what does ‘is there no help for the widow’s son’ means?

I’m reading Dan Brown’s Lost symbol at the moment and I’ve been intrigued with that phase.

anyone who knows what it means?thanks

2 Answers

  1. I can’t wait to read that… I found the following site as a reference. Have fun!!

    It is a common masonic call: 15. But, three wicked men intervened and committed a horrible crime. They attempted to force one of the Masons, one of the faithful Masons who had discovered the treasure, Hiram Abif: or Hiram, the widow’s son, to reveal the hiding (place) and the contents of the hidden treasure.

    16. He would not reveal his knowledge and therefore they killed him.

    17. While being slain, Hiram, with uplifted hands, cried out, “Oh Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” This has since become a general Masonic distress call.

    18. Then three loyal Masons, seeking revenge, pursued the three evil ones.

    19. One of the three faithful Masons overtook one of the archvillains. He was asleep with his sword, or knife, nearby.

    20. The “Mason slew the villain with his own knife by cutting off his head.

    21. In Masonic ceremonies, the words “strike off his head” were employed.

    22. Also in Masonic ceremonies. In revolutionary France, the re-acting of the killing of this villain, the tyrant’s name was King Phillippe le Bel. (Philip IV or the Fair who destroyed the Knights Templar. M. B. H.)

  2. just looking at the sentence I would take the meaning to be that a widow’s son has no father (his father having passed making his mother a widow), he has no hope because without a father there is no man to guide him in the ways of the world.

Relevant information

The Treasure of the Widow’s SonJack Adamson, Unpublished Manuscript, circa 1960

In the early 19th century the small town of Manchester, New York, lay in an area which, because of the peculiarly intense and long-continued response of its inhabitants to the fiery spirit of God, came to be called the “burned-over district.”[1] In that town, on September 21, 1823, while the flame was burning fiercely, a shining angel, dressed in a radiantly white robe, descended through the shingled roof of a small frame house and into the bedroom of an eighteen-year-old boy named Joseph Smith. The angel told the boy that lying buried in a nearby hill, later to be known as the Hill Cumorah, was a treasure consisting of some gold plates, a breastplate and two sacred stones. The plates, according to the angel, contained a history of some ancient Hebrew inhabitants of the American continent; the latter two objects were none other than the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate of the high priest of ancient lsrael.[2]

On the following day, the awe struck boy related this vision to his family, all of whom “were melted to tears and believed all he said.”[3] Perhaps nothing is more puzzling to the readers of the Mormon story than this absence of surprise in the Smith family and their neighbors, many of whom talked and acted as if it were quite to be expected that sacred objects from pre-prophetic Israel should turn up in a drumlin (a hill formed by a glacial drift) in the state of New York. The principal reasons for such equanimity, perhaps, lie in the fact that such experiences were quite common in the burned-over area. Too, there was a widespread popular belief that the American Indian represented a genuine, if degenerate, remnant of the lost tribes of lsrael.[4] It was, therefore, to be expected that sooner or later a history of these people would be found. But there is other reason, I believe for the air of familiarity which accompanied Joseph’s announcement and his family’s acceptance of it, namely the rapid and uncontrolled spread of Masonry and Masonic lore in the early 19th century.[5] This remarkable, oft-disseminated lore had made people aware of the story of a sacred treasure, the treasure of the widow’s son, buried in a sacred hill.[6] The story of the treasure was circulating at least as early as 1802,[7] and it embodied the kind of material that could be expected to appeal to those who were reared in the peculiar environment of the burned-over district.

The ultimate sources of the story of the buried treasure are quite ancient; some of them are central to Jewish Cabbalistic lore. To understand the story, one needs first to know the Cabbalistic background and context.

Cabbalistic legends tell of the mystical significance of the name of Deity, a name composed of four Hebrew letters, two symbolizing the upper world and two the lower. The 


 tells us that once, in a cosmic ritual, the two letters from the lower world moved upward and the two letters from the upper world moved downward; when joined together, they formed the tetragrammaton. With the Holy Name complete, the Shekinah, or Holy Presence, was able to dwell on earth among men. Solomon’s temple was to become his first earthly dwelling.[8]

But we are pursuing legends of a time before Solomon which center around a shadowy Biblical figure known as Enoch, son of Jared. This preoccupation with Enoch perhaps reflects his mystically significant position, number seven, in the line of patriarchs from Adam. It is to one of these legends of Enoch, son of Jared, that we turn for the story of the sacred treasure in the sacred hill. It is a legend that passed over from Cabbalistic lore into Masonic legend.[9]

Enoch was taken in vision to the hill of Moriah. Standing on the hill, in the vision, he saw a cavern below him within which, brilliantly shining, was a gold plate, curiously engraved. Many symbols were to be seen on the plate; for example, the letter “M” designated the name of the hill. But by far the most important engraving was that of the letters in the true and ineffable name of God through which the universe was integrated and preserved.[10] As the vision continued, Enoch, son of Jared, saw that a flood would destroy mankind; it was, he perceived, his duty to provide a refuge for the holy name. He therefore placed a stone door over the cavern in which the gold plate was hidden, and above the door he placed two pillars. The first pillar was of marble, an enduring substance which men, from the beginning, have chosen for their monuments to be pitted against forgetfulness and decay. On this marble was engraved in Egyptian hieroglyphics the story of the treasure. The second pillar was of brass and on top of it Enoch placed a metal ball, hollowed out so that it could float and thus survive the flood. Carved on this ball were maps of the world and of the universe.[11] The ball also possessed the mystical quality of being an invaluable instrument “for improving the mind and giving it the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition.”[12]  Finally the lore contained a hint that some day an lsraelitish descendant would find the treasure.[13]

The ages spun themselves out. Man fouled the earth and God, in anger, cleansed his creation by a flood that destroyed all living things except for the small remnant of seed, divinely selected 


, that bobbed along safely in the ark. But the treasure, as we shall see, safely withstood the flood.

When Solomon decided to build a house in which the Divine Presence could dwell permanently among the people of the holy nation, he chose as a site for the temple the Hill of Moriah, partly because Father Abraham had taken his son Isaac there, along with the knife and the faggots, instruments of a deed through which his faith was to shine down to all ages. But, even more, the hill Moriah was the exact center of the earth; it was the navel of the world’s body, although Greek poets pretended that the navel of the earth was in the rocky chasm at Delphi. On this Mount Moriah, then, was to be built the temple of Solomon, a mystical microcosm, an exact analogue of the heavenly kingdom.[14] And it was here, while excavating for the foundation of the temple, that some Master Masons discovered the long buried treasure and the gold plate. Twice they tried to reach the treasure and failed, but on the third attempt they obtained it.[15] Now with the tetragrammaton in their possession, the transformation of the earth into a paradisiacal society seemed only a matter of moments.

At this critical juncture, three evil men intervened. They committed an “enormous” crime. This crime was nothing less than the attempt to force the Master of all Masons, Hiram Abiff, or Hiram the widow’s son,[16] to reveal the hiding place of the gold plate. But the stout Hiram resisted and whatever secrets he knew died with him. As he was slain, he cried out, “O Lord my God, is there no help for the son of a widow?”[17] This cry of anguish became the secret Masonic distress call, a cry which could save a man’s life, it was said, among pirates, Turks, cruel savages, haughty Jews, Chinese or even Christians, if accompanied by the proper sign – both arms raised to the square. Even if one went into the remotest areas of the earth he could find, as did the men in one of Kipling’s stories, the signs, secrets and obedient devotees of Masonry.[18]

Three loyal Masons pursued the evil ones. One of the former came across the arch-villain asleep in a dark cavern with his poniard lying conveniently near. The Masons seized this providential opportunity, slew the villain with his own villainous knife, and severed the head from the trunk.[19]

Anti-Masonic writers insist that this story was embodied in one of the degrees of Masonic ritual in which the candidate was symbolically threatened and able to save his life only by promising that he would revenge the death of the father of Masonry.  The candidate was then symbolically shown into a dark cavern and told to strike all who opposed him:  “’Strike off his head,’ the voice repeats, and the head of the corpse is lying at his feet.”[20]

It has been further alleged that in Revolutionary France, the tyrant in the cavern became the surrogate for the king of France and that the name of King Phillipe Le Bel was actually used.


 A. E. Waite, himself a Mason and certainly the most authentic scholar who has written on the subject, says that it is unquestionably true that at one period the candidates were required to trample on a crown and tiara (symbol of King and Pope). That the formal execution of Le Bel, Clement V, and a traitor named Noeffedi was symbolically carried out in Masonic ritual, he mentions as an accusation without affirming or denying it.[22]

In any case, the loyal Mason, the revenger of the death of Hiram the widows son, was rewarded by King Solomon with a great reward and the treasure became part of the collection of sacred objects in the temple: the gold plate, the breastplate of the high priest of Israel and the Urim and Thummim. Later, when Solomon’s temple was destroyed, the Shekinah, somewhat like the Greek Astrea, fled to the heavens, leaving the lower world severed from the upper. I have been unable to discover what happened to the treasure itself. I presume, therefore, that it still lies hidden in the sacred hill of Moriah, awaiting a descendant of Enoch to find it and again unite the upper world with the lower, the eternal forms with the earthly shadows.

Such is the story, a piece of lore which perpetuates the esoteric and mystical beliefs of a neo-Platonic Cabbalism. And the lore lends itself to many levels of interpretation. Masons who haven’t the faintest belief in this story as actual history nevertheless find it to be a significant part of a profound religious allegory.[23]

But more important, at least for the history of the United States, is the fact that almost every element of the legend seems to have an analogue of some kind in the history of Joseph Smith or in the scriptures he produced. To trace those analogues is to discover again, although transformed, in varying degrees, the ancient lore of the treasure of the widow’s son.

Enoch, son of Jared, does figure, although not prominently, in the Mormon history and scripture. In the Book of Moses, chapter 7, Enoch, speaking in his own person, says that he went up into the Mount of Simeon where, in a vision, he saw the future, including the coming flood. Inasmuch as there is no hint of this event in the Bible, the similarity of this account to Masonic lore seems apparent. Further, Joseph Smith frequently identified himself with Enoch. Section 78 of the Doctrine and Covenants reads, “Revelation given to Enoch (Joseph Smith, Jun.)” Inasmuch as this is an official edition, the material in brackets has official sanction. It is an accepted identification. In verses 1 and 4 of the same revelation, Joseph is again referred to as Enoch. A similar identification occurs in Sections 92, 96 and 104. Section 107, in which Joseph Smith recounts the ages at which the various Biblical patriarchs were given the “Melchizedek Priesthood,” is perhaps relevant also. Seth was 69, Enos 134, Cainan 87, Mahalaleel 496, Jared 200, Enoch 25, Methuselah 100, Lamech 32, and Noah 10. To those acquainted with Mormon history, one age stands out from the others: that of Enoch. For Joseph Smith was also 25 years of age in 1830, the year in which he founded the Church, published the Book of Mormon and himself, apparently, received the same “Melchizedek Priesthood” at the hands of heavenly messengers.[24]

But Enoch, son of Jared, remains on the periphery of Mormon history and writings. Far more significant is a non-Biblical character known only as ‘the brother of Jared.” In the Book of Mormon we are told that this man was present at that hybristic enterprise, the building of the tower of Babel.  Being a faithful man, however, he was warned of the Lord to flee iniquity and did so, leading a small band out into the desert to a place called Moriancumer.[25] This strange word actually seems to be a compound of two words: “Moriah,” the sacred hill where the old Enoch hid his gold plate, and “Cumorah,” the sacred hill where the new Enoch found his gold plates. This word thus united the two sacred hills, one in old Jerusalem and the other in the new Zion.

The brother of Jared, upon arriving at Moriancumer, was commanded by the Lord to go up into a mount where he too was given a vision of the future: he was further told to write down the content of the vision but to seal up the writing so that it could not be read. He was instructed to include with the writing “two stones” by means of which some future tender of the record might be able to translate it.[26] Section 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants is more explicit. There we are told that the brother of Jared, “on the mount, was given the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate. He was also given the sword of Laban and the ‘miraculous directors.” These latter two objects will be discussed later.

The brother of Jared, then, according to the narrative, sailed to America with a sacred treasure consisting of metal plates, the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate. Ultimately those treasures were buried by a “Nephite” named Mormon in the hill Ramah which, we are told in an official footnote, is another name for the Hill Cumorah.[27]

Thus the Mormon scriptures tell us how the sacred treasures arrived in the New World. There for many centuries they lay buried in a sacred hill awaiting the new Enoch. And, at the appointed hour, the new Enoch appeared.

Joseph Smith, like his ancient counterpart, first saw the sacred hill in a vision. “Owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had,” he writes, “I knew the place the instant I arrived there.”[28] In this vision the angel had told him of the sacred treasures; when Joseph went to the hill he found these treasures underneath a stone and lying in a stone box.

The parallelism is further carried out in that, like the Master Masons, he could not “obtain” the treasure immediately. Rather, he returned to the hill once each year for three years and on the fourth year was allowed to take the treasure to his home. Before he arrived at home he was, like Hiram Abiff, assailed three times, but unlike the unfortunate Hiram, he was able to knock down his assailants and keep the treasure safe.[29]

This part of the story can be briefly concluded. Once the Prophet Joseph was asked by an English convert to name a new-born child, and he gave it the surprising name of Mahonri Moriancumr. He then told the surprised parents that he had just that moment discovered, through revelation, that this was the true name of the Brother of Jared.[30] Obviously this name calls for analysis.

Psychiatrists sometimes use the word “clang’ to denote a tendency observable in certain individuals under certain conditions to mask an intended word by using one similar to it. Joseph Smith, apparently, sometimes used such “clang” words. For example, in the Book of Moses, written in 1830 at the height of the anti-Masonic agitation, we are told that Cain was called ‘Master Mahan” (5:31). In 1917, Prince, writing in the Journal of American Psychology, pointed out that this phrase was a transparent “clang” for Master Mason. Similarly he said that Mahonri was “clang” for Masonry. [31]If we accept this postulate, and it seems obvious enough, then the name the Brother of Jared, divested of ‘clang,” is Masonry Moriah Cumorah. Another sacred object in the Masonic lore, it will be remembered, was the mystical hollow sphere which stood atop Enoch’s brass pillar. This object, or one a good deal like it, appears in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi, 4:12, 10)

And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning and went forth to the tent door to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.

Not only was this ball capable of giving directions, but like the ball of Masonic lore, it could also impart ideas. When the steel bows of the sons of Lehi lose their spring and Nephi breaks his bow, the little band faces starvation. In this peril they pray mightily.

And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him, Look upon the ball and behold the things which are written.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith, and diligence, and heed which we did give unto them.

And there was also written upon them, a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord, and it was written and changed from lime to time according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it.

This metal ball was used as a compass to guide the second band of Israelites to the New World. The purpose of the sphere and its description may be compared with that given above from a Masonic source to the effect that the sphere gives the mind distinct ideas about problems and propositions.[32]

One treasure remains to be discussed: the sword of Laban.  The Book of Mormon opens with a scene in which a young man named Nephi is made out to be a hero for cutting off the head of a wicked king. The name of this evil king is Laban (clang for Le Bel?) who has in his possession some brass plates which he will not release to the righteous Nephi.  Rather, Laban threatens Nephi and his brothers who then depart.  At night, Nephi returns alone, finds the king lying on the ground, in the darkness, drunk, helpless and conveniently wearing a sword.  The spirit “constrains” the young Nephi to kill the king, but he cannot for he has been taught not to kill.

And the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands,

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and smote off his head with his own sword [1 Nephi, 4:12, 181.

Those who read the Book of Mormon as essentially an account of the inner life of Joseph Smith generally feel that Nephi is a surrogate for the Prophet himself. One recalls the symbolic “dark cavern” of Masonic lore, the voice out of the darkness ordering “Cut off his head,” the neophyte’s slashing out at a wicked king named Le Bel, and shudders slightly to find the scene emerging out of the world of symbolic ritual to be narrated in the Book of Mormon as a historical account of a literal event. Thus the opening scene of the Book of Mormon contains thematic elements from the parent lore: an unrighteous king, the disputed possession of precious plates, and the beheading of the villain with his own sword.

The strangest part of the story remains to be told. So far we have seen aspects of the Masonic lore, transformed in whatever degree, emerging in the writings and history of Joseph Smith. We have seen a kind of reshaping within his psyche of some of the legendary stories and traditional rituals of Masonry. But the final scene has a dual aspect: it does indeed continue the symbolic acting out of Masonic lore – this time the death of the founder of Masonry – but in this event, symbol is not merely transformed into Joseph’s inner history or his sacred writings. Rather, the action goes beyond metaphor and the symbol merges into a tragic reality.

Joseph surrendered voluntarily to officers of the law who promised him the protection of the law. However, he was placed in Carthage jail and handled in such a way that his enemies saw an open invitation to murder. After an ugly mob had spent some time around the jailhouse, a few men detached themselves, rushed the jail and meeting no resistance, ran up the stairs and began firing through the door into the room where the prisoner and some of his friends were being held.

As a last desperate measure, in a noble if naïve gesture of belief in his brother Masons, Joseph ran to the window, stood in full view of the mob and raised both arms to the square. Then, like Hiram Abiff, he cried out, “O Lord my God…” He got no further. Riddled by shot from a score of muskets, his body swayed for a moment and then plunged through the window to the ground below.[33] In Mormon country it is still said, sometimes, that there were Masonic rings on fingers that triggered some of the muskets.

