Cover image: Walter Rane (1949–): The Kirtland Temple.[i]

The Revelatory Origins of the Temple Ordinances

Some people dismiss Joseph Smith’s story about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon a priori, having already concluded that “you don’t get books from angels and translate them by miracles.”[1] Others find the Prophet’s claim of divine origins for Latter-day Saint temple ordinances equally incredible — arguing instead, for example, that “the rituals of Masonry” provided the “starting point”[2] for the sacred ceremonies that were administered in Nauvoo.[3] Individuals who accept premises of this sort sometimes have come to “see the evolution of the temple as very organic, growing out of the mind of Joseph, not God.”[4]

In this article, we examine evidence that the Nauvoo Temple ordinances were revealed to the Prophet while he lived in Kirtland. While Joseph Smith’s 1842 initiation in Masonic ritual no doubt led him to seek further revelation as he prepared to introduce the ordinances of temple worship in Nauvoo, there is evidence that he had received crucial knowledge about temple ordinances by divine means well prior to that time. For instance, Matthew B. Brown has summarized some of the accounts that speak in broad terms about heavenly visions and visits from one or more heavenly messengers:[5]

Elder Parley P. Pratt stated in early 1845 that Joseph Smith had given the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “a pattern in all things pertaining to the sanctuary and the endowment therein” and explained to them that this pattern had been shown to him in a “heavenly vision.”[6] On another occasion Elder Pratt asked: “Who instructed [Joseph Smith] in the mysteries of the Kingdom, and in all things pertaining to Priesthood, law, philosophy, sacred architecture, ordinances, sealings, anointings, baptisms for the dead, and in the mysteries of the first, second, and third heavens, many of which are unlawful to utter? Angels and spirits from the eternal worlds.”[7] Elizabeth A. Whitney likewise stated her understanding, in a Church periodical, that an angel of God committed the temple rituals to Joseph Smith.[8]

Besides these general statements there is a little-known specific claim, based on a secondhand report, that Jesus Christ came personally to the Kirtland Temple over a two-week period to give instruction about the details pertaining to the Nauvoo Temple ordinances.[9] Following a brief description of the account behind this claim, I will discuss the possible reasons argued by Matthew B. Brown for why it might have been expedient to wait until the Saints gathered to Nauvoo for the Prophet to have administered the full complement of temple ordinances to others.

The sequence of temple ordinances was revealed by at least January 1832. Although sealing in eternal marriage is not mentioned publicly in the 1841 and 1842 statements, the subject had been broached privately to trusted individuals.[10]

What Did Joseph Smith Know about the Temple by 1836?

Scholars have long known that the Lord had revealed to Joseph Smith most of the doctrines and principles relating to what we now call the ordinances of the initiatory, endowment, eternal marriage, the fulness of the priesthood, and exaltation in the presence of the Father long before he got to Nauvoo.[11] For example, by examining the second and third columns of the table above we see that the sequence of these blessings was summarized in Doctrine and Covenants 124:39 on January 19, 1841, and again in an eyewitness description of the events of May 4, 1842,[12] the day the Prophet Joseph Smith began to administer the Nauvoo temple ordinances in the upper story of the Red Brick Store. Significantly, however, the most complete list of these ordinances and blessings, shown in the leftmost column, was given by revelation in 1832, a decade earlier, within Doctrine and Covenants 84.[13] Not coincidentally, other revelations relating to specific priesthood and temple doctrines were given in this same period.[14] More detail about the relationship of Doctrine and Covenants 84 to temple doctrines and ordinances has been published elsewhere.[15]

Walter Rane (1949–): Moses, Elias, and Elijah Appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple.[16]

The Kirtland Temple: A Place of Preparation

A plausible occasion for additional revelation concerning temple ordinances was sometime following the dedication of the Kirtland Temple that took place during the five-day period of 27–31 March 1836. The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, given by revelation, highlighted its preparatory function, including ordinances such as washing and anointing that were associated anciently with the Aaronic Priesthood.

