Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mark to present at the
American Lodge of Research, 4/1/13:
Mormon Temple Ritual and Masonic Initiation

This coming Monday, April 1st, I will be speaking in New York City on the topic, “Of Masons and Mormons: The Relationship Between the Masonic Rituals of Initiation and the Latter-day Saint Temple Ceremonies.” This topic has been the topic of extremely heated controversy—even violence—for much of the last two centuries; indeed, it figures into many contemporary anti-Masonic and anti-Mormon discussions, as a simple internet search will demonstrate. Very rarely has this matter been addressed by someone who thoroughly understands both Freemasonry and the Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith. However, I am both a Mason and a Mormon. I apply my fraternal and faith backgrounds, as well as my professional background in the psychology of religion and humanistic psychology, to this matter. I propose what I believe is the first explanation that fits all the facts of the case—and I will be presenting it live for the first time on April 1st. (A Facebook page for the event is here.)

Meeting Details

This presentation will be made under the auspices of TheAmerican Lodge of Research (ALR), the oldest continually operating Masonic Lodge of Research in the United States (founded 1931). It will take place at 8 p.m. within the beautiful French Doric Room, on the 10th Floor of Masonic Hall, 71 West 23rd Street (just yards east of Sixth Avenue/Avenue of the Americas) in Manhattan, New York City. The event will take place within a tiled meeting of the Lodge, and so it is closed to the general public; Freemasons of any jurisdiction in amity with the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, F&AM, are invited to attend. Such brethren are invited to attend in business suits. Admission is without charge.

(Please note: Attendees are welcome to join the officers of the Lodge, of whom I am honored to be one of the most junior, for an on-your-own dinner beforehand at 6 pm at Sagaponack, 5 West 22nd Street, just west of Fifth Avenue.)

Why This Matters

A little over 170 years ago, in March of 1842, the first Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.,  was made a Mason on sight by the Grand Master of Freemasons in Illinois. Joseph Smith was aged 36 at the time, and the Church that he organized had only been in existence for 12 years.

It is entirely possible that, by the time of his Masonic initiation, Smith had already seen several Masonic initiation rituals acted out in public by either seceding Masons or non-Masons, in connection with the preceding fifteen years of the Morgan Affair and the Anti-Masonic Episode of American history. These rituals Smith might have witnessed include the rituals of the Blue Lodge, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite, many of which had been exposed to the public in David Bernard’s 1829 anti-Masonic best-seller, Light on Masonry.(An excellent edition of this exposure, with an extensive introduction, is available through the Scottish Rite Research Society, here.)

About seven weeks after his Masonic initiation, Smith conferred upon a small group of close associates what he called the “endowment” ceremony—as in ‘endowment of power.’ This ceremony is one of the major rituals conducted in the Latter-day Saint (LDS) temples around the world even today. (I myself received the endowment for the first time in the LDS Washington DC Temple, shown in the lower half of the image above. Of course, the upper half of that image shows the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A. Are there connections between the ceremonies recorded in the vaults of the House of the Temple, and those conducted in the LDS Washington, DC Temple? Good question.)

Since 1842, some people have alleged some sort of connection between the LDS temple ceremonies and the Masonic rituals of initiation. Did the Mormons steal from the Masons? On this question hinge all sorts of issues involving the spiritual integrity, not only of the LDS faith, but of Freemasonry itself (at least in the eyes of some people, as I shall explain). In brief, there is much at stake here for just about everyone in sight.

I hope to shed more light than heat on these important issues. Although I have previously addressed some of these matters in a video presentation sponsored by the Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry in August 2011 (now also available on Youtube), I have more material to present after a further year and a half of research, and of course the presentation at ALR will allow for questions and answers, which I expect to illuminating for all. I hope to see you on Monday evening.

Incidentally, I shall have with me at the presentation information about my forthcoming book, Of Masons and Mormons, which considers these matters at book length. (The book itself will be available directly from Amazon in the coming weeks.)

Finally, I am more than willing to entertain invitations to speak on this issue in other Masonic venues, and, for that matter, in Latter-day Saint venues as well. I am easy to contact through my profiles on Blogger, Linkedin, Twitter, through my Facebook writer's page, or through my website's Contact page.

[I must apologize for giving everyone such short notice about this event. This is a time of professional transition for me, and I apologize for letting those complications get in the way of my giving the readers of this blog due and timely notice.]

I invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right-hand corner of this page, to be informed of future posts.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, published by Tarcher/Penguin. (Described here, available here.)

Mark Koltko-Rivera on Twitter: @MarkKoltkoRiver .

Visit the “Mark Koltko-Rivera, Writer” page on Facebook.
Visit Mark Koltko-Rivera’s website.

(Copyright 2013 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl Commercial Links Freemasonry to Satan

Tomorrow, during the fourth quarter of the television broadcast of the Super Bowl, Mercedes-Benz will officially unveil its commercial for the all-new CLA-class automobile. It’s a terrific commercial. Unfortunately, it also is a monumental libel upon Freemasonry.

You can see the commercial for yourself here. The commercial features the talented Willem Dafoe (shown above) in a great turn as Satan.

No, Dafoe’s character is never actually named Satan, but the soundtrack features the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (available here with lyrics in the notes). More to the point, Dafoe’s character presents the protagonist with a contract to sign, a contract which has already been executed under the seal of “the Master of Devils and Demons” (translating the Latin, seen below). No reasonable person could see the commercial and think that Dafoe’s character is anyone other than Satan or one of his minions.

Here’s the thing: Satan is depicted as wearing a Masonic ring—on his left ring finger, yet!—easily visible at several points in the commercial, some of which feature close-up shots of Satan’s hands (two shown below).


