Articles/Essays – Volume 20, No. 4

The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony


Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.

Brigham Young (JD 2:31)

For faithful Latter-day Saints, the temple endowment ceremony is one of the most sacred and powerful ordinances received in mortality. One authoritative source called it the temporal stepping stone which all people must pass to achieve exaltation with God the Father and Jesus Christ (Gospel Essentials 1979, 247).

Since those who enter the temple agree, as part of the endowment experience, not to reveal certain key words or symbols that are part of the ceremony and since any discussion of the endowment takes place upon sacred ground, this essay will not discuss the theological significance, spiritual meanings, or symbolic dimensions of the endowment, important though they are in the Jives of Latter-day Saints.

Each Latter-day Saint who participates in the endowment has a uniquely personal experience which, because of the sacred nature of the temple, is seldom discussed or shared with another in any detail. Sometimes this experience is a positive, peaceful, and healing experience. Others, from time to time, may experience the temple less positively. Such personal responses lie outside the limitations of this paper, though I acknowledge that each person’s response to discussions of the temple is likely to be intense as a result. The temple also has a collective impact on the faithful members of the Church, which again, is seldom shared or discussed although its power is acknowledged.

However, the temple has maintained its central role in the lives of Latter-day Saints by being able to create a point of intersection between human desires for righteousness and the divine willingness to be bound by covenant. This point has remained constant, even though emphases in the Church have changed over time, also bringing change to the endowment ceremony itself. In this essay, I wish to enhance our understanding of the importance of the temple in the collective lives of the Saints by providing a history of the endowment: its introduction by Joseph Smith, its origins, changes made since its inception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the effect of modern technology on the ritual, and some possible directions for the future that seem to be indicated by current trends.

Some people may feel that any discussion whatsoever of the temple may be inappropriate. My understanding of the temple ceremony is that certain names, signs, tokens, and penalties are guarded by vows of secrecy. I respect these limitations both as a Latter-day Saint and as a historian. However, it is not my understanding that these prohibitions extend to other areas of the temple ceremony, even though such reticence has become the custom among Latter-day Saints in general. I do not wish to offend any who may have a more restricted view than I about what is appropriate to discuss in relationship to the temple and its ceremonies and have worked toward an effective balance of scholarly objectivity, reverence for this sacred institution, regard for the scruples of others, and adequate documentation and development of the points to be discussed.

In 1912, one year after the First Presidency assigned James E. Talmage to write a book on temples, the Church published The House of the Lord (Bergera, 1979, 60–61). In his chapter on temple ordinances, Talmage sum­marized the endowment’s content as follows:

The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.

Following this general overview, Talmage stated more specifically:

The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions (1912, 99–100).

I. The Formative Period: Kirtland, 1835–36

As early as October 1835, Joseph Smith told his apostles of an awaited “endowment” which would grant them “power from on high” (HC 2: 287; Jessee 1984, 61). It has become customary for manuals, teachers, and speakers to equate this “endowment” with the temple endowment itself as we currently practice it; however, it seems apparent from contemporary Kirtland sources that the members then considered this endowment to have come by the spiritual blessings of God manifested through visions, prophesying, speaking in tongues, and feeling the Holy Ghost during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. All of these spiritual gifts were conferred following the special temple ordinances associated with the dedication: washing, anointing, blessings, partaking of the sacrament, “sealing” (a group ceremony involving the Hosanna Shout), washing of the feet, etc., but not an endowment as we would currently define the term (HC 2: 380–83, 386-88, 392, 427–28, 430–33).[1]

This Kirtland pre-endowment ritual was a simple, staged ceremony clearly patterned after similar washings and anointings described in the Old and especially the New Testament (Lev. 8; Mark 6:13; Luke 4:18, 7:38, 44; John 13: 1-16; 1 Tim. 5: 10; James 5: 14). According to the History of the Church’s official account, the first part of this ritual was given on 21 January 1836 when the First Presidency “retired to the attic story of the printing office, where we attended the ordinance of washing our bodies in pure water. We also perfumed our bodies and our heads, in the name of the Lord.” After blessing and consecrating oil for this ceremony, the presidency laid their hands on each other’s heads, progressing from oldest to youngest, blessing and anointing each other to their offices. Following several days of performing anointings to other priesthood bearers, Joseph Smith, on 6 February 1836, assembled these people together to “receive the seal of all their blessings.” This sealing was performed as a group ceremony by Sidney Rigdon, after which the participants “were to shout with one accord a solemn hosanna to God and the Lamb, with an Amen, Amen and Amen” (2:379-82, 391-92; Jessee 1984, 145, 156).

A month and a half later at the temple dedication, Joseph gave instructions on the ordinance of washing of feet; two days later the presidency “proceeded to cleanse our faces and our feet, and then proceeded to wash one another’s feet.” Following this, all attendees “partook of the bread and wine.” Finally, these recipients also received the ordinance of washing of feet (HC 2: 410-28, 429-30; Jessee 1984, 145, 182). After administering these rites to about 300 male Church members, Joseph Smith declared that he “had now completed the organization of the Church, and we had passed through all the necessary ceremonies” (HC 2:430–33; Jessee 1984, 183–84).

II. Influence and Origins of the Nauvoo Experiment

Five years later in Nauvoo, on 19 January 1841, a new revelation (D&C 124:37–41) commanded the Saints to build “my most holy house . . . for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion” wherein may be performed “your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies” (D&C 124:39). Thus, the Saints who had been previously anointed in Kirtland learned that those rituals were a precursor to new ceremonies.

As in Kirtland, Joseph elected to administer the revised ritual to selected Church members prior to the completion of the temple. The first administration of the endowment as we know it came on 4 and 5 May 1842 in the upper story of Joseph Smith’s store in Nauvoo. Nine men—James Adams, Heber C. Kimball, William Law, William Marks, George Miller, Willard Richards, Hyrum Smith, Newel K. Whitney, and Brigham Young—were included in this ceremony, which was soon known for the first time as the endowment.[2] The endowed group was sometimes referred to as the “Holy Order,” the “Quorum,” the “Holy Order of the Holy Priesthood,” or the “Quorum of the Anointed” (Quinn 1978, 85).

The Nauvoo endowment ritual was a significant expansion from the simple washings and anointings received in Kirtland and included new theological instruction and ritual. According to the History of the Church, Joseph “instruct[ ed] them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days. . . . In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days” (5:1–2). Joseph and Hyrum Smith received their endowment the next day (HC 5:2–3).

Where did these ceremonies originate? The language of the account in the History of the Church clearly implies a divine origin with its references to “the principles and order of the Priesthood, . . . and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, . . . [ and] the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days” (5:1–2). Saints who believed that the Aaronic Priesthood had been restored by John the Baptist and the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter, James, and John readily believed that ancient knowledge, like ancient authority, had been lost from the earth and was being restored through their prophet. Contemporary Saints accept equally readily that the ceremony was restored by revelation to Joseph Smith (McGavin 1956, 41; Widtsoe 1960, 110–13).

But nowhere did Joseph leave a direct statement of how the endowment ceremony came to be. The History of the Church account of that first Nauvoo endowment quotes him as saying, “All these things referred to in this [Endowment] council are always governed by the principle of revelation” (5: 2). This “quotation” actually was an anachronistic reconstruction[3] by Willard Richards composed between 14-18 April 1845, reportedly based on a very brief, incomplete entry from the Book of the Law of the Lord;[4] there is a gap in Joseph Smith’s diary between October 1839 and December 1842. On so important and central an ordinance, it is striking that there is no revelatory document extant nor any known contemporary references to a revelation by either Joseph or his associates.

With respect to the issue of direct revelation, most of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants came about as a result of particular needs of the Church or individuals. Important doctrines (for example, the Word of Wisdom and the United Order) developed when outside forces and movements focused Joseph’s attention upon a problem in a particular way. Thus, it seems reasonable to inquire about such influences on the temple ceremony as well.

Our inquiry begins with the framework of the temple ceremony which, as Talmage indicates, retells the plan of salvation—the creation, fall, and atonement. As a culmination of Joseph Smith’s developing theology that human beings were not only the offspring of God but potential gods themselves, the temple provided a synthesis of Mormon beliefs in the origin and purpose of human beings and a sacred ritual that reunited them for a brief time with God as a life of righteousness and ordinances performed through proper authority would unite them forever in the afterlife. This instructional material is drawn quite directly from sacred scripture introduced by Joseph in his revision of the Bible, pertinent sections of which are now published in the book of Moses and the book of Abraham.

Latter-day Saints who are familiar with the holy books of other religions and with religions in the ancient Middle Eastern and classical worlds have pointed out many motifs that seem to find echoes in the temple ceremony. For example, apocalyptic and pseudepigraphic literature (books written between the closing of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament but usually attributed to such important prophets of the past as Moses, Noah, and Enoch) commonly dealt with the existence of multiple gods, the creation of order out of chaos, the premortal existence of conscious beings, the creation of the earth, the creation of Adam and Eve, light versus darkness (as a symbol of the necessity of exercising free will to choose between opposites), opposites (free will, choices), Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven, the fall of Adam and Eve, the influence of good and evil angels in the world, the Savior’s mission and atonement, his mission to the spirit prison, the resurrection, the millennial kingdom, the crucial role of prophets and patriarchs, and secret covenants and “mysteries” by which earnest seekers could reach the highest heaven.

Another example is the history of the mystery cults in the ancient world, particularly Nag Hammadi, Qumran, and Greece which again ring with such familiar motifs as preparatory purification through ritual bathing, special instruction in secret knowledge given only to initiates, use of sacred symbolic objects related to this secret knowledge, narration or dramatic enactment of a sacred story, and crowning initiates as full members of the secret brotherhood with a promise of immortality hereafter.

A number of Latter-day Saints have pointed out the similarities between these ancient rites and Mormon rituals and doctrines, usually suggesting that such ancient ceremonies are vestiges, reshaped and distorted by time and cultural change, of an original ceremony first explained to Adam and Eve (Brown and Griggs 1974, 68-73 and 1975, 6-11; Matthews 1974, 50-51; Nibley 1965, 1968-70, 1973, 1975, 1975-77, and 1979).

Although this long list of resemblances is most provocative, the details of the actual rites in which the themes are embedded are unsettling to those who wish to ascribe meanings significant to Mormons. For the most part, they are based on cosmological beliefs which had no anticipation of a Christian eschatology, much less a resurrection of the dead as now believed in by Latter-day Saints. As such, these beliefs clearly seem to be at odds with the theological understandings of the temple.[5] Even though we are accustomed to think of pagan “corruptions” of the truth, it would probably not be fruitful to try and reconstruct an ancient temple ceremony from these themes. Furthermore, at this date, it does not appear that Joseph had any working knowledge of mystery cultures and apocalypticmystery cults from which to have drawn temple ideas. In short, ancient sources probably could not be considered a direct influence on Joseph except as they were revealed to him from a time predating corruptions or except as they appear in the ancient scriptures that he brought forth. The influence of the creation accounts in the books of Moses and Abraham on the temple narrative are clear; but the only other scriptural reference directly linking ancient writings with the Mormon temple ceremony is found in Explanatory Note 8 to Facsimile 2 in the book of Abraham.

This facsimile shows a hypocephalus, an object placed by ancient Egyptians under the head of the deceased, the meaning of which is closely linked with Chapter 162 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead where instructions for its construction and use are given. Joseph Smith’s explanation for this portion of Facsimile 2 was: “Contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.” This illustration was engraved by Reuben Hedlock under Joseph Smith’s direction for inclusion with the book of Abraham,s publication in February-March 1842. (This period just preceded Joseph’s initiation into Freemasonry and the subsequent introduction of the Nauvoo endowment ceremony.) A literal translation of this section of the hypocephalus is: “O God of the Sleeping Ones from the time of the Creation. 0 Mighty God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Netherworld and his Great Waters, grant that the soul of the Osiris Sheshonk, may live” (Rhodes 1977, 265). It is difficult to see how this literal translation relates to the ceremony introduced by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.

Although there is much to be said about ancient parallels, it seems more reasonable to explore a source much closer to Joseph Smith: Freemasonry.

The complex interplay of Masonic tradition on Mormon temple rites probably had its roots during the mid-1820s, given that Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum had joined the fraternity between 1825 and 1827.[6] By this time, Masonry’s appeal, especially to young men in the northeastern United States, was at an all time high (Lipson 1977, 4, 143-44). One reason for this acceptance stemmed from Masonry’s role as a surrogate religion for many initiates; teaching morality (separate from an institutional church) was its most important ideal, a tack which set well with those disenchanted with traditional churches. Furthermore, in the context of the influence of the Enlightenment during this period and the limited access of most to the truly educated, Masons’ purported link between science and their mysteries made the secret ceremonies “powerfully attractive” (Lipson 1977, 117-21, 248-49). The lodge provided benefits of fraternal conviviality, Masonic charity, and associations with groups of people holding similar values when traveling. For many, Freemasonry also provided a form of recreation for its members (Lipson 1977, 9, 75; McWilliams 1973).

Freemasonry, which claims to have been created at the time of the construction of Solomon’s temple by its master mason, Hiram Abiff, actually seems to have been a development of the craft guilds during the construction of the great European cathedrals during the tenth to seventeenth centuries. After the Middle Ages, lodges in Scotland and Great Britain began to accept honorary members and worked out rudimentary ceremonies, established mainly to distinguish members of trade organizations. In 1717, four fraternal lodges, perhaps actual masons’ lodges, united as the Grand Lodge of England, considered to be the commencement of organized Freemasonry (also known as “speculative Masonry”). The order spread quickly to other countries and included such adherents as Mozart, Voltaire, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. Some historians believe that a group of Masons staged the Boston Tea Party.

Some Latter-day Saints may feel that Masonry constitutes a biblical-times source of uncorrupted knowledge from which the temple ceremony could be drawn. Historians of Freemasonry, however, generally agree that the trigradal system of entered apprentice, fellow craft, and master Mason, as practiced in Nauvoo, cannot reliably be traced further back than the eighteenth century. According to Douglas Knoop and G. P. Jones, two twentieth-century historians,[7] it is “highly probable” that the system of Masonry practiced at the organization of the Grand Lodge in London “did not consist of three distinct degrees” and warn, “It would probably not be safe to fix a date earlier than 1723 or 1725 for the origin” of the trigradal system. “Accepted Masonry underwent gradual changes throughout a period of years stretching from well before 1717 to well after that date. . . . The earliest speculative phase of Freemasonry may be regarded as beginning about 1730. . . . Though some symbolism had doubtless crept into Masonry by that date, it would not appear to have reached its full development for another forty or fifty years” (1949, 274, 275, 321, 322).

After 1832, the Masons concentrated on social and fraternal activities and, by reaching beyond the limitations of any religious, political, or economic creed, have grown to more than 3.25 million in the United States alone by the early 1980s.

The fundamental ceremonies of modern York Rite and Scottish Rite Masonry occur on these three distinct levels: (1) entered apprentice, (2) fellow craft, and (3) master Mason. Each level contains instruction in morals and Masonic symbolism, coupled with secret signs, passwords, handshakes, and “penalties” for revealing them to a non-Mason. Advanced degrees exist for both orders; nevertheless, the three initial degrees constitute the principal ceremonies experienced by active Masons.

The exact involvement of Hyrum Smith on these levels is not known. Presumably, it was a positive experience for him and he related it as such to his brother. Any early enthusiasm, however, may have been temporarily checked by widespread anti-Mason feelings which pervaded upstate New York during the late 1820s. This wave of public sentiment was precipitated by the announced publication of William Morgan’s expose on Masonic ceremonies and by his related mysterious disappearance and presumed murder in September 1826. A public outcry against Masons as a group who put themselves above the law followed. For a few years, American Masonic lodges were, for all practical purposes, inactive. Many lodges closed; Masons’ renouncements of affiliation were widespread. A number of newspapers dedicated to exposing Masonry were established in New York and other states. The anti-Masonic movement led to the creation of an independent political party where its energies were ultimately diffused; it was disbanded in 183 2 (McCarthy 1902; Vaughn 1983).

Some scholars (Brodie 1973, 65-66; Goodwin 1925, 9 and 1927, 3-29; O’Dea 1957, 23, 35; Ostler 1987, 73-76; Prince 1917) feel that such anti­Masonry may be seen in the Book of Mormon and interpret some passages (e.g. Alma 37: 21-32; Hel. 6: 21-22; Eth. 8: 18-26) as apparently anti­Masonic. These passages condemn secret combinations, secret signs, and secret words in a manner which may be interpreted as reminiscent of anti-Masonic rhetoric prevalent during this period.

A few references from contemporary newspapers seem to confirm this idea. On 15 March 1831, the Geauga Gazette of Painesville, Ohio, stated that “the Mormon Bible is Anti-masonick,” and that “every one of its followers . . . are anti-masons.” Moreover, it quoted Martin Harris as saying the Book of Mormon was an “Anti-masonick Bible.” A similar story appeared in The Ohio Star in Ravenna, Ohio, on 24 March 1831. Another Painesville paper, The Telegraph, ran an article on 22 March 1831 which challenged the 15 March story that the Book of Mormon was printed by a “Masonic press” in Palmyra, New York, and claimed that there is “a very striking resemblance between masonry and mormonism. Both systems pretend to have a very ancient origin, and to possess some wonderful secrets which the world cannot have without submitting to the prescribed ceremonies” (see also 24 March 1831). Interestingly, Mormon converts in northeastern Ohio were, for a time, identified by the press as possessing the same type of fanaticism shown by that region’s anti-Masons (The Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, N.Y.], 23 August 1831; The Churchman [N.Y.], 4 February 1832).[8] Notably, the first anti-Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed (Howe 1834, 81, 89) also referred to ancient Nephites “as being Anti-masons.” Despite the Book of Mormon passages and the cited press coverage, however, no further evidence exists to convincingly prove that most early converts paid serious attention to anti-Masonry (Bushman 1984, 131; Underwood 1985, 81-82).

Furthermore, and perhaps more decisively, Freemasonry had little or no discernible influence on the rites practiced in the Kirtland Temple, 1835-36. Reed C. Durham, Jr. has noted, however, that some Masonic influence can be seen in the Kirtland Temple’s architectural patterns (1974). One History of the Church quote records Joseph Smith condemning, in 1835, the “abominations” of some Protestants, praying “that it [i.e., his “well fitted” comments] may be like a nail in a sure place, driven by the master of assemblies” (2:347; Jessee 1984, 120). Joseph’s obvious familiarity with and positive use of Masonic imagery indicated by this statement is almost paradoxical in light of his anti­secret society rhetoric during the Missouri period (HC 3: 178-82, 303). Aside from this 1835 quotation, I am not familiar with any other documents which provide dear insights into Joseph Smith’s thoughts on Masonry before Nauvoo.

A full examination of the complex history of the Church’s transition to Nauvoo and its subsequent embrace of Freemasonry is beyond the scope of this essay. While Joseph Smith’s involvement with Masonry is well documented, the events leading him to consider joining the fraternity and endorsing its practice in Nauvoo are not. His ever-present fear of enemies may have led him to believe that affiliation with an oath-bound fraternity dedicated to the teaching of morality would give some form of protection to Church members. Perhaps he saw an additional level of protection from internal enemies resulting from the secrecy demanded of all initiates, especially if the secrecy of the Masonic oaths reinforced the secrecy of the endowment oaths in the minds of those familiar with both.[9] It is also possible that amid the translation and publication activities of the book of Abraham in spring 1842, Joseph’s preoccupation with ancient mysteries may have triggered an interest in tapping Masonic mysteries.

Furthermore, the influence of personal friends cannot be ignored. In 1838, for example, Joseph Smith stayed briefly in Far West, Missouri, with George and Lucinda Harris (HC 3: 9), eventually becoming close friends with Lucinda (Newell and Avery 1984, 70). Lucinda had first been married to William Morgan in New York when he allegedly was abducted for threatening to publish Masonic secrets. She reportedly became one of Joseph Smith’s first plural wives (Brodie 1973, 459-60). Other prominent Mormons—all of whom were Freemasons prior to joining the Church—included Deputy Grand Master of Illinois James Adams, Heber C. Kimball[10] (S. B. Kimball 1981, 12), Newel K. Whitney, George Miller, John C. Bennett, John Smith, and Brigham Young (Godfrey 1971, 81-82; Arrington 1985, 99; Tyler 1947, 8).

