Reviews - What do customers think about Mormons & Masons: Setting the Record Straight?
Gilbert W. Scharlatan. May 17, 2008
Scharffs' book betrays almost no knowledge of Freemasonry. This is a worthless book and Scharffs should be ashamed for conniving unsuspecting Mormons into paying money for the book. Scharffs is a charlatan.
. May 7, 2008
I am not one of those people who obsess over controversies like this. In fact, I really don't spend all that much time on church history other than when something does strike my interest. This was cheap at the store and my brother likes to ponder the mysteries of the Freemasons. So I picked it up, not really sure for what I was looking. I had heard of similarities between LDS temple ceremonies and those of the Masons, but that was it. Scharffs believes that there are no true similarities beyond those that happen to arise from similar histories, which is understandable. He takes on various questions and challenges and answers them to the best of his ability (his bibliography was impressive) and does not pretend to be an expert on Freemasonry. However, I really could not figure out what point he was trying to make! Still, it was an interesting read that seemed to cover the basics of any possible questions.
Sets the Record Anything BUT "Straight" Aug 23, 2007
As someone who has spent the past five years researching the relationship between Freemasonry and early Mormonism, I note quite a number of serious problems with this book. For example:
Page 1: The book begins by quoting the Apostle Peter and Neal A. Maxwell, suggesting that LDS members should be prepared to shoot down critics. Scharffs explains that he is responding, in part, to The Da Vinci Code, which he seems to think readers believed was a non-fiction book.
Page 3: Photo caption claims that Joseph Smith authorized the building of the Nauvoo Masonic Hall. That may be true, but there is no record of him doing so, unless you count the fact that he held the mortgage on the property and sold construction goods via the Red Brick Store.
Page 4: Apparently as evidence that the Endowment was a revelation from deity which preceded Joseph's initiation as a Mason, Scharffs makes the claim that the Book of Moses and "most likely" the Book of Abraham were revelations to Joseph Smith, and that these "contain a large portion of the completed endowment ceremony." I'm not sure he couldn't make the same claim about the Book of Genesis, so this argument seems rather weak.
Page 5-6: Scharffs argues that temple ritual was part of Mormonism in the Kirtland era, "long before" Joseph became a Mason. He ignores the fact that Joseph was immersed in Masonic culture and legend from the cradle.
Page 7-8: John C. Bennett is identified as a Mason who became a Mormon. Bennett was not a Mason at the time, having been expelled in Ohio. There is some debate on this question, but the evidence favors the position that he had already been expelled. The Grand Lodge of Illinois was certainly satisfied that this was the case.
Page 9: Scharffs claims that the extravagance of the Nauvoo Masonic Hall caused jealously and antagonism on the part of non-Mormon Masons. There is no evidence of this.
Page 9: "Some Masons were suspected of taking part" in the Martyrdom. There is far more than "suspicion." Quite a number of Masons were specifically known to have been participants in the mob at Carthage.
Page 10: Scharffs claims that the Nauvoo endowment caused "the overwhelming majority" of Mormons to follow Brigham Young. My understanding is that modern scholarship refutes this characterization, and at best, there was a small majority.
Page 13: In an apparent effort to show that all things temple predated all things masonic in Mormonism, Scharffs prepares a chronology, italicizing the words "temple" and "masonic lodge" throughout. Annoying. Repeats the claim that the Book of Moses contains "a major part" of the Endowment.
Page 15: Claims James Adams met Joseph in November 1839 and "became a lifelong friend" of the Prophet. I guess that's easy, if "lifetime" means you die less than three years later. Repeated claim that John C. Bennet was a Mason when he came to Nauvoo---"mason" not only italicized, but bolded (unlike anywhere else!).
Page 17: Claims the 1842 first investigation of Nauvoo Lodge found "no irregularities." This is patently false. Rather, the Nauvoo Lodge was saved at that time by Jonathan Nye, former Grand Master of Vermont who would have known the Smith family from those days. Nye noted the irregularities, but reported that they could be corrected with proper instruction.
Page 17: Claims the Grand Lodge of Illinois gave "another temporary suspension" of Nauvoo Lodge in October 1843. Not true---they revoked the dispensation entirely.
Page 18: "Some feel" that Joseph gave the Masonic distress signal at Carthage. That "some" includes John Taylor, among many others. Scharffs notes that Brigham Young directed that Masonic initiations cease in April 1845, and claims that the Masonic Hall "became a Social Hall" after that. This appears to be an effort to justify the current "Cultural Hall" label used in Nauvoo for the Masonic Hall. First, Brigham's request did not end the meetings and initiations. There's no record that he recinded it, but I think it's likely he did. Second, the Masonic Hall was host to the armory and police headquarters, not just a "Social Hall."
