For years we have pointed out that Hugh Nibley, Ph.D, the now-deceased Mormon apologist, was so zealous to prove Mormonism that he used weak parallels and wishful thinking in an attempt to establish his case. When Hofmann forged a copy of the Anthon transcript (the sheet allegedly contained the characters Joseph Smith copied directly from the gold plates, from which the Book of Mormon was supposedly transcribed), Hugh Nibley latched onto it with a great deal of enthusiasm. He immediately proclaimed, “Of course it’s translatable.”1 According to the same paper, “Nibley also said he counted at least two dozen out of 47 characters in the Demotic alphabet that could be given phonetic value. This offers as good a test as we’ll ever get. Nobody could have faked those characters. It would take 10 minutes to see that this is fake.”
Barry Fell, whose work is often cited by Mormon scholars to support their theories concerning ancient America, went even further than Nibley. He claimed that the forged Hofmann transcript actually contained Arabic characters and proceeded to translate them. His translation was nearly identical to the first part of the Book of Mormon.
While those of us who are critics of the Mormon Church may be amused by these examples, we must be very careful not to become so overzealous that we fall into the same trap. Unfortunately, we have noted a tendency in this direction. This is especially true with regard to writings and lectures concerning the Mormon temple ceremony. One couple claimed that the Mormons are really calling upon Lucifer when they repeat the words “Pay lay ale” three times in the temple ceremony. American evangelist Ed Decker and others picked up on this idea and printed it in a number of publications circulating throughout the world. They claimed that the words “Pay lay ale” were taken from the Hebrew language and could be translated into “Wonderful Lucifer.” This is an extremely serious charge. If it could be proven true, it would go a long way toward demonstrating that Satan inspires Mormonism.
The following statement appears on the first page of Pay Lay Ale: An Examination of the Charge That the Mormons Call Upon Lucifer in Their Temple, by Jerald Tanner:
I feel that I owe the public a statement which sets forth my views. Although I do not profess to be a Hebrew scholar, I feel that my research throws some important light on the subject. Since I have been active in bringing forth evidence against the authenticity of Joseph Smith’s work, I would have been very happy to find that this new indictment was based on sound research. Unfortunately, however, a careful examination of the evidence has forced me to conclude that the charge is without foundation.
Wesley P. Walters, a Mormon history expert with some Hebrew training, also felt that the translation “Wonderful Lucifer” was incorrect. He tried to warn against spreading this idea but was unsuccessful. In our statement we pointed out that if the words “Pay lay ale” are really derived from Hebrew, a better rendering would be “Wonderful God.” While the identification of “wonderful” with pay lay is not certain (Wesley P. Walters, in fact, feels that it is questionable), ale does correspond perfectly to a Hebrew word for God. It is translated as el and is pronounced “ale.”2 While the Hebrew word Elohim is usually used for God, El is also found throughout the Old Testament.
After we published the statement on pay lay ale, some of the tracts containing the translation “Wonderful Lucifer” were changed. Unfortunately, some of those who had previously supported the “Wonderful Lucifer” translation put forth the idea that “the Hebrew translation of these words can be either marvelous false god or marvelous true God.” This, of course, is incorrect. The word El can only be translated as God. The word itself does not give any indication of whether the god spoken of is true or false. It is the same with our English word God. It cannot be translated into another language as “false god” or “true God.” Only the context of a statement can help us determine whether it is speaking of a false god. For instance, the words “my god is Satan” would refer to a false god.
In defense of the “wonderful false god” translation, it has been claimed that the word El is “a generic term for God” and that it “is the word which is most often used to denote the false gods of the Bible.” Because we did not believe this statement was accurate, we looked up all of the passages we could find in the book of Isaiah that used the word El. The word appeared 22 times. When we read the context of these verses, we found that 15 of the 22 referred to the God of Israel.
The word El appears inside many names found in the Bible. For instance, it is in Israel, and it is in Immanuel. In Isaiah 7:14 we read: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel.” This name is translated as “with us (is) God [El].”
Matthew renders this word correctly in the New Testament: “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”3 We feel it is inconsistent to accept the translation of El as God in this passage and yet maintain it should be translated “False god” in the temple ritual. It should also be noted that the temple ritual itself indicates that the translation of the words pay lay ale is, “O God, hear the words of my mouth.”
It has been suggested that because Lucifer appears just after Adam prays that he is in fact Adam’s god. Actually, a careful examination of this part of the ritual shows that Adam rejects Lucifer’s message. Our reproduction of the temple ceremony as well as that published by Chuck Sackett makes this very clear:
LUCIFER: (arrogantly) I am the God of this world.
ADAM: (unsure, questioning) You, the God of this world?
LUCIFER: Yes, what do you want?
ADAM: I am looking for messengers.4
Both versions of the temple ritual quote Adam as saying: “I was calling upon Father” and indicate that Adam spurns Lucifer’s teachings. It should be noted that in the version published in What’s Going On In There?,5 Adam directly questions Lucifer’s claim to be the God of this world when he says, “You, the God of this world?” If Adam were really calling upon Lucifer, why would he dispute Lucifer’s claim and say that he was “calling upon Father?”
Some have used Lucifer’s statement that he is “the God of this world” as evidence that the Mormons worship Lucifer. We feel that this is a very poor argument because most Christians feel that Paul was referring to Satan when he wrote: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”6
People also use the fact that the Mormons wear fig leaf-embroidered aprons during the temple ceremony to link the ritual to the worship of Lucifer. Lucifer is the one who originally suggested this idea:
LUCIFER: See, you are naked. Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick, hide.7
This portion of the ceremony is dealing with the Garden of Eden and comes before the part in which Adam rejects Lucifer and his doctrine. One of the early accounts of the ritual seems to indicate that it was God who gave Adam and Eve the aprons. Mary Ettie V. Smith, author of Mormonism: Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition claims that, “The Lord then put aprons upon Adam and Eve, and upon us all, made of white linen, illustrated by means of green silk, to represent fig leaves.”8 Fanny Stenhouse’s book Tell It All9 does not say the Lord was present but indicates that Lucifer was not: “Then the devil leaves her, Adam makes his appearance, and Eve persuades him also to eat of the fruit of the tree. After this they make a dumb show of perceiving their condition, and an apron of white linen is produced, on which are sewn pieces of green silk, in imitation of fig leaves, and in these they both attire themselves.”10 The accounts of the temple ceremony published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 12, 1906, and in Temple Mormonism, 1931, do not link Lucifer with these aprons. The whole thing appears to be Adam’s idea. While it is not really Biblical, it would be in more accord with the Bible than having God supply the fig leaf aprons. The fig leaf covering is generally considered by Christians to represent man’s works, which are not acceptable to God.
In any case, while it is true that in the present version of the temple ceremony Lucifer suggests the fig leaf aprons, we do not feel that this proves that the Mormons worship him. This, of course, does not mean that we feel that the ceremony comes from God. On the contrary, the use of the aprons plainly shows that the ceremony is man-made. If God inspired the rituals, the participants would not wear a fig leaf apron (the symbol of man’s own covering for sin) throughout the ritual. The apron, of course, is worn on the outside of the temple robes. The inconsistency becomes even more apparent when we learn that the temple garment is supposed to represent the “coats of skins” which God made for Adam and Eve. The idea of wearing the fig leaf apron over the covering provided by God seems to show that the ceremony’s creators were confused.
People are often led to believe that those who pass through the temple put on the same type of apron that Lucifer wears. This is simply not true. The apron worn by patrons is green with fig leaves embroidered in it. The Devil’s apron, on the other hand, is not green. It is worn under his suit and only briefly displayed. One man says that it is blue while another claims that it is black with blue thread. Both, however, maintain that it contains two pillars and a checkerboard pattern as well as other Masonic symbols. It is supposed to resemble a Masonic apron worn even before the time of Joseph Smith. Those who have observed Lucifer’s apron seem to agree that it not only differs in color from those worn by temple goers but also has an entirely different design. When writers and lecturers tell people that the Mormons put on “Luciferic aprons,” which are similar to the one worn by the Devil and thus put themselves under “his power and priesthoods,” they are misrepresenting what really goes on. One lecturer claims he has discovered that green is Lucifer’s special color. The Mormons, he maintains, are putting on the Devil’s color when they tie on their aprons. He does not explain, however, why Lucifer does not wear a green apron. It would seem more logical to believe that the apron is green because it represents fig leaves. Following this man’s line of reasoning concerning the color green, a Mormon might argue that Christians who wear green chorus robes are worshipping the Devil, or that the “wearing of the green” on Saint Patrick’s day is a “Luciferian” plot to get people under his power.
While we agree that parts of the Mormon temple ceremony were borrowed from Masonry and are rooted in the occult, it seems that some people are becoming so obsessed with trying to find “Luciferian” influence that they have lost sight of reality. Just as Hugh Nibley and Barry Fell strained their eyes to find parallels between the Hofmann transcript and ancient languages, these people are seeing many things that simply are not there. While it is true that the temple ritual tries to link Christians and ministers of other churches to the Devil’s work, a person who carefully reads the temple ceremony will see that it rejects Lucifer.11 Although we certainly do not endorse the penal oaths and the attacks on our religion found in the temple ceremony, we feel that the picture being painted by some Mormon critics is badly distorted.
Notwithstanding the fact that Hofmann’s documents have fallen into disrepute and some Mormon critics have overstated the relationship between the temple ritual and Satanism, it is certainly true that Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders were involved in magic practices. Although we prove this in our book Mormonism, Magic and Masonry, in almost thirty years of research we have never found any secret LDS doctrine in which Lucifer is worshipped as God. If we had found any such evidence we would have been the first to publish it.
At ULM we encourage people to avoid extremes. We try to present good factual material. It is our belief that the truth will bear its own weight, and it does not need to be embellished in any way.