(The pointy fingernails, à la the Devil in the film Rosemary’s Baby, are an especially nice touch, don’t you think?)

The implication is clear: Mercedes-Benz links Freemasonry to Satan. (Yes, I know, this particular ring shows that the Devil hasn’t gotten very far in Masonry, but that’s not the point.)

There are, of course, those who would say we should just ignore this in the spirit of good fun. Except that it’s not good fun to have to answer to people who think that Freemasons are devil-worshipping Satanists.

Last Wednesday night, I attended the Special Communication of the American Lodge of Research, at Masonic Hall, in New York City. (Facebook page here.) Those in attendance heard a paper on the topic, “Freemasonry and the Holocaust,” by Brother C. Moran (which will appear later this year in the published Proceedings). During the presentation, I was struck by the parallels between the situation of the German Masons in the 1930’s, and our Masonic situation today.

To a surprisingly large extent, these Masons faced the same outrageous accusations that Masons today are faced with: that Masonry is an international conspiracy, and so forth. The Taxil hoax occurred only about forty years or so before the Nazis came to power, and many people throughout Europe believed that Masons worshipped Lucifer. Sound familiar? All of this helped to create a climate where thousands of thousands of German and other European Masons would be imprisoned in concentration camps—and many murdered—by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
There are three things you can do to make your displeasure known:

1. Tell Mercedes-Benz Your Thoughts

The Mercedes-Benz people, knowingly or not, are perpetuating a dangerous myth by linking Freemasonry with Satan. I think we should complain about this—in great numbers. The following is the text of the e-mail that I am sending to Mercedes-Benz through their online comment form and the Facebook pages for Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-Benz USA. (The latter page, incidentally, allows you to comment specifically about the commercial.) Feel free to adapt it for your own comment, if you wish:

For the 2013 Super Bowl, Mercedes-Benz sponsored a television commercial, titled “Soul,” about the new CLA. It features a character portraying Satan, who clearly wears a Masonic ring in plain sight on his left ring finger.

This linking of Freemasonry to Satan is no joke. It was rumors like this that set the stage for the imprisonment and murders of thousands of Freemasons in Europe by Nazis during the Holocaust. The false rumor that Freemasons worship Satan is alive and well among millions of Americans today. Mercedes-Benz is adding fuel to the fire of that defamation with this television commercial.

Surely, to sell cars, Mercedes-Benz would not jokingly link Jews to Satanism (another popular rumor during the Nazi era). It would be good to not jokingly link Freemasons to Satanism either.

There are over a million Masons in the United States. Every single one of them is old enough to purchase and drive a car. None of them is pleased about this.


Mark Koltko-Rivera
Master Mason
Winter Park Lodge #239 Free and Accepted Masons (Florida)
The American Lodge of Research (New York)

Incidentally, the Mercedes-Benz Twitter handle is @MercedesBenz . I just tweeted them this: "@MercedesBenz: Why did you go out of your way to defame the #Freemasons in your #SuperBowl ad?" Why not drop Mercedes-Benz a tweet yourself?

2. Tell the Advertising Agency Your Thoughts

The people who produced the ad (and made the decisions about what rings Willem Dafoe would be wearing) and who placed the ad in the Super Bowl, and who rung up big billings doing all of this, are the advertising agency, Omnicom Groups' Merkley + Partners.
As of late Saturday night, Merkley+Partners is not sounding especially contrite. This is how they responded to one person (Ms. Jacquie Carson) who took issue with the ad on their Facebook page:
"We always strive to create advertising that’s consistent with both our agency and client values, and we believe the 2013 Mercedes Superbowl commercial delivers on that promise. It is our position that this commercial is simply a fun, exciting and innovative piece of advertising with the core objective of promoting a vehicle, and has no intention of insulting or offending anyone."

So, Merkley+Partners implies (however unintentionally) that misrepresenting Freemasonry as Satanic is consistent with their agency's and their client's values. Beyond that, it doesn't matter to them in the slightest that many Masons, their friends, and their families are insulted and offended by their ad: everything's fine, because they had "no intention of insulting or offending anyone."
What baloney. These guys deserve our greatest disdain, and they deserve to have that disdain made crystallinely clear. So let's do just that.
The advertising agency's Facebook page is here, and this is one way to reach them directly. Other ways include their postal address and telephone number: 
200 Varick Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10014
Tel. 212-805-7500

You can also contact specific individuals by e-mail:

Mr. Rob Moorman
Chief Marketing Officer

Julia Zak
Assistant Media Planner

3. Tell the Advertising Industry Media Your Thoughts

The advertising business loves to hear about how the public perceives advertising. No ads get more attention, of course, than those on the Super Bowl.

As it happens, the industry paper Adweek has proclaimed the Mercedes-Benz ad one of the top ten ads of the Super Bowl. Adweek's website for this ad has a comment space, too. Why don't you tell them how you feel about the Mercedes-Benz ad?

- - -


(12:20 a.m. ET, Superbowl Sunday) There is now a petition on, asking Mercedes-Benz to remove the Masonic ring from the ad. You may sign that petition here.

(11:49 p.m. ET Sat. 1/2) This topic has surely struck a nerve--1600+ pageviews of this post in eight hours!--but the real news worth sharing is that, as I had feared, the wild and wooly sector of the conspiracy community has latched on to the Mercedes-Benz ad as a legitimate communication from the Dark-Powers-That-Be, revealing their evil ways. Here is one good example, at "The Vigilant Citizen" blog--quite looney, but apparently somewhat popular.

Brethren, we need to step up to the plate for our Fraternity. Let's each take these three steps to do so.

- - -

I invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right-hand corner of this page, to be informed of future posts.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, published by Tarcher/Penguin. (Described here, available here.)

(Copyright 2013 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)