a second story window after being fatally shot by a mob in a Carthage, Ill., jail in 1844, Durham said.
In an electrifying presidential address to the Mormon History Association meeting in Nauvoo, Ill., he traced close parallels between Smith's account of digging gold plates out of a New York hillside and Masonic tales of Enoch and buried treasure. Smith wore a "Jupiter talisman," or what his wife called "his Masonic jewel," and LDS temple ceremonies bear a striking resemblance to Masonic rituals, he said.
| The Winding Staircase, like all Masonic symbols, is illustrative of discipline and doctrine, and opens to us a wide field of moral and speculative inquiry.
(Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)
speech was so controversial that Durham's superiors in the LDS Educational System forced him to issue a public apology.
The speech was never published but was surreptitiously taped and has floated around on the Internet for years.
It may have also caught Brown's attention, Shugarts speculates, and may provide one plot twist in Brown's next book, tentatively titled The Solomon Key. Brown confirmed in a speech last year that the book's mystery will be set in Washington, D.C., where many architectural features were drawn from Masonry, and will feature the same lead character, Harvard-professor-turned-detective Robert Langdom.
Getting a jump on the novel's historical context, Shugarts has written Secrets of the Widow's Son: The Mysteries Surrounding the Sequel to The Da Vinci Code.
He provides a broad history of Mormonism, including its brush with Masonry in the 19th century. It also offers nuggets about Masonic history such as these: At least eight signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons, as were 13 U.S. presidents including George Washington. A Freemason released Paul Revere from British custody on the night of his famous ride, after he determined that Revere was a Mason. Mozart's "Magic Flute" and Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King were written as Masonic allegories.
The Washington Monument and a similar monument on Bunker Hill in Boston, were not just coincidentally shaped like an Egyptian obelisks, but intentionally designed to honor Masonic allusions to ancient Egyptian mystical wisdom.
Much of the symbolism is mathematical, even geometrical, which could explain why the fraternity has attracted rationalists such as Voltaire, Goethe, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.
"We've heard from Masons
| One of the rooms in the Temple. The Salt Lake Masonic Temple was completed in 1927 and was built in 1 year, 3 months, and 22 days. The architect of the temple was Carl W. Scott and George W Welch.
(Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)
that they feel that [Brown is] going to do them justice," says Dan Burstein, who wrote the introduction to Shugarts' book. "He seems to be favorably disposed to thinking of Masons as an important historical underground movement, pushing the world towards democracy and enlightenment."
Today there are nearly 2 million Masons in the United States, with 2,250 members in 29 Utah lodges.
"We have a lot of Mormons who are Masons in this state, but we don't know exactly how many," says Ridgley Gilmour, Grand Master of Utah Masonic Lodge. "Anyone with a belief in God can petition to join but we don't ask what religion they are."
Gilmour was adamant the Masonry is not a "secret society," but a fraternal order with large-scale charitable giving built on deeply held American values of family, God and country.
"The only secrets we have are little signs and passwords which we use because it's an ancient custom, and, frankly, it's fun,'' Gilmour says.
It remains to be seen how much Mormon history will feature in the novel, (Brown's wife reportedly was raised in the LDS Church) but if the reaction to Durham's 1974 speech is any indication, any link between the two could be controversial in Utah.
For his part, Nicholas S. Literski, an active Mormon and Mason living in Nauvoo, thinks Latter-day Saints misunderstand the similarities. But they are significant.
"Everybody wants to obsess over supposed similarities in ritual," he says. "But that's just one aspect. Everything about Joseph and his family was tied into Masonic legends."
The Mormon connection: Smith's father, Joseph Smith Sr. joined a Masonic lodge when the family moved to Palmyra,
N.Y., in 1816. Later, Smith's brother Hyrum also joined. From them, Smith heard the story of a lost sacred word that was engraved upon a triangular plate of pure gold. The word was the name of God.
It makes sense that he would go searching for such treasure in the large American Indian burial mounds near his home, says Literski, author of the forthcoming book, Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration.
And when Smith reported finding an ancient record written on plates of gold, he used "distinctively Masonic language to describe the experience," Literski says.
The church, which claimed to restore ancient truths of Christianity lost through the ages, attracted many members of the Masonic fraternity who traced their own roots back centuries and had similar esoteric teachings.
