Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration


By Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski

  • “The full truth about Smith’s restoration movement cannot be understood without the deep, poignant research that makes up this volume. . . . This book is a game changer for sure.” — Devery S. Anderson
  • “Sweeping in scope and meticulous in detail, Method Infinite excavates the shared past of Masonry and the Latter-day Saint Restoration—and skillfully uncovers a lost context of Joseph Smith's prophetic work.” — Don Bradley
  • “It will for sure, without question, be the definitive overview of the relationship between Mormonism and Freemasonry.” – Cristina Rosetti, Dialogue Book Report
  • “This work is an important contribution to Mormon Studies and fundamentally changes the way one thinks about the intersection between Masonry and early Mormonism.” — Charles R. Harrell
  • “The culmination of decades of research and scholarship, a massive work of importance to understanding early Mormon history in the context of the time and places of the Restoration.” Association for Mormon Letters
  • "The definitive work on the subject. . . . Both Freemasons and students of Mormon History will find this book well researched and its thesis persuasive." — The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal

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Book Description:

While no one thing can entirely explain the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the historical influence of Freemasonry on this religious tradition cannot be refuted. Those who study Mormonism have been aware of the impact that Freemasonry had on the founding prophet Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period, but his involvement in Freemasonry was arguably earlier and broader than many modern historians have admitted. The fact that the most obvious vestiges of Freemasonry are evident only in the more esoteric aspects of the Mormon faith has made it difficult to recognize, let alone fully grasp, the relevant issues. Even those with both Mormon and Masonic experience may not be versed in the nineteenth-century versions of Masonry's rituals, legends, and practices. Without this specialized background, it is easy to miss the Masonic significance of numerous early Mormon ordinances, scripture, and doctrines. Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration offers a fresh perspective on the Masonic thread present in Mormonism from its earliest days. Smith's firsthand knowledge of and experience with both Masonry and anti-Masonic currents contributed to the theology, structure, culture, tradition, history, literature, and ritual of the religion he founded.

Comprehensive Table of Contents:



Introduction: Jachin and Boaz on the Woodpile

1. Legends of the Craft: The Philosophic System of Freemasonry

The Three Degrees of Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry
Loss and Recovery: The Legend of Hiram Abiff
York Rite Masonry
The Scottish Rite
Nineteenth-Century Development of Masonic Degrees
The Nature of Symbolic Instruction
Christian Character of Freemasonry
The First Freemasons
A New Dispensation

2. The Enchanted Land: The Smith Family’s Masonic Environs

Asael Smith and Freemasonry Arrive in Vermont
The Mystic Word Encounters Enlightenment Ideas
A Masonic Name
Treasures Hidden in the Earth and a Son to Find Them
Residences and Relocations of the Smith Family
Affiliations of Alvin and Hyrum
“By Which He Could Discern Things Invisible to the Natural Eye”
Winning the Faculty of Abrac
Rational Mysticism—Smith Style

3. A Gathering of Crows: William Morgan, Masonry, and Death

Morgan the Mason
Whisperings and Warnings
A Growing Mystery
Convention of Seceding Masons
The Question of Freemasonry
The False and the True

4. From Darkness to Light: The Prophet’s Masonic Initiation

The Masonic Rite of Illumination
Accounts of the First Vision
A Secret Place in the Woods
Kneeling for Prayer
Bound by an Unseen Power
Brought to Light
Instruction by Degrees
Ritualizing the First Vision
The First Vision: A Masonic Allegory Made Literal

5. The Book of the Law, Long Lost, Now Found

An Ancient American Angel
Joseph Smith’s Visits to the Hill
1823 Visit: Pursuing the Plates
1824 Visit: Raising the Dead
1825 Visit: Treasure Seeing
1826 Visit: Finding a Wife
1827 Visit: The Three Ruffians
Truth from the Earth
The Book of the Law and the Golden Plates
Urim and Thummim: A Masonic Key
Masonry, Anti-Masonry, and the Book of Mormon