If one drives to Palmyra, New York, any year in early August, he can view a pageant enacted from the top of the drumlin known as the Hill Cumorah. On this hill is a monument erected in honor of the angel who first opened to the boy Joseph the vision of the treasure in the hill. And if one asks any of the amiable missionaries at the Information Bureau there, he will be told, sometimes defensively, but generally with quiet pride, that lying buried somewhere in the sacred hill, the exact spot known only to God and his angels, is a stone box containing gold plates, the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate, the ancient treasures of the widow’s son.

[1] See Whitney A. Cross, The Burned-Over District (Cornell University Press, 1950).

[2] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1936, Vol. 1, Cbs. 1-3. See also another work not to be confused with the above: History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City, 1902), Chs. 1-3. These are entirely distinct works and will be referred to hereafter as Comprehensive History and History of the Church respectively.

[3]William Mulder and A. R. Mortensen, eds. 

Among the Mormons

 (New York, 1958), p. 26. The quotation is from Joseph’s brother, William Smith.

[4] The book most commonly linked with the Mormon movement which propounds this view is Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews (Vermont, 1823).

[5] The Freemason’s Library (Baltimore, 1826), cited by Henry Dana Ward in Freemasonry (New York, 1828), listed 1293 lodges in the United States, It gave the names and addresses of 1182. This figure is probably much smaller than the actual number of lodges. For example, this report lists only 157 Masonic lodges in New York State. But Report on the Abduction of William Morgan, made to the senate of New York State on February 14, 1829, stated that there were more than 500 lodges in the state with an average of 60 members per lodge. This, it was estimated, was about one-ninth of the voting population of the state. (See James C. Odierne Opinions on Speculative Masonry (Boston, 1830), p. 198. Theoretically any three Master Masons could start a new lodge without any formal approval from a parent body. The result was sometimes the kind of confusion spoken of by the Rev. Joshua Bradley: “In New England, Masonry has been in some degree systematized… but pass these States and a scene confusion, contradiction and discordant modes of work in lodges and chapters abounds.” See Odiorne, Opinions, p. 40. The soundest study of this movement is Charles Mccarthy, “The Anti-Masonic Party: A Study of Political Anti-Masonry in the United States, 1827-40,” published in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1902.

[6] For the story of the treasure, I have relied chiefly on the pro-Masonic work, Thomas Webb’s Free-Mason’s Monitor (New York, 1802), and a work that borrows heavily from it, the anti Masonic work of Henry Dana Ward. See footnote 5.

[7] The date of Webb’s book.

[8] The Zohar, trans. Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon (London, 1932), II, p. 111.

[9] Ibid., p. 112. Also Vol. III, 5, 28.  Cf A. E. Waite. The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, (London, 1911, I, 46 ff.

[10] 10 Waite, 1,181. CF. Ward, pp. 4,13.

[11]Ward, p. 69. Cf. Webb, p. 56. Webb states that there were two balls, one supported by each pillar, and that one was a celestial, the other a terrestrial globe.

[12]Webb, p. 56.

[13]Ward, p. 15.

[14]Waite, I, 81. See also Louis Ginsberg, 

Legends of the Jews

 (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-39), 1, 12, 352; V, 14, 15.

[15] Ward, p. 18. Webb, pp. 252-53.

[16] The name appears only in II Chronicles 2:13. It is not known whether the name Huram ‘abhi means Hiram the widow’s son or whether it is simply part of the name. The Revised Standard version translates it, “Buram-abi, the son of a woman of Dan.

[17] William Morgan, 

Freemasonry Exposed

 (Chicago, 1880), p. 76. This work was first printed in 1827 and led to the alleged murder of Morgan and a resultant nationwide furor.

[18] See Kipling’s short story, “The Man Who Would be King.” Cf. Ward, pp. 207-8 and Webb, p. 14.

[19]Ward, p. 291. Webb says that one of the Masonic aprons has represented on the “flap a bloody arm with a poinard (sic) and on the area, a bloody arm holding by the air a bloody head.” See pp. 236, 238.

[20] Ibid.

[21]Abbe Barruel, 

The Anti-Christian and Antisocial Conspiracy

 (Lancaster, Pa., 1812), pp. 111-14. Le Bel is Masonry’s traditional enemy because he suppressed the Knights Templar and put Jacques DeMolay to death. Cf. Ward, pp. 306-7.

[22] I, 324-25.

[23] Morton Deutsch, in a work called 

From Whence Came You

 (New York, 1958), expresses surprise that the English Masonic historians believe the Hiramic legend to stem from the first quarter of the eighteenth century. He proceeds to attempt to establish the legend as genuine history. His efforts come to nothing.


Comprehensive History

, I, 183, states that the exact date of the restoration of the “greater priesthood” is unknown “but beyond all doubt it was between the 15th of May, 1829, and the month of April, 1830.”

[25] See Book of Ether, Ch. 2. This is one of the books in the 

Book of Mormon


[26]Ibid. 3:22-23.

[27]Ibid.. 15:11. Cf. Mormon 6:6 (


 is a book in the 

Book of Mormon


[28]History of the Church, I, 15.

[29] Lucy Mack Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City, 1902), p. 105. Mrs. Smith was the Prophet’s mother.

[30]“Questions and Answers,” Improvement Era. VIII :9 (July, 1905), pp. 704-5.

[31]Walter F. Prince, “Tests for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon,” American Journal of Psychology, XXVIII, July, 1917.

[32] See footnote 12 above.

[33] Comprehensive History, II, 286.

Excerpt from Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington’s Diary​September 27, 1974

Merv Hogan came in this morning and said that Reed Durham’s talk about Mormonism and Masonry had been circulating on the underground since April in tape and it had been transcribed and many copies distributed. He also said that he had been told by a friend of [career apostates] Jerald and Sandra Tanner that they had a copy of the tape. He did not know if they planned to publish it, but assumed that they would at least comment on it.He said he had gone to Reed Durham approximately a month ago to tell him that the talk contained so many mistakes and was providing much fodder among the anti-Mormons, that he would be compelled to publish it together with criticisms. He asked Reed to furnish him with a copy, which Reed promised to do, but a month has elapsed and he has received nothing from Reed. Merv says he must meet the thing head on because of the underground copies and must let his fellow Masons know that he has answers to some of the problems raised.I asked him to delay a few days before publication to give Davis, Jim, and myself a chance to look at the talk to see if we had any suggestions to make in regard to it. I thought we might call Reed and suggest he tone down the talk and furnish a copy to Merv….Merv says that Reed Durham led him to believe that the paper by Jack Adamson that he had quoted from had been given to him by Jack and that he had Jack’s permission to use it. He said he asked Jack Adamson at a University of Utah faculty meeting about it and Jack said that he had never met Reed Durham and had never given him a copy of the paper and would certainly regret it if Reed used material from it. Jack told him that he had prepared the paper for a class at Harvard when he was in the Widener Library. He said that he was then asked some time later by Sterling McMurrin to give the paper in the meeting of the Swearing Elders in Salt Lake City. Some persons present asked him for a copy of the paper and in complete confidence he gave out three or four copies. He knew that the paper had been duplicated to distribute on the underground and he regarded this as a violation of his confidence. He said he had given references to the quotations but that he was unable to provide complete documentation for the facts in the paper because his notes do not give all the information necessary. He said that he would send a copy of the paper to Merv. Merv has not yet received it but expects he will get it today or tomorrow.Reed told me that he received a copy of Jack Adamson’s paper from Ken Godfrey and Ken had received one from Jack Adamson. Considering what Reed did with the paper it now appears that Reed can be faulted for hasty action and destroying confidences. It now becomes clear to those in our office that many of the papers and dodcduments which are circulating on the underground originating from here have come from Reed. Reed certainly does not do this maliciously. His testimony is as strong as anybody’s. It appears at this point that Reed has been naive in trusting certain people like the Tanners and their associates, like [Fred] Collier and his associates, and others, and that things get in the underground originating from him because of these people with whom he shares material.

