GETTING A CLEARER PICTURE
A friend of mine the same age as me told me a mob of Freemasons infiltrated Carthage jail and killed Joseph Smith. My friend said they did this because Joseph Smith was a Freemason who, in their minds, had broken a Masonic oath. He said, to the Masons, it was obvious he took the Masonic rituals and used them in Temple worship. He said this went against the oaths they made as Masons and breaking those oaths were punishable by death.
I hadn’t heard some of this information before. It caused me to scratch my head and think, “hmmm, that’s interesting.” I didn’t rule out that it wasn’t true but I didn’t organize it in my head or heart as solid truth. It was in one of the outer rings of truth in this diagram.
I listened to my friend, added his thoughts to my thought pool of potential truth, and put it on the backburner. I trusted him as a friend, but I didn’t hold him to be an expert on the subject. His thoughts, whether true or not, sparked a question and questions are critical to growth.
Was what my friend told me accurate? Four months after this question came to my mind, God brought Richard Bushman, one of the LDS Church’s most well-known historical scholars, me, and my question into a room together on Nov. 15. I asked my question and I saw a clearer picture of the things I was interested in learning more about.
Bushman received BA, MA, and PhD degrees in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University. Bushman taught at Harvard University, Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the history faculty at Columbia University. He is a legitimate and recognized historian within and without the LDS Church setting.
Bushman said there could have been Freemasons in the mob that martyred him, but evidence doesn’t point to his death being a masonic intervention. He said the Masons’ ceremonies do have some relation to temple worship. “Joseph sensed inside himself those ceremonies had something potent. The restoration wasn’t just restoring truth from the Old Testament, but wherever the truth could be found,” he said.
That thought resonates strongly with me. I strongly and passionately agree that we should recognize truth wherever truth can be found. I could dive into that subject but for the continuity of this post I’ll leave it at that.
Bushman said “Joseph Smith had a green thumb. When God gave him a seed of truth, he would grow it into a tree.” He said Joseph became a Mason just a month or two before he organized the first endowment session. “Some of the script is the same, word for word. Other parts of it are entirely different. Masonic rituals were for men only. The endowment was for men and women.”
HOW I FEEL ABOUT WHAT I LEARNED
Richard Bushman knows so much more about the life of Joseph Smith than I do. His testimony of the gospel was solid. Bushman listened to the questions, answered them and gave more information. Some of the information he gave were answers to questions people didn’t think to ask. He was calm and collected. The photos in this article we posted online show he is old, but don’t let that mislead you, his mind is sharp. If you want to see for yourself, here is a link to an interview by Ben our videographer at the Ke Alaka‘i.
Bushman said people respond differently to new information. Some people lose their testimonies, and others reconstruct their perspective of Joseph Smith and the First Vision. The church has released published essays and compilations to help members and non-members understand the church better. “That’s what the Joseph Smith Papers were about: Getting to the bottom of his life,” he said. “We all have to somehow reconstruct the narrative with this history.”
His book, “Joseph Smith a Rough Stone Rolling” is one of the next books on my reading list. I am still on the journey of understanding who he is and I welcome anyone else interested to join me. I am not an expert. I am on a journey to fill my brain up with as much truth as I can. Join me if you’d like because there is plenty of room on the train!
I also think it’s important to acknowledge that people we love and trust can share misleading information with the best of intentions. (I do not exempt myself from that category. Please, question what I tell you and learn for yourself. I can fall short in how explain things.) Information gets twisted and distorted super easily and communication is critical!
Discussion gets my heart beating fast. Conflicting opinions do not equate with contention. I want to have more experiences that validates that belief because this is the frontier of my comfort zone. The marrow in my bones is to seek to understand others. There is validity in all viewpoints.
I believe that there is a lot of information out there and it can be hard for to interpret. I know that God knows the overall picture and he blesses us with new information to guide us in the right direction. I know he gives us agency to interpret that information. I believe our attitude and history play a big part in how we see the world. I know that truth exists. I know there are right and wrong choices we can make. I can see that there are gray areas where the line is blurred. I know that the spirit, or the Holy Ghost, is there to help us navigate those gray areas. I understand the weight of my words I am about to say. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of my truth pool. Is that actually true for me to admit? My answer is yes.