Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » MHA: Guest Post: Adamic Language and Masons

MHA: Guest Post: Adamic Language and Masons

By: George Miller - May 27, 2011

Here’s another taste of esoterica being explored in this week’s MHA meeting in St. George: You’ve heard of the Adamic language; you’ve know about the Masons — what in the world could possibly connect them? — AEP

Throughout his life Joseph Smith was fascinated by the prospect of restoring the Adamic language. When Joseph Smith and other church members spoke in tongues, Joseph Smith would often tell them they were speaking in the pure language of Adam. In 1832 Joseph Smith took the first step in formalizing the Adamic tongue when he received a revelation revealing several words in the Adamic tongue. Joseph Smith revisited this Adamic revelation in the Spring of 1835 during the preparation of the Doctrine and Covenants; and added two new Adamic words; and he revealed six written characters associated with these words.

Shortly thereafter Michael Chandler arrived in Kirtland displaying several mummies and Egyptian papyri. Joseph Smith quickly declared one of the papyri to be written by Abraham; and the church purchased the papyri and mummies for $2,400. In July of 1835 Joseph Smith began translating the papyri; and in the process an Egyptian Alphabet was constructed. Contained in the Egyptian Alphabet are the same six characters as those found in Joseph Smith’s revelation on the Adamic language. Why did Joseph Smith think the Adamic and Egyptian written languages were connected? The answer to this question is somewhat complicated and perplexing. The answer lies in the finding that five of the six hieroglyphs are based on a Masonic code known as the Royal Arch cipher.

The Smith family had long held an interest in Freemasonry. Several of Joseph Smith Jr.’s uncles and cousins were Freemasons in Vermont; Joseph Smith’s father and brother both became Masons in New York. Historians have long recognized Masonic motifs in the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. In Missouri the Mormons formed an organization called the Danites whose secret signs, tokens, oaths and reported constitution were based on a Masonic template. Working behind the scenes through intermediaries, Joseph Smith brought Freemasonry to Nauvoo leading to his being his initiated, passed and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Nauvoo. After becoming a Freemason, Joseph encouraged others to join the lodge; and within a couple of years almost every eligible Mormon male was a Masonic brother. Smith created his own Masonic ritual based on Masonic sources including the Masonic legend of Adam’s initiation as a Freemason. Thus Joseph Smith had a sustained interest in Freemasonry throughout his prophetic career. Joseph Smith’s interest in the Adamic language also echoed Masonic sources.

To discover why Joseph Smith thought the Adamic and Egyptian language were written in a Masonic code, please join us at the MHA session entitled Mormon Esoterica and attend the lecture Cipher in the Snow: The Royal Arch Cipher and Joseph Smith’s Conception of Ancient Languages. This presentation will reveal the Masonic sources Joseph Smith likely read that shaped his understanding of ancient languages. Come be surprised by the fact that Joseph Smith thought Adam, Enoch and Abraham were Masons. Come and watch while we decipher Joseph Smith conception of the Adamic and Egyptian languages.



  1. Baffling yet intriguing! Wish I could be there.

    Comment by Alison — May 27, 2011 @ 9:34 am

  2. I’ve followed George Miller’s discussions of masonry on online message boards for quite some time and I’m really looking forward to seeing some of it published.

    Comment by Mina — May 27, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  3. I also wish I could be there. Hopefully I’ll get a hold of notes or transcripts of the presenatations.

    Comment by Manuel — May 27, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  4. Has the Danite/Mason connection been that clearly established?

    I also think one has to be somewhat careful about appeals to the Royal Arch cipher since it consists of pretty common glyphs.

    I’m not saying there isn’t anything there. But appeals to it are kind of like apologists taking anything that looks like a gamma as evidence of the temple. If you look at the Anthon transcript you can find characters pretty similar to elements of the cipher as well. But then if you look at many character sets you can say the same thing.

    Once again I’m not saying there aren’t connections. For instance Joseph’s treatment of secret words around the border of the hypocephalus (fac 2) parallels in some interesting ways the writing around the border of the triangular plate in the Royal Arch degree which was claimed to be the same as the golden triangular plate given to Enoch. The writing on the triangle is in the Royal Arch cipher. And the use in the Royal Arch setting does parallel the endowment.

    I admit I’ve not kept up on all this and I know there is a raging debate about the nature of the KEP still and these characters in particular. But it always struck me as being a bit more open than it appears.

    Comment by ClarkGoble — May 27, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  5. I’d love to get the full story on this one. I’m no expert on Masonry, Adamic, or Egyptian, but the link in comment 4 is identical to a childish code I learned as a Cub Scout–the pigpen cipher.

    To think I was learning Adamic as a rowdy 9-year-old! :-)

    Comment by Clark — May 27, 2011 @ 10:51 am

  6. A lot of medieval and renaissance ciphers are variations of the pigpen cipher. An other important renaissance cipher is the Aiq Bkr cipher within Kabbalism which is yet an other variation and has obvious parallels to the Royal Arch cipher and I think most historians believe that it was lifted with some variation by the Masons. (Don’t quote me on that – as I said I’m pretty rusty on most of this having not looked at most of it in over 15 years)

    Comment by ClarkGoble — May 27, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  7. George offered this teaser at the request of Clair, with whom he is sharing the session. George is not a regular Keepa reader and may not respond to comments here. I’ll write and ask at least what his publication plans are and post them here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 27, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  8. ClarkGoble- Sorry I have been unable to respond to your query. I have been visiting relatives my internet access has been limited. You noted that “Appeals to [the Royal Arch cipher] are kind of like apologists taking anything that looks like a gamma as evidence of the temple.” FWIW I had the same concern when I first encountered these characters. Let me explain why I reached the conclusions I did.

    First we are dealing with 6 consecutive characters of the Adamic written language in a revised copy of Joseph Smith’s Sample of Pure Language revelation. Five out of the six characters come from the Royal Arch.

    You mentioned the איק בכר cipher which Joseph Smith would have known from his reading of Henry Cornelius Agrippa work either from English translations of De Occulta Philosophia or through Francis Barrett’s The Magus. We know Joseph Smith had access to Agrippa’s work because it was used to produce the Smith family’s Jupiter Talisman, knife, and magical lamens. Note that each of these artifacts were known by the family as Masonic.

    Joseph Smith was using BOTH the Royal Arch and איק בכר ciphers to reconstruct the pure Adamic language. My findings are not based simply on the fairly simplistic morphology of the characters. Instead I discovered that there is a correlation between the definitions Joseph Smith gave for the hieroglyphs and their English and Hebrew letters. However, there is also more evidence to support this position. Joseph Smith was taking his conception of the interrelationship between the Adamic, Hebrew and Egyptian languages directly from Masonic texts. Finally, Joseph Smith was led to believe that the Adamic written language was related to the Royal Arch cipher by Masonic ritual, specifically the Royal Arch degree in which the initiate is shown an artifact produced by Enoch with words written in the Royal Arch cipher.

    Comment by George Miller — June 2, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  9. Has the Danite/Mason connection been that clearly established?

    Masonic oaths take a certain structure and form and share certain sentence structures. If you would like to look at some then I would check out Bernard’s Light on Masonry which can be found online on Google Books. If you follow the link below it will take you to the Master Mason’s oath as published by Bernard. … &q&f=false

    After reading that you can check out three versions of the Danite oath below.

    Sampson Avard wrote:
    In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I do solemnly obligate myself ever to conceal and never to reveal the secrets of this society called the Daughters of Zion. Should I ever do the same, I hold my life as the forfeiture.

    Swatzell wrote:
    Now I do solemnly swear, by the eternal Jehovah, that I will decree to bear and conceal, and never reveal, this secret, at the peril of committing perjury, and [enduring] the pains of death, and my body to be shot and laid in the dust. Amen.

    John D. Lee wrote:
    The members of the Order were placed under the most sacred obligations that language could invent. They were sworn to stand by and sustain each other. Sustain, protect, defend, and obey the leaders of the Church under any and all circumstances unto death; and to divulge the name of a Danite to an outsider, or to make public any of the secrets of the Danites, was to be punished by death.

