The Real Thing

September 26, 2009 | 46 comments
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“We can’t get in,” a young man argued. “The Masons are like a super-secret society!”

“Supersecret? Really?” Langdon remembered the large Masonic ring that his friend Peter Solomon wore proudly on his right hand. “Then why do Masons wear obvious Masonic rings, tie clips, or pins? Why are there Masonic buildings clearly marked? Why are their meeting times in the newspaper?” Langdon smiled at all the puzzled faces. “My friend, the Masons are not a secret society . . . they are a society with secrets.”

“Same thing” someone muttered.

“Is it?” Langdon challenged. “Would you consider Coca-Cola a secret society?”

“Of course not,” the student said.

“Well, what if you knocked on the door of corporate headquarters and asked for the recipe for Classic Coke?”

“They’d never tell you.”

“Exactly. In order to learn Coca-Cola’s deepest secrets, you would need to join the company, work for many years, prove you were trustworthy, and eventually rise to the upper echelons of the company, where that information might be shared with you. Then you would be sworn to secrecy.”

Discuss.

46 Responses to The Real Thing

  1. Julie M. Smith on September 26, 2009 at 9:16 am

    This is from Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” BTW.

    (I’m on page 52. It is just as stunningly stupid and weirdly compelling as I had anticipated.)

  2. Dave on September 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Odd how the Dan Brown book has become a Harry Potter-like national group reading event. I’m beginning to feel a little left out, but can’t quite bring myself to shell out $20 to read it in real-time mode.

  3. Justmeherenow on September 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Dave, send me an “e” and I’ll PayPal you a Hamilton note.

  4. Ben on September 26, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I think it has some things that will resonate with LDS in particular, like the passage above.

    FWIW, Brown’s wife, I am told, either is or was Mormon. (This from a reporter I know who works with Church PA in SLC.)

  5. Justmeherenow on September 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I mean an Andy Jackson. (What’s Hamilton on?)

  6. SC Taysom on September 26, 2009 at 10:13 am

    1 AJ = 2 AH

  7. Hunter on September 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I’m at about page 100. Yes, it’s flat and dumb, but still, like Julie, I feel compelled to keep turning the pages. Ugh.

    I kinda liked his description about how the Masons are not a secret society, but a society with secrets. I think there is some overlap with the LDS Church, but I’m not particularly fond of saying that the Church is a church with secrets. I wish I had an apt couplet for the temple. We’ll see where Brown goes with this.

    Also, it’ll be interesting to see where he goes with the apotheosis thing that he’s hinted at.

  8. Alex Valencic on September 26, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I haven’t read it yet, due mostly to the fact that I loathe hard-bound books and therefore find myself always behind the reading curve, waiting for books to go to paperback. (And not just any paperback – I need the normal-sized paperbacks, not these strange elongated ones that I see more and more these days… But I digress…)

    That being said, I want to read it, and I will do so with the understanding that Dan Brown is not a deep-thinking philosopher who is going to cause me to change my entire world-view. I think I’ll read it and go, “Huh, that was a fun book to read… I wonder what’s on TV…”

    More to the OP, I like the idea of dispelling the concept of the Masons as a secret society, and recognising that they are a society with secrets. Like Hunter (#7), I wish there was a compellingly useful couplet we could use, other than the “The Temple isn’t secret–it’s sacred” line, but at the same time, what’s so wrong with things that are sacred being kept secret? Didn’t the Saviour promote this idea when he taught His followers to not cast their pearls before swine?

  9. Alex Valencic on September 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I might add that I know of at least one General Authority who has suggested that members of the Church would find the Lord more likely to share things with them if He knew he could trust them to not go blabbing about it all over the place.

  10. Cliff Bentley on September 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    “The Lord has taught me many things, and He would teach me many more things if I could just learn to keep my mouth shut.”
    — J. Reuben Clark

  11. Dave on September 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Justme, thanks for the offer. I think I’ll wait until I can get it on CD and listen to it in the car. This worked well for The DaVinci Code — the “weirdly compelling” story line keeps you going through a long drive, without the urge to skip the paragraphs or pages of fluff one encounters sometimes with a book. Somewhere I picked up the habit of reading just the first sentence of each paragraph when the signal-to-noise ratio is too low, but that trick doesn’t always work with fiction.