Foreword by Mervin B. Hogan

Mervin B. HoganResearch Lodge of Utah, F. & A. M. Masonic Temple650 East South Temple Salt Lake City, Utah 84102The Mormon History Association held its Convention at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the old, historic Nauvoo Hotel on Saturday, April 20, 1974. As the immediate Past-President of the organization, Dr. Reed C. Durham, Jr. contributed the climax of the convocation when he delivered the scheduled, traditional Presidential Address, which he titled: “Is There No Help For The Widow’s Son?”Dr. Durham is the Director of the L.D.S. Institute of Religion, at the University of Utah, 1800 Hempstead Road, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112.My acquaintance with this talk was initially made when several University students, who had heard it at Nauvoo, came to see me with various questions to which they were seeking answers. Having no foreknowledge of this unusual compilation of topics, and lacking the imagination which might have helped bridge the gap, I’m certain I was a positive disappointment to my young and able inquirers. They offered the interesting observation that several tape recordings had been made of the talk and I would probably hear more about it.I did! One of my academic colleagues called me shortly afterward and asked me to join him in his office, to hear his tape recording and express my opinion of the subject. He also told me that someone had transcribed the speech and, as a result, underground copies were being freely distributed. A short time later, another professor handed me a copy of the typed manuscript. The accompanying manuscript has been carefully and meticulously prepared and checked by myself against an excellent tape of the speech. It is the full and complete text of the address as delivered by Dr. Durham at Nauvoo.Hence – for clear understanding – the entire document is an underground accomplishment and is being freely reproduced and unrestrainedly distributed and circulated without the approval or concurrence of Dr. Durham.I believe my individual interest in the speech is obvious. Further, I am of the personal opinion and conviction that this address should be made available to the Brethren of the Masonic Order. To that end, I am adding these few introductory and precautionary comments in order that the manuscript may be distributed with candid responsibility and openly acknowledged source. The reader is thereby given a declared understanding of the source and subsequent handling of the document.Let me presume to offer a few words of caution to the reader. Prof. Charles T. Wood, the distinguished Dartmouth College scholar, declares:It was in the nineteenth century that modern historical scholarship began, in the sense that those engaged in research began consciously to try to present an objective analysis, not merely a polemic argued from those pieces of evidence that happened to sustain their points of view. [Philip the Fair and Boniface V111, p. 113]Dr. Durham’s unfolding of his strange thesis has numerous potholes and several – somewhat inconspicuous – booby traps which can ensnare the unsuspecting inquirer. I shall reluctantly forego the temptation to elucidate these points here. However, should the interest and circumstances warrant it, I’ll welcome the occasion to present an extensive analysis and discussion of the paper before the proper audience. The complete text of Dr. Durham’s thesis will be found below.Melvin B. Hogan, Secretary Research Lodge of Utah,College of Engineering, University of Utah.

Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?​Reed C. Durham, Jr.

Someone has said that a historical convention like this – all of these papers that we have heard – are like a pair of steer horns, with a point here and a point there and a lot of bull in between; and in my case, a lot of “Bull Durham.”

One thing we won’t have to put up with though is the wind blowing – just hot air. And I know the disadvantage that we are placed in, with the dimness of the room, the delightful meal that we have partaken of, and all the applause that we have had all night long – the papers, the busy day – but I hope you will bear with me and we will see what happens.

One historian, who has spent at least 25 years exploring the topic of Mormonism and Masonry, finally concluded that any person who ventured into this area of study was something of a “foolhardy nitwit.” So mote it be! Still, I am convinced that in the study of Masonry lies a pivotal key to future understanding Joseph Smith and the Church. Therefore, regardless of the possible incriminations and stigma that might ensue, I should like, in this paper, to interpose some unorthodox findings and fancies upon the more traditional and canonical propaganda of the faith.

In the subject of Mormonism and Masonry, there is still much that is “new under the sun.” To begin with, Masonry in the Church had its origin prior to the time Joseph Smith became a Mason. Nauvoo was not its genesis. It commenced in Joseph’s home when his older brother became a mason. Hyrum received the first degrees of Masonry in Mount Moriah Lodge No. 112 of Palmyra, New York, at about the same time that Joseph was being initiated into the presence of God and angels and was being entrusted with the sacred gold plates.

Masonic influence on Joseph was further highlighted when the heated anti-Masonic crusades flared up in western New York. His milieu was ripe with things Masonic. Pro-Mason and anti-Mason, the influence was unavoidable from both sources.

Capt. William Morgan was so contemporary with Joseph Smith, both as to time and geography, that it would be difficult to deny the probability of their acquaintance. In fact, Dr. Rob Morris, an American Masonic biographer of William Morgan, wrote that Morgan “had been a half way convert of Joe Smith, the Mormon, and had learned from him to see visions and dreams.” Whether or not it was true that Joseph Smith personally knew Morgan during his lifetime, everyone in that area, including Joseph, had heard about Morgan’s disappearance and supposed martyrdom, causing most people to take sides on the Masonic issue. Joseph was no exception. He was one of the committee of 10 men who signed their signatures to an impassioned plea which was printed in the rabidly anti-Masonic newspaper, the

Seneca Farmer


Waterloo Advertiser


The committee begged anyone with an ounce of Christian humanitarian concern to come forward and offer assistance to Morgan’s unfortunate wife. The many parallels found between early Mormonism and the Masonry of that day are substantial: conferences, councils, priesthood, temples, anointing with oil, the issuance of licenses, certificates for identifying legitimate fellow workers, elders, high priests, and even the Book of the Law.

By the end of 1832, Joseph Smith had welcomed new brethren, along with their influences, into the Church. Men such as W. W. Phelps, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Newel K. Whitney, each of whom had been deeply involved in Masonry, from one side or the other, before their entrance into the Church.

In a sermon the Prophet delivered in 1835, unmistakable Masonic vocabulary was used, and I quote from the Prophet: “I exposed their abominations in the language of the Scriptures and I pray God that it may be like a nail in a sure place, driven by the Master of Assemblies.” In that same year and in subsequent years, the Prophet was involved in things Egyptian, the new revelations of suns and moons, governing planets and fixed stars, and, though unique at that time to Mormonism, was commonplace in Masonry.

The Kirtland Temple also reflected an influence of Masonry. Though not exactly like the Masonic pattern of laying and dedicating cornerstones of their temples, the Order of the Holy Priesthood employed by the Prophet in laying the cornerstones of the Kirtland Temple, and about which he explained in greater detail in Nauvoo, with a set ceremony at each corner, with pomp and procession, including definite rank of authority, was significantly similar. That the inner courts of the temple were fashioned in such a way that officers could preside on platforms at either end, east or west, was also similar to Masonic Lodges and Temples. But, more importantly, professional architects have only recently called attention to the classical and Gothic elements combined in the architecture of the Kirtland Temple as containing direct and unmistakable Masonic influence.

In 1838, the Avard extension of Joseph Smith’s Danitism in Missouri brought this disconsolation upon the Prophet: the use of secret penal oaths, accompanied with signs, hand clasps, and tokens involved therein, also reflected Masonic life practices. Before being imprisoned in Missouri, Joseph and his family lived in the Harris home at Far West. A Masonic aura certainly abided there. The woman of the house was Lucinda Pendleton [Morgan] Harris, who was at that time the wife of George Washington Harris, one of the leading elders of the Church. He had been a practicing Mason in Batavia, New York, as well as a Worshipful Master Mason in Virginia. In addition to this, Harris was also personally acquainted with William Morgan; the Morgans having lived in an apartment above his [Harris’] silversmith shop in Canandaigua [should be Batavia. M. B. H.], New York. Lucinda Harris was formerly the wife and later the widow of William Morgan. It seems highly significant to note that this same women, whom Joseph [Smith] had befriended years before, became a plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

After escaping from Liberty jail, the Prophet was reunited with his family at Quincy, Illinois. Emma and the children had been living in the home of Judge John Cleveland, another Mason [I believe this is an error. There is no documentation of such membership in Nauvoo nor Quincy. He also never converted to Mormonism. M. B. H.], who with his wife, Sarah M.[arietta] Pinsey Cleveland, allowed the Smiths to live with them until they left for Commerce [Nauvoo]. What later motivated Joseph and Emma to write the Cleveland’s, inviting them to build their home in Commerce in close proximity to the Smith home, across the street and next door to George Washington and Lucinda Morgan Harris? The question becomes pertinent upon supplying the additional facts that Harris later became an active leading charter member Mason in the Church, while Sarah M. Cleveland became another of Joseph’s plural wives.

By 1840, John Cook Bennett, a former active leader in Masonry [in Ohio, where he was expelled. M. B. H.], had arrived in Commerce and rapidly exerted his persuasive leadership in all facets of the Church, including Mormon Masonry. I do not believe he was its sole instigator, nor do I believe him guilty of all which the Mormon print then, or now have accused him. However, at the instigation of John C. Bennett, George W. Harris, John Parker, Lucius Scovil, as well as other Mormon Masons residing at Nauvoo, and certainly with the approval of the hierarchy of the Church, the institution of Masonry commenced.

Joseph and Sidney [Rigdon] were inducted into formal Masonry at Sight, on the same day upon which the Illinois Grand Master Mason – and politically ambitious – Abraham Jonas officially installed the Nauvoo Lodge. It was on March 15, 1842. On the next day, both Sidney and Joseph advanced to the Master Mason Degree. In only a few years, five Mormon Lodges were established, several others in planning, a Masonic Temple constructed, and the total membership of Mormon fraternal brethren was over 1, 366.

