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Latayne C. Scott: The Lost and Found of Masonry and Mormonism
I imagine that many Christians have wriggled uncomfortably as they read Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol. Scattered through the book are disparaging references to Christianity (and not a few barefaced prostitutions of Bible verses taken out of context).
But imagine the reaction of some Mormons who have been through the secret LDS temple ceremonies when they read, in the first pages of the book, of Masonic oaths whose penalties are "Throat cut from ear to ear. . .tongue torn out by its roots. . .bowels taken out and burned . . .scattered to the four winds of heaven.."
Elderly Mormons may have said nearly word for word those same things. Even Mormons who prior to 1990 participated in LDS temple ordinances would have pantomimed those actions, "slashing" their own throats and bellies. (That would include Mitt Romney and others of his generation, by the way.) Today there are thousands of Mormons who went through those temple ceremonies and promised to allow their lives to be taken if they revealed its secrets.
LDS founder Joseph Smith was a Mason, and borrowed the symbols of Freemasonry for his secret temple ordinances that are practiced every day around the world.
Many of the controversial elements of Brown’s previous book The DaVinci Code (such as male-female dualism and repeated attacks on the Catholic Church) are absent in The Lost Symbol. Nonetheless many persist, but reincarnated so to speak as Masonic issues. And where those Masonic issues intersect with Mormon issues is my area of interest. (Of course Brown tickles me with a secondary area of interest – the connection of facts and representations as Brown explores referents and their symbols, but that’s a topic for another day: So many goodies, so little time.)
Now, first of all I must note that The Lost Symbol only mentions Mormonism overtly a couple of times: in referring to Joseph Smith and his "magic eyeglasses," and "Mormon baptisms for the dead."
However, I have identified several other themes in The Lost Symbol that have definite connections with LDS doctrine.
- Secret temples
- Rituals only for initiates
- Regalia, including fig-leaf aprons, special robes with symbols on them, soft shoes and unusual headcoverings
- Use of symbols such as beehives, heavenly bodies such as the sun and moon and stars, clasped hands, the All Seeing Eye, the square, the compass, and cloud-painted ceilings
- The presentation of dramas within a secret ceremony
- "We, too, must be Creators…The created…becoming the Creator" --The Lost Symbol
- Closely related to the above: Overt striving for apotheosis (becoming a god)
- Teachings about a pre-existence ("you have forgotten that you are divine" – The Lost Symbol)
- The idea of an extra, higher tier of secret ritual (in Mormonism, the "second anointing")
- Ascension in ranks of priesthood or authority
- Special handshakes and ritualistic arm motions (In some cases, the Masonic grips and hand motions are identical to LDS temple rituals)
- Whispering passwords into someone’s ear
- Chanting in unison
- The receipt of secret, powerful new names
- Blood atonement (The Lost Symbol’s villain believes his own blood must be shed to achieve a complete cleansing)
- The idea that the organization is the only repository/restorer of pure ancient truths
Has anyone else who’s read The Lost Symbol seen any additional Masonry-Mormonism connections?
Latayne C. Scott is author of The Mormon Mirage: A Former Members Looks at the Mormon Church Today which continues to explore Masonry’s connections with Mormonism. She has also written a novel that explores the connection between Masonry and the Mormon Church, Latter-day Cipher (Moody Publishers).
For more information about the connection of The Lost Symbol, Masonry, and Mormonism, see her blog, "365 Reasons Why I Won’t Return to the Mormon Church."
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