  12. Jim on September 26, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I shelled out $9.99 for the ebook edition. Not quite the experience of hefting a hardback, but I’m getting used to reading on an iPhone.

    Typical Dan Brown – overwrought and predictable, but a fast read and modestly diverting. And…oddly respectful.

  13. Bob on September 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Julie.
    Is this really the topic? I know you review many books, so maybe so.

    My thinking is for years Mormons have dreaded what Dan Brown might write. Now that he has said nothing (?), they all want to read his book, and put him/it down. I have never read any of his books, therefore I am a poor judge of his writing.

    But we have not heard from the non-Momons. Maybe yet the dreaded conection between Mormons and Masons will be established (?)

  14. Tim on September 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Having read his most famous book, I am all about putting him/it down. Maybe I’m a literary snob, but I refuse to read more by him. Page-turner? Yes. But with the two-dimensional characters, poor writing-style, and a lame plot, I’d rather read the comments to articles at the Deseret News.
    Okay, I sometimes read the comments. It’s a bad habit. I’m trying to stop.

  15. Ken Larsen on September 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Applause for Dan as an entertainer. It’s always more fun to read the book first. Can I not assume the movie will follow?

    Being brought up Mormon and studying just a bit of freemasonry, I certainly agree that Mormonism was one of many cultural movements began by the Masons and their principles in Our Declaration of Independence. In virtually every cultural event initiated by the Masons, I say “Bless you Masons and thank God for Masons.”

  16. ESO on September 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I had a branch president who was a Mason. I thought that was weird. Was I wrong?

  17. Alison Moore Smith on September 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Interesting quote.

    Personally, I don’t much hear us called a “secret society” as I do a “society with secrets,” which, of course, is countered by “sacred not secret.”

    Even as a kid I thought that was stupid. But after going through the temple, I had a hard time figuring out what the big “secret” was anyway. I’m something in agreement with the (anonymous as far as I know) guy who published most of the various ceremonies on the internet. Signs and tokens, etc. — don’t talk about it. The rest of it is pretty much published in the scriptures and/or published by the church (Talmage, et. al.).

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    #

    I might add that I know of at least one General Authority who has suggested that members of the Church would find the Lord more likely to share things with them if He knew he could trust them to not go blabbing about it all over the place.

    Not only J.R. Clark, but Alma writes the same thing.

  19. Plufyn on September 26, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Julie M. Smith,

    How does this new Dan Brown book compare to DaVinci Code?

    Whether its Masons, Mormons, or just gossip, secrets do have an irresistible quality to them. Sometimes secrets are a letdown when you find them out.

    Sort of like when you find out the “secrets” of DaVinci Code.

  20. Dan on September 26, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    uh, I think most if not all our sacred secrets are already out. We’re certainly not like the Coca Cola company.

  21. Jack on September 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Yes and no, Dan. With out a heavenly seal it ain’t “the real thing.”

  22. Bob on September 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    #20: “.. most if not all our sacred secrets are already out”. How does anyone know this? That the issue of a “society with secrets”, no one knows when they have stopped keeping secrets.

  23. Plufyn on September 26, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Dan (20)

    I think your point is pretty valid. But this might not be such a bad thing.

  24. Hunter on September 27, 2009 at 12:24 am

    A bit more on the “society with secrets” appellation.

    As applied to the temple, I’m not sure it’s really that applicable anymore, really. There are many illicit ways to find out what happens in the temple: the endowment is on the internet, as are photos of temple garments, etc. And there are non-illicit ways that outsiders can find out about the temple: much of the endowment ceremony is taken from the scriptures; books like Boyd Packer’s give a good framework of what happens; most endowed members would be pretty adept about answering questions about the temple/garments from non-members in the appropriate setting; heck, you can see my garments in the locker room at the gym when I change my clothes.

    For me, the issue is not whether the “info” conveyed in the temple is secret — frankly, it’s not. Today, the temple doesn’t seem to be about about revealing a secret. The LDS temple, as Julie Smith hypothesized in response to that “Big Love” temple episode, is about learning in a special setting; as Julie says, the temple is to be experienced to be understood.

    I love the use of the word “initiation” for the fact that it conveys this sense that you have to be there to understand it. But the word is instantly associated with college fraternities, sororities, or even the Masons, and therefore, sort of compounds our secret/sacred problem.