By the 1840s, many Mormon leaders in Nauvoo, including Smith and apostles Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, became Masons and organized a lodge there under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. It wasn't long before nearly every male member of the church in the area had joined. At the same time, Smith introduced LDS temple rituals that included secret handshakes, signs and symbols like the all-seeing eye, the compass and square (tools of the mason's trade) and the sun, moon and stars that echoed Masonry.
Soon, though, other Masons felt that the Mormons were dominating the fraternity. In 1842, the Nauvoo Lodge was suspended. Many Mormons believed that Masons contributed to the murder of their prophet.
Antagonisms built up between the two groups. In Utah in 1860, Masonic lodges were established but they prohibited Mormons from joining. At the same time, Young forbade Mormons from joining and refused to allow any Mason to hold
priesthood leadership positions in the church, Literski says.
It wasn't until 1984 that LDS President Spencer W. Kimball removed the prohibition against Latter-day Saints becoming Freemasons. Later that year, the Grand Lodge of Utah removed its own ban on Mormon membership so that, in the ensuing years, many Latter-day Saint men have returned to this part of their heritage.
In the novelist's mind: Shugarts says it was not his intention to be a plot spoiler for Brown's sequel. He couldn't do that if he wanted. But he did offer a primer on Masonry and Mormonism for those who will want to explore, as they did with Da Vinci, just how much of what Brown writes is really history.
"I had to push out in every direction possible," Shugarts said in a phone interview from his Connecticut home. "I read five books about Mormon history and thousands of Internet Web sites. I tried to be thorough and fair."
Though he only dedicated four or five pages to Mormons in a 200-page book, he's already heard from unhappy Latter-day Saints who accuse him of misreading or a biased approach to LDS history, a charge he rejects.
"Prior to embarking on my research, I had no particular opinion of Joseph Smith or the details of the founding of the [LDS ]Church," he wrote to one critic. "But I had met a few Mormons and they always impressed me as fine people. After delving into the story of Joseph Smith, I understood a lot more about LDS. I remain impressed that Mormons are fine people."
It will be interesting to see if Brown sees them that way as well. Literski isn't worried.
"He'll weave a good conspiracy," Literski says, "but no matter how inventive Dan Brown gets in terms of the connection, he will fall short of just how deep
that story does go."
Even in Smith's day, there were Masons who believed the legends were historical truth and saw Freemasonry as a deeply spiritual, mystical quest. Other, more sophisticated members, discounted the old stories, wanting to refocus it along the lines of a charitable and benevolent institution.
The Smiths were about as far into mysticism as you can get, Literski says. "Joseph was rebuilding Solomon's temple with all the legendary baggage that came along with that."
Seeing the relationship between the two groups forces Mormons like Literski to revise his ideas about how God interacts with a prophet.
"You cannot understand what is going on in Joseph's mind unless you can know what he is seeing, hearing, feeling and touching," he says. "That gives me a stronger position of faith than would this idea that revelation is ex nihilo. Joseph was not a puppet."
Contact Peggy Fletcher Stack at email@example.com or 801-257-8725. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quick - hand that man some more rope. Any revisionist with any credibility will soon remove it by his own device.
The Da Vinci Code = A cult of HUMANISM
its a dad-blamed novel strictly for entertainment. Conservative friends and relatives have read it and dont see demons or ghouls or anyone trying to rewriter christianity in any of it.
too many people need to take a break already.
No bashing intended here. I like and respect the LDSers, even though I'm not one of them. The article was posted mainly because of the interesting things brought up in the research (i.e., the Smith family's involvement in Freemasonry).
Oh, so you didn't know people actually converse around the fiction like it is real?
They do and I've heard them do it.
I do wish the more idiotic people who stop taking it seriously.
Right. My God, it says on the cover it's a NOVEL.
Why is it that liberals are so excited about conspiracies?
People discuss the darn thing like it's real.
It gets to be a real humanism undertaking when taken seriously as some do.
Yea, let the Mason bashing begin too.
It's furious here on FR.
Remembering the Mountain Meadows Massacre http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/mass/mtn_meadows/
First page of the DaVinci Code says something to the effect that the historical and other references within the book are a matter of fact. I'm paraphrasing, but that's essential what it says. Dan Brown is an idiot.
ping for later
He's laughing all the way to the bank.
It is bad enough that it is splashed everywhere.
Being it is confusing for some regarding faith, I do think it isn't good.