Within the Kirtland Temple were given initiatory ordinances and an endowment focused on time—principally having to do with the immediate needs and duties of missionaries and others of the Saints[17]—while ordinances for both time and eternity—promising supernal blessings in both earth and heaven through continued faithfulness to the end, including the commencement of selected ordinances for both the living and the dead—would be performed only later in Nauvoo.[18] In the words of the dedicatory prayer, the Kirtland Temple was built “that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people,”[19] and so that the Saints “may grow up in thee [that is, Jesus Christ], and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing.”[20]

More specifically, the dedication of the Kirtland Temple would have provided a long-awaited place fit for additional, extensive personal instruction by the Lord Himself on details of the temple ordinances. At long last, the Savior had a place where He could “lay his head.”[21]

Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a summary of a vision received by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on 3 April 1836, is one of the most significant accounts we possess about the meaning and significance of temple-related knowledge and keys that were restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple. Shortly after the temple dedication, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery “retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped,” and knelt “in solemn and silent prayer.”[22] “After rising from prayer,” a vision was opened to them, in which Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah successively appeared. Although we are told that Moses, Elias, and Elijah came in order to commit specific keys at that time, section 110 tells us relatively little about the specific purpose of the visit of Jesus Christ. The heart of His relatively brief message to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as reported in section 110, is His personal testimony of Himself and His Atonement, and His formal declaration of acceptance of the temple built to His name.[23]

Did the Savior Come to the Kirtland Temple After 3 April 1836?

Matthew B. Brown concluded that the answer to this question is “yes.” Why would He have done so? Did He restore additional keys? Again, Brown answers “yes,” though concluding that these additional keys were probably keys of knowledge rather than what we typically think of as keys of the priesthood.[24] He writes:[25]

Even though one does not get the impression from reading the contents of Doctrine and Covenants 110 that the Savior delivered any particular keys during this [initial] visitation, as did the angelic messengers who appeared after Him, Elder Orson Pratt testified that the Lord did indeed bestow “keys of instruction and counsel and authority” on this occasion.[26] Elder Franklin D. Richards adds that the Lord “conversed with the Prophet Joseph and Oliver, and revealed to them their duties, and informed them that the gospel should go [forth] from there and be preached throughout the nations of the earth.”[27] It is apparent from these comments that Doctrine and Covenants 110 does not record everything that occurred during this manifestation.[28]

One of the most significant things we know about the Savior’s 3 April 1836 visitation to the Kirtland Temple is His personal, conditional promise that He would come to the temple again. He said, “I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house”[29] The only known account of the fulfillment of this promise is in a late, thirdhand report wherein it is said that Jesus Christ repeatedly visited Joseph Smith and Zebedee Coltrin over a two-week period and “drilled them in the temple work.”[30] According to this report, “[He] took them through the ceremonies time and again.”[31] “Jesus Christ stood and talked to them just as I am talking to you.”[32] Elsewhere I have described the circumstantial evidence relating to this intriguing report and the reasons why Zebedee Coltrin, rather than Oliver Cowdery, could have been chosen to be Joseph Smith’s companion in this purported divine manifestation.[33]

Whether or not every detail of this report ultimately turns out to be reliable, the months  following the restoration of priesthood keys on 3 April 1836 seem to provide the most likely general timeframe and the newly dedicated temple the most propitious place for the “heavenly vision” described by Elder Parley P. Pratt and Elizabeth A. Whitney wherein further instructions about the temple ordinances were given—perhaps by Jesus Christ Himself. During the last half of 1836, the Prophet’s attention turned largely to practical matters: raising money for Missouri land, traveling to the east (a journey which lasted into September) and preparing for the opening of Kirtland Safety Society on 9 January 1837. After another year of eventful and turbulent months, the Prophet left Kirtland definitively on 12 January 1838.

Why Were the Nauvoo Temple Ordinances Not Shared Until 1842?

If we accept that Joseph Smith had a substantial understanding of the temple by 1836, an additional question merits attention: Why might it have been expedient that the Saints wait several years before they received the full complement of temple ordinances that were eventually administered in Nauvoo? Matthew B. Brown replies to this question as follows:[34]

First of all, it must be remembered that Kirtland, Ohio, was only a temporary gathering place for the Saints. In May of 1831 the Lord indicated that the Saints would only remain in Ohio “for a little season” until he should “provide for them otherwise, and command them to go hence.”[35] On 11 September 1831 the Lord was even more specific when He announced that the Saints would only remain in Kirtland, Ohio, for the space of five years,[36] during which time they would lay the foundation for a great work which was yet to come.[37] It was not until near the very end of this time frame that the Kirtland Temple was dedicated and the angels of Doctrine and Covenants 110 came to commit their keys. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, the house of the Lord in Kirtland “was only a preparatory temple” that “was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority.”[38]