    Maybe someday the temple will be open to all who wish to attend and observe — much like a non-Catholic can attend mass. In the meantime, though, I wish I could come up with some pithy maxim about the temple to replace the fixation on sacred/secret . . .

  25. Bob on September 27, 2009 at 12:54 am

    #24: Why have you limited Mormon secrets only to the Temple? I have read many times on this blog of the Church not disclosing things to it’s members or the world.
    Are you confident you know all the secrets of the Masons?

  26. manaen on September 27, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Wow, I didn’t know that the Masons have the recipe for Classic Coke.

  27. Tim on September 27, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Manaen,
    Don’t you know the Masons own the Coca-Cola Company?
    :)

  28. Joe Steve Swick III on September 27, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Bob: (#25) “Are you confident you know all the secrets of the Masons?”

    I’m confident that they DON’T, Bob. If they had even an inkling of that, they would be beating down the doors of the Lodge to join – just as early leaders of the LDS Church did.

    And Hunter (#24), perhaps something like, “the Holy Temple provides the pattern, the tools and the divine power to transform the human heart.”

    Kindest,
    ~ An Old Past Master

  29. John on September 27, 2009 at 5:59 am

    I wonder if Joseph Smith would take the time to read a Dan Brown book.

  30. Joe Steve Swick III on September 27, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Hunter (#4): “Today, the temple doesn’t seem to be about about revealing a secret.”

    Among other things, the Temple is about receiving the Keys of Asking and Receiving, to pierce the Veil and receive revelations for oneself; it is about distinguishing true messages from false, and calling down very specific blessings that cannot be had in any other way.

    And, yes: like Freemasonry, there is a context for LDS ritual which can’t be had by simply reading a transcript. What surprises me is the number of LDS scholars who know this, but then turn right around and suppose they understand Freemasonry and its rituals, because they’ve read a few exposures. I won’t name names, but a few well-known LDS pontificators on the subject of Freemasonry really need to get a clue-brick. ;-)

    Just my opinion, of course.

    Kindest,
    ~An Old Past Master

  31. Joe Steve Swick III on September 27, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Dan (#20) “uh, I think most if not all our sacred secrets are already out.”

    In Mormonism, the “sacred secrets” are what you get when you actually make use of the instruction you receive as part of the Holy Endowment. Since non-LDS cannot do this (and many LDS simply don’t), I think those secrets are very safe. :-)

    Similarly, the real secrets of Freemasonry simply CANNOT be told. Until one really understands the nature of Masonic secrets in ritual, the door to the treasure-house is pretty much closed there, as well. So, when Masons say that their secrets can pretty much all be found in a public library, and are really just a few signs of recognition . . . well, that’s true, but then again, it isn’t. ;-)

    Kindest,
    ~An Old Past Master

  32. Mike on September 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

    The Coca Cola headquarters is in my Stake and some of their top executuves have kids in the same schools as mine and belong to our non-LDS scout troop. It is amazing the things you hear around a campfire.

    One of the most amazing secrets is that the Coca Cola company in conjunction with Lockheed is working on an internal combustion engine that will burn Coca Cola. At 99 cents for a liter, that would be about $4 dollars a gallon. Coca Cola as a fuel would be renewable, locally produced and is carbon neutral.

  33. Dan on September 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    #21, 22, and 23,

    What I was meaning is that, we’re really not that good about keeping our sacred secrets secret. We actually let people leave our organization and let them say what goes on where we otherwise wouldn’t speak publicly about ourselves. In that way, we’re not very Masonic, nor very Coca-Cola-ish.

  34. Bob on September 27, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    #34: Let’s not. My ggrandmother had her throat cut ear to ear. It’s all fun..until someone gets hurt.

  35. brigham on September 27, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    The recipe for Coke is much more controversial than the writer lets on. I have heard some argue that it is the syrup of Satan. Others claim it the elixir of the Relief Society. Could it be both? I would like to hear a church talk about that one….

    As to the difference between a secret society and a society with secrets sounds a lot like the “it’s not secret, it is sacred” distinction I have heard many religious people make. However, by throwing Coke into the mix, I am beginning to wonder if we could also accurately say, “It is not secret, it is saccharin.”

