Joseph Smith and Masonry

Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a Freemason. Freemasonry is a centuries-old, worldwide group of fraternal organizations.

While some of its teachings are kept confidential, it promotes loyalty and morality and invites its members to seek knowledge and opportunities to serve others.

The early 19th century saw a surge of Freemasonry in the United States. Elected officials such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other signers of the Declaration of Independence were known Freemasons. As many as 1,500 members of the Church in Nauvoo, Illinois, were also listed as Masons.

In the years before he became a Mason, Joseph Smith received revelations about specific promises, or covenants, to be made between Church members and God. These covenants are presented to Church members in their holy temples through a ceremony known as the endowment.

Some similarities have been raised between Masonic ceremonies and the endowment ceremony. Ancient parallels may exist between the two ceremonies, as well as some similarities in instructional style.

However, the purposes of the two ceremonies stand distinct. The Freemason ceremonies promote self-improvement, brotherhood, and charity as a means to create a better society.

The endowment ceremony focuses on obeying God’s laws and using the Atonement of Jesus Christ to gain eternal exaltation. The most important distinction is that the endowment ceremony is purely the result of divine inspiration.

Today members of the Church are free to explore Freemasonry or any other organization which encourages good citizenship and uplifts and improves its members.


Freemasonry, the teachings and practices of the secret fraternal (men-only) order of Free and Accepted Masons, the largest worldwide secret society. Spread by the advance of the British Empire, Freemasonry remains most popular in the British Isles and in other countries originally within the empire. Estimates of the worldwide membership of Freemasonry in the early 21st century ranged from about two million to more than six million.

Freemasonry: United Grand Lodge of England
Freemasonry: United Grand Lodge of England A gathering of Freemasons at Earls Court in London to celebrate the 275th anniversary of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England, 1992. Ruby/Alamy

Freemasonry evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. With the decline of cathedral building, some lodges of operative (working) masons began to accept honorary members to bolster their declining membership. From a few of these lodges developed modern symbolic or speculative Freemasonry, which particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries adopted the rites and trappings of ancient religious orders and of chivalric brotherhoods. In 1717 the first Grand Lodge, an association of lodges, was founded in England.

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