Elder George A. Smith indicated that there were other reasons why the Lord only bestowed a portion of his full temple rites upon the Saints during the Kirtland period. He said that during those years the Saints had among them “a great many traditions which they borrowed from their fathers,” and some of them were so unstable in the gospel that they apostatized over very trivial matters. Even when the Lord restored the basic temple rituals of the Kirtland period, some of the Saints “apostatized because there was not more of it, and others because there was too much.” Elder Smith continues:[39]

If the Lord had on that occasion revealed one single sentiment more, or went one step further to reveal more fully the law of redemption, I believe he would have upset the whole of us. The fact was, he dare not, on that very account, reveal to us a single principle further than he had done, for he had tried, over and over again, to do it. He tried at Jerusalem; He tried away back before the flood; He tried in the days of Moses; and he had tried, from time to time, to find a people to whom he could reveal the law of salvation, and he never could fully accomplish it; and he was determined this time to be so careful, and advance the idea so slowly, to communicate them to the children of men with such great caution that, at all hazards, a few of them might be able to understand and obey.

All of this raises an interesting question. Since Joseph Smith had the necessary keys, could he have restored and administered the Nauvoo-style temple rites during the Kirtland period? Brigham Young seems to have thought so. After giving a basic outline of the Nauvoo-era temple rites, President Young said that “before these endowments could be given at Kirtland, the Saints had to flee before mobocracy.”[40] The Saints then settled in Far West, Missouri, and laid the cornerstones of a temple there but eventually “had to retreat to [Nauvoo,] Illinois to save the lives of those who could get away alive from Missouri.” President Young lamented that the Kirtland Temple then fell “into the hands of wicked men, and by them [it was] polluted, like the temple at Jerusalem, and consequently it was disowned by the Father and the Son.”

And what about the Far West Temple? Did the Lord plan to restore the full temple ordinances to the Saints in His house at Far West, Missouri? This seems to be a definite possibility. The “pattern” that the Lord revealed for the Kirtland Temple[—which was also used for the planned but never-built Independence Temple—]would not have lent itself very well to the administration of the type of ordinances that were practiced during the Nauvoo period. But notice that the Lord was going to “show” the First Presidency the “pattern” for the Far West Temple just as He had for the Kirtland Temple.[41] Why would this have been necessary unless the “pattern” for the Far West Temple was going to be different than the “pattern” for the Kirtland Temple? As noted above in Brigham Young’s statement, persecution and mobocracy prevented the building of the Far West Temple and the Saints did not get another chance to build a House of God until they had settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Before the Prophet even set foot in Nauvoo, he wrote a member of the Church saying: “I never have had [an] opportunity to give [the Saints] the plan that God has revealed to me.”[42]

How Did the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temple Ordinances Differ?

Joseph Smith taught: “The order of the house of God has and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes, and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same, and we shall finally roll into the celestial kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever.”[43]

Note, however, that this statement was made 1835, as the Saints prepared to receive the subset of ordinances that would be available to them in the Kirtland Temple. Since the Nauvoo Temple ordinances had not yet been given to the Saints, it is evident that the Prophet is not asserting the completeness and exactness in every detail of the ordinances the Saints had then received. Nevertheless, the differences between the Kirtland Temple ordinances and the Nauvoo ordinances seem to have been more a matter of completeness than of change.

In considering how the limited set of ordinances available in the Kirtland Temple prepared the Saints for the complete set of ordinances in the Nauvoo temple, Andrew F. Ehat has made the important observation that in both temples the ordinances were given in the same order. The ordinances listed below in bold were given in the Kirtland Temple, while the full set of ordinances was given in the Nauvoo Temple:[44]


  1. Washing the Body With Water and Perfumed Alcohol (set wording)
  2. Sealing the Washing
  3. Anointing the Body with Oil
  4. Confirming the Anointing (set wording)
  5. Aaronic Portion of the Endowment
  6. Melchizedek Portion of the Endowment


  1. Marriage for Time and Eternity


  1. Second Anointing
  2. Sealing the Anointing
  3. Washing of Feet

Kirtland Temple, 2022.[45]

Summary and Conclusions

What did Joseph Smith know about modern temple ordinances by 1836? Plenty, it seems. An analysis of the historical record provides evidence that significant components of priesthood and temple doctrines, authority, and ordinances were revealed to the Prophet during his early ministry. Further, many aspects of Latter-day Saint temple worship are well attested in the Bible, as Joseph Smith discovered during his three-year tutorial of translation and revelation.

