, Authorization, , Hancock Co., IL, for JS and , 15 Mar. 1842; handwriting of ; one page; Letters pertaining to Freemasonry in Nauvoo, CHL. Includes notation.
Bifolium measuring 9¾ × 7⅞ inches (25 × 20 cm). The letter was written on the recto of the first leaf. The verso of the first leaf and the recto of the second leaf are blank. The verso of the second leaf is also blank, except for a notation in unidentified handwriting: “Banking | Humboldt | River”. The letter was trifolded.
The letter was presumably delivered to the Nauvoo Lodge under Dispensation. At some point afterward, it came into the possession of , a church member and Freemason living in . In 1908 the Church Historian’s Office (now CHL) acquired this and seven other letters relating to Nauvoo Freemasonry from Roundy’s daughter-in-law Elizabeth D. Roundy.
See the full bibliographic entry for Letters pertaining to Freemasonry in Nauvoo, 1842, in the CHL catalog.
On 15 March 1842 , Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of , wrote and signed a letter of dispensation authorizing the , Illinois, lodge to advance JS and to the degree of Master Mason as quickly as possible, a rare process known as making Masons “at sight.” Although Jonas did not address the letter to JS and Rigdon, they were the intended recipients of its authorization. The bylaws of the Grand Lodge did not grant Jonas authority to make Masons at sight, but there was a longstanding tradition in Freemasonry allowing the Grand Master to do so, on condition that the Grand Master either was present or issued a “written dispensation.”
Some members of the who were previously involved in Freemasonry had requested the establishment of a lodge in , resulting in granting a dispensation on 15 October 1841 allowing the creation of a temporary lodge. As they were not Masons, neither JS nor was significantly involved in the efforts to establish a local lodge.
wrote the letter of authorization in conjunction with his visit to on 15 March 1842 to preside at the creation of a probationary lodge, officially titled the Nauvoo Lodge under Dispensation. , present at the event, described a celebratory procession forming at JS’s on Water Street and marching up to the of trees immediately west of the construction site, where an estimated three thousand people attended the ceremonies. Jonas gave an address, and JS officiated as Grand Chaplain. Apparently Jonas either considered the position of Grand Chaplain to be an honorary one or interpreted his authorization as effectively making JS an official Master Mason even though JS had not yet been inducted. At a lodge meeting held that evening, JS and were initiated as Entered Apprentice Masons—the first degree. The following day, they were passed to the second degree—Fellow Crafts—and, later in the day, raised to the third and final degree—Master Masons. Though JS was never as involved in the lodge as were his brother and other prominent Latter-day Saints, he attended lodge meetings periodically for the remainder of his life.
Lodge Secretary copied the letter of authorization into the minutes of the 15 March 1842 lodge.
Know all ye Brethren, to whom come, these Presents— that I, — Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of — in virtue of the power and authority in me vested as Grand Master aforesaid do hereby— by these letters of Dispensation, authorize the Brethren of Nauvo Lodge, under dispensation, to receive the petitions of Joseph Smith and — and act on the same — and should the ballot be unanimous in favor of said Smith <and > at a full meeting of said Nauvo Lodge— then in that case— the said Lodge is authorised to confer the three several degrees of ancient York Masonry on the said Joseph Smith and — as speedily as the Nature of the case will admit— Provided however that nothing herein contained shall be deemed as authority by the said Nauvo Lodge, for violating any of the Ancient Land marks of the order, or of acting contrary to the provisions of their Bye Laws— except in the cases herein authorised— Given under my hand— as Grand Master, the day and date— above named—
“5842” refers to the year in the Masonic dating system, representing the Gregorian year plus 4,000. Dates in the Masonic system are often preceded by Anno Lucis, Latin for “year of light.” (“Masonic Computation of Time,” 129–131.)
“Masonic Computation of Time.” Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine 9, no. 5 (1 Mar. 1850): 129–131.
“Ancient Land marks” refers to the regulations of Freemasonry. Language about preserving “ancient landmarks” was typical in Masonic administrative documents. For instance, regulations governing the Grand Lodge of New York stated that “every Grand Lodge has an inherent power and authority to make local ordinances and new regulations, as well as amend and explain the old ones, for their own particular benefit and the good of Masonry in general; provided always, that the ancient land marks be carefully preserved.” (Constitutions of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New-York, 41, emphasis in original.)
The Constitutions of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New-York; Collected and Digested by Order of the Grand Lodge. New York: Southwick and Hardcastle, .