Of these associates, perhaps the most influential in accelerating Joseph Smith’s interest and acceptance of Freemasonry was John C. Bennett (Flanders 1965, 247). Bennett has typically been characterized by Mormon apologists as an opportunistic scoundrel whose brief (eighteen-month) sojourn with the Saints at Nauvoo was, at best, unfortunate and embarrassing. Actually, however, Bennett was a powerful confidante to Joseph Smith and a key figure in Nauvoo. His accomplishments included: “Assistant President” of the Church, first mayor of Nauvoo, major general in Nauvoo Legion, and secretary of Nauvoo Masonic Lodge; he was also instrumental in gaining Illinois legislature’s approval of the Nauvoo Charter, Nauvoo Legion, and the University of Nauvoo (Van Wagoner and Walker 1982, 10-14). Although his own status as a Mason in good standing prior to Nauvoo has been called into question (Hogan 1983), Bennett may have been the person who initially advised Joseph Smith to adopt Freemasonry as a means to end persecutions against the Church (“Joseph Smith and the Presidency” The Saints’ Herald 68 [19 July 1921]: 675). Ebenezer Robinson, who was editor of the Church’s paper, Times and Seasons, until February 1842, reminisced: “Heretofore the church had strenuously opposed secret societies such as Freemasons . . . not considering the ‘Order of Enoch’ and ‘Danites’ of that class; but after Dr. Bennett came into the Church a great change of sentiment seemed to take place” (The Return 2 [June 1890]: 287, cited in Flanders 1965, 249).

Joseph Smith’s official experience in Freemasonry began five months before the first Nauvoo endowment when he petitioned for membership in the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge on 30 December 1841. The favorable results of the lodge’s investigation of his petition were reported on 3 February 1842 (Hogan 1971, 8, 10). Joseph was formally initiated as an entered apprentice Mason on 15 March 1842 and received the fellow craft and master degrees the next day. Since the customary waiting period before receiving a new degree is thirty days, Joseph’s elevation to the “sublime degree” (master Mason) performed without any prior participation in Freemasonry was highly unusual.[11] During the organization of the Female Relief Society one day later in the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge room, his founding address was filled with Masonic allusions: “Let this Presidency serve as a constitution” (RS, 17 March 184; italics added); Joseph “proposed that the Society go into a close examination of every candidate. . . . that the society should grow up by degrees . . . . he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day” (30 March 1842; italics added.)[12] Kent L. Walgren concluded from reading other early Female Relief Society minutes that Joseph’s aim in establishing the Society was to “institutionalize secrecy” (1982, 131). He cites an entry from the minutes where Emma Smith, probably during the organizational period, read an epistle signed by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and four others stating that “there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skill’d in Masonry to keep a secret. . . . Let this Epistle be had as a private matter in your Society, and we shall learn whether you are good Masons” (recorded after minutes for 28 Sept. 1842, in Walgren 1982, 132, and n49).

Over the next several weeks, Joseph participated in other lodge meetings, witnessing the entered apprentice degree five times, the fellow craft degree three times, and the master Mason degree five times—all prior to his own introduction of the endowment (Hogan 1971, 12-18). An important sermon on 1 May 1842 contained many references carrying Masonic overtones:

The keys are certain signs and words . . . which cannot be revealed . . . til the Temple is completed—The rich can only get them in the Temple . . . . There are signs in heaven, earth, and hell, the Elders must know them all to be endowed with power . . . . The devil knows many signs but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the Holy of Holies (Ehat and Cook 1980, 119; D&C 129:4–9).[13]

Forty-nine days after his Masonic initiation, on 4 and 5 May as described, Joseph introduced the endowment ceremony to his trusted circle of friends in the upper story of his red brick store (HC 4: 550–53, 5 70, 589, 594, 608; 5:1-2, 446; and 6: 287).

The clearest evidence of Masonic influence on the Mormon temple ceremony would be a passage-by-passage comparison of the texts. However, both ceremonies are open only to members in good standing who have made personal covenants not to divulge the proceedings. Thus, published accounts of either ceremony come from disaffected members. Although such disaffection does not necessarily make the accounts unreliable, quoting sources which reveal exact ceremonial language presents an ethical dilemma to those who have themselves promised not to reveal that wording. What use could or should be made of documents from individuals who have chosen to ignore those covenants? For those who have personal reasons to share those scruples related to promises of secrecy, public comparisons and contrasts become problematic. Let me simply summarize what such a comparison might suggest and indicate additional sources of investigation for the interested reader.

Three elements of the Nauvoo temple endowment and its contemporary Masonic ritual resemble each other to a very marked degree and are sometimes identical. These are the tokens, signs, and penalties. Although there seem to be sufficient reasons for not quoting the parallel portions of the two ceremonies here, the two accounts which may be most useful for the purposes of comparison are those of Catherine Lewis and William Morgan. William Morgan’s account is the 1827 book of the York Rite’s Masonic ritual (the same rite introduced in Nauvoo—see esp. pp. 23-24, 53-54, 76-77, 84-85) which led to his disappearance and presumed murder. Catherine Lewis joined the Church in 1841 in Boston. After Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, she moved to Nauvoo and was among those who received their endowment in the new temple. Lewis received the ordinance at the urging of Heber C. Kimball and one of his wives. Apparently repulsed by his subsequent proposal of plural marriage, she left Nauvoo and published a book in 1848 which includes a description of the Nauvoo temple ceremony (Lewis 1848, 9-10; see also, Warsaw Signal, 15 April 1846, p. 2; Van Dusen 184 7, 6, 9).

Other similarities with Masonic rites may include the prayer circle which required Masonic initiates to assemble around an altar, place their left arms over the person next to them, join hands, repeat the words of the Most Excellent Master, and give all the signs from initial ceremonial degrees (Bernard 1829, 116-17; Richardson 1860, 61, 66). Michael Quinn has pointed out that nineteenth-century American Protestant revivals also had prayer circles in which, “when the invitation was given, there was a general rush, the large ‘prayer ring’ was filled, and for at least two hours prayer ardent went up to God” (Rev. James Erwin, Reminiscences of Early Circuit Life [1884], p. 68, in Quinn 1978, 81-82). Two additional Masonic elements that may have temple echoes are that the initiates received a “new name” and donned a white apron as part of the rite. The original apron used in the Mormon endowment had a white background with green fig leaves sewn to it; this apron now is constructed of green fabric. Also, an explanatory lecture always follows the conferral of each Masonic degree ceremony, a practice not unlike the temple endowment’s lecture at the veil.

This pattern of resemblances provides strong indications that Joseph Smith drew on the Masonic rites in shaping the temple endowment, and specifically borrowed the tokens, signs, and penalties. The creation and fall narrative, the content of the major covenants, and the washing and anointings have no parallel in Masonry. Thus, the temple ceremony cannot be explained as wholesale borrowing from Masonry; neither can it be explained as completely unrelated to Masonry.

An interesting question is the response of Joseph’s associates to the temple ceremony, since many were also familiar with Masonry. How did they understand the resemblances? Although many modern Latter-day Saints are completely unfamiliar with Masonry, this was not the case in Nauvoo. As noted earlier, a significant number of Joseph’s closest associates were long-time Masons, deeply involved with the establishment of the Nauvoo Lodge, and active workers in instituting its York Rites during the spring of 184 2. One of the few contemporary commentaries comes from Heber C. Kimball who wrote in June 1842: “Thare is a similarity of preast Hood in Masonry. Br. Joseph Ses Masonry was taken from preasthood but has become degenerated. But menny things are perfect” (H. C. Kimball to Pratt 1842; S. B. Kimball 1975, 456-59). Later, as recorded in the Manuscript History of Brigham Young, Kimball said, “We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing” (13 Nov. 1858, 1085). Joseph Smith’s close friend, Joseph Fielding, wrote in his journal in 1844: “Many have joined the Masonic Institution this seems to have been a Stepping Stone or Preparation for something else, the true Origin of Masonry” (in Ehat 1979, 145). Later, according to one of his wives, Brigham Young “delight[ ed] to speak of it [the endowment] as ‘Celestial Masonry’ ” (Young 1876, 371).

These quotations suggest that Joseph Smith’s contemporaries saw the temple ceremony as a purer form of ancient Israel’s Masonic rites—something formerly lost but restored to its original pristine condition. Apostle Melvin J. Ballard (CR April 1913, 126; Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Dec. 1919 in Goodwin 1938, 49-50) and E. Cecil McGavin (1956, 192) were among many Mormons who believed that Masonry’s trigradal degree system of apprentice, fellow craft, and master Mason dates back to Solomon’s Temple or even to the time of Adam. Nevertheless, as we have already seen, research by twentieth­century historians of Freemasonry locates the origins of trigradal Masonry much closer in time. In short, Masonry does not seem able to supply an ancient source for the· endowment.

To summarize the Mormon participation in Freemasonry during the Nauvoo period, it is useful to note that in 1840, only 147 men in Illinois and 2,072 in the United States were Masons (Godfrey 1971, 83). By the time of the exodus to Utah, approximately 1,366 Mormon males in Nauvoo had been initiated into the Masonic order (Durham 1974). While it is uncertain exactly why Freemasonry was initially embraced, its activities undoubtedly provided fraternal benefits experienced by Masons in other parts of the country. Its ceremonies clearly provided part of the specific wording for the Nauvoo temple endowment, although most nineteenth-century Masonic rituals have no resemblance to those temple ceremonies. And it is significant that, following the conferral of endowment rites on most Nauvoo adults in the temple and their subsequent relocation to Utah, Masonry never regained the prominence among Mormons it once received in Nauvoo.

III. Expansion in the Nauvoo Period

Two additional ceremonies were introduced about a year following the initial conferral of the endowment and later became associated with the sequence of temple ceremonies: celestial marriage for time and eternity, and the second anointing. “Celestial marriage” was applied to and equated with plural marriage in nineteenth-century Utah.[14] However, since Joseph Smith apparently never taught plural marriage in the Quorum of the Anointed (where endowments were given during his life), it seems safe to assume that no plural wives were sealed in the endowment group before his death (Ehat 1982, 59-62). The practice of performing celestial marriages in the temple began in the Nauvoo Temple. Marriages for time and eternity, or “temple marriages,” continue this day to be performed following the endowment of the individuals involved.

The second anointing was a special ceremony consisting of two parts. First, an officiator anointed the heads of a husband and wife with oil, then conferred upon them the “fulness of the priesthood.” The couple thereby received the confirmation of a promise given earlier in the endowment (and indirectly in the celestial marriage ceremony) of being anointed to become a priest and king to God, or a priestess and queen to the husband. The second part was a private ceremony between the couple in which the wife washed the feet of the husband so that she would have claim upon him in the resurrection of the dead (Buerger 1983, 26-27).