I have attempted thus far to demonstrate that Masonic influences upon Joseph in the early Church history, preceding his formal membership in Masonry, were significant. However, these same Masonic influences exerted a more dominant character as reflected in the further expansion of the Church subsequent to the Prophet’s Masonic membership. In fact, I believe that there are few significant developments in the Church, that occurred after March 15, 1842, which did not have some Masonic interdependence.

Let me comment on a few of these developments. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the Mormon ceremony which came to be known as the Endowment, introduced by Joseph Smith to Mormon Masons initially, just a little over one month after he became a Mason, had an immediate inspiration from Masonry. This is not to suggest that no other source of inspiration could have been involved, but the similarities between the two ceremonies are so apparent and overwhelming that some dependent relationship cannot be denied. They are so similar, in fact, that one writer was led to refer to the Endowment as Celestial Masonry.

It is also obvious that the Nauvoo Temple architecture was in part, at least Masonically influenced. Indeed, it appears that there was an intentional attempt to utilize Masonic symbols and motifs. The sun stones, and the moon and star stones, were examples. An additional example was the angel used on the weather vane on the top of the Temple. I would like to just show a slide or two here, if that could be turned on.

William Weeks [made a Mason in Nauvoo Lodge. M. B. H.], the architect of the Nauvoo Temple, has many drawings in the Historians Office of the Church. This is one of the preliminary drawings – first drawings – first draft drawings of the Nauvoo Temple. You will notice that it has the beautiful picture in the whole front of the Temple of the All-Seeing Eye, and he was going to have a beautiful angel stand on the top of the Temple. Later, another design by William Weeks again: – modified the All-Seeing Eye, trimmed down the angel on the top of the Temple, and then again, in another plan, he has the small angel on the top – not a huge lady as was before – and this one comes pretty close to the way the Nauvoo Temple looked like.

Now, in the Visitors’ Center at the Nauvoo Restoration, you see a mock-up of the Temple and on the very top there is, on the weather vane, this little angel. Well, that little angel was photographed in the next picture. There is the angel: the beautiful horn, the Book of Mormon in the other hand. And, then, if you will notice, what looks as if there are crosses on the staff or the spear which is the weather vane. Do you see those crosses there? We blew that up – it is not a very clear picture – to let you know that it is a beautiful compass and square, in the typical Masonic fashion.

Now, I wondered where in the world did they get, on the mock-up of the Temple in the Visitors’ Center, the compass and square – the Masonic symbols; in fact, the most probably universal Masonic symbols that are known in Masonry. Where did they get that? Until, in the Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City, we found the drawing of William Weeks, who very clearly employed the Masonic symbols on that angel. [I have been informed that the particular illustration referred to, in the Visitors’ Center, had been removed when the Center opened the next morning. M. B. H.]

In the journals of Thomas Bullock, Mosiah Hancock, and in many of the portraits that were painted of the Temple, this angel does exist, with a beautiful description of the angel -even to the Book, the horn, the temple clothes and robes that it is clothed with. And, there is no question that it was intentionally to be a Masonic symbol on the top of the Nauvoo Temple. (That can be turned off now.)

Another development in the Nauvoo Church, which has not been so obviously considered as Masonically inspired was the establishment of the Female Relief Society. This organization was the Prophet’s intentional attempt to expand Masonry to include the women of the Church. That the Relief Society was organized in the Masonic Lodge room, and only one day after Masonry was given to the men, was not happenstance. As evidence of this claim, Brother Oliver Olney [not known to be a Mason – an apostate Mormon. M. B. H.], wrote in a doggerel verse style in 1842, that Joseph Smith, and I quote, “said there were certain degrees of the fair sex of the land. They soon met in union, a lodge to form, but changed the name they might be distinguished from the lodge of the men.” He later described the sisters’ Masonic auxiliary and the degrees in their liturgy.

John C. Bennett substantiated the same, as likewise did Ebenezer Robinson, and evidence from a different bias came from Sister Eliza R. Snow, present at the organization as its first secretary, who strongly emphasized that the Society was Priesthood. Another charter member, Sister Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, added that the Relief Society was an order of the Priesthood. And, finally, included in the actuary vocabulary of Joseph Smith’s counsel and instructions to the sisters were such words as: ancient orders, examinations, degrees, candidates, secrets, lodges, rules, signs, tokens, order of the priesthood, and keys; all indicating that the Society’s organization possessed Masonic overtones.

It was true that in orthodox Masonry, such as that practiced in Illinois, the inclusion of women was definitely prohibited and certainly unheard of. The Joseph Smith Masonry was daily becoming less orthodox and tended to follow more in the direction of some unorthodox Masonry which had been imported to America from France. In this type of Masonry, two different women’s groups operated. The first women’s group was known as the Female Lodges of the Illuminees. They were subdivided into two classes, each forming a separate society and having different ceremonies.

The first was composed of virtuous women; the second of the wild, the giddy, and the voluptuous. in both cases the purpose of their existence was to serve the men who were their counterparts – the virtuous women for the virtuous men, and so forth. This type of female Masonry had no relationship to the Mormon female Masonry, unless, of course, one believed John C. Bennett’s diatribe relative to the three degrees of womankind in Masonry, in Mormonism.

The second type of unorthodox female masonry was known as “Adoptive” Masonry. In this order the highest woman was called the “Elect Lady;” a striking parallel to Emma Smith’s title in the Mormon highest order for women. The ceremonies for women in this order were quite similar to those later found within the endowment ceremony of the Mormons. I was going to read the ceremony, but I thought I’d better not.

Continuing with my facts and fancies – that most of the things which were developed in the Church at Nauvoo were inextricably interwoven with Masonry – in addition to the endowment, the temple, and the Relief Society, I have already mentioned, I suspect also that the development of prayer circles and even polygamy are no exceptions. but more importantly, I suggest that enough evidence presently exists to declare that the entire institution of the political kingdom of God, including the Council of Fifty, the living constitution, the proposed flag of the kingdom, and the anointing and coronation of the king, had its genesis in connection with Masonic thought and ceremonies.

It could not be coincidence that all of these concepts had their counterparts within Masonry in the day of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There was an Elect Council, an Elu, and a Council of Fifty; a Supreme Council, and a Grand Council. The crown was a common Masonic symbol, as well as a portion of the regalia actually worn by officers who represented the king in the higher degrees. Anointing was commonly performed and any practicing Mason would have been familiar with the word “constitutions.”

As to the flag, although every symbol on it has not yet been identified, the majority of them can be shown to be Masonic symbols. In fact, it seems surprising, in light of these known existing parallels, that most historical treatments on any aspect of the Political Kingdom of God had rarely, if ever, mentioned any relationship with Masonry.

Perhaps the single most definite evidence that Masonry directly affected the thought of Joseph Smith, and that the Kingdom of God doctrine was Masonically inspired, can be seen in the recently brought to light holograph letter of Joseph Smith to Mr. John Hull of Lempster, New Hampshire [See Appendix A; added by me. M. B. H.] Mr. Hull was a distant cousin of the Prophet’s and was a Congregational minister. He was deeply involved in the development of the town government of Lempster, New Hampshire, and more pertinent, he was a practicing Mason for over 40 years in Mount Vernon Lodge No. 15 [then at Washington; now at Newport. M. B. H.], in New Hampshire. During that time, he held every office in Masonry up to and including the Worshipful Master of the Lodge.

If the letter proves not to have actually been written by Joseph Smith, then his amanuensis wrote the letter and signed Joseph’s signature in such a way as to make it appear as authentically like Joseph Smith’s own handwriting as possible. I personally discount any fraudulent intent because of the reliable historicity relating to Joseph Hull, and also because the content of the letter fits with the known ideology of the Restoration Movement and, further, the ideas expressed were completely consistent with the Kingdom of God development at this time. The little note at the commencement of the letter indicates somewhat the depth of ideas presented therein: “pleas not let any See my letters who you think Cannot Digest the ideas for it would do them an injury.”

The entire two-page letter clearly demonstrates that Mormonism and Masonry were related and that Joseph used Masonry and apparently had no qualms in doing so. It is also clear in the letter that the Kingdom of God was thought to be the true Masonry which, when ultimately established with a king and a president, would abolish all earthly confusion and evil and usher in the Millenium. The whole earth was compared symbolically to a Grand Masonic Lodge, the counterpart of which was the Grand Lodge in the eternal regions of Glory; an idea quite legitimate in Masonic thought.

The letter will not be completely clear unless one knows that a typical Masonic Lodge is most often a rectangularly shaped room with the altar in the center. At the front, generally at the east end of the room, is the platform upon which the Worshipful Master sits and presides. At the west end the Senior Warden is positioned, and on the south side is located the Junior Warden. As excerpts of Joseph Smith’s letter are read, please observe how the Prophet superimposed American Zionism upon his new brand of perfect, world-wide Masonry, and I quote: “The time has been when the WM (the Worshipful Master) was in Asia, at the east; the SW (Senior Warden) in Europe, at the west; and the JW (Junior Warden) in Africa, at the south.