Although Joseph Smith knew much about the specifics of temple-related matters early in his ministry, his understandable reluctance to share details of sacred events publicly[46] has resulted in our possessing only very general descriptions of how these things were revealed to him. Of particular relevance as we try to understand the origins of the temple ordinances is that we know even less about how the Prophet gained the knowledge necessary for teaching these things to others. From what limited evidence we currently have it seems plausible that the additional keys of knowledge that prepared the Prophet for administering the ordinances were given to him in Kirtland. And if this supposition is true, there would have been no better place for this additional knowledge to have been revealed than the Kirtland Temple and no more opportune time for it than in the months following the restoration of priesthood keys on 3 April 1836.


Barney, Ronald O. 2013. Joseph Smith’s Visions: His Style and His Record.  In Proceedings of the 2013 FAIR Conference. (accessed September 15, 2013).

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. ; (accessed November 29, 2020).

———. “What did Joseph Smith know about modern temple ordinances by 1836?” In The Temple: Ancient and Restored. Proceedings of the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Symposium, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry. Temple on Mount Zion 3, 1-144. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and K-Lynn Paul. ““How thankful we should be to know the truth”: Zebedee Coltrin’s witness of the heavenly origins of temple ordinances.” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21 (2016): 155-234. (accessed February 24, 2022).

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2022.

Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 1999.

———. Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons. American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2009.

Ehat, Andrew F. “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question.” M. A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982.

———. “‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial reflections of a sacred day: 4 May 1842.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 48-62. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Homer, Michael W. “Masonry and Mormonism in Utah (1847-1984).” Journal of Mormon History 18, no. 2 (1992): 57-96.

———. “‘Similarity of priesthood in Masonry’: The relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 1-113. (accessed April 8, 2022).

———. Joseph’s Temples: The Dynamic Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism. Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Press, 2014.

Jessee, Dean C. “The writing of Joseph Smith’s history.” BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 439-73.

McMurrin, Sterling M., and Blake T. Ostler. “An interview with Sterling McMurrin.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17, no. 1 (Spring 1984): 18-43. (accessed August 19, 2023).

Muhlestein, Kerry. “The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Moses: An Outpouring of Revelations and the Beginning of Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible.” In Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses: Inspired Origins, Temple Contexts, and Literary Qualities, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David R. Seely, John W. Welch and Scott Gordon, 97–136. Orem, UT; Springville, UT; Redding, CA; Tooele, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, and Eborn Books, 2021. ; (accessed September 11, 2021).

Nicholson, Roger. “The Cowdery conundrum: Oliver’s aborted attempt to describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835.” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8 (2014): 27-44.

Paul, Luna Ardell Hinckley. 1922. Luna A. Paul Letter to Lynn Paul, 1922 May 15.  In,  Church History Library, MS 29731. Manuscript and typescript, 1 folder, 5 leaves. 28 cm. and smaller (.01 linear feet). (accessed May 11, 2016).

Peter_Mary. Critical examination of Richard L. Bushman’s Book ‘Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling’.  In (accessed 8 May, 2016).

Phelps, William Wine. “Letter 8 (June 1835).” Kirtland, OH: Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1:9, June, 1835, 129-31. (accessed October 30, 2014).

Pratt, Orson. 1871. “Order; spiritual gifts; temples; the New Jerusalem (Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, April 9, 1871).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 14, 271-76. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

———. 1877. “Discourse delivered by Elder Orson Pratt, at a Special Conference, at Logan, on Sunday Morning, May 20th, 1877. Revelation gradual; Hyrum Smith’s experience; the Lord has not shut down the gates of revelation; the Church organization not perfected at once; the establishment of Zion; building temples; their style adn character progressive; diligence will secure the blessing.” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 19, 8-20. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Pratt, Parley P. “Proclamation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Greeting (1 January 1845).” Millennial Star 5:10, March 1845, 1845, 149-53. (accessed April 18, 2016).