6. Mormonism’s Masonic Midrash

The Book of Mormon
The “Joseph Smith Translation”
Royal Arch Masonry’s Enoch: The Authentic Tradition Restored
Doctrine and Covenants

7. The Book of Abraham: Advancing the Interests of True Masonry

Recovered Text of the Egyptian Papyri
The Facsimiles: Dating and Descriptions
Papyrus Fragments
The Kirtland Egyptian Papers
Early Development of a Mormon Ritual
Joseph Smith as Prophetic Restorer

8. The Trowel and the Sword

Hiram, Ohio: “A Hill of Zion”
Kirtland, Ohio: Masonic Architecture, Appurtenances, and Inner Workings
Kirtland School of the Prophets
The Development of Early Temple Rituals
Joseph Smith as Ritualist
Building the Fane

9. Angel at the Threshing-Floor

The Big Fan
Brother of Gideon
The Daughter of Zion
Danite Structure, Signs, and Oaths
Ecclesiastic and Military Entanglement
The Mystic Tie
Danites in Nauvoo
Danites, Freemasonry, and Joseph’s Theocratic Design

10. The Grand Design: Joseph’s Masonic Kingdom on the Mississippi

True Religion and the New Society

11. The Ancient Order of Things: Freemasonry Restored

Restoring Ancient Freemasonry
The Reorganization of the Grand Lodge of Illinois
A Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo
Irregularities in Nauvoo Lodge
A Restored Lodge in the Ancient Order

12. Keeping a Secret: The Organization of the Female Relief Society

Masonic Origins and Forms in the New Society
Precedents for Women in Freemasonry
The Relief Society and Polygamy
Mormon Women and Masonic Orders

13. Greater than Solomon: Joseph Smith’s “Grand” Aspirations

Irregularities in Illinois
Rising Sun Lodge No. 12, Montrose, IA
Nauvoo Lodge Returns to Work, Proposes New Lodges
Nauvoo Masons Install Warsaw Lodge Officers
The Baltimore Convention
Keokuk Lodge U.D., Keokuk Iowa
Nye Lodge U.D., Nauvoo, Illinois
La Harpe Lodge, La Harpe, Illinois
Helm Lodge and the Proposed Hiram Lodge, Nauvoo, Illinois
Influence of Joseph Smith on Nauvoo Lodge
Charters Revoked
Hiram Lodge No. 7, Augusta, Iowa
A Mormon Grand Lodge
What King Solomon Could Not Do

14. The Glory of this Latter House

The Nauvoo Temple and its Ritual
Masonic “Enduement”
The Mysteries of Godliness
Let Us Go Up: Masonic Ascent to the Heavenly Temple
The Quorum of the Anointed
Nauvoo Temple Architecture and Furnishings
Mormon and Masonic Ritual Similarities
The Power of Ritual

15. Look to the West: The Political Kingdom of God

The Political Kingdom of God
Mormon Theodemocracy and the United States Presidency
March 6 Feby 1844 Proposed plan for a Moot congress Organization & Congress
The Council of Fifty
Structure and Characteristics of the Council of Fifty
The Grand Council and Translatio Imperii
A Foundation to Revolutionize the World

16. Treasures Hidden in the Grave

The Character of God
Perfection of Human Personality
Joseph Smith and Kabbalah
The Grand Council
Creation from Disorder
The Bright Fraternal Chain: Purpose of Masonic Ritual
The Hidden Kingdom

17. Death of a Builder

The Work on the Trestleboard
First Blow: Apostates
A Lamb to the Slaughter
Second Blow: High-Ranking Masonic Leaders
Third Blow: Military and Vigilante Forces
A Master Mason’s Last Words
Images of the Martyrdom
Jewels of the Lodge
The Villains Escape Punishment
A Curious Pattern of Burials
Where is Our Good Master?