There are quite a few idiots who take this as some real scientific discovery.
I should also mention that I'm a Freemason, and am very much interested in this sort of thing. And yes -- the ignorant Craft-bashing here gets very annoying.
There are idiots everywhere. Some of them advocate intelligent design as science as well.
There is a connection.
I am a Mormon and my mom used Mason jars to can the produce from our garden.
I AGREE that it is, that it's the product of those engaged in the cult of HUMANISM...
No, The Da Vinci Code = A Work Of Fiction Passed Off As Nothing More.
Fiction isn't, afterall, also a product of humanism, just not in the same tense of HUMANISM the false religiosity that is otherwise paganism. On the other hand, THE DA VINCI CODE postulates ("fiction") as to alter, counter theology using names, themes, concepts from Judao-Christianity. This is one case where fiction is a pretense, given that what's fiction to some of us is also profanity. I think the writers understand their paganism, by the way, which implies an intention to mislead.
Fiction as genre does not excuse nor provide special permission to engage in false doctrine -- a pretense to represent that which is not represented -- at least without some clear denouncement of consequences by whatever special permission is assumed. I've heard the two authors involved with THE DA VINCI CODE speak and from what they readily and eagerly admit, they're involved in "religious" perceptions, one of them pretty much describes accuarately what I would describe as "channeling" which is a satanic practice denounced by the Bible.
Why is this always being brought up?
The guy that did that was arrested by a Mormaon Sheriff, Appeared before a Mormon Judge and Jury. Was convicted by the Mormon Jury, and went to prison. What more could you ask?
The Extermination Order, which called for the extermination of all Mormons in Missouri, issued by Governor Boggs, who was the Governor of Missouri, and who was killed in this massacre, was repealed only about 10 years ago.
Nobody was ever prosecuted for all the Mormons killed in Missouri, and Illinois.
We haven't ask that they be, they all have been dead for a hundred years.
Get over it.
I have a personal connection too.
I have mason jars in my basement.
What is to be done?
That's exactly what I would expect them to say!
The people talking about it like a real part of religious history are practicing humanism.
Happens to be there are some taking this foolishness seriously.
Having a connection is OK if you are willing to acknowledge it, and disclose it.
you obviously werent here for the mormon wars some years back on FR - there was a period where nothing mormon could be mentioned - be it an apologist, or someone critical. A good many people got banned - some nice - some rude....It is largely neutral now - so please leave your victimhood as a persecuted tribe of Levi at the door
Ive pinged the relig mod so he can address your concern of continued persecution and a fellow LDS'er who can also attest to this
I will disclose all.
I am not a Mormon.
I am not a Mason.
I have a kooky uncle who thinks that Freemasons secretly rule this country. And he has mason jars too!
I don't keep the novel on my person, but I know its there. You can look it up for yourself, and if you consider the Catholic Church a bunch of nuts, then we'll just pencil you in as better than the rest of us Christians. We're a bit uptight about something he tries very hard to represent as fact which just happens to pull into question the very center of the Christian faith. He asks us to take these assertions of history as fact, and he draws conclusions that have no such basis.
He may be going straight to the bank, but according to the tenets of my religion, he is leading people away from God, and that's certainly his decision. I personally believe our decisions sometimes have consequences that we aren't completely aware of at the time we make those decisions.
I think the addition of that prefacing leaf asserting that the matters of history were factual might be one of them. I'll let you know when I'm dead.
From my point of view, he's an idiot.
Hah, I never thought of that. This thread could get interesting.
If you are interested in facts, no bashing, check out http://www.mazeministry.com/
"I am a Mormon and my mom used Mason jars to can the produce from our garden."
There you have it, then. My mom used them, too. She wasn't a Mormon, but it's clear she was subverted by them.
Seriously, the Mason jar connection has about as much truth in it as the other nonsense, which is absolutely none.
Ever read "Holy Blood, Holy Grail"?
Past Master here...
Tell us all the truths (secrets).
My Grandfather and his father were both FM. My question is, why I was never introduced to this society as a youth? Yes, I was interested.
My whole family are Masons.
i read the Grail Bloodline... same topic i think
Yes, agree completely.
I don't think Boggs was in the Fancher party--he died in San Francisco many years later. I would have preferred he got his "justice" via bullets, but he did not.
Go figure... the man savagely rapes the Catholic Church, and turns out to be Masonic.
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