The Endowment

Building on the Kirtland temple ritual of being washed and anointed, Smith added a liturgy that included ceremonially dressing in robes and receiving instruction in what he termed the “Holy Order.” Smith incorporated Masonic elements such as ceremonial clothing, grips, key words, and recitation of oaths in the narrative presentation of the new “endowment” ritual. He asserted that while Free Masonry contained much that was true, his was the restoration of an ancient rite dating back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Smith introduced the liturgy in the upper-room of his mercantile store (the same room that was used as a Masonic Lodge and where the Relief Society was organized) to eight of the church’s leaders who became known as the Quorum of the Anointed, a group that eventually expanded to over eighty members as more were introduced to the Holy Order. One year later, Smith began including women in the ritual. Emma, the first woman to receive the endowment, also participated in the initiatory washing and anointing of other women prior to their receiving of it. Additionally, Emma and other prominent women participated in the expanded Quorum of the Anointed, which held prayer circle meetings regularly.

Some scholars contend that the endowment ritual was lifted directly from Free Masonry, altered by Smith, and that it has no connection to either the Biblical temple of Solomon or ancient practices. Other scholars respond that, while the ceremonies of Free Masonry and the LDS Temple have similarities in form, their purposes is distinct; and they emphasize the many differences between the two, including a Biblical narrative, female participation, and a theological emphasis on eternal covenants. Likewise, they point to ancient temple use and traditions of washing, anointing, blessing, and other ritualized form of covenant-making, as evidence of LDS temple worship being connected to principles beyond Free Masonry. Furthermore, in modern LDS temple worship, a focus on vicarious ordinances is distinct from any rites performed by Free Masons.

 

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