18. All Manner of “–ites”

Brigham Young: Proprietor of the Ritual
Sidney Rigdon, Freemason to the End
Strangite Masonry and the Order of Illuminati
Charles Thompson: The Free and Accepted Order of Baneemy, and Fraternity of the Sons of Zion
Lyman Wight and the Community at Zodiac
Alpheus Cutler: Chief Architect and Master Workman of God’s Holy Houses
William Smith’s Priest and Priestess Lodges
The Smith Family and the Reorganization
Freemasonry’s Legacy Among the Mormons

19. That Which Was Lost

Transition by Degrees
A Loss of Understanding



Q&A with the Author:


Typically, discussion about Mormonism and Freemasonry centers on the Latter-day Saint temple endowment. How does your book change the focus of the discussion?

One of the biggest mistakes that is made in studying Mormonism and Masonry is to focus solely on the endowment. In order to understand why traces of Freemasonry can be seen in Mormon temple ritual, one must begin at Joseph Smith’s birth and look at how Masonry affected him throughout his life. This book gives a panoramic view of the subject and really does change the focus of the discussion. 

Freemasonry was ideologically and symbolically everywhere in eighteenth and nineteenth-century America. Is it reasonable to assume it would also be present in the early elements of the Restoration?

Freemasonry was ubiquitous in nineteenth-century America. Though hard to believe today, the Craft was part of the cultural landscape, and virtually everyone had some understanding of its general principles and structure. Still, it is interesting to see how some of the early historical accounts about the first vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon put them into a Masonic framework. 

Where does the title of the book come from?

Edward Tullidge ascribes the following quote to Eliza R. Snow: “There is method in Mormonism—method infinite. Mormonism is Masonic.”

What Masonic elements that were used to help usher in the restoration are still present in the Church today? Do they still hold the same importance?

Many elements of Mormonism that church members think are unique to Joseph Smith in fact have roots in Masonry. These include the concept of restoration, plates of gold that were hidden up and then found, the Grand Council of Heaven, the eternity of matter, the chain of belonging, dispensation heads, and oath-bound rituals to impart greater light and knowledge to those seeking to progress through degrees. Latter-day Saints may be aware of Masonic handclasps and symbols, including aprons, squares, and compasses, but do not always realize that Masonry also includes three distinct knocks, five points of fellowship, endowments, and many similarities of wording found in the temple. Method Infinite gives insight on these similarities and why they were of interest to Joseph Smith. Modern Mormonism has lost the significance of many of these elements, and therefore, they have declined in importance and many have been removed from our ritual.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

We hope that the book will teach readers that Freemasonry had an effect on Mormonism from the very beginning, and is not just limited to a few resemblances in the temple. But more than that, we hope to ease the anxiety many have felt over Masonic influence in the founding years of the Church.

Praise for Method Infinite:

“In this book, authors Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick, and Nicholas S. Literski have shown us just how prevalent Freemasonry was in the culture, lives, and minds of Joseph Smith and his contemporaries, and, more importantly, how interwoven it is in the teachings and rituals that became so important in early Mormonism. The full truth about Smith’s restoration movement cannot be understood without the deep, poignant research that makes up this volume. The reader will find it packed with evidence pulled from a variety of solid sources. This book is a game changer for sure. ”— Devery S. Anderson, editor, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1845–2000: A Documentary History
Sweeping in scope and meticulous in detailMethod Infinite excavates the shared past of Masonry and the Latter-day Saint Restoration—and skillfully uncovers a lost context of Joseph Smith's prophetic work. ”— Don Bradley, author, The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon's Missing Stories

If I could pick one book for 2022, it’s Method Infinite. . . . It will for sure, without question, be the definitive overview of the relationship between Mormonism and Freemasonry. It is beautifully written. . . . It is going to be a staple in thinking about the esoteric dimensions of Mormonism. – Cristina Rosetti, Dialogue Book Report

