Masonry and Mormonism
A fraternity which came to the Americas via England and is rumored to have roots in the Medieval Stone Mason's Guilds, the Templar Knights, Gnostic Christianity, or in the builders of Solomon's Temple. New research claims that the association with Solomon's temple is a myth created to lend prestige to Freemasonry during the 15th century. Apart from secretiveness, the Freemasons are also known for their heavy use of symbolism and common association with temples.
Due to the secretiveness of the Freemasons, they have been attacked, as an organization, by many individuals who have been either suspicious of their doings or desirous to take advantage of the opportunity to create suspicion.
More generally, many important historical figures are known to have been Freemasons, including George Washington and many other prominent founders of the United States of America. This fact both garners respect for the organization and feeds the imagination of conspiracy theorists, some of whom believe Freemasons have acted as a kind of shadow government.
Freemasonry is also connected to Scouting since the Boy Scouts of America was started by a Freemason. There are many similarities between Scouting and Freemasonry, including the Scout Oath, Promise, Sign, and "Handshake" or "token." These similarities are even more marked in Scouting side orders such as "The Order of the Arrow" and earlier versions of the scout handshake which was recently changed to be less "Masonic."
Freemasonry is of interest to members of the Mormon Church since Joseph Smith and other prominent figures in early Mormon church history were members of the Masonic Fraternity. Freemasonry is also of interest since many of its initiation rituals are similar to those of the LDS Temple endowment. The most common explanation for this similarity is that the Masonic Fraternity preserved some ancient elements of true temple worship. Another common explanation is that God speaks according to our own language and understanding (See D&C 1:24). Symbolism is a language, and the symbolism of Freemasonry had become part of the culture of Joseph Smith's day. However, the accusation that Mormon temple symbolism was taken from the rites of Freemasonry is false. The Lord began revealing the patterns of temple ritual to prophet Joseph Smith long before he became a freemason.
The most likely explanation for the similarities is that both use symbols that were common in the early Christian church, and even those symbols may have been of even more ancient origin. However, the symbols used in Freemasonry are for fraternal covenants of brotherhood. The symbolism used in Mormon temples represent eternal covenants with God.