Although the History of the Church is rather general in referring to the “ancient order of things” which Joseph Smith established) it apparently included a complex of ritualistic signs, tokens, and penalties, since Brigham Young, in reminiscence, identified them as part of that initial ceremony. According to the diary account of L. John Nuttall, Brigham Young’s secretary, Young recalled the specifics of receiving his endowment from Joseph:

Prest Young was filled with the spirit of God & revelation & said when we got our washings and anointings under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo we had only one room to work in with the exception of a little side room or office were (sic] we were washed and anointed had our garments plac.ed upon us and received our New Name. and after he had performed these ceremonies. he gave the Key Words signs, togkens [sic] and penalties. then after we went into the large room over the store in Nauvoo. Joseph divided up the room the best that he could hung· up the veil, marked it gave us our instructions as we passed along from one department to another giving us signs. tokens. penalties with the Key words pertaining to those signs and after we had got through. Bro Joseph turned to me (Prest B. Young) and said Bro Brigham this is not arranged right but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I . . . wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies with the signs. tokens penalties and Key words I did so and each time I got something more so that when we went through the Temple at Nauvoo I understood and Knew how to place them there. we had our ceremonies pretty correct (7 Feb. 1877).

Young’s last comment suggests that the Nauvoo Temple endowment’s structure and order of material expanded into a more elaborate and detailed ceremony as it moved from the constricted quarters over Joseph Smith’s store to the larger stage of the temple. However, no text of the 1842 ritual is available. The first description in any detail of the ceremony as carried out in the Nauvoo Temple occurs in 1845 and seems to suggest that the dramatic elements of the ceremony were added at that time. On 10 December 1845 when endowments were first administered in the temple, Heber C. Kimball’s diary (which served as an official record of temple proceedings) also includes the roles of four personages: Elohim, Jehovah, Michael, and the Serpent (Satan). Two days later, the New Testament characters of Peter, James, and John were added and the narrative duties were assigned such that Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael created the world and planted the Garden of Eden. Eve was created and given to Adam. After the Fall, Peter, assisted by James and John, would conduct Adam and Eve to the veil where they would learn how to be readmitted into the Father’s presence.

Kimball’s diary reveals a wide difference in the amount of time a Nauvoo Temple endowment ceremony lasted. “Companies” or groups of participants typically averaged about a dozen members, with ceremonies lasting an hour to an hour and a half. Other recorded durations for such groups lasted up to four hours. One company of thirty-five had a ceremony of five hours and ten minutes. Kimball’s diary does not comment on the reasons for this wide variation, but it is probably related to the size of the company, the experience of those officiating, the interjection of explanatory lectures, and the use of a single veil station.

As we reconstruct these 1845-46 sessions, it appears that initiates normally participated in a washing and anointing ceremony, had a brief recess, then participated in the main endowment. Sessions began with the ringing of a bell. A “lecture at the veil” was sometimes given (usually by Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball) at the end of the endowment; but on at least two occasions, the lecture seems to have been postponed and delivered a few days later (Kimball, Journal, 7, 10-14 Dec. 1845, 7 Jan. 1846).

The earliest complete published account[15] of the Nauvoo Temple endowment ceremony indicates that initiatory washings may have followed a literal Old Testament model of actual bathing, for large tubs of water are specified in the separate men’s and women’s rooms. The anointing was performed by liberally pouring consecrated oil from a horn over the head and allowing it to run over the whole body. During this ritual, one participant said he was ordained to be a “King in time and eternity, and my wife to be Queen” (Van Dusen 184 7, 4); Catherine Lewis (1848, 8) also noted that she was ordained “to be a Queen.”[16]

Originally, everyone participating in the endowment took the roles of Adam and Eve collectivdy (Van Dusen 1847)’. Using temple workers to represent Adam, Eve, and the Christian minister began in the 1850s in Endowment House administrations in Utah. But in Nauvoo, several actors depicted ministers from different Christian churches. The first published indication of the ministers occurs in 185 7 (Cook, 3 7-4 2). The first published account of a single minister appears in 1905 (”Mormon” 1905).

Early endowment administrations were primarily restricted to a man and his wife or wives (Ehat 1982, 97-98). A few men were endowed without their spouse’s participation. Initially all participants were admitted through the veil by the same officiator. The first published account of married men conducting their wives through the veil occurs in 185 7 (Hyde, 99).

According to accounts published by disaffected Latter-day Saints between 1846 and 1851, these Nauvoo years also saw literal representations of several parts of the ceremony that were later omitted. All participants ate raisins (depicting eating the “forbidden fruit” that precipitated the “fall” in the Garden of Eden) and crouched behind living shrubbery (to hide from the Father and Son as they revisited the garden). An actor wielding a sword depicted guarding the Tree of Life. After they expelled Satan, the temple worker portraying Satan would crawl out of the room on his belly. All participants donned crowns after passing through the veil to symbolize their entrance into the celestial kingdom (War saw Signal 18 Feb. 1846 and 15 April 1846; Van Dusen 1847; Lewis 1848; Thomas 1849; White 1851). None of these accounts contain the detail of Utah publications. These later books describe a veil worn by women (Cook 185 7, 3 8; Green 1858, 47) used to cover their faces while taking ceremonial oaths (Stenhouse 1890, 365; Young 1876, 368).

Almost 100 persons are known to have received the endowment prior to the Nauvoo Temple’s dedication, approximately half of whom also received the second anointing (Ehat 1982, 97-98). Available records indicate that about 5,200 members received the endowment in the Nauvoo Temple, of whom approximately 600 persons had received the second anointing (Buerger 1983, 25 n48; Book of Anointings). Most of those receiving pre-Nauvoo Temple endowments and second anointings received these ordinances again after the temple was dedicated and opened for operation (Ehat 1982, 97-98). These figures alone indicate the importance of the temple to the Saints before the exodus west.

IV. Nineteenth-Century Utah Period: 1847–99

Following the exodus of Mormons from Nauvoo in 1846, endowment administrations entered a period of dormancy. Aside from a few prayer circles held on the open prairie during the trek west (Watson 1971, 556; Clayton 1921, 202-3; Quinn 1978, 79-105) and one known incident of an endowment administration performed on Ensign Peak in the Salt Lake Valley (CHC 3:386-87), Mormons apparently did very little temple work immediately following their resettlement.

On 7 July 1852, the endowment ordinances were recommenced in the Old Council House, the first permanent public building erected in Salt Lake City, which also housed the territorial legislature and the territorial public library. On 5 May 1855, a new building called the Endowment House was constructed in the northwest corner of Temple Square and dedicated to the sole use of administering endowments. A total of 54, 1 70 endowments and 694 second anointings for the living were conducted there until 16 October 1884, when Church leaders, probably deciding to refocus attention and funds upon completion of the Salt Lake Temple where endowments would be more appropriately performed, ordered it razed. No endowments or second anointings for the dead were performed in the Endowment House (Jaussi and Chaston 1968 366-67, cited in Tingen 1974, 14-15, 19-21; Cowan 1971, 29; Buerger 1983, 28–29).

Another interesting reference from the early Utah period is that Brigham Young, perhaps in an effort to renew interest in temple work, on 26 November 1857, approved a motion to publish “the Endowments or an outline of it telling the time when the Twelve Received their 2d Anointing” (Woodruff 5:124). This document apparently never appeared in print.

The Church teaches that endowments for the living and by proxy for the dead are a theological prerequisite for entering the highest degree of celestial kingdom. According to Brigham Young, the endowment consisted of “receiv[ing] all those ordinances . . . which are necessary . . . to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood” (JD 2:31-32; see also 2:315; 5:[ 33; 6:63, 154-55; 8:339; 9:25-26, 91; 10:172; 11:27; 18:132; 19:250).

The concept of endowments for the dead was first introduced by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo (William Clayton Report, 8 April 1844, and Thomas Bullock Report, 8 April 1844, cited in Ehat and Cook 1980, 362-65; Woodruff 2:388-89). It received increased public discussion in Utah by Brigham Young (JD 16:185-89). According to St. George Temple president David H. Cannon, the first recorded endowments for the dead in the history of the Church were performed 11 January 1877, eleven days after that temple’s dedication (Cannon to George F. Richards, 18 July 1922, in CRF). Young taught that it was necessary to restrict the conferral of these ceremonies to Utah temples, believing that to do otherwise would “destroy the object of the gathering” (Woodruff 6:307-8).[17] At that time, the only LDS temples were in Utah. The Nauvoo Temple had burned and Young had announced in 1858 that the Kirtland Temple had been “disowned by the Father and the Son” (JD 2:32).

Apparently, no written version of the ceremony had ever been made. Following the dedication of the lower portion of the St. George Temple on 1 January 1877, Brigham Young decided it was necessary to commit the endowment ceremony to written form. On 14 January 1877 he “requested Brigham jr & W Woodruff to write out the Ceremony of the Endowments from Beginning to End” (Woodruff 7:322), assisted by John D. T. McAllister and L. John Nuttall. Daily drafts were submitted to Young’s review and approval. The project took approximately two months to complete. On 21 March 1877, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal: “President Young has been laboring all winter to get up a perfect form of Endowments as far as possible. They having been perfected I read them to the Company today” (7:322-23, 325-27, 337, 340-41; entries Jan.–March 1877).

The St. George Temple endowment included a revised thirty-minute “lecture at the veil” which summarized important theological concepts taught in the endowment and also contained references to the Adam-God doctrine. For example, Brigham Young taught in this lecture that Adam “had begotten all the spirit[s] that was to come to this earth, and Eve our common Mother who is the mother of all living bore those spirits in the celestial world . . . . [They] consequently came to this earth and commenced the great work of forming tabernacles for those spirits to dwell in.”[18] This teaching may have been included in the veil lecture as late as the turn of the century. It is uncertain whether the St. George Temple veil ceremony}s Adam-God teaching was included in all temples.[19]

This probably was not the first time Adam-God had been mentioned in the endowment ceremony. Although official temple scripts do not exist prior to 1877, several unfriendly published accounts of the Endowment House ceremony contain cast listings and dialogues of different characters during the creation scene for Elohim, Jehovah, Jesus, and Michael (Hyde 1857, 92-93; Remy and Brenchley 1861, 2:67-68; Waite 1866, 246-49, 252; Beadle 1870, 486, 489-91; Young 1876, 35 7). Their recounting of the concomitant presence of Jehovah and Jesus provides further evidence of the use of the Adam-God doctrine in the temple ceremony (Kirkland 1984). Given that the origin of the Adam-God doctrine can most reliably be traced to Brigham Young in Utah, it seems highly unlikely that similar ideas were advanced in the Nauvoo Temple (Buerger 1982, 25-28).