Method Infinite is the culmination of decades of research and scholarship, a massive work of importance to understanding early Mormon history in the context of the time and places of the Restoration. . . . [The] authors bring the insider perspective of both the LDS Church and Masonry. Swick and Literski are Master Masons with advanced degrees in the Craft, and with Bruno are also scholars steeped in Mormon history. Together, they have completed the most comprehensive treatment of the parallels and direct Masonic influences on the founding of the LDS Church to date.” — Kevin Folkman, Association for Mormon Letters
Method Infinite is an eye-opening, comprehensive reconstruction of early Mormon connections with Freemasonry, showing how Masonic lore and practice informed early Mormon development much sooner and penetrated more deeply than previously imagined. Mormonism drew not only on the ritualistic forms and language of Masonry, but also on its theological narratives of dispensationalism, continuing revelation, redemption from sin, Christian perfectionism and theosis, just to name a few. This work is an important contribution to Mormon Studies and fundamentally changes the way one thinks about the intersection between Masonry and early Mormonism.” — Charles R. Harrell, author, "This Is My Doctrine": The Development of Mormon Theology
An insightful and information-packed volume about a plethora of possible points of contact between Freemasonry and the Restoration. . . . While many studies of Masonry and the Latter Day Saint movement focus primarily on temple rituals, Method Infinite covers the entirety of Joseph Smith’s life and follows the influence of Masonic ideas and rituals into some of the major branches of Mormonism that emerged in the aftermath of the Prophet’s death. . . . I found it to be a fascinating read and would recommend it to scholars and others interested in gaining a deeper understanding of both 19th century American Freemasonry and the early Latter Day Saint movement” — Chad Nielsen, Times and Seasons
Method Infinite has been in the making for twenty years, and the final product is well worth the wait. Both Greg Kofford Books and the three authors deserve respect and admiration for seeing this volume to completion. After reading this book I feel like a new world of knowledge has been revealed to my mind. It is a difficult task for historians to write and explain two traditions, but to write so that the lay person can understand these intertwining histories of both Mormonism and Freemasonry is a herculean task, one that authors Bruno, Swick, and Literski have accomplished in this volume.” — Joe Geisner, editor, Writing Mormon History: Historians and Their Books
“The definitive work on the subject. . . . Both Freemasons and students of Mormon History will find this book well researched and its thesis persuasive. The authors go to great lengths to make sure that both the Masonic and Mormon aspects of their arguments are accessible to all readers. Moreover, for those of us who approach the book with both sets of eyes, we will find that the narratives are woven together to produce a highly satisfying read.” — Jason R. Smith, The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal

About the Authors:

Cheryl L. Bruno has a BS in Recreation Management from Greensboro College and did graduate work in Educational Psychology at Brigham Young University. Cheryl is an independent researcher on Mormon history, with publications in the Journal of Religion and Society, the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, and the Journal of Mormon History. She has also presented at cthe Mormon History Association Annual Conference, the Claremont Mormon Studies Conference, the Pacific Northwest Region Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, the John Whitmer Historical Association Annual Conference, Sunstone Symposium, and the Mormonism and Western Esotericism Conference. In addition, Cheryl is Director of Resident Life at Madonna Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care, has published personal essays and poetry in several anthologies, and has created a deck of Mormon-themed tarot cards. 

Joe Steve Swick III is a long time student of the history and dogmas of Mormonism and Freemasonry. He received his endowment in 1982 and was raised a Master Mason in 1995. He is twice Past Master of his local lodge, and twice Past High Priest of his Royal Arch Chapter, receiving the Masonic Order of High Priesthood in 2004. Joe was a career Program Manager for Word Perfect in Provo, Utah, and for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.

Nicholas S. Literski, JD, PhD, is an adjunct senior lecturer at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a professional spiritual guide. In 2001, Nick became the first Master Mason raised in Hancock County after the 1840s Mormon exodus, going on to receive the Royal Arch, Cryptic, and Knight Templar degrees within the York, as well as the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite. Nick’s work has been published in FARMS Review of Books on The Book of Mormon, Psychological Perspectives: A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, and the recent compilation, The Reality of Fragmentation and the Yearning for Healing: Jungian Perspectives on Democracy, Power, and Illusion in Contemporary Politics.


More Information:

531 pages
978-1-58958-689-5 (paperback); 978-1-58958-753-3 (hardcover)

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