Page 23: Scharffs argues that Joseph received revelations by asking questions about the Bible, etc., and thus Joseph "certainly followed this procedure" after "being exposed to Masonic ritual." This idea rests on the premise that Joseph was ignorant of Freemasonry prior to his initiation. This is a false premise. More importantly, Scharffs uses elipses and brackets to completely misquote Franklin D. Richards, making Richards directly say that the Endowment was revealed to Joseph after he inquired about Freemasonry. Not only is this a misquote, but Richards' OTHER unpublished journal makes it clear that this wasn't what he was saying at all. (Don't ask---wait for it in my book.)
Page 24, etc.: There's a whole lot of generic response to anti-Mormons here, which has zero to do with the subject at hand.
Page 26: Scharffs repeats the incorrect assumption of earlier writers, that Abraham Jonas authorized the Nauvoo Lodge without the required sponsorship by a nearby lodge. Another lodge was the same distance from Nauvoo as Quincy, and THAT lodge happened to be Abraham Jonas' lodge. That lodge gave the required approval. Scharffs also repeats here his claim that the initial investigation of Nauvoo Lodge found "everything in order." This is false, as I explained. To make matters worse, Scharffs takes a quotation from the newspaper edited by Abraham Jonas (an unsigned editorial, btw), which was made in regard to the 1842 installation of Nauvoo Lodge, and falsely presents it as Abraham Jonas commenting on the investigation.
Page 27-28: Scharffs finally acknowledged that Joseph had some prior exposure to Freemasonry, via friends and relatives. Then he claims, without evidence, that James Adams talked Joseph into allowing a lodge at Nauvoo. The opposite is more likely true, as my book will explain. Then, Scharffs catalogues the goofy excuses which various apologists have invented for "why Joseph became a Mason." Among the list, he includes the "Joseph wanted political influence" story, and the "Joseph wanted Masonic protection for the Saints" story, which unknown to Scharffs, are accusations AGAINST Joseph. A new Mason actually is required to aver that he is NOT requesting initiation for such reasons. If Joseph had these motives, he would have to have lied to gain initiation.
Page 30: Scharffs claims that Heber C. Kimball said "a man should be a Mason for six months before becoming a Mormon." I'd sure like to know the source for such a quote, since I have never seen it, nor seen anyone else claim it. I strongly suspect that one of Scharffs' acknowledged personal sources, who I have already caught inventing useful quotes on this subject, invented this one for Scharff.
Page 30-31: Rather strong oversimplification of the case of John C. Bennett, including a claim that Bennett signed a statement refuting his own accusations against Joseph. Nevermind the alternative claim that he was locked in a room by Hyrum Smith, and essentially forced to do this.
Page 32: Scharffs claims that the four LDS church presidents who had been Masons "discontinued their association with Masonry after the Prophet's death." Nonsense. The lodge continued to operate in Nauvoo, even after many of the Mormons had left town.
Page 33: Scharffs claims that the first masonic lodge in Utah (Rocky Mountain Lodge #205, chartered out of Missouri) "included former enemies from that state [Missouri]." Unlike Scharffs, I happen to have copies of all extant records from this lodge. They are limited, since during the ban on Mormons joining Utah lodges, the Grand Lodge of Utah "borrowed" the records from the Grand Lodge of Missouri, and never returned them. There is an allegation that officers of the Grand Lodge of Utah burned these records, so as to destroy evidence that Mormons were WELCOMED in Rocky Mountain Lodge. (I've investigated this claim as far as can be done, and find nothing to refute it.) The ONLY existing record with any names, is the original petition asking for a dispensation to form the lodge. Most of the names are quite illegible. NONE of them are recognizeable as "former enemies" of the Mormons. Brigham Young once referred to members of this lodge as "our enemies," but the lodge was made up of U.S. Army soldiers, who were sent to quell the "rebellion" in Utah. They were "enemies" for that reason, and not for any former events.
Page 34-35: Pay attention, as this is one of the most damning aspects of this book. Scharffs writes: "In 2005, I taught the course, 'Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith' at the BYU semester in Nauvoo. I was surprised to meet one of my students that I had taught several years earlier at the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah. He had become a Mason and was now residing in Nauvoo, where he could study firsthand records of Masonry in the Nauvoo period of the Church. When I asked him why, he responded that he wanted to lay to rest all of the accusations of 'similarity' he had been exposed to before. He assured me he found no conflict."
Nearly every statement in this paragraph is a COMPLETE and KNOWING FALSEHOOD. Let me give you some background. You see, while Scharffs was teaching said semester class, I was invited to lecture to the assembled BYU instructors (this was after I did heavy editing to the lesson plan of instructor Paul Smith by his request, so that he wasn't teaching the LDS kids inaccurate material). Scharffs is rather careful never to list me in relation to any of his sources. I have been asked, since the publication of this book, whether I was the student written about in this paragraph. I was not, but I was well acquainted with that individual. In fact, I initiated that good friend into the Fraternity. Had it come to my attention that ANYONE was trying to join my lodge for such an ulterior motive, I would have personally seen to it that the individual was never allowed to join.