Although this material was clearly an innovation, official documentation on the development of the endowment during the Utah period is sparse. John Hyde (a disaffected Mormon) wrote in 185 7 that “the whole affair is being constantly amended and corrected, and [Heber C.] Kimball often says, ‘We will get it perfect by-and-bye'” (185 7, 100). One of the few known discussions on restructuring the endowment ceremony in the late 1800s came during a meeting of the reconvened School of the Prophets on 2 August 1883 in Salt Lake City. Church president John Taylor expressed serious misgivings about giving newly initiated people an endowment consisting of both the lower (Aaronic Priesthood) and higher (Melchizedek Priesthood) ceremonies, feeling that members should first receive the Aaronic portion of the endowment and prove their faithfulness prior to receiving the Melchizedek portion. Concurring associates included Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Franklin D. Richards (School 1883, 11-26; Weibye 9 July 1877, p. 60; David H. Cannon to George F. Richards, 18 July 1922, in CRF). Despite such high-level consensus, this position, previously advocated in public by Brigham Young on 11 June 1864 (JD 10:309), and later by George Q. Cannon on 14 January 1894 (in Newquist 1:227-28) was apparently never implemented.

In sum, the endowment ceremony seems to have undergone only minimal structural change from its Nauvoo introduction through the end of the nine­teenth century (B. Smith 1903). However, an important change in emphasis occurred, resulting from a revelation announced by Wilford Woodruff in the April 1894 general conference (Deseret Weekly 48 [1894]:541-44). Woodruff’s action stopped the practice of sealing people to General Authorities and other Church members outside their family lineage and instead directed that they be sealed to their own parents. This change successfully accommodated a growing discomfort among Latter-day Saints with the former practice; consequently, the number of living and dead sealings to parents surged in the following year (Irving 1974, 313). In November 1894, the Church established the Genealogical Society of Utah and ultimately awakened a heightened interest in systematic work for dead lineal ancestors.

Shortly after the Salt Lake Temple’s dedication, on 17 October 1893, President Woodruff met with the Council of the Twelve and the Church’s four temple presidents, spending “three hours in harmanizing the Different M[odes?] of Ceremonies in giving Endowments” (Woodruff 9:267). This effort may have been a precursor of an extensive review which began a decade later.

A numerical recapitulation of endowments performed during this period shows a total of 38,317 for the Iiving, and 486,198 for the dead in the St. George, Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake temples between 1877 and 1898. Moreover, 5,213 second anointings for the living, and 3,411 for the dead were performed during the same period (Table 1). [Editor’s Note: For Table 1, see PDF below].

V. The Transitional Period: 1900–30

One of the most painful but also most consequential events in modern LDS Church history for the endowment was a series of hearings by a United States Senate subcommittee, 1904-06, to determine whether elected Utah senator and apostle Reed Smoot should be allowed to serve. Among many issues the committee heard testimony on were the “secret oaths” of the temple ·endowment ceremony. The subcommittee’s concern was whether the Mormon covenant of obedience would conflict with a senator’s oath of loyalty to the Constitution. In the course of the Smoot hearings, the “oath of vengeance” also attracted the subcommittee’s sustained interest.

One witness, disaffected Mormon and recently resigned Brigham Young Academy professor Walter M. Wolfe, testified that this oath was worded: “You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray, and never cease to pray, Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and your children’s children unto the third and fourth generations” (Smoot 4:6-7; see also 1:741–43, 791-92; 2:77-79, 148-49, 151-53, 160-62, 181-83, 189-90, 759, 762- 764, 779; 4:68-69, and 495-97).[20]

On 14 December 1904, the Washington Times and the New York Herald featured front-page photographs of a man in purported endowment clothing, depicting signs and penalties. Testimony during this hearing as well as other previously published unfriendly discussions of this oath indicate that, commencing by 1845 in the Nauvoo Temple ceremony as administered by Brigham Young, the oath of vengeance was routinely given to all initiates.[21]

Most Latter-day Saints today undoubtedly would be uncomfortable taking an oath of vengeance. Obviously, so was the general public’s response to such testimony. In the context of early LDS Church history, however, it is not difficult to see how and why such an oath developed. Following the bitter persecutions sanctioned by the governor of Missouri, the newly resettled saints in Nauvoo were deeply suspicious of more attempts to limit their freedom. Mistrust of government officials was heightened when Joseph Smith failed to obtain redress for the Missouri losses from U.S. president Martin Van Buren in February 1840 (HC 4:80). Immediately following Joseph’s and Hyrum Smith’s murders in June 1844, hostile feelings by Mormons toward their persecutors was at a fever pitch. Encouraged, perhaps, by scriptural passages such as Revelation 6:9-11, many Latter-day Saints hoped for revenge of the deaths of their charismatic and beloved leaders. Allen Stout, a former Danite, recorded in his diary after he watched their bodies being returned to Nauvoo: “I stood there and then resolved in my mind that I would never let an opportunity slip unimproved of avenging their blood. . . . I knew not how to contain myself, and when I see one of the men who persuaded them to give up to be tried, I feel like cutting their throats yet” (28 June 1844, cited in Newell and Avery 1984, 196).

Such feelings were institutionalized in the Nauvoo Temple rites. On 21 December 1845, Heber C. Kimball recorded in his diary of “seven to twelve persons who have met together every day to pray ever since Joseph’s death . . . and I have covenanted, and never will rest . . . until those men who killed Joseph & Hyrum have been wiped out of the earth.” During an 1889 meeting of the First Presidency, George Q. Cannon reminisced about his experience there:

He [Cannon] understood when he had his endowments in Nauvoo that he took an oath against the murderers of the Prophet Joseph as well as other prophets, and if he had ever met any of those who had taken a hand in that massacre he would undoubtedly have attempted to avenge the blood of the martyrs. The Prophet charged Stephen Markham to avenge his blood should he be slain: after the Prophet’s death Bro. Markham attempted to tell this to an assembly of the Saints, but Willard Richards pulled him down from the stand, as he feared the effect on the enraged people (A. Cannon 1889, 205).

Negative publicity from these hearings probably led to a deemphasis of this oath in the endowment. For example, while many early published accounts of the endowment (see n21) echo George Q. Cannon)s statement that those endowed were personally charged with avenging Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s deaths, in a 1912 meeting in the St. George Temple, David H. Cannon described the “law of retribution” as follows:

To pray the Father to avenge the blood of the prophets and righteous men that has been shed, etc. In the endowment house this was given but as persons went there only once, it was not so strongly impressed upon their minds, but in the setting in order [of] the endowments for the dead it was given as it is written in 9 Chapter of Revelations and in that language we importune our Fa,tl1er, not that we may, but that He, our Father, will avenge the blood of martyrs shed for the testimony of Jesus (St. George Temple Minutes K9369R, 22 Feb. 1912, p. 110 in CRF).

This change in emphasis on the law of retribution evolved further as part of many procedural revisions made to the endowment ritual and temple clothing spearheaded by an apostolic committee organized in 1919, at the beginning of Heber J. Grant’s administration, under the direction of Grant’s counselor and Salt Lake Temple president, Anthon H. Lund (Alexander 1986, 300). Following Lund’s death in 1921, leadership of this committee went to the new Salt Lake Temple president George F. Richards. From 1921 through 1927, Richards chaired the group which included David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Stephen L Richards, John A. Widtsoe, and later James E. Talmage. Under Richards’s direction, the committee codified and simplified the temple ceremonies originally drafted in St. George in 1877, committing to paper for the first time those ceremonies informally known as the “unwritten portion”: i.e., “the covenants and the instructions given in forming the ‘[prayer] circle and [the lecture] at the veil” (G. F. Richards Journal, 12 July 1924; see also entries for 7, 8, 12 April, 10, 27, 28 Dec. 1921; 3, 7 June, 30, 31 Aug. 1922; 14, 16, 17, 19, 20 April 1923; 9, 16 Dec. 1926; 25, 27 Jan. 1927).

A major reason for this effort was to ensure that the ceremony was presented the same way in all temples. Because part of the ceremony had remained unwritten, the manner in which it was given tended to vary somewhat. The St. George ceremony was taken as a model since it was the oldest ceremony; there Brigham Young had committed most of the ritual to writing, trying to make the ceremony conform to the content introduced by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. Since 1893, St. George Temple president David H. Cannon had maintained a certain degree of autonomy as the president of the oldest temple. In 1911, for example, he had stated: “We are not controlled by the Salt Lake Temple . . . . This temple has the original of these endowments which was given by President Brigham Young and we have not nor will we change anything thereof unless dictated by the President of the Church” (St. George Temple Minute Book K9369R, 14 Dec. 1911, p. 93, in CRF).

In 1924, Cannon apparently had refused to accept changes endorsed by the special committee and the First Presidency. In a meeting on 19 June 1924 in the St. George temple, Cannon recounted how George F. Richards had “criticized [him] very severely for not adhering to the unwritten part of the ceremonies as he had been instructed to do.” He told the assembly of local Church leaders that Richards had instructed him to either burn the old rulings and instructions or send them to Salt Lake—”If we want any information, not contained in the ‘President’s Book’ we will refer to the authorities of the Church for that information, but not refer to any of the old rulings.” St. George Stake president Edward H. Snow (who became the temple president in 1926) then mentioned one of the recent changes, “in no longer praying that the blood of the prophets and righteous men, might be atoned for, because this prayer has been answered and [is] no longer necessary.” As if to pass approval on this change, Cannon recalled comments by Anthony W. Ivins given at a conference in Enterprise, stating that Ivins “took exception to the way the Law of Retribution was worded, and said he [Ivins J thought the language was harsh and that the authorities [had] thought of changing that” (St. George Temple Minutes, 19 June 1924, in CRF). Perhaps in response to occasional continued references to this oath, a final letter in 1927 from Apostle Richards to all temple presidents directed that they “omit from the prayer circles all reference to avenging the blood of the Prophets. Omit from the ordinance and lecture all reference to retribution” (Richards to Pres. 1927).