  36. Dan on September 28, 2009 at 9:18 am

    #34,

    While Dan is indeed a pretty cool name, I would never want to bring the Danites back. For me, I never saw Christianity as a militant religion. Don’t know where it really comes from, but it sure doesn’t come from Jesus Christ.

  37. manaen on September 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    36.
    “It is not secret, it is saccharin.”
    – A classic Coke comment!

  38. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    The endowment and other temple ordinances do not suffer if someone discloses them to someone who doesn’t believe in them. The person making the disclosure suffers from a breach of integrity. And persons who are ignorant of the significance of the ordinances are harmed somewhat in being given an incomplete and therefore misleading understanding of them that might impede their further investigation of the Church. Those are sufficient harms to justify discretion in speaking about the ordinances of the temple.

    While some people may be addicted to the “full disclosure, no privacy” mode of voyeuristic lifestyle that is promoted by “reality TV”, I think that many people would appreciate being able to go to a place where only sincere participants are viewing the proceedings. The positive reaction of many visitors to temple open houses is partly, I feel, due to the recognition of the desirability of creating an inviolate sacred space.

  39. Orrin Porter Rockwell on September 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    What’s all this talk about Danites?

  40. z on September 28, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    “We can’t get in,” a young woman argued. “The Masons are like a super-sexist society!”

  41. G A Cook on September 28, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    A note: Take the purported ritual used by D. Brown with a grain of salt, along with the titles he uses and the location of the degrees.
    The thirty-third degree ritual is from a 19th C expose and not used by either of the Scottish Rite Supreme Councils in the U.S. I’m unaware of any Masonic entity which uses the title “Supreme Master.” The Masonic degrees are not performed in the House of the Temple, but over at the Scottish Rite Temple.
    For me, there was some very bad writing and the chapters seemed set up as movie scenes (yeah, go figure). There were some unnecessary sexual references. However, the plot twists were fun.

    OTH, the novel was very kind to the Masonic Fraternity.

    There are feminine Masonic lodges, though they are not “recognized” by mainstream lodges. There are also feminine and co-ed Masonic side orders: Eastern Star, Amaranth, Daughters of the Nile, Social Order of the Beauceant, White Shrine of Jerusalem, Ladies Oriental Shrine, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow.

    For me, the secrets of Freemasonry, while easily available to all, are a test: If a man cannot keep a simple secret such as a handshake or mode of recognition, how can I trust him with a greater obligation of protecting my family and me?

  42. Joe Steve Swick III on September 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    GAC (#42): “I’m unaware of any Masonic entity which uses the title ‘Supreme Master.’”

    Mine does! Of course I’m the only member of that particular body. Heh.

    Fraternally,

    Joe Steve Swick III
    “Supreme Master”
    Lodge of My Spirit #357

  43. Joe Steve Swick III on September 28, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    GAC (#42): “The thirty-third degree ritual is from a 19th C expose and not used by either of the Scottish Rite Supreme Councils in the U.S.”

    Have you seen the Antoine Bideaud version of the 33rd, copied from Auguste De Grass’ copy, in 1802, and then located in LA and transcribed by Pike in 1860? I’m curious about a reference there to Hermes Trismegistus.

    Kindly and Fraternally,
    Joe Swick

  44. Clark on September 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    The endowment and other temple ordinances do not suffer if someone discloses them to someone who doesn’t believe in them.

    Some believe that’s because they are a preparatory endowment and thus the names, signs and tokens are more or less place holders until one receives the real thing.

  45. G A Cook on October 1, 2009 at 1:43 am

    GAC (#42): “I’m unaware of any Masonic entity which uses the title ‘Supreme Master.’”

    JSS: Mine does! Of course I’m the only member of that particular body. Heh.

    GAC: The Ancient Andiluvian Order of Swickians. Oh, yeah THAT ONE I know of, but was too scared to mention in public.

    No, I haven’t seen that semi-Pike ritual for the 33rd. I could see if they have it at the House of the Temple, but I’m afraid they’d cut off my hand and stick it on the floor at the Annandale Stake Center.

  46. Mike Fisher on October 2, 2009 at 10:35 am

    If the Masons and their ceremonies are so ‘secret’ why then can I read all about them in any library?

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