I thought this would be of interest to readers, politics aside.
You can catch the full documentary on Current TV (still in rotation as of the date of this publication), but for this post I wanted to explore a clip from The Mormon Candidate which speaks to the Mormon tradition of swearing “Masonic oaths”.
This tradition, taken in the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, was abandoned in 1990, and was part of the taking a covenant with God in a ritual held in the Mormon Temple.
For those in the know, the ordinance penalties bear striking similarities to Masonic oath traditions which this clip from The Mormon Candidate discusses.
In the clip Church Elder Jeffrey R. Holland agrees that Romney took the ordinance vows (pre-1990) which have similarities to the Masonic rituals in relationship to its pledge toward God.
While it was not the swearing of an oath, Holland says “We do not have penalties in the temple, we used to…the vow that was made was regarding the ordnance, the ordnance of the temple…its similar to a Masonic relationship.”
His oath, Holland says, was “that he [Romney] would not tell anyone about his personal pledge to the Lord.” Something that Holland opines about any religious candidate “…any religious candidate…who has a relationship to God has made a pledge of some kind to God, there should be some kind of loyalty to God, or what kind of God is that?”
Prior to 1990, those vows were accompanied with penalty oaths recognizable to any Mason around the world in their Masonic context which seem to have parallels to past Mormon ritual signs and penalties.
Most of those scholars suggest that while a few gestures and grips don’t go far enough to bridge the gap between Freemasonry and Mormonism, some Mormons find that Joseph Smith adopted the Masonic rituals for the Mormon endowment integrating many of the broad stroke ideas and subtle articulations of the Fraternity like the points of fellowship, the grips, signs and penalties. And why not? Many of those in close association with Smith, at the time of his founding of the faith tradition, were Freemasons.
Yet, the road between Masonry and Mormonism are fraught with ideological landmines and eschatological paradigms. It makes for an interesting exercise to explore the links between Masonry and Mormonism along with their parallels and differences akin to the perennial quest to answer which came first, the chicken or the egg.
The take away from this for me is that Mormonism likely adopted some Masonic elements and attributes into the creation of the religious tradition. While still without complete agreement, this seems to be the prevailing opinion between scholars who suggest that Mormonism is a continuity of the Mormon and Masonic traditions with differences in the meaning of the activity. Certainly, the church Elder sees the similarities, a fact which he openly agrees with.
If you can catch The Mormon Candidate on Current TV, I think it will give you a bird’s eye view of Romney’s faith behind the politics at the intersection of religious observance on the road to the White House.
Update – You can watch the full video, while it’s on YouTube, below.