In addition to eliminating the oath of vengeance during this period, other changes included:

  • Accommodating more patrons by streamlining the ceremony. The length of the temple endowment ceremony was reduced (high-end estimates range from six to nine hours in total length; Alexander 1986, 300) to roughly three hours (including initiatory ordinances).
  • A number of the endowment’s graphic penalties, all of which closely followed Masonic penalties’ wording, were moderated. For example, the penalties for revealing endowments included details of how they would be carried out (the tongue to be “torn out by its roots,” etc.). Today’s endowment only alludes to those earlier descriptions as various methods of taking life (Stead 1911, 113, 116-17; Martin 1920, 256, 259-60; Paden 1931, 18, 20; Smoot hearings testimony cited above; Tanner 1972′, 468, 470-71;[22] Lambert 1950).
  • After learning that garments and temple clothing were not originally designed solely by Joseph Smith, the committee dramatically altered the style of the temple garment. According to two accounts, the original temple garment was made of unbleached muslin with markings bound in turkey red, fashioned by Nauvoo seamstress Elizabeth Warren Allred under Joseph Smith’s direction. Joseph’s reported intention was to have a one-piece garment covering the arms, legs and torso, having “as few seams as possible” (Munson n.d.; see also H. Kimball Diary, 21 Dec. 1845; Reid 1973, 169). Ceremonial markings on the garment were originally snipped into the cloth in the temple during an initiate’s first visit. The committee made these changes: sleeves were raised from the wrist to the elbow, legs raised from the ankle to just below the knee, buttons used instead of strings, the collar eliminated, and the crotch closed (Salt Lake Tribune 4 June 1923; Grant, Penrose, and Ivins 1923; Alexander 1986, 301).
    The introduction of this new-style garment caused considerable unrest among some members (Lyon 1975, 249-50). Nevertheless, the pre-1923 style garment was required in the temple ceremony until 1975 when its use became optional (Kimball, Tanner and Romney, 1975). Occasionally minor design changes have been implemented such as lowering the neckline and shortening the legs and sleeves. The most dramatic recent change was the two-piece garment in 1979. Garments are manufactured by the Church’s Beehive Clothing Mills, which reportedly consults East Coast fashion designers for pattern considerations (Reid 1973, Priddis 1981). While members are not now penrutted to make their own garment’:., they may make their own temple clothing provided it follows the approved design, although this is not openly encouraged. Upon approval of the stake or mission president, a handbook may be lent to worthy members who must make the clothing under the supervision or direction of the stake Relief Society president or mission president (Temple Clothing 1972, 1). One additional recent policy change allows guests at temple wedding ceremonies to attend in street clothes, provided they have donned white slippers.
  • For the first time, adherence to the Word of Wisdom became an official requirement for admission to the temple. Apparently this had been encouraged prior to 1921, but exceptions had been made (Alexander 1981, 82).
  • In 1920, the first night sessions started, beginning with one evening session per week and later expanded to three evening sessions per week (Alexander 1986, 299).
  • Another element of literalism disappeared in 1927 when kissing over the altar during vicarious sealings for the dead was abolished (Richards to Pres. 1927).

One practice during the Depression years was to pay people to perform endowments for the dead. Usually these temple workers were members of the Church with few funds, frequently elderly. Members who did not have time to perform ordinances for deceased ancestors customarily paid 75 cents for men and 50 cents for women per ordinance. Typically money was left on deposit with clerks at the temple, who would disburse it as each vicarious endowment was performed. It is not clear when this practice ended, but it was probably difficult for temples to administer the collection and distribution of cash (Richards, Jr., 1973, 58; Myers 1976, 21-22; Smith, Lund, and Penrose 1915).

Probably the greatest twentieth-century catalyst to increase the number of vicarious endowments was Heber J. Grant’s emphasis on temple work (CR April 19 2 8, 8-9). Endowments performed per member during Grant’s administration increased substantially. From 1898 to 1912, vicarious endowments averaged .11 endowments per member per year. From 1912 to 1930, the average increased to .38. The decade of 1930-40 saw the annual average again jump to .62. Perhaps partially resulting from the combination of World War II and Grant’s lessening influence, due to his advanced age and death in 1945, this average dropped to .34 by 1945 and remained there through the end of 1950. Second anointings decreased dramatically during President Grant’s administration, becoming practically nonexistent by 1930.

VI. Modern Technology and the Endowment Ceremony: 1931–87

Since its introduction, the endowment ceremony’s presentation has been within a dramatic setting. The earliest known comment by the First Presidency regarding the use of motion pictures in the endowment ceremony came in 192 7, when they affirmed that they had no intention then of using them (Grant, Ivins, and Nibley 192 7). The next known discussion of this policy came in late 1953, when David O. McKay, then president of the Church, asked Gordon B. Hinckley to chair a committee to create a meaningful endowment presentation for the new one-room Swiss Temple.[23] Other committee members included Richard L. Evans, Edward O. Anderson, and Joseph Fielding Smith (David O. McKay Diary, 29 Oct. 1953, in Gibbons 1986, 329). The outgrowth was a 16mm film directed by Harold I. Hansen in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple, shot over a period of one year. Due to inclement Utah weather, outside photography was done in Southern states, while scenes of lava flowing accompanying the creation portion were approximately 350 feet of film from Fantasia, used by permission of Walt Disney Studios (Evans Collection).

Different sets of temple workers—primarily composed of returned missionaries, native converts, and local nationals—were used for versions in English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish. A year later, additional casts produced Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, and Maori versions for use in the New Zealand Temple. According to one source, this film was not a professional staging: there was no real acting, no scenery, and no attempt at sophistication. The temple workers simply enacted a live endowment. This extremely conservative use of the technology was clearly not an effort to produce an art form but a means of efficiently allowing endowment ceremony sessions to take place in a single room in the new temples, rather than moving from one room to another (Palmer 1979; Wise 1980-81, 53).

The wide-screen concept introduced in early-1960s American movies influenced Church architect Harold Burton in designing the Oakland Temple’s two endowment rooms. He planned huge projection areas that required the use of 35mm film, although curtains reduced the total screen size. After the temple was dedicated in 1964, 4″ X 5″ slide projectors were used to produce photo murals depicting room changes found in live endowment presentations.

The second film of the endowment ceremony was produced in 1966.[24] Due to space limitations in the Salt Lake Temple, the First Presidency authorized this version (known as Project #100) to be filmed in the BYU motion pictures studio (Evans Collection). A new studio stage constructed for this purpose was formally opened 24 April 1966 with a prayer by Gordon B. Hinckley. This film was used for several years in Oakland; 16mm reduction prints were prepared for English-speaking patrons in foreign temples.

In a successful effort to condense the presentation to about ninety minutes, a third motion picture was filmed at the BYU studio during October and November 1969. Like the second film, this professional effort (known as Project #134) was directed by Wetzel 0. Whitaker. The cast included both professional and amateur actors,[25] as well as elaborate scenery. Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed on the West Coast. Actors and production staff had to have temple recommends and received prior worthiness clearance through their bishops before being asked to participate. The film was shot in one studio, usually between 10 p.m. and midnight to ensure privacy. Participants memorized their lines in a room just off set and used prompt cards. They could not take the script home for study (Palmer 1979). This film was completed by November 1971 when the Provo and Ogden temples opened. Due to its shorter playing time, it replaced the second film originally used in the Oakland Temple.

Primarily because of President Harold B. Lee’s discomfort with the long hair and beards of a few of Project # 134’s participants (Wise 1980-81, 5 7 and Wise 1983, 16) a fourth endowment movie (Project # 198) was produced at BYU during the early to middle 1970s. Again directed by Wetzel O. Whitaker, this film used largely new personnel.[26] A major goal for this production was to create foreign sound tracks that did not look obviously dubbed. Since some languages such as Finnish and Japanese require substantially more time than the English equivalents, this aspect was extremely challenging. Moreover, theological concerns required that translations be literal, not merely approximate. This synchronization was partially accomplished through techniques such as speeded-up soundtrack playback and step-printing every third frame twice to expand film length. Production crews recorded the audio sequences using European nationals in the London Temple in June 1972 and using Pacific nationals in a secured sound room at the BYD-Hawaii campus in June 1973.

In early 1976, the Church’s Temple Committee transferred all endowment film and sound operations from BYU to new facilities in the Salt Lake Temple basement. While film continues to be processed in a California lab, all sound tracks are now produced in this basement facility. Sound-track duplication facilities also exist in some other temples.

Probably because of recommendations made by Harold B. Lee, a member of the First Presidency after 1970, and a committee which included Apostle Howard W. Hunter (President of the Genealogical Society) working from 1968 to May 1972 to investigate endowment procedures in the temple, several phrases used in ceremony film scripts were subsequently dubbed out[27] in the mid-1970s (Christiansen 1975-76, 68; Fudge 1976, 71; Harold B. Lee, Diary, 31 Jan. 1971 and 6 Feb. 1971, in Goates 1985, 427-28; Palmer 1979). According to one participant in the third filmed version (Palmer 1979), the person portraying Satan was originally to have been dark; but, due to protests by several LDS Polynesians, a Caucasian filled the role. Although this film was intended to be an interim production, both the third and fourth films are still in use today. One person recalls that former Provo Temple president Harold G. Clark said the third film was not phased out because too many people preferred it over the fourth film (Palmer 1979). Film two was subsequently cut down to the same length as that of films three and four for possible reintroduction, mainly to provide more diversity for frequent temple-goers (Wise 1983).

Perhaps one of the most significant effects of modern technology on temple work has stemmed from the Church’s widespread use of electronic data processing. In 1961, a growing shortage of names provided by members for vicarious ordinance work forced Church officials to decide between either closing temples, decreasing the number of sessions, or taking institutional responsibility for providing names. President David O. McKay opted to have the Genealogical Society take responsibility. Since the start of its name-extraction program, the society has provided about 75 percent of all names for vicarious temple ordinances (Fudge 1976, 15-19).

On a related note, members of the Church’s computer planning committee realized during the late 1950s and early 1960s that, given the estimated 70 billion people who had been born on the earth, all LDS adults working in temples eight hours a day, seven days a week wouldn’t be able to keep up with world population growth, much less complete ordinance work for deceased ancestors. This concern apparently has not disappeared (Church News, 20 July 1986, p. 16). Accordingly, a number of procedural changes were suggested. Some initial opposition came from Elder Harold B. Lee due to what he perceived as “doctrinal tampering.” However, an important change in the early 1960s permitted vicarious ordinances to be performed out of their traditional order, with new data processing systems collating the results. Thus, deceased persons could be sealed or endowed before they had been baptized, washed, anointed, or confirmed (Fudge 1976, 17-19; Carlson[28] 1980, 8-21).

Since the Genealogical Society initiated the computer-based name-extraction · program in 1965, computers have been used to track the administration of both living and vicarious temple ordinances ranging from initiatory work to marriage seatings. Patrons now present their temp1e recommends—coated with magnetic identification strips—to receive and account for the name of a deceased person for proxy work. Computenza6on clearly has augmented efficiency in doing work for the dead (Allen 1983).