———. 1853. “Spiritual communication (Oration delivered on the Northeast cornerstone of the Temple at Great Salt Lake City, after the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency of the Seventies, and the Presidency of the Elders’ Quorum had laid the stone, 6 April 1853).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 2, 43-47. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Richards, Franklin D. “Early Church experiences; revelations of the Gospel; faithful payment of tithes; new wine in old bottles; destiny of our children; a work for all to do.” In Sixty-Eighth Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 16-19. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1898. (accessed 8 May 2016).

Smith, George A. 1855. “Gathering and sanctification of the people of God (A sermon by Elder George A. Smith, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, March 18, 1855).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 2, 211-20. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886.

Smith, Joseph Fielding, Jr. Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1954-1956.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. Letter to Presendia Huntington Buell, 15 March 1839.  In The Joseph Smith Papers Project. (accessed May 29, 2016).

———. The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2002.

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen. Journals: 1832-1839. The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals 1, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2008.

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson. Journals: December 1841-April 1843. The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals 2, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2011.

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Brent M. Rogers, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834. The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Steven E. Snow, Marcus B. Nash, Richard E. Turley, Jr., Reid L. Neilson, Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin and Jeffrey N. Walker. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2014.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1833. “Letter to William W. Phelps, 11 January 1833.” In Documents, Volume 2: July 1831-January 1833, edited by Matthew C. Godfrey, Mark Ashhurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford and William G. Hartley. The Joseph Smith Papers, eds. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard Lyman Bushman and Matthew J. Grow, 364-68. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2013. (accessed May 29, 2016).

———. 1902-1932. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Documentary History). 7 vols. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978. ; (accessed November 20, 2021).

———. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969. (accessed October 29, 2021).

Stephens, Calvin Robert. E-mail message to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, June 6, 2016.

Thompson, John S. E-mail message to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, June 6, 2016.

Whitney, Elizabeth Ann. “A leaf from an autobiography.” The Woman’s Exponent 7:14, December 15, 1878, 83. (accessed April 30, 2016).

Woodford, Robert J. “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants.” Doctoral Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974.

Young, Brigham. 1853. “Necessity of building temples; the endowment (Oration delivered in the South-East Cornerstone of the Temple at Great Salt Lake City, after the First Presidency and the Patriarch had laid the Stone, 6 April 1853).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 2, 29-33. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.


[i] With kind permission of the artist.

[1] “I came to the conclusion at a very early age, earlier than I can remember, that you don’t get books from angels and translate them by miracles; it is just that simple. So I simply don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be authentic. I think that all of the hassling over the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is just a waste of time” (S. M. McMurrin and B. T. Ostler, An interview with Sterling McMurrin, p. 25).

[2] M. W. Homer, ‘Similarity of priesthood in Masonry’: The relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism, p. 40. Within the article, Homer repeats this point using the same wording four times (see also ibid., pp. 100, 106, 112. See also M. W. Homer, Masonry and Mormonism). Though Homer’s tone in his more recent book-length treatment of the subject is somewhat gentler overall and he does summarize (with little discussion) some of the older literature that posits ancient origins for temple ordinances, the primary thrust of his argument has not changed: the thrust of the volume is to make the case that “the first Mormon prophet did use and adapt a Masonic formula [in the development of the Nauvoo temple ordinances] and extrapolated some of Masonry’s teachings that were developed during the previous one hundred years in England, France, and America” (M. W. Homer, Joseph’s Temples, p. 404).

For my own treatment of the relationship between Latter-day Saint temple ordinances and Masonry, see J. M. Bradshaw, Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances.

[3] This is not to say that circumstances in Joseph Smith’s immediate environment and culture were not an important part of the process in which temple ordinances were revealed. However it is a significant overreach to say that Masonic ritual was the starting point.

[4] Peter_Mary, Critical Examination.

[5] M. B. Brown, Gate, p. 307.

[6] P. P. Pratt, Proclamation, p. 151.

[7] P. P. Pratt, 6 April 1853, p. 44.

