Monday, December 24, 2012

Gilbert W. Scharffs, Ph.D.'s Setting the Record Straight: Mormons & Masons

Several years ago, there were books and movies about Freemasonry and Christ’s supposed marriage to Mary Magdalene.  They made for very intriguing entertainment.  As households began to discuss the implications of these works, usually after a movie or following a documentary program on television, the topics tended to mention the similarities between Masonic rites and LDS temple ordinances.  At least that was how conversations went in LDS households that I participated in.

Such chats never bothered me.  The only thing that would bother me was the idea of being invited to join a lodge.  As much as I believed in brotherly love and communal fellowship, I could not see myself joining a mysterious fraternity that commanded large amounts of time from its members.  Why would I want to join one when I was already belonging to an organization that offered the same benefits, like an LDS ward?  If anything, I wanted to learn more about certain symbols and rituals for literary edification.

Two days ago, I noticed a thin book on a shelf beside my bed.  The title included the words “Mormons” and “Masons” on the cover.  I became curious and thought about the information I could gather from it.  I took it off the shelf and began to read it.

Setting the Record Straight: Mormons & Masons briefly states the differences between the LDS Church and the Freemasons.  Dr. Gilbert W. Scharffs, Ph.D., publishes this short book in 2006 through Millennial Press, Inc., a publishing company in Orem, Utah.  The blurb on the back cover suggests that “many attacks on the LDS Church” and “false notions” within the LDS membership are perpetuating some kind of crisis in faith relating to these two organizations.  If such ignorance exists, then this book should contain incontrovertible evidence to dispel it.  Unfortunately, the book does not.

A few observations by the author do provide information about the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism, especially as it pertains to Joseph Smith’s time.  Other than those few observations, I cannot understand why there has to be a book to give out that information.  The most pertinent information can fit on one sheet of paper for a class.  The rest of the book just fills up space.

I have serious gripes about this book.  For one, the introduction, the chronology, the conclusion, the appendices, etc., outnumber the pages contained in the body of the book—I count fifty pages for the first group, forty for the second.  Typos and incorrect punctuation dot the work.  Some assertions the author makes show a serious lack of research and thought.  The bibliography displays a lack of authoritative primary sources.  The author makes many ideas that need citations and sources, but information is suspiciously lacking.  The treatment of the topic feels rushed.  The author also makes some scriptural interpretations that are unfounded, if not downright wrong.

This book fails in its aim to “set the record straight.”  This book should not have gone to the printing presses.  The book is only written for two audiences: one that is familiar with the practices of the LDS Church and another that criticizes it.  The first group already accepts the author’s observations as trustworthy while the second group remains unconvinced.  A general audience will miss the necessary background entirely.  As a member of the LDS Church, what I find most aggravating about this book is the dismissive and patronizing tone the author uses in the appendices.  Most likely, the author has written this book for students in LDS Institute classes suffering from “weak testimonies” about the origins of the LDS temple ceremonies.  If such students suffer from such a condition, I think there are better books to use than the one in question.

I recommend not wasting your time reading this book.  If you must know something about Freemasonry and Mormonism, your own efforts in research will yield better fruit.


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