Today a commenter on the site mentioned how I should include more parallels with the practices of the Masons, since that is plainly where the temple ordinances came from. And I would respond, did they? Did they really, so easily, come from the Masons? Can we dismiss Joseph as a prophet, seer, and revelator as simply as that?
I am reminded of a quote by our eloquent Dr. Nibley:
Off-hand, one may say that Joseph Smith could have gotten his ideas from any or many of a great number of sources, ancient and modern. Here is an illustration. On Easter Day in 1954 at about noon, the writer was standing with Brother Virgil Bushman, that doughty missionary to the Hopis, before the house of the celebrated Tewaquetewa in Old Oraibi, when a small delegation of leading men from the village came up and informed us that they had just learned from the local Protestant missionaries how the Mormons got a lot of their stuff. It seems that when the famous chief Tuba became a Mormon, Jacob Hamblin took him to Salt Lake City to marry his wives in the temple there. While the chief was in town, Joseph Smith, none other, got him aside and interrogated him very closely, prying the tribal secrets out of him; from what Chief Tuba told Smith, he proceeded to write the Book of Mormon, establish the temple ordinances, and found the Church. And that, sir, is why the Hopi traditions are so much like the Mormon.
The point is, that would be quite a plausible explanation had the two men been contemporary, or had either ever been in Salt Lake; Joseph Smith just might have gotten his knowledge that way. There are in fact countless tribes, sects, societies, and orders from which he might have picked up this and that, had he known of their existence. The Near East in particular is littered with the archaeological and living survivals of practices and teachings which an observant Mormon may find suggestively familiar. The Druzes would have been a goldmine for Smith. He has actually been charged with plundering some of the baggage brought to the West by certain fraternal orders during the Middle Ages-as if the Prophet must rummage in a magpie’s nest to stock a king’s treasury! There are countless parallels, many of them very instructive, among the customs and religious of mankind, to what the Mormons do. But there is a world of difference between Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews and the book of Isaiah, or between the Infancy Gospels and the real Gospels, no matter how many points of contact one may detect between them. The LDS endowment was not built up of elements brought together by chance, custom, or long research; it is a single, perfectly consistent organic whole, conveying its message without the aid of rationalizing, spiritualizing, allegorizing, or moralizing interpretations.1
Instead of making Joseph out as someone he clearly was not (a one-of-a-kind religious scholar of the most keen intellect and a knowledge a good two hundred years ahead of his time), it makes much more sense to me that he was actually a prophet of God who received the ordinances of the temple in the same way the ancients did, by revelation from God.Notes:
- The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, intro [↩]