[8] “It was during the time we lived at the Brick Store that Joseph received the revelation pertaining to celestial marriage; also concerning the ordinances of the House of the Lord. He had been strictly charged by the angel who committed these precious things into his keeping that he should only reveal them to such persons as were pure, full of integrity to the truth, and worthy to be trusted with divine messages” (E. A. Whitney, Leaf (15 December 1878), p. 105). From the statement, it seems, however, that Whitney was referring specifically to the ordinances of sealing associated with celestial marriage.

[9] For a more complete evaluation of the claim that the Savior revealed the temple ordinances in Kirtland, see J. M. Bradshaw and K.-L. Paul, How Thankful.

[10] See, for example, W. W. Phelps, Letter 8, p. 130.

[11] For a summary of this evidence, see, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, What Did Joseph Smith Know.

[12] See J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 4 May 1842, p. 237; J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 4 May 1842, 5:1–2. The account given in these sources is a later expansion by Elder Willard Richards of an entry he made in the daily record he had been assigned to keep for Joseph Smith (J. Smith, Jr. et al., Journals, 1841-1843, pp. 53–54, spelling, grammar, and punctuation standardized):

4 May 1842, Wednesday

… In council in the President’s and General Offices with Judge [James] Adams, Hyrum Smith, Newell K. Whitney, William Marks, William Law, George Miller. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards. [illegible] and giving certain instructions concerning the priesthood. [illegible], etc. on the Aaronic Priesthood to the first [illegible] continuing through the day.

Additional background for this entry is given by the editors of this Joseph Smith Papers volume in a footnote (ibid., p. 54n198, with my standardization of spelling, grammar, and punctuation of Richards’ statements):

[Willard] Richards, who participated in the events of 4 May 1842, made the brief summary of Joseph Smith’s daylong temple instruction in this journal entry and also prepared the following description of the new endowment, which later became part of the Joseph Smith multivolume manuscript history: Joseph Smith instructed those present “in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which anyone is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days.” According to Richards, Joseph Smith’s instructions “were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritually minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple, and all houses which they have been, or shall hereafter be, commanded of God to build, and wait their time with patience, in all meekness, faith, and perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principles of revelation.”

Andrew Ehat further explains (A. F. Ehat, Who Shall Ascend, pp. 50–51):

As with many other diary entries that [Elder Richards] so seamlessly included in the History of the Church, he humbly wrote the record as if it contained the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith. When he could find a diary containing information relating to the Prophet Joseph that was found nowhere else, he benignly revised and inserted into the History the words of others as if they were the Prophet’s own. He knew Joseph did not have the time to record these things for himself (see D. C. Jessee, JS History, pp. 440, 470, 472– 473). In fact, Elder Richards kept the personal diary of the Prophet for the last year-and-a-half of his life. But in the case of the endowment, Elder Richards had been an eyewitness of the events. So the words he would choose for this entry would reflect as much the impact of the events on himself as well as the enlarged understanding of the endowment he had personally gained in the ensuing three years. … [Thus,] Willard Richards’ draft for the Prophet’s History entry for 4 May 1842 is … actually the most comprehensive statement made by an original participant, providing us Joseph Smith’s explanation of the meaning of the endowment.

The journal entry for the next day, 5 May 1842, reads: “Judge [James] Adams left for Springfield. The others continued in Council as the day previous, and Joseph and Hyrum were [illegible]” (J. Smith, Jr. et al., Journals, 1841-1843, p. 54, spelling, grammar, and punctuation standardized). Elder Richards’ expansion of this entry published in J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 5:2–3 makes it apparent that “Joseph and Hyrum Smith received their endowment from those who had received it from the Prophet the previous day” (J. Smith, Jr. et al., Journals, 1841-1843, p. 54n199). Ehat explains (A. F. Ehat, Who Shall Ascend, p. 61n2):

Only when new priesthood ordinances and powers were being bestowed would the persons who previously bestowed blessings, in turn, receive them back from them to whom they first administered the blessings. This was in accordance with the pattern established when John the Baptist commanded Joseph Smith to first baptize Oliver Cowdery, and then Oliver Cowdery to baptize Joseph Smith after they had been ordained by this heavenly messenger, 15 May 1829 (see Joseph Smith — History 1:70–72).

