I have been an active member since I was seventeen. My father was a Mason. I have been told that the Masonic Lodge is the apostate priesthood. Is this true? Is there any documentation concerning why the Prophet Joseph felt a need to be a member of this Lodge and what connection there may be with it’s symbols and our Temples? My father told me that it was the Masons who killed Joseph because he had revealed their secrets. Is this true? I have always been bothered by this. I love and believe in the restored Church with all my heart and desire, with all my heart, peace concerning these questions.
Thank you very much.
So many stories circulate about so many things! The Masonic Lodge (Masons) is not a priesthood; it is a brotherhood. So it is no way an apostate priesthood.
Both Joseph and Hyrum Smith were Master Masons. John A. Widtsoe reports that the Prophet joined the Masons to promote goodwill towards his people. The Prophet’s history shows that he was extremely busy at this time with a multitude of Church problems. Lodge matters would have to be left in other hands. Daniel Ludlow recorded that
Joseph Smith participated minimally in Freemasonry and, as far as is known, attended the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge on only three occasions. Nonetheless, LDS Masons commented on his mastery of its orders, tenets, and principles and of his understanding of the allegorical symbolism of its instructions (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p.527).
We also learn from Ludlow’s article that “eventually nearly 1,500 LDS men became associated with Illinois Freemasonry, including many members of the Church’s governing priesthood bodies–this at a time when the total number of non-LDS Masons in Illinois lodges barely reached 150.”
We cannot imagine that the Prophet would not have been true to any commitments required of him as a Mason. To have revealed the secrets of the Mason Lodge is completely out of character for him. The reason for his martyrdom was the result of a long and well publicized opposition to the entire Mormon movement at that time, rather than to the supposed feelings of the 150 non-Mormon Masons in the state.
Concerning your question regarding symbols, the world is full of symbols and similarities between symbols used in different organizations and for different purposes are found everywhere. The authority to establish the Nauvoo chapter of the Masonic Lodge was not granted until March 15, 1842. It was at this time that Joseph became a member. The Mormon temple ordinances had been revealed to the Prophet long before this date, so it is obvious that there is no connection in the symbolism between the two organizations.