VII. Trends and Implications

In 1980, President Spencer W. Kimball stated: “We feel an urgency for this great work to be accomplished and wish to encourage the Saints to accept their responsibility of performing temple ordinances” (1980, 2). Many older temples have been renovated to accommodate the more efficient movie format. The number of operating temples has increased dramatically- from thirteen in 1970 to forty in 1986, with an additional six currently under planning or construction. An analysis of ordinance data, however, suggests that rates of temple work have remained relatively constant over the last fifteen years. Based on figures from this period, an average of one out of every three converts receives his or her own endowment. Since 1971, the difference between total live endowments and the number of new converts has steadily increased. This trend clearly began after World War II. New missionaries’ endowments have constituted almost one-third of all live endowments, on the average, since 1971; thus, the actual percentage of new members receiving their own endowment is much smaller. Since the Church will not release geographic annual totals of new converts, it is not yet possible to determine sociological factors which may account for the widening gap between total new converts and total live endowments. Since 1971, vicarious endowments have been performed at an average rate of .81 per member per year. These per-member levels have declined slightly during the past ten years despite the impressive number of new temple dedications.

It is not possible to give full confidence to these figures or their interpretation since Church administrators do not provide more detailed endowment data arranged by year.[29] Other unavailable data critical to a reliable statistical analysis include annual totals of temple recommend holders and parallel information on temple work in regions outside the United States. The only international statistics I have seen indicate that in 1985 at least 75 percent of all live and vicarious endowments were performed within United States temples (Church Almanac 1987, 304). U.S. membership in 1985 constituted about 52 percent of total membership. The disproportionate amount of U.S. endowments may indicate that the temple—or that vicarious work for the dead—has lower priority overseas, a condition that could change as a new generation abroad grows up with “our own” temple. It also could indicate that foreign converts may be so economically disadvantaged that they cannot often attend temples, even when they are relatively close. Only time will tell what affect the large number of new foreign temples will have on the amount of endowments performed.

There is no way to quantitatively evaluate the spiritual benefit of temple work for either the living or the dead. Certainly, no spiritual benefits can be realized without participation. The 1970s saw a renewed emphasis on temple work.[30] During the latter part of the decade, many stakes were issued endowment quotas by their temples. While less emphasis is now placed on quotas, expectations remain high. For example, active recommend holders living close to a temple usually are expected to average one endowment per month. Members of my own stake made 2,671 visits to the Oakland Temple in 1985, versus 3,340 visits in 1984—a 20 percent drop in activity. Consequently, my stake presidency requested that all endowed temple recommend holders increase attendance by participating in events such as “stake temple days” and even take personal leave from work to “spend as much time in the Temple as possible” (Santa Clara 1986). Without comparing the policies of stakes in other temple districts, it is impossible to say how characteristic my stake might be.

These declining rates suggest that many Latter-day Saints apparently do not participate extensively in either vicarious or living endowments. The need for reevaluation can at least be discussed. As the history of the endowment shows, specific content and procedural alterations were made in 1845, 18 77, 1883, 1893, 1919-27, the early 1960s, and 1968-72.

The Church is already addressing the economic problem of attending the temple by constructing numerous scaled-down temples strategically placed in areas of high member densities. Although temples have traditionally been separate structures with the sole function of temple work, it is not impossible to consider the option of adapting or creating special rooms in selected stake centers as endowment and sealing rooms. Such an option would further reduce temple construction and operating expenses, even though the “temple” would lose something of its ”special’, character by being associated with a multi-use building. Such options would go far toward making temples more convenient for members to reach and less costly to construct and maintain. In other words, the temple could become more accessible to greater numbers of members.

Another aspect to be considered involves the appeal of the ceremony to members. If it is true that new converts and/or maturing youth are less likely to seek their own endowments, the ordinance may be seen as less meaningful, or perhaps have a different meaning. Allen Roberts, tracing the decline of architectural symbolism in the Church, has suggested that current Saints are no longer comfortable with symbolism of any sort (1979, 28-29). An intensifying factor may be that the spheres of symbolism have progressively shrunk until symbolism is associated almost exclusively with the temple. As a result, discomfort with public displays of elements increasingly seen as uniquely sacred may have hastened the spiral of withdrawal. Perhaps all symbolism is now seen as somehow connected to the temple. A third reason may be that contemporary Saints understand much less about symbolism than they once did. They recognize, for instance, an all-seeing eye but have never seen it anywhere but the temple—unlike nineteenth-century Saints who saw it on doorknobs, carved on the lintels of doors, and printed on the letterheads of stationery and newspapers. Certainly Joseph Smith and his contemporaries would have understood certain symbols from the richness of at least two contexts—Masonry as well as Mormonism.

The feelings contemporary Saints have for the temple certainly merit a careful quantitative analysis by professional social scientists. I have heard a number of themes from people who feel discomfort in one degree or another with elements of the temple ceremony. Although such reports are anecdotal, I believe they represent areas to be explored in attempting to understand the place of the temple in the lives of modern Saints.

In addition to the feelings about symbolism already expressed, a fourth element that may influence feelings about the temple comes from the increasing impact of technology and rationalism on our culture as a whole. The idea of a “lodge” may itself have an old-fashioned ring to it. Probably in no other settings except college organizations, with their attendant associations of youthfulness and possibly immaturity, do most Mormons encounter “secret’, ceremonies with code handshakes, clothing that has particular significance, and, perhaps most disturbing to some, the implied violence of the penalties. Various individuals have commented on their difficulty in seeing these elements as “religious” or “inspirational,” originating in the desires of a loving Father for his children.

Fifth, in a day when Latter-day Saints are increasingly focusing on shared Christian values, some are also uncomfortable at the portrayal of a Christian minister as the hireling of Satan, a point that local citizens, clergy, fundamentalist Protestants, and professional anti-Mormons have not overlooked in the demonstrations against temple dedications in Dallas, Denver, and Chicago (“Dallas” 1982; “Temple” 1986).

Sixth, the endowment ceremony still depicts women as subservient to men, not as equals in relating to God. For example, women covenant to obey their husbands in righteousness, while he is the one who acts as intermediary to God; are promised ordination in future states as queens and priestesses to their husbands, and are required to veil their faces at one point in the ceremony; Eve does not speak in the narrative portion once they are expelled from the garden. Such inequitable elements seem at odds with other aspects of the gospel.

Seventh, some individuals find that the filmed presentations have a dulling effect on their response. The freshness of live-session interpretations brings new insights in even subtle details, according to some regular temple-goers. While some people enjoy the more rapid pace of the filmed versions, others worry about being “programmed” by repetition and find themselves unable to imagine other faces, other voices, and other interpretations than those being impressed upon them by repetition.

In short, at least some Saints perceive the temple as incongruent with other important elements of their religious life. Some find the temple irrelevant to the deeper currents of their Christian service and worship of God. Some admit to boredom. Others describe their motivations for continued and regular temple attendance as feelings of hope and patience—the faith that by continuing to participate they will develop more positive feelings and even the joy that others sometimes report. Often they feel unworthy or guilty because of these feelings since the temple is so unanimously presented as the pinnacle of spiritual experience for sincere Latter-day Saints.

To suggest that all Latter-day Saints are deeply troubled by such elements would certainly be incorrect. For many, the temple experience is one of selfless service, peaceful communion with God, a refreshing retreat from the world, and a promise of future union with departed loved ones. Reports of spiritual enlightenment, personal revelation, and grateful contact from those for whom the work is being done are not infrequent.

Certainly the social values of the temple have expanded and become more far-reaching as more and more people have access to temples and as more Latter-day Saints retire with the economic means and health to spend many years of service in the temple. Anthropologist Mark P. Leone has suggested that temple worship is a key institution by which Mormons resolve the conflict of being “in the world but not of it” and spiritually and psychologically reinforce their unique purpose in life (Leone 1978, 10-13). The value of the temple experience clearly manifests itself in a renewed individual commitment to Christian values, and to furthering the goals of the Church. Given the strict requirements of worthiness one must adhere to for permission to attend the temple, it follows that Latter-day Saints receive added satisfaction belonging to a select group of devout members qualified to perform this sacred work.

Reviewing the historical development of any important institution in a community’s life raises questions about its future. The endowment has changed a great deal in response to community needs over time. Obviously it has the capability of changing still further if the need arises. If one were to set aside the questions of spiritual, emotional, and social significance and examine the endowment strictly from a functional perspective, some suggestive conclusions emerge.

For instance, it is interesting that vicarious endowments remain the only portion of the total temple sequence (baptism, confirmation, washing and anointing, ordination of males, endowment, and marriage sealing) which has not been “batch processed” to increase efficiency. Through 1985, a cumulative total of over 1.5 million endowments for the living and almost 86 million endowments for the dead have been performed. From a strictly functional perspective, the amount of time required to complete a vicarious endowment seems excessive. If patrons do not need to hear baptismal and confirmation speeches prior to performing these proxy ordinances, or talks on how to have a good marriage before vicarious sealings (as all living people traditionally receive before their own ceremonies), it seems inconsistent to hear about events in the Garden of Eden or the lone and dreary world before vicariously receiving the signs, tokens, and key words which form the apparent essence of the endowment ceremony, although the repetition of the narratives no doubt benefits the individual patron. If increasing the number of endowments were the primary objective, these elements could be performed in a few minutes instead of two hours. Baptisms for the dead and scalings already occur with accelerated routines.

If the vicarious elements were detached from the endowment or performed in another sequence, then the balance of temple activities devoted to instructing members in theological matters and allowing time for meditation, inspiration, and worship might be done under a different, less mechanical setting. Refocusing attention on the temple’s function as a house of prayer and a house of revelation might draw more individuals who genuinely wish for a worshipful experience in community and then quietly, alone. At the present time, most temples do not have the facilities for solitary meditation and actively discourage lingering in the celestial room after passing through the veil. A reversion to the live presentation might also augment attentiveness and rediscovery as participants review fundamental concepts. Such strategies may suggest ways of meeting the Church’s need for effectively and efficiently carrying out its mission of salvation for the dead while providing a holy setting for the spiritual healing of modern members bearing their diverse burdens. The richness and centrality of the endowment ceremony in the twentieth century, as in the nineteenth, roots Latter-day Saints in a tradition of spiritual power that promises equal abundance in the future.

Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of this article as a courtesy. There may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and bibliographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.

[1] I am indebted to Lester Bush and Andrew F. Ehat for this insight.

[2] Although historian B. H. Roberts referred to this event as “the introduction of the Endowment Ceremonies in this dispensation” (HC 5:2, n1), the History of the Church’s reconstructed text of this account (discussed below) did not use the term “endowment.” The phrase that was used, “the ancient order of things,” was one which Joseph Smith was quoted as using on 6 January 1842 in speaking of the forthcoming temple rites (HC 4:49-2). The History did note, in its entry for 2 December 1843 that Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Orson Spencer “received their endowments” in the upper story of Joseph Smith’s red brick store (HC 6:98), so it can be assumed that the ceremony as we now know it came to be known as the endowment within a year and a half of its introduction.

