During sweeping social change of the 1820s, Americans became increasingly disenchanted with Freemasonry as a kind of secular priesthood. The William Morgan affair (1826) led to an anti-Masonic movement fueled by fears that a free society could not thrive in the presence of secret organizations. Anti-masons argued that masons formed a secret combination bound by secret rituals which contained immoral oaths; Masons secretly colluded outside the established boundaries of the political process, yet acted politically as a group; and that individual members were above the law. Most troubling, Freemasonry seemed to blur the line between the religious and the secular. Mormonism is one of the last great flowerings inspired by pre-Morgan style American Freemasonry, and it is significant that similar concerns came to be expressed regarding presidential candidate Joseph Smith and the incipient Mormon kingdom. Following Masonic models in organizations such as the Danite Band, the Relief Society, the Council of Fifty, this theocratic kingdom struck fear in the hearts of many, both in and out of the Church.
Cheryl Bruno, Joe Swick