    The Danites also borrowed the concepts of signs, tokens and a sign of distress from the Freemasons.

    When the High Priest had delivered himself of these charges, agreeably to the order of things, he next informed us that he would give us a sign ‘whereby ye may know each other anywhere, (either by day or by night,) and if a brother be in distress. It is thus: to clap the right hand to the right thigh, and then raise it quick to the right temple, the thumb extending behind the ear.’ He then gave us the pass-word — which was to be spoken at the moment of giving the hand of fellowship — ‘Who be you?’* Answer — ‘Anama.’† ‘This word, anama,’ he further informed us, ‘is by interpretation, a friend. This then, is the sign to distinguish ourselves from all other people under heaven.’

    John D. Lee wrote:
    When the sign was given, it must be responded to and obeyed, even at the risk or certainty of death. That Danite that would refuse to respect the token and [did not] comply with its regulations, was stamped with dishonor, infamy, shame, and disgrace, and his fate for cowardice was death. The sign or token of distress is made by placing the right hand on the right side of the face, with the points of the fingers upwards, shoving the hand upwards until the ear is snug up between thee thumb and fore-finger.

    There are other aspects of interest. During the revolutionary war and continuing up till today, many army units have associated with them a Masonic Lodge. These are known as military lodges. It is not uncommon for the high ranking officers in the military to be the higher ranking officers in the military lodge. This may be what you are seeing in the confusion between the Danite Army and the secret Danite organization.

    The meeting place of the Danites at Adam-Ondi-Ahman also shows other interesting aspects. While we don’t get a completely clear picture of what was happening, it appears that they met on the top of tower hill at Lyman Wight’s farm. Outside of the meeting was placed a perimeter of guards to keep out non-Danites. It is possible that this is modeled on ideas from Knights Templar degree. The fact that they met on the top of the hill brings to mind the following from the EA lecture.

    Bernard, Light on Masonry 38-39 wrote:
    Q. Where did our ancient brethren meet before lodges were erected?
    A. On the highest hills, and in the lowest vales?
    Q. Why on the highest hills, and the lowest vales?
    A. To better guard against cowens and enemies, either ascending or descending, that the brethren might have timely notice of their approach to prevent being surprised. (Bernard, Light on Masonry, 38-9)

    Finally, after the Morgan affair there was a severe scare that the Masons, especially the Knights Templar, were gathering arms and that they were planning to potentially take over the government. For this reason some Knight Templar buildings were raided by local vigilance groups, who found nothing incriminating. This boogeyman of the “Avenging Mason” was in some ways what the Danite bands were seeking to model. The above is a high level overview of some of the issues. If you have any specific questions then please let me know.

    Here is what Nick Literski had to say on the subject.

    During the early history of Mormonism, Joseph made several abortive attempts to create this “Masonic restoration,” among which was the Danite movement. Existing records (some of which, as noted above, are critical) describe initiation ceremonies which are clearly based on Masonic ritual. In addition, individual Danites who dropped from church activity later became involved with a non-Mormon vigilante group, also calling itself “Danites” with full recognition of the earlier Mormon usage. This group is even more readily recognized as Masonic in structure, even to the point of holding its meetings in local Masonic halls.

    Given the available evidence I think my statement, if not established, is at least a reasonable interpretation of the data.

    Comment by George Miller — June 2, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  10. Thanks, George, for returning and answering questions. I am especially interested in your remarks on the Danite/Mason connection. This has given me some things to think over.

    Comment by Mina — June 2, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  11. Mina- Happy to hear that this has given you some things to think about. Freemasonry in the North East was almost obliterated by the Morgan Affair which caused MANY grand lodges to shut down and in some states 90% plus of the regular lodges disappeared from the map. Joseph believed that in order to restore the church to the same form as held by the ancient patriarchs, he had no choice but to form his own lodge amongst the Mormons. While some have suggested this was all Sampson Avard’s doings, I think this came directly from the top as it fits Joseph’s modus operandi.

    Comment by George Miller — June 2, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

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