[3] The story of this passage’s reconstruction illustrates how much of the History of the Church was composed. According to Dean C. Jessee, Joseph Smith wrote very little of his diary and history. In fact, at the time of his death in 1844, his history was completed only through 1838. Eleven men composed the history by using over twenty different manuscript sources. Key participant George A. Smith recalled that this task “was an immense labor, requiring the deepest thought and the closest application, as there were mostly only two or three words (about half written) to a sentence” (Smith to Wilford Woodruff, 21 April 1856, cited in Jessee 1971, 472).

[4] Andrew F. Ehat comment on an early draft of this paper presented at the Sunstone Theological Symposium, Salt Lake City, 21 August 1986. Ehat apparently has had access to the Book of the Law of the Lord, which presently is restricted from scholars by the LDS Church’s Historical Department Archives. See also Ehat 1982, 26-27.

[5] I am indebted to Edward H. Ashment for this 5nsight. See also Norman 1987.

[6] The definitive examination of Mormonism and Freemasonry has yet to be written. For an introduction to this subject, see Durham 1974; Godfrey I 971; Goodwin 1938 and 1927; Hogan 1978 and 1980; Ivins 1934; McGavin 1956; and Roberts 1979.

[7] There is little question that Knoop and Jones have produced the most balanced scholarly historical studies of Freemasonry to date. Their publications by the Quatuor Coronati Lodge (the English Masonic research lodge) identify two schools of Masonic history dating from the 1870s: “verified” or institutional history, and “mythical” or philosophical specula­tions in Masonic symbols throughout its history. Their most valuable works include collec­tions of early Masonic catechisms (1943) and pamphlets (1978), as well as an institutional history through the early eighteenth century (1940, 1949). Other important careful histories include Gould 1904, Haywood and Craig 1927, Heckethorn 1965, Horne 1972, MacKenzie 1967, and A. E. Waite 1923.

[8] These newspaper citations were taken from typescripts prepared by Dale Morgan, photocopies in my possession.

[9] Compare Heber C. Kimball’s observation, 2 August 185 7: “You have received your endowments. What is it for? To learn you to hold your tongues . . .” (JD 5:133) with (especially regarding the discussion which follows on the endowment’s relationship to Freemasonry) Brigham Young’s comment in 1860: “The mane part of Masonry is to keep a secret” (Woodruff 5:418). A classic discussion on the sociology of secrecy and secret societies is by Georg Simmel in Wolff 1950, 330–76.

[10] Kimball’s daughter, Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, later (1882) reminisced: “I remember once when but a young girl, of getting a glimpse of the outside of the Morgan’s book, exposing Masonry, but which my father always kept locked up.”

[11] Joseph’s accelerated advancement came at the hand of Abraham Jonas, Grandmaster of the Illinois Lodge. Given that Jonas was running for political office, it is possible that he thought his action would secure him the Mormon vote.

[12] Freemasons are enjoined to study their Book of Constitutions which contain fundamental Masonic principles; every man considering becoming a Mason is called a “candidate” and must pass a character examination before being approved for his initiation; new initiates progress in Masonry through a system of ceremonial degrees; and several officers in a lodge have different titles employing the word “Priest” (Cross 1824, 7, 15-19, 63, 65, 157; Morgan 1827, 16-18).

[13] Joseph Smith’s stress on acquiring esoteric knowledge by means of special signs and words also is seen in the Freemasonic charge to master their own system of signs and key words. Before passing each degree, every candidate is thoroughly tested by presenting them to the presiding lodge officer (Cross 1824, 97; Morgan 1827, 18–27, 49–61, 70–89).

[14] After the Woodruff Manifesto in 1890, the association of celestial marriage with polygyny was discouraged; modern Mormons now perceive celestial marriage and plural mar­riage as two separate concepts.

[15] In addition to specific citations in the text, see Buerger 1987, a collection of over one hundred ”exposes” of the endowment ceremony by disaffected Mormons (copies in my possession). While the integrity of some accounts clearly is questionable, many demonstrate consistency in reciting dialogues and ritualistic details. Given the lack of official accounts, these published recitals are essential components in attempting to historically trace the ceremony’s development.

[16] It is likely that both of these accounts omitted an additional detail: of a woman being ordained to be a queen to her husband, as women now are ordained in their initiatory wash­ing and anointing ceremony. When Vilate Kimball received her second anointing in the Nauvoo Temple on 8 January 1846, she was anointed “a Queen & Priestess unto her Hus­band” (Book of Anointings, 4).

[17] During this same meeting on 26 December 1866, Young outlined accepted procedures for administering second anointings, then said, “when Persons Came to get their Endowments [they] Should be Clean & pure. A man should not touch a woman for 10 days before getting their Endowments.”

[18] Nuttall Diary, 7 Feb. 1877; see also, Nuttall “Memoranda,” 3 June 1892; Nuttall Diary, entries for 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 22, 25, 27 Jan., 1, 3, 10, 12, 13, 19, 21, 24, 27 Feb., 16, 17, 18., 20, 22 March, and 3 April 1877; St. George Historical Record minutes, 8 Nov., 13 Dec. 1890, 15, 22 May 1891, 11 June 1892; Walker, 11 June 1892, in 2:740-41; David H. Cannon to Joseph F. Smith and Counselors, 21 Oct. 1916, in CRF; Collier 1981, 113-16, 165-76; Buerger 1982; Kirkland 1984.

[19] Buerger 1982, 34, 53, n76; St. George Temple Minutes: K9368R, 5 March 1901, p. 129, and 19 Dec. 1902, p. 261; K9369, 15 Oct. 1906, p. 519; K9%9R, 14 Dec. 1911, p. 93, in CRF.

[20] Although a similar oath exists in the 30th degree of Scottish Rite Masonry (“Knight of Kadosh”), it is unlikely that this had any influence on the Mormon oath of vengeance. See Richardson 1860, 188.

[21] an Dusen 1847, 9; Lewis 1848, 9-10; Hall 1852, 49-50; Hyde 1857, 97; Remy and Brenchley 1861, 72; C. Waite 1866, 25 7-58; Beadle 1870, 496—97; Stenhouse 1890, 365; Young 1876, 368; Lee 1877, 160; “Mrs. G.H.R.” and Wallis 1879; RLDS 1893, 453, 457- 58; Inside 1903, 13, 17, 29, 33, 42, 44, 4 7-49, 52-53, 65-66; “Mormon” 1905, 170.

[22] Tanner (1972, 462-73) contains what purports to be a complete script of the modern endowment ceremony in 1969 when they first published it in The Mormon Kingdom, 1:123-34. More recent similar publications include Witte and Fraser, c1980, and Sackett 1982.

[23] Unless otherwise noted, information concerning the history of endowment movies is based on Wise, 1980-81 and 1983. Wise edited all endowment films.

[24] The cast for this film was Adam: Max Mason Brown; Eve: Marielen Wadley Christensen; Lucifer: Lael Woodbury; Minister: Morris Clinger; Peter: Harold I. Hansen; James: Douglas Clawson; John: Max Golightly; Elohim: unknown; Elohim voice: Dan Keeler; Jehovah: unknown; Jehovah voice: Carl Pope; Narrator: Glen Shaw. The pro­duction crew was Camera: Robert Stum and Dalvin Williams; Lighting: Grant Williams and R. Steven Clawson; Casting: Keith Atkinson, David Jacobs and Judd Pierson; Sound: Kenneth Hansen and Sharrol Felt; Set Design: Douglas Johnson and Robert Stum; Research: Scott Whitaker and Douglas Johnson; Script Girl: Marilyn Finch; Editing: Frank S. Wise; Director: Wetzel O. Whitaker.

[25] The cast for this film was Adam: Hank Kester; Eve: Lena Tuluanen Rogers; Lucifer: Ron Fredrickson; Minister: Spencer Palmer; Peter: Gordon Jump; James: Charles Metten; John: R. LeRoi Nelson; Elohim: Jesse Stay; Elohim voice: Lael Woodbury; Jehovah: Bryce Chamberlain; Jehovah voice: Robert Peterson; Narrator: Glen Shaw. The production crew was Camera: Robert Stum; Lighting: Grant Williams; Casting: Keith Atkinson; Sound: Don Fisk and Sharrol Felt; Set Design: Douglas Johnson; Production Manager: Dalvin Williams; Editing: Frank S. Wise; Director: Wetzel O. Whitaker.

[26] The cast for this film was Adam: James Adamson; Eve: Laurel Pugmire; Lucifer: Sterling Van Wagenen; Minister: Keith Engar; Peter: Craig Costello; James: Ivan Cros­land; John: Bruce Moffit; Elohim: Jesse Stay; Elohim voice: Lael Woodbury; Jehovah: Bryce Chamberlain; Jehovah voice: unknown; Narrator: Glen Shaw. The production crew was Camera: Robert Stum and Ted VanHorn; Lighting: Reed Smoot and Grant Williams; Casting: Peter Johnson; Sound: Don Fisk, Steve Aubrey and Kent Pendleton; Set Design: Douglas Johnson; Script Girl: Francine (last name unknown); Editing: Frank S. Wise; Director: Wetzel O. Whitaker; Assistant Director: Dave Jacobs,

[27] For example, the preacher’s reference to Satan having black skin was omitted in recent years; compare Witte and Fraser c1980, 23 with Sackett 1982, 38. Another omission during the late 1960s is the preacher leading the audience in a Protestant hymn. Singing by a “temple choir” stopped in 1921 when the choir was disbanded (G. F. Richards, Journal, 7-8 April 1921). Satan and the preacher no longer fix a specific salary to proselytize the audience for converts (Tanner 1972, 468-49; Witte and Fraser c1980, 21). Some of these changes probably resulted from the Harold B. Lee committee’s recommendations in 1972.

[28] Carlson was on the Church Data Processing Committee and the board of directors of Management Systems Corporation—a Church-owned company which provided the Church with data processing services.

[29] A telling example of the increasing reticence to share operating statistics is that for the first time in thirty-one years, the official Conference Report (first appearing in The Ensign) has omitted all figures related to temple work, including number of operating tem­ples, and number of live and vicarious endowments performed during the prior year (The Ensign, May 1987, 21).

[30] This may be necessary for other reasons as well: an analysis of the ratio of general conference references to temple work versus paragraph units in those talks from 1830 to 1979 indicates resulting scores ranging from .023 to .027 through 1919; since 1920 the scores have ranged from .001 to .011, a dramatic drop in salience (Shepherd and Shepherd I 984, 255).