When I read this statement, I knew that my friend would never, never have made this statement. I contacted this friend to ask him about it. He was unaware of the above statement, since he had not yet read the book. I read it to him. To say that he was upset is putting it mildly. He acknowledged having a conversation with Scharffs, and that Scharffs was his former instructor, but he was adamant that he never said, and never would say, what Scharffs attributed to him. This is simply inexcuseable, especially in an author who claims to be "defending the faith."
Page 35: Scharff lists a number of supposed differences between Freemasonry and Mormonism. Most are plaigarized from Ken Godfrey's unfortunate *Encyclopedia of Mormonism* article on the subject.
For example: "In an LDS temple everyone is equal before God; rank in Masonry is very important." This is a rather insulting, let alone false, statement. The vast majority of LDS Masons I have known will agree that they experience far greater equality in lodge, than in any LDS setting, and that if anything, rank (office) is inexpressibly important in LDS-ism.
Page 36: Scharffs claims that anointing with oil is an old Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, and is not found in Masonry. Scharffs is incorrect on this, as I have personally been anointed with oil in two different Masonic rituals, and know of another Masonic ritual I've not received, which includes anointing with oil. Scharffs is just wrong in saying that "anointing with oil" is not found in Freemasonry.
Note: You're going to notice that I skip lots of pages here. This is not an indication that Scharffs "got it right" on those pages. Rather, it's because he includes a whole lot of material that isn't relevant to the question of Mormonism and Freemasonry. For example, there's a long answer to the question of whether "secrecy" is contrary to christianity, and another on why LDS have sealings when there's supposedly no marriage in heaven. Standard generic responses to standard generic anti-LDS questions. To be honest, I think he used this material to stretch the book, since it's only 92 pages long, including appendices (such as the appendix, "A summary of why the LDS temple is vital and different from anything else on earth, and why I love to participate." I kid you not--that's the title of a 14 page appendix!)
Page 40-41: Scharffs denies that the use of Masonic symbols (beehive, blazing star, etc.) in Mormonism has anything at all to do with Freemasonry, on the basis that these symbols also appear elsewhere. Such an argument may raise a bit of "reasonable doubt," but it certainly doesn't prove anything.
Page 41: Scharffs mistakenly assumes that Matthew Brown "discovered" the ancient usage of the blazing star (five pointed star with one tip downward).
Page 42-43: Scharffs quotes Greg Kearney and D. Charles Pyle, both LDS Masons, as saying that Joseph Smith was "chaplain of the Nauvoo Rising Sun Lodge." There was no such lodge. Rising Sun Lodge was in Montrose, and Joseph wasn't chaplain of it. I've seen statements from Kearney that I vigorously disagree with (and he makes up excuses when I ask him for citations), so I'm honestly not sure whether to attribute this mistake to Kearney or to Scharffs.
Page 43-44: Scharffs claims that George Harris (presumably George W. Harris, second husband of Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris Smith), "a Mason who left the LDS church," said that "The signs and tokens taught in the temple were unique to Mormonism." Either Scharffs found some other schmuck named George Harris, or he made up this quote and attributed it to the "real" George Harris.
Page 53-55: Scharffs makes some significant mistakes in regard to the "Masonic distress call" (actually the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress of a Master Mason). He argues that Joseph was not attempting to do this as he leapt/fell from the window of Carthage Jail. He bases his argument on the fact that Joseph didn't finish the entire wording, and Joseph's lack of accompanying hand/arm movements. In particular, he rather deceptively states that John Taylor "only" recorded Joseph as saying "O Lord, my God." Scharffs doesn't mention that John Taylor ALSO wrote a lengthy article in the Times & Seasons, in which he berates those Freemasons present at the jail for not responding to Joseph's attempt to use the sign. Scharffs also incorrectly argues that because Joseph didn't move his arms in a particular way WITH those words, it couldn't be the distress call. That simply isn't true, as any initiated Freemason can tell you. Then, Scharffs states his opinion that Joseph was "addressing the Lord Jesus Christ or God the Father" in prayer. As further evidence of his opinion, Scharffs then goes on for a few pages about Joseph's forebodings that he would die soon.
Page 61: The conclusion demonstrates Scharffs' motivation, just as the first words do. The "Conclusion" begins with the words, "The most important question that needs to be answered is 'Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God?' When we come to know this through study and prayer, then our faith becomes unshakeable." In other words, when Scharffs wrote this book, he set out to "prove" that Joseph Smith was a prophet, in spite of questions over the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism. He didn't set out to write an objective history of that relationship.