Well, now, how will it be after the new arrangements? I must still look to Asia to find the W. M. Well, what next? Why, there is a spot in North America exactly due west from where King Solomon’s Temple stood.” Just a point here; if we were to draw a line exactly west from Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, and go due west to Nauvoo, Illinois, we would only be 10 longitudinal degrees off. So the Prophet writes, “Exactly due west from where King Solomon’s Temple stood, there is a spot in North America.

It will be the choice of our SW, but he alone can’t govern the Lodge amidst all this bustle. Well, how shall we get out of this scrape? Why, we must wait with patience until South America has made the choice of the JW. (that would be at the south, the Junior Warden.) When the above described lodge is duly formed and begins to work, we may expect to have peace on earth and good will to men and, no doubt, ‘the lion will lie down with the lamb and the suckling child will play with the asp and will not be stung!” And the postscript at the bottom of the letter, “This is my present survey of Masonry in this world.”

There are two concepts I need at this point to reiterate. Firstly, I said that Joseph Smith had no qualms about using Masonry. This letter, I think, is evidence of that. One historian has described this use of Masonry as the “grabbing on” principle employed by Joseph Smith. This was explained to me that whatever was in his surroundings, being preached, professed, or practiced, he sometimes borrowed it and incorporated it into his ideological theology and system.

The second concept I wish to reiterate is that the Masonry as practiced in the Church under the Prophet’s direction was daily becoming increasingly unorthodox as contrasted with Illinois traditional Masonry. Therefore, it appears that the Prophet first embraced Masonry and, then in the process, he modified, expanded, amplified, or glorified it. His alterations being done by the authority of constant revelation received by him, or by sheer whims and the intelligence of an egocentric genius, or at the insistence of strong personalities who surrounded him, giving advice and counsel; depending on how one views Joseph Smith.

In any case, these two concepts – that of “grabbing on,” and then expansion -seem to be further substantiated by the following statements relative to Masonry in the Church which were expressed by some of the Prophet’s closest contemporaries. Heber C. Kimball wrote to Parley Parker Pratt, who was in England at the time, only three months after Joseph Smith had embraced Masonry, in the following words: “We have received some precious things through the Prophet on the Priesthood which would cause your soul to rejoice. I cannot give them to you on paper, for they are not to be written. So you must come and get them for yourself. We have organized a Lodge here of Masons since we have obtained a charter.

That was in March. Since that there have near 200 been made Masons. Brother Joseph and Sidney were the first that were received into the Lodge. All of the Twelve have become members except Orson P. He hangs back. He will wake up soon. There is a similarity of Priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph says Masonry was taken from the Priesthood, but has become degenerated. But many things are perfect. I think it will result in good. The Lord is with us and we are prospered.”

Heber C. Kimball later wrote, “We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.

Joseph Fielding, a convert and a missionary from England, wrote in his diary, “Many have joined the Masonic Institution. This seems to have been a stepping stone for preparation for something else, the true origin of Masonry. This I have also seen and rejoice in it. There has been great light poured out upon the Saints of late, and a great spirit of hearing. I have evidence enough that Joseph is not fallen. I have seen him after giving, as he said before, the origin of Masonry, the Kingdom of God on the earth, and am myself a member of it.”

And, finally, Jesse C. Little reported, “The Angel of the Lord brought to Mr. Joseph Smith the lost key words of several degrees, which caused him, when he appeared among the brotherhood of Illinois, to work right ahead of the highest and to show them their ignorance of the greatest truth and benefits of Masonry.”

What, then, motivated Joseph Smith to “grab on” to Masonry and then transcend it? The question is crucial, and my answer may be satisfactory only to myself. I do not believe his motivation was for ego-building or for any political, social, or economic prestige and power. I also believe it is inaccurate to say the reason Joseph adopted Masonry into the Church was to create a non-Mormon brotherhood which could supply a socially needed influence and physical protection.

Though all of these reasons may have merit, I believe he accepted Masonry because he genuinely felt he recognized true Ancient Mysteries contained therein. And, that in light of two fundamental concepts, already established within the theological framework of Mormonism , the Restoration of the Gospel and the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times – Joseph was under the strong compulsion to embrace Masonry. The Prophet believed that his mission was to restore all truth, and then to unify and weld it all together into one. This truth was referred to as “the mysteries,” and these Mysteries were inseparably connected with the Priesthood.

The Prophet further sermonized that these Mysteries were to be discerned, unlocked, unraveled, and appropriately unfolded unto the Church, line upon line, by the one who holds the keys of the Holy Priesthood. Therefore, if Masonry in reality contained any of the true ancient Mysteries, it would have been necessary for Joseph to accept it. The philosophic and more reflective Masonic scholars have always believed that the symbols embodied in Masonry were indeed the ancient Mysteries coming from remote antiquity.

The Mysteries were said to be traced back through the Hermetic Philosophers, through Plutarch, the Cabala, the Pythagoreans, the Magi of Media, to Babylon, to Chaldea, and Egypt. And, as these Mysteries came down into the modern institution of Masonry – the 12th and 13th centuries, A. D. – they had experienced so many progressive alterations, that there remained only an imperfect image of their original brilliancy. My assumption is that Joseph Smith believed he was restoring Masonry’s original pristine brilliancy, and that he was re-creating the Mysteries of the ancient Priesthood.

Now, I should like to initiate all of you into what is perhaps the strangest, the most mysterious, occult-like, esoteric, and yet Masonically oriented practice ever adopted by Joseph Smith. This may also be another fine example of our earlier explained principle of “grabbing on.” All available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith the Prophet possessed a magical Masonic medallion, or talisman, which he worked during his lifetime and which was evidently on his person when he was martyred. His talisman is in the shape of a silver dollar and is probably made of silver or tin. It is exactly one and nine-sixteenths inches in diameter, and weighs slightly less than one-half ounce.

After months of research, the talisman, presently existing in Utah, [in the Wilford Wood Collection, D. C. M.] was originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter talisman. It carries the sign and image of Jupiter and should more appropriately be referred to as the Table of Jupiter. And in some very real and quite mysterious sense, this particular Table of Jupiter was the most appropriate talisman for Joseph Smith to possess.

Indeed, it seemed meant for him, because on all levels of interpretation: planetary, mythological, numerological, astrological, mystical cabalism, and talismatic magic, the Prophet was, in every case appropriately described. [See my addition: Appendix B. M. B. H.].

The characters on the talisman are primarily in Hebrew, but there is one inscription in Latin. Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical equivalent and those numerical equivalents make up a magic square. By adding the numbers in this Jupiter Table in any direction [each row, column, or diagonal. M. B. H.], the total will be the same. In this case, on the Jupiter Table, 34. [Appendix B. M. B. H.] The total of the numbers will he 136 which number you will see on the talisman. The symbol for Jupiter [closely resembling the usual script, or hand-written, numeral 4. M. B. H.] is also found on both sides of the talisman, which by the way, is the same symbol for metal tin.

[E. A. Wallis Budge, in his Amulets and Superstitions, p. 394, speaking of the “Magical Square of Tin,” states: “Whether these sixteen figures are added up vertically, horizontally or diagonally the total is 34, or in Hebrew letters D (dales equals 4 and L (lamed equals 30. These letters form a part of the Hebrew word for tin. The total of the four columns (or rows) of figures is 136, which is the number of the Spirit and of the Demon of the planet. When cut upon coral this square protected the wearer from sorcery.” M. B. H.]

Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a specific and, in some cases, a mystical and esoteric meaning. The total of those meanings, as well as the connection and importance of Jupiter, is extremely and mysteriously significant in relationship with Joseph Smith. Maybe we could show that right now. Can we have the first one?

There is the one side of the talisman belonging to the Prophet Joseph Smith. You can see the Hebrew characters and you can see the square. There will be 16 Hebrew letters, and each of those letters represents a number. And, I’ll show another slide in a minute showing you the numbers and each of those numbers [columns, rows, or diagonals. M. B. H.] total up to 34, in any way you would add them. Now, you see on the margins, at the bottom is the Jupiter sign, and then on the side over to the right is a Hebrew word which means “Ababa,” which means Father. At the top you will see another Hebrew word which means “El Bo” – which means God the Father, or Father is God – and over on the side in the margin you will see the name in Hebrew meaning “Josiphiel,” which means Jehovah is spokesman for God, of Jehovah is the mouth; on this side. Now, let’s show the other side of the talisman and you will see

It’s lousy Latin, but probably means, perhaps, “Confirm, O God, who is all powerful; or, Almighty God confirm me, or uphold me, or support me.” It is not accurately grammatical, but that is the term on the medallion or talisman. The cross at the top represents the spirit of Jupiter, and you will see the path of Jupiter in the orbit of the heavens, and then again the Jupiter sign.

