Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?

Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment theology early on in his prophetic career

Critics have noted that Joseph's initiation into Freemasonry (15–16 March 1842) predates his introduction of the full temple endowment among the Saints (4 May 1842). They thus claim that Masonry was a necessary element for Joseph's self-generated "revelation" of the Nauvoo-era temple ceremonies.

Joseph demonstrated knowledge of temple theology very early on in his prophetic career. Matthew Brown offered this timeline for consideration:

  • 16 February 1832 (D&C 76:50-70): Joseph Smith learned by vision about being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, Kings and Priests, the Church of the Firstborn, and godhood.
  • 22 September 1832 (D&C 84:18-26, 31-34): Joseph Smith learned by revelation that Moses knew of Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances that would enable one to enter into the Lord's presence.
  • 2 February-2 July 1833 (JST Isaiah 34:16): Joseph Smith learned that none of those whose names are written in the book of the Lord "shall want [i.e., lack] their mate," suggesting the permanent sealing together of husband and wife. [46]
  • 5 July 1835 (HC, 2:235-36): The Church acquired several ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls that contained, among other things, the writings of Abraham and Joseph. It has been demonstrated that some of the material on these scrolls is related to Egyptian temple ceremonies (compare Abraham 1:26; see explanations to Facsimile 2).
  • 20 January 1836 (HC, 2:377-78): The Prophet conducted a marriage ceremony "after the order of heaven." The couple took each other by the hand, and the Prophet invoked upon them "the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
  • 3 April 1836 (D&C 110): Keys pertaining to the temple ordinances that were eventually practiced in the Nauvoo period were restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple.
  • 15 March 1839 (HC, 3:286): Joseph Smith informed a member of the Church" "I never have had [an] opportunity to give [the Saints] the paln that God has revealed unto me."
  • 27 June 1839 (WJS, 6): The Prophet made the first of several known references to methods of discerning between spiritual beings sent from God and deceptive spirits who attempt to pass themselves off as heavenly messengers. These methods were considered to be some of "the keys of the kingdom of God." The Prophet's teachings are now published in section 129 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • 18 June 1840 (HC, 4:137): Joseph Smith stated his desire to continue translating the Egyptian papyrus scrolls obtained by the Church in 1835.
  • 15 August 1840 (WJS, 37, 49; HC, 4:231): During a funeral sermon the Prophet read 1 Corinthians 15:29 and announced that baptism for the dead would be practiced in the Nauvoo Temple.
  • 31 August 1840 (HC, 4:184-87): The First Presidency stated in a general letter to all Latter-day Saints that the priesthood was yet to be established in its fullness and the Kingdom of God built up in all of its glory. They announced that they had been given "the pattern and design" to accomplish this and emphasized that everything the Saints had accomplished so far would pale in comparison to what was about to occur. In connection with this they spoke of the necessity of building the Nauvoo Temple.
  • 19 January 1841 (D&C 124:28, 34, 38-41, 95, 97): The Lord revealed that the fullness of the priesthood would be restored and practiced in the Nauvoo Temple, spoke of certain "keys" whereby one could ask for and receive blessings, and provided a detailed outline of what the Nauvoo Temple ordinances would consist of. The Lord also stated that the ordinances that were about to be restored were once practiced in the tabernacle built by Moses and in the temple constructed by king Solomon.
  • 5 May 1841: William Appleby visited the Prophet who showed him the three Egyptian facsimiles that are now published in the Book of Abraham and evidently showed him written explanations of their various parts. These explanations, as recorded in Appleby's journal, closely match the printed explanations that now accompany the Book of Abraham facsimiles. Appleby recorded that one part of Facsimile #2 presented "the Lord revealing the Grand Key Words of the Holy Priesthood to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and to all whom the Priesthood was revealed."[1] The note from Appleby is found in his journal a little less than a year before Joseph's initiation into the Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo (15-16 March 1842).
  • 31 October 1841 (HC, 4:443-44): Hyrum Smith informed a group of Latter-day Saints that within the Nauvoo Temple "the key of knowledge that unfolds the dispensation of the fullness of times may be turned, and the mysteries of God be unfolded."
  • 4 March 1842 (HC 4:543): The Prophet gave Reuben Hedlock instructions regarding the "explanations" that were to accompany Facsimile #2 when it was published in the Times and Seasons. These "explanations" made mention of "the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood" and also indicated that this Egyptian hypocephalus contained "writings that cannot be revealed unto the world but [are] to be had in the holy temple of God."

In evidence of these fact, we find that upon his initiation into Masonry Joseph Smith was already explaining things which the Masons themselves did not comprehend. According to one witness:

"the Prophet explained many things about the rites that even Masons do not pretend to understand but which he made most clear and beautiful." [2]


  1. William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, MS 1401 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  2. Horace H. Cummings, "True Stories from My Journal," The Instructor 64 no. 8 (August 1929), 441.; cited in Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site