Page 63: We launch into the appendices, none of which have anything at all to do with Freemasonry. Included, for example, is a listing of operating LDS temples, until we reach page 92. (See my above statement, re "filler.")
MY FINAL COMMENTS: I didn't set out to nit-pick in these comments. There are other errors, such as the claim that the Scottish Rite didn't exist in the United States in 1844. I read several pages at a time, and then went back through quickly to note my comments, so I'm sure I missed writing about things that I found problematic in reading. The unfortunate fact is that in "setting the record straight," Scharffs has made a huge number of errors, oversimplifications, and worst of all, some blatant (to the point of appearing intentional) misrepresentations.
A Poorly Written Term Paper Aug 15, 2007
I was looking forward to reading this book due to my interest in the similarities between Mormons and Mason. Though I was greatly disappointed in the content of this book the book was lacking concrete evidence, or any evidence for that matter, that proved or disproved the similarities or lack there of between Mormons and Masons. The author would bring up a great subject but quickly lead you out of the subject and give you a canned answer.
There was some information that was interesting, but not enough to base a book on. There seemed to be more history on how Masons influenced Mormons not how there are some similarities between the two organizations. There was a great portion of the book devoted to Joseph Smith and the history of the LDS Church and little that was actually about Masonry.
I was really surprised reading this book. I was expecting more than what was delivered. Gilbert W. Scharffs, Ph.D did not deliver in this book. It was poorly written and lacked any direction. If one of my students turned in this as a term paper I would give it a C+. Reading this book was like one of those Sunday School lessons that goes on and on and you are no more enlightened after the lesson that before. Fortunately the book in short so if you must read it you can endure to the end.
Fall far short of "setting the record straight" Jun 20, 2007
Dr. Scharffs should be commended for his effort, but his book fall short of "setting the record straight."
The book's language betrays an unfamiliarity with Masonry, and several passages sound odd to the Freemason's ear. This is a minor point, but it's as annoying as hearing a foreigner say: "I played the baseball."
There are many misstatements and inaccuracies, such as claiming that Scottish Rite Masonry was not practiced in the United States in 1842. To the contrary, the Scottish Rite was founded in Charleston, South Carolina, 1801, although it wasn't officially in Illinois until after the martyrdom. It was, however, in New York during Joseph Smith's residence there in the 1820s and1830s.
Dr. Scharffs asserts that the mechanics of Masonic ritual had "great merit" to Joseph, but "Masonic meanings" had none (p.23). Yet we later read that Heber C. Kimball admired Masonry's "high moral teachings" (p.30). Wouldn't Joseph have admired these too?
In attempting to contrast Mormonism and Masonry, Dr. Scharffs writes, "In the LDS temple everyone is equal before God; rank in Masonry is very important." Could one argue that distinctions are made between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods? In Masonry all Brethren "meet upon the level." Our "ranks" are simply offices or describe which "degrees" (levels of membership) we hold.
In his attempts to distance the Mormon temple Endowment ritual from Masonic ritual, the book generalizes too much and Dr. Scharffs appears unaware that there are many rites and orders of Masonry. Thus, when he says that "Masonic ritual refers only to an impersonal God" (p.35), he ignores types of Masonry which require a belief in Jesus Christ (such as the Order of Knights Templar, and the Swedish Rite).
He also seems unaware of "Adoptive Masonry" which included a portrayal of the Garden of Eden, and of the fall of man, and the fact that "Father Adam" is the principal character in the Scottish Rite's "Knight of the Sun" Degree. He's unaware that members of the Swedish Rite consider themselves members of a "covenant" in which relations continue after death.
Dr. Scharffs writes "in Masonry there is only minor reference to authority and no mention of Aaron or Melchizedek" (pp.35-36). Contrary to this assertion, both Aaron and Melchizedek are mentioned in Masonic rituals. For example, the High Priests of Royal Arch Masonry are set apart to the "Order of the High Priesthood," which refers to Melchizedek, and also includes a laying on of hands. And again, contrary to Dr. Scharffs' misstatements (p. 36), Freemasonry does include ceremonial anointing with oil, as well as washings (symbolic lustrations or purifications).
Dr. Scharffs denies that Joseph attempted to give Masonic signs of distress at Carthage jail (pp. 55-56). However, we read in Times and Seasons vol. 5 (July 15, 1844), No. 13, p. 585 that "with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress.... They were both Masons in good standing...." Joseph's friend, John D. Lee, wrote that the Prophet completed his Masonic cry of distress (Mormonism Unveiled, p. 153).
Regrettably, space doesn't permit further examples or errors, but this book has too may to be reliable.