[13] Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants also contains many significant references to temple themes. For a summary, see M. B. Brown, Exploring, pp. 87-88. See also Doctrine and Covenants 88:34, 36, 121, 123-125 and JST Exodus 34:1-2.

[14] Sections 88, 93, etc. See also K. Muhlestein, Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Moses.

[15] J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath.

[16] With kind permission of the artist.

[17] Elder Orson Pratt later explained (O. Pratt, 20 May 1877, p. 16):

When the Temple was built, the Lord did not see proper to reveal all the ordinances of the Endowments, such as we now understand. He revealed little by little. No rooms were prepared for washings; no special place prepared for the anointings, such as you understand, and such as you comprehend at the period of the history of the Church! Neither did we know the necessity of the washings, such as we now receive. It is true, our hands were washed, our faces and our feet. The Prophet Joseph was commanded to gird himself with a towel, doing this in the Temple. What for? That the first Elder might witness to our Father and God, that we were clean from the blood of that wicked generation, that then lived. We had gone forth according to our best ability, to publish glad tidings of great joy, for thousands of miles, upon this continent. After this we were called in, and this washing of hands and feet was to testify to God that we were clean from the blood of this generation. The holy anointing was placed upon the heads of his servants but not the full development of the Endowments in the anointing. These administrations in the Kirtland Temple were revealed, little by little, corresponding with what I have already been saying, that the Lord does not give the fullness at once, but imparts to us according to his own will and pleasure. Great were the blessings received. We were commanded to seek to behold the face of the Lord; to seek after revelation; to seek after the spirit of prophecy, and the gifts of the Spirit; and many testify to what they saw. But yet they were inexperienced; they had not proven themselves in their religion long enough. They obtained blessings greater than some of them were prepared to receive. They perhaps might have been faithful if they had exercised the agency which God gave them. But how easily are mankind toppled first this way, then that way, and are led astray, even after the heavens were opened and chariots and horses of fire as well as angels were seen: still many of these brethren apostatized.

The first ordinances of the Kirtland endowment were administered on 21 January 1836. The ordinances of that endowment were apparently completed by 30 March 1836. On that date Joseph Smith said to the brethren, “that I had now completed the organization of the Church, and we had passed through all the necessary ceremonies, that I had given them all the instruction they needed, and that they now were at liberty, after obtaining their licenses, to go forth and build up the Kingdom of God” (J. Smith, Jr. et al., Journals, 1832-1839, 30 March 1836, 1:215. Compare J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 30 March 1836, 2:432). Stephen Post, a recipient in the final ordinance of washing of feet on 30 March 1836 said that it was, “The last ordinance of the endowment.” Four days later, the Lord confirmed that the endowment had indeed been given. He declared, “The hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of … the endowment with which my servants have already been endowed … in this House” (ibid., 3 April 1836, 1:222, emphasis added). This wording is as it appears in the original record. … The language makes clear that the endowment had been given before April 3, 1836, adding the word “already” to the text found in Doctrine and Covenants 110:9.

[18] M. B. Brown, Gate, pp. 209–210, 221–232.

[19] Doctrine and Covenants 109:5. Such a manifestation had been promised three years earlier in Doctrine and Covenants 94:8–9, and five years earlier in Doctrine and Covenants 36:8 and 133:2. See also J. Smith, Jr., Letter to William W. Phelps, 11 January 1833, p. 367. Compare J. Smith, Jr., Writings 2002, p. 293; J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 1:316.

[20] Doctrine and Covenants 109:15.

[21] In his moving discourse at the 27 March 1836 Kirtland Temple dedicatory services, Sidney Rigdon had anticipated this requirement, though perhaps not fully realizing its implications (O. Cowdery, 27 March 1836, pp. 275–276. See also J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 27 March 1836, 2:414, 415):

[President Rigdon] assumed as a postulate that in the days of the Savior there were synagogues where the Jews worshiped God, and in addition to them, the splendid temple at Jerusalem, yet, when on a certain occasion, one proposed to follow Christ, whithersoever He went, He, though the heir of all things, cried out like one in the bitterness of His soul in abject poverty — “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” [Matthew 8:20. See also Luke 9:58]. This, said the speaker, was evidence to his mind, that the Most High did not put His name there, and that He did not accept the worship of those who paid their vows and adorations there. … This brought him to the inevitable conclusion, that the various sects of the present day, from their manifesting the same spirit, rested under the same condemnation, with those who were contemporary with the Savior. He admitted there were many houses, many sufficiently large, built for the worship of God, but not one except this, on the face of the whole earth, that was built by divine revelation; and were it not for this the dear Redeemer might in this day of science, this day of intelligence, this day of religion, say to those who would follow Him: “The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”

