Equal Rites

The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture

Clyde R. Forsberg Jr.

Columbia University Press

Equal Rites

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Pub Date: March 2004

ISBN: 9780231126403

352 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: March 2004

ISBN: 9780231507462

352 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

Equal Rites

The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture

Clyde R. Forsberg Jr.

Columbia University Press

Both the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon have been characterized as ardently, indeed evangelically, anti-Masonic. Yet in this sweeping social, cultural, and religious history of nineteenth-century Mormonism and its milieu, Clyde Forsberg argues that masonry, like evangelical Christianity, was an essential component of Smith's vision. Smith's ability to imaginatively conjoin the two into a powerful and evocative defense of Christian, or Primitive, Freemasonry was, Forsberg shows, more than anything else responsible for the meteoric rise of Mormonism in the nineteenth century.

This was to have significant repercussions for the development of Mormonism, particularly in the articulation of specifically Mormon gender roles. Mormonism's unique contribution to the Masonic tradition was its inclusion of women as active and equal participants in Masonic rituals. Early Mormon dreams of empire in the Book of Mormon were motivated by a strong desire to end social and racial discord, lest the country fall into the grips of civil war. Forsberg demonstrates that by seeking to bring women into previously male-exclusive ceremonies, Mormonism offered an alternative to the male-dominated sphere of the Master Mason. By taking a median and mediating position between Masonry and Evangelicism, Mormonism positioned itself as a religion of the people, going on to become a world religion.

But the original intent of the Book of Mormon gave way as Mormonism moved west, and the temple and polygamy (indeed, the quest for empire) became more prevalent. The murder of Smith by Masonic vigilantes and the move to Utah coincided with a new imperialism—and a new polygamy. Forsberg argues that Masonic artifacts from Smith's life reveal important clues to the precise nature of his early Masonic thought that include no less than a vision of redemption and racial concord.
Equal Rites is an imaginative and ambitious book. Grant Underwood, Journal of American History
This is an important book on the history of American religion, culture, and society. Choice
[Equal Rites] is well written and engaging. D.E. Mills Jr., Reviews in Religion and Theology
A uniquely insightful answer to scholars' recent calls for greater understanding of Mormon theology, culture, and institutional character. Religous Studies Review
Preface: Mormon Masonry?
Introduction: The Wax and Wane of Masonry in American Culture
Part I. The Mormon-Masonic Nexus
1. Reading a Sealed Book
2. Was Joseph Smith a Mason?
3. Dreaming Masonry: Getting the Story Plumb
4. As the Words of a Book That Is Sealed: The Book of Mormon as Esoteric Male (Hi)Story
5. Fleeing Babel with Mother and Child in Tow
Part II. The Quest Within the Quest
6. A Bible! A Bible! We Have Got a Bible
7. The Search for the Long Lost Book in the Book of Mormon
8. What Manner of (Masonic) Men?
Part III. The "Anti-Evangelical'' Mind of Joseph Smith Jr.
9. Whether a Man Can Enter a Second Time into His Mother's Womb
10. Heaven and Hell: Divining the Ghost of Emmanuel Swedenborg
11. Father-Son and Holy Ghost--Mother? The Mormon-God Question
Part IV. The Millennial, Racial, Economic, and Political Confederacy
12. Thy Kingdom Come: On Earth as It Is in Heaven
13. The Lost Ten Tribes Found: Mormons and Jews
14. The Curse and Redemption of the Lamanites
15. The Economic Kingdom of God: Masonic Utopianism Unveiled
Postscript: The "Americanness'' of Mormonism
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Clyde R. Forsberg Jr. is a CEP (Civic Education Project) Fellow and teaches American studies at the American University Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.