I wasn’t able to find what this was, for – as I said – two months; and finally, in a magic book printed in England in 1801, published in America in 1804, and I traced it to Manchester, and to New York. It was a magic book by Francis Barrett and, lo and behold, how thrilled I was when I saw in his list of magic seals the very talisman which Joseph Smith had in his possession at the time of his martyrdom.

You will see now the numbers, rather than the Hebrew letters, in the magic square, and you will also see the three Hebrew names of deities, or intelligences, that belong to this particular talisman. You will see the square again and also the seal of Jupiter; the same back side [reverse] of the very one that Joseph Smith had, with the exactly same break in the orbit of Jupiter planet, and then again the Hebrew letters and, finally, the spirit of Jupiter. (Turn that off now.)

Jupiter, according to the Hebrews, is the morning star rising in the east, and is called in that language Sadoc [or Zadoc], which means righteous one. Now the star in the east is one of the very definite Masonic emblems, and is used regularly in most Masonic ceremonies to symbolize the every approaching dawn of perfection and restored Masonic light. To the Egyptians, Jupiter was known as Ammon, but to the Greeks he was Zeus: the ancient Sky Father, or Father of the Gods. According to the Greeks, Jupiter was seen as not only the great protecting deity of the race, but also the one, and – perhaps -the only one whose worship embodies a distant moral conception. He is specifically concerned with oaths, treaties, and leagues, and it was in the presence of his priest that the most ancient and sacred form of marriage took place: that is, marriage for time and eternity.

In numerology, Jupiter’s concern with the fortunes of life, the planet is regarded as the kindly, benevolent planet, and the adjective “jovial” indeed comes from, is derived from, the word “Jove,” for Jupiter. And I quote: “The gifts that Jupiter brings are those of reason, understanding of humanity, plus the ability to see things in a broad outline. It is regarded as the planet that brings expansion in many different forms. It weaves into the lives of some persons skeins of generous impulse, ranging from generosity with material things to sympathy in spiritual matters. He also controls expansion in all forms; most of the philanthropists of the world are strongly Jupiter -oriented and in the professions, those held under its influence are legislators, bankers, lawyers, etc.”

In astrology, Jupiter is always associated with high positions, getting one’s own way, and all forms of status. And I quote: “Typically, a person born under Jupiter will have the dignity of a natural ruler. He knows what is due him and expects to receive respect accordingly. He will probably have an impressive manner and, in consequence, is likely to be elected to official positions in clubs and other organizations. In physical appearance, the highly developed Jupiterian is.. strong, personable, and often handsome. Jupiterians are often tall, or rugged of physique. In every case, the Jupiterian influence produces a cheerful, winning personality, capable of great development.” Astrology also declares that every year is governed by one of the planets. And, therefore, the planet directs the affairs of men for good or ill during that year. Joseph Smith’s planet was Jupiter; and two significant years governed by Jupiter were 1805 and 1844.

The day of the week governed by Jupiter was Thursday. And I don’t know – perhaps just coincidence – the fast meetings in the Church were on Thursdays for 60 years, as well as all the regular Mormon Masonic meetings on the first and third Thursdays. [Nauvoo Lodge, that is. M. B. H.], as well as the day of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, on Thursday, and so many other special events in Church history.

So closely is magic bound up with the stars and astrology that the term astrologer and magician were in ancient times almost synonymous. The purpose of the Table of Jupiter in talismanic magic was to be able to call upon the celestial intelligences, assigned to the particular talisman, to assist one in all endeavors. The names of the deities which we gave you, who could be invoked by the Table were always written on the talisman or represented by various numbers. Three such names were written on Joseph Smith’s talisman: Abbah, Father; El Ob, Father is God or God the Father; and Josiphiel, Jehovah speaks for God, the intelligence of Jupiter.

When properly invoked, with Jupiter being very powerful and ruling in the heavens, these intelligences – by the power of ancient magic – guaranteed to the possessor of this talisman the gain of riches, and favors, and power, and love, and peace; and to confirm honors, and dignities, and councils. Talismatic magic further declared that any one who worked skillfully with this Jupiter Table would obtain the power of stimulating anyone to offer his love to the possessor of the talisman, whether from a friend, brother, relative, or even any female. Whether or not Joseph Smith was first introduced to this kind of magic through Masonry is not known at present.

Where he obtained his personal talisman is also not known. But the tradition, which came out of the Emma Smith Bidamon family, attributed the talisman as being Joseph’s Masonic jewel. The relationship with Masonry is possible because “Masonry did contain elements of magic, including this magic Table of Jupiter.” At the commencement of my paper, I expressed a desire to be able to present some unorthodox findings and fancies relative to Mormonism and Masonry, to provoke some thought, and present something new. If I have not succeeded in doing that by now, please indulge me one last further attempt.

There is a famous legend in which the grand orator elaborates in lecture form in the ceremonies of the 13th, 14th and 21st degrees of Masonry which has some very ancient roots, bearing remarkable similarity to Mormonism. The roots of the legend extend back into ancient Hebrew traditions, but were developed most nearly – as they are now found in Masonry – out of ancient cabalistic lore and mythology. The refinement of the legend and their incorporation into modern Masonry began in France about 1740 to 1760, but the legend was in American Masonic print by 1802; and by Joseph Smith’s time many publications had made the legend popularly well disseminated.

Now let me just comment that the basic, introductory aspect of the legend is: that up in the pre-existence, there was a special Secret Doctrine that was given by Deity, and it was given down to the earth first to Adam. Adam then was to carefully guard this Secret Doctrine because it contained all the Mysteries. It contained the knowledge of God, and the name it contained was the sacred name of God. Adam then bestowed it [the Secret Doctrine. M. B. H.] upon his son, Seth, who guarded it very carefully – only among the inner circle of believers – and then it was handed down until it came to Enoch. And, Enoch is the central figure in the legend. It is with Enoch that the remarkable resemblance with Joseph Smith and Mormon history become disconcertingly clear. The major details of the legend are outlined as follows:

  1. Enoch, seventh in the line of patriarchs from Adam, wee 25 years old when he received his call and vision.
  2. He was taken up in vision onto a hill called Moriah.
  3. In vision he saw a cavern in a hill, a sacred vault In the bowels of the earth. The cavity was symbolized as being a container for sacred treasures, like an holy ark, and it had a lid on it.
  4. In vision, Enoch perceived a shiny gold plate containing unknown engravings and symbols.
  5. He recognized the letter “M” upon the gold plate, which designated the name of the hill
  6. He further saw the sacred name of God, which had been lost to all mankind, and he was commissioned by Deity to preserve this knowledge.
  7. He foresaw that a flood would come to destroy ail mankind. Therefore, he felt it was his duty to preserve the Sacred Mystery.
  8. He placed two pillars inside the hill:
    1. a. One of marble upon which, written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, were found the historical events connected with the tower of Babel, and
    2. b. One of brass, which contained the history of creation and the Secret Mysteries. These records were placed in the hill along with the treasure of the gold plate.
  9. This brass pillar had a metal ball on its top, within which were contained maps, and directions of the world and of the universe, and which also acted as a sort of oracle.
  10. Enoch then placed a stone lid, or slab, over the cavity into the hill.
  11. Enoch predicted that on the other side of the deluge an Israelitish descendant would discover anew the sacred buried treasure.
  12. As predicted after the flood, a great king, named Solomon, came to power and desired to build a sacred house for the in-dwelling of the divine presence.
  13. Solomon and his builders, the Masons, while building and excavating for the temple at Mt. Moriah, discovered the cavern and the sacred treasure.
  14. After three attempts to obtain the treasure, they were finally successful. Those Masons were very rejoiceful upon receiving these preserved Mysteries.
  15. But. three wicked men intervened and committed a horrible crime. They attempted to force one of the Masons, one of the faithful Masons who had discovered the treasure. Hiram Abif; or Hiram, the widow’s son, to reveal the hiding [place] and the contents of the hidden treasure.
  16. He would not reveal his knowledge and therefore they killed him.
  17. While being slain, Hiram. with uplifted hands, cried out, “Oh Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” This has since become a general Masonic distress call.
  18. Then three loyal Masons, seeking revenge, pursued the three evil ones.
  19. One of the three faithful Masons overtook one of the arch-villains. He was asleep with his sword, or knife, nearby.
  20. The Mason slew the villain with his own knife by cutting off his head.
  21. In Masonic ceremonies, the words “strike off his head” were employed.
  22. Also in Masonic ceremonies, in revolutionary France, the re-enacting of the killing of this villain. The tyrant’s name was King Philippe le Bel [Philip IV or the Fair who destroyed the Knights Templar. M. B. H.]
  23. The loyal Mason was rewarded by King Solomon.
  24. The recovered treasures then became part of the temple treasury. It consisted of the brass records, the gold plate, the metal ball, the breast plate and the Urim and Thummim.

Such is the Masonic legend of the Secret Doctrine, or the sacred treasure in the sacred hill, or the treasure of the widow’s son.

The parallels of Joseph Smith and the history of Mormonism are so unmistakable, that to explain them only as coincidence would be ridiculous.

Joseph Smith was named Enoch, even by God. He was 25 when he brought forth his sacred record. His sacred record was buried in the hill by a man who had the initial “M”. There were gold plates containing the mysteries of God. They were also in Egyptian hieroglyphics or some Egyptian form. There were brass plates, which also contained an account of the creation of the world. There was another record which contained an account of the tower of Babel. The cavity in the hill, and the hill and the cavity Joseph both saw in vision, was covered with a stone lid. The other treasures in the stone box were the breastplate, the urim and thummim, as well as the round metal ball which served as a director and was called the Liahona.

Joseph Smith also claimed to be an Israelite, and he too made several fruitless attempts at getting the treasure when he first saw it. Joseph Smith had three witnesses to the Book of Mormon and the record itself bears witness that an arch-villain named Laban, or Laban, was thwarting the availability and accessibility of the sacred records, had his head cut off by his own sword. This prophet also built temples for the in-dwelling of God’s spirit. Now these parallels, dramatic as they seem, still do not represent the strangest part of the story. All of these aspects of the legend seem transformed into the history of Joseph Smith, so much so that even it appears to be a kind of symbolic acting out of Masonic lore.

But there is a point in this drama where the action goes beyond metaphor and the symbol merges into a tragic reality. This has to do, of course, with the death of Hiram Abif in the legend and the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, in June Joseph Smith gave himself up to be imprisoned and on June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the little Carthage jail. Hyrum was killed instantly and John Taylor seriously wounded. Joseph Smith, Master Mason and widow’s son, went to the window and with upraised hands, commenced giving the Masonic distress call to fraternal Masons who were present in the mob: “Oh, Lord, My God.” He was unable to complete his plea and fell out of the window to his death.

How does a Mormon historian interpret Joseph Smith and the Masonic Enoch legend? The parallels demand an answer. Was Joseph Smith the fruition of Enoch’s prophecy? Was this an extreme “grabbing on” by the Prophet? Or did mysterious and divine, even magical, forces attach themselves to him? Can anyone deny that Masonic influence on Joseph Smith and the Church, either before or after his personal Masonic membership? The evidence demands comments.

I have attempted to indicate that with regard to Mormonism and Masonry, there remains an abundance of that which is “new under the sun.” I do not believe that the Nauvoo story can adequately be told without an inquiry into Masonry.

There are many questions which still demand the answers. I earnestly hope I have raised some questions. Perhaps I have answered a few. But if we, as Mormon historians, respond to these questions and myriads like them relative to Masonry in an ostrich-like fashion, with our heads buried in the traditional sand, then I submit: there never will be “any help for the widow’s son.”

Appendix A

The Joseph Smith Masonic Letter to Joseph Hull (spelling as in original)(page of notes – part of the letter)Crotched, ho-we-he 1-we 2 eyes all part for we See but in part with our two that our eyes Sprang from his 1 that our 2 Spirits Did the Same Light Darkness which is Commonly called God & SatonI pronounced eye one onlyPlease not let any See my letters who you think Cannot Digest the ideas for it would do them an injury(page 1 of letter, with unknown number of lines missing from the top)​at the same time making the new choice, while doing this their has a great number of roughings have appeared over poured the Tyle broken into the Lodge and made all this Confusion amongst the Nations of the Earth. the time has been when the WM was in Asia SW in Europe & the JW in Africa, & no Doute the tyters Sword was kept in Some part of India or Chinen. wet, how now will it be. After the new Arangements. why as I See with my intellectual eyes I must Still look to Asia to find the WM, that part of the Globe being the first inhabited.

Letter from Reed C. Durham

To Whom It May Concern:On Saturday, April 20, 1974, at the Mormon History Association Annual Meeting at Nauvoo, Illinois, I delivered the Presidential Address entitled, “Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?” At that time I was gravely concerned that the presentation of my findings and conclusions, as a result of long months of research, would not be properly interpreted; and that regardless of what I attempted to say, misunderstandings would occur. My concerns were justified. I have been informed of instances where even my own colleagues in the Mormon History Association, and also some close friends within the Church misinterpreted what I said, and more important to me, in some cases even questioned my faith in Joseph Smith and the Church.Of course, I assume the full responsibility for creating those questions, concerns, and misunderstandings. It was because I was not skillful enough, erudite enough, nor perhaps prayerful enough to make my personal position and feelings clearly known.Therefore, regardless of what I said, or what interpretations were placed upon what I said, let it be known at this time, that:1. I know that Joseph Smith was/is indeed a true prophet of God – the one called under direction of Jesus Christ to usher in this dispensation of the fullness of times.2. I know further that Temple Work, with all its ramifications including Eternal Marriage and the Endowment ceremony is divinely inspired.3. Because of the personal witness I have received by the Spirit (which has been complemented and supported by continual study and experience), the prime criterion or standard of judgment I am committed to employ as an explanation of any aspect of the Church – either of Joseph Smith and/or the Temple ceremonies – is that of divine revelation.​Had I delivered my address in Nauvoo, making sure that my knowledge and conviction of the above three statements was clearly reflected in the subject matter of my address, I am confident that fewer misunderstandings would have been occasioned; and my address would have more clearly approximated my honest feelings. I am deeply sorry that such was not the case.Sincerely,Reed C. Durham, Jr.

Excerpt from Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington’s DiaryDecember 7, 1981

I think Reed Durham gave that presidential address because we were meeting in Nauvoo and he had done a good deal of research on the topic. We didn’t know what he was going to discuss; when we [History Division] heard the talk we were disappointed that he did not consult us in advance. For one thing he was incorrect on some key matters that we could have set him straight on, for another thing we could have helped him word certain materials in a  way that would have been more discreet and helpful. He showed great courage but also a lack of good judgment. We found it impossible to defend him very strongly because we could not defend what he said. It simply was incomplete and misleading. He was required by his superior to write a letter of apology to those attending MHA bearing his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He did write such a letter. All of us regarded it as unnecessary and rather silly. In fact, he bore his testimony at the MHA meeting in Nauvoo the very next morning and in my judgment that took care of it. Reed has never been an effective Church history researcher since that date.

Gilbert Scharffs Response to Critics’ Portrayal of the SpeechThe Truth About “The God Makers”, 1989, pp. 179-180

Page 117, lines 7-12Referring to Reed Durham’s paper he read at the annual Mormon History Association convention on April 20, 1974, the authors write: “The audience was stunned. . . because the implication was too devastating . . . Dr. Durham had forced them to look at something so incriminating that Joseph Smith’s credentials as a Prophet were torn to tatters.”As far as I know, no one has left Mormonism or changed his mind about it as a result of Reed Durham’s speech. I heard the speech in Nauvoo personally and the authors did not. Their overdramatized account is grossly exaggerated. In effect Durham merely said, “Although we all know of Joseph Smith’s association with Masonry, here’s information that he was involved to a greater extent than what we have known.”Page 117, lines 14-16 “Thanks to the diligence and courage of a very few people who had brought their tape recorders, the staggering speech was soon in ‘underground’ circulation”. Actually Durham planned to allow his speech to be printed, as are many other speeches from these conventions. It requires courage to tape record a speech? Tape recorders have always been used at these conventions; they are open, not closed meetings.Page 117, lines 21-25″It was awesome to see how quickly the Mormon hierarchy [acted]. The very next day the angel [Moroni] with its Masonic markings that Dr. Durham had referred to in his talk was hastily removed from its Visitors’ Center display in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, never to be seen in public again.” (This “incident” is considered important enough to repeat on page 232, lines 16-19.)There was no such happening. This story perhaps has as its origin the removal of a small replica of a wind vane, perhaps an angel Moroni, which was atop a model of the Nauvoo Temple in the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center only a few hundred yards from the scene of Dr. Durham’s speech. Some well-intentioned visitors’ center worker was perhaps responsible, but to link this to “quick action by the Mormon hierarchy” is not accurate.Page 117, lines 29-31 to end of page 120″After explaining about the Jupiter talisman,” etc., the book discusses this point for the next couple of pages.”How do you feel about your Nauvoo speech now?” I asked Dr. Durham recently. “I now wish I had presented some of my material differently,” he replied. “For instance, at the present time, after rechecking my data, I find no primary evidence that Joseph Smith ever possessed a Jupiter talisman. The source for my comment was a second-hand, late source. It came from Wilford Wood, who was told it by Charlie Bidaman, who was told it by his father, Lewis Bidaman, who was Emma’s second husband and a non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So, the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable!”Dr. Durham also told me he was trying to play the “devil’s advocate” in his Nauvoo speech, which is what many there, including myself, sensed. Unfortunately others took the words to further their purposes.

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