Similarly, Brigham Young later taught in the Salt Lake Valley (B. Young, 6 April 1853 – B, p. 30, emphasis in original):

From the day the children of Israel were led out of Egypt to the days of Solomon, Jehovah had no resting place upon the earth, (and for how long a period before that day, the history is unpublished,) but walked in the tent or Tabernacle, before the Ark, as it seemed Him good, having no place to lay His head. … Why, then, did Jesus exclaim to the man who volunteered to follow him wheresoever he went, that “the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head?” [Matthew 8:20. See also Luke 9:58]. Jesus knew the pretended Saint and follower to be a hypocrite, and that if he told him plainly that he would not fare as well as the birds and foxes, he would leave him at once, and that would save Him much trouble.

But how could Jesus’ saying, that he had “not where to lay his head,” be true? Because the house which the Father had commanded to be built for his reception, although completed had become polluted, and hence the saying, “My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves” [Luke 19:46. See also Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17], and he made a scourge of cords, and drove the money- changers and dove-sellers, and faro-gamblers, all out of his house, and overthrew their tables; but that did not purify the house, so that he could not sleep in it, for an holy thing dwelleth not in an unholy Temple.

[22] Heading to section 110 in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

[23] See Doctrine and Covenants 110:4–10.

[24] J. S. Thompson, June 6 2016.

[25] M. B. Brown, Gate, pp. 211–212.

[26] O. Pratt, 9 April 1871, p. 273.

[27] F. D. Richards, Early Church Experiences, p. 17.

[28] According to R. J. Woodford, Historical Development., 3:1458: “This section is not a revelation in the sense that the words are necessarily inspired of God. It is, however, a description by Joseph Smith of what happened at the time he and Oliver Cowdery were visited by four heavenly beings on April 3, 1836.”

[29] Doctrine and Covenants 110:8.

[30] It seems reasonable to interpret this as meaning that the Savior appeared repeatedly during the period mentioned, not that He was present continuously (C. R. Stephens, June 6 2016).

[31] L. A. H. Paul, Luna A. Paul Letter, 15 May 1922, p. 3, spelling and punctuation modernized.

[32] Ibid., p. 3, spelling and punctuation modernized.

[33] J. M. Bradshaw and K.-L. Paul, How Thankful.

[34] M. B. Brown, Gate, pp. 116–117.

[35] Doctrine and Covenants 51:16.

[36] See Doctrine and Covenants 64:21.

[37] Doctrine and Covenants 64:33.

[38] J. F. Smith, Jr., Doctrines, 2:242.

[39] G. A. Smith, 18 March 1855, pp. 214–215.

[40] B. Young, 6 April 1853 – B, pp. 31–32.

[41] See Doctrine and Covenants 115:7–16.

[42] J. Smith, Jr., To Presendia Huntington Buell. See also J. Smith, Jr., Writings 2002, 15 March 1839, p. 427; J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 15 March 1839, 3:286.

[43] Discourse, 12 November 1835, J. Smith, Jr. et al., Journals, 1832-1839, p. 98, (accessed March 21, 2024). Compare J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 12 November 1835, p. 91. See also this statement from 1834: “We all admit that the gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same?” (Letter to the Church, ca. March 1834, J. Smith, Jr. et al., Documents 3: February 1833–March 1834, p. 478, [accessed March 21, 2024]). Compare J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, ca. March 1834, pp. 59–60.

[44] This listing is adapted from A. F. Ehat, Ordinances., and is based on J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 2:379-82, 391-92, 429, and 432; 5:1-2; 7:541-42, 547, 552-53, 562, 566, and 576.

[45] Photograph by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, 29 July 2022. Image ID: P1280748.png.

[46] R. O. Barney, Joseph Smith’s Visions; R. Nicholson, Cowdery Conundrum; A. F. Ehat, Who Shall Ascend, p. 49.