For centuries, the fraternity of Freemasonry has united men across the world in self-improvement through ritual, philanthropy, and community involvement. In the 19th century, Freemasonry found its way to Utah, though its growth was stunted by an antagonistic relationship with the LDS Church. This mutual distrust continued for nearly 75 years, until 1984 when the Grand Lodge of Utah rescinded its prohibition against Mormons joining the group. Today, the Grand Lodge of Utah counts itself as one of the many Masonic organizations that continue the tradition of community service, donating in excess of $150,000 per year to various charity organizations.

In 1858, long before the extensive row between the LDS Church and the Masonic fraternity, soldiers from Johnston’s army, which had been dispatched to put down the perceived Mormon uprising in the Great Basin, rallied together to create a small Masonic lodge at Camp Floyd (near modern-day Fairfield, UT), the first in the state. The structure was simple and their resources were meager, but they managed to construct a rudimentary building and provide some assistance to wagon trains and other settlers making their way through the territory. At the end of the occupation of the territory, however, Johnston’s army dismantled the camp, selling what they could to the locals, and left town. The masonic lodge they established (Rocky Mountain No. 205) was disbanded in 1861.

Two smaller lodges in Utah cropped up in the 1860s, though disagreement both between themselves and with masonic jurisdictions from other states over the admittance of Mormons into the fraternity prevented them from creating a cohesive masonic body. After hearing that the very insulated Mormon community was considering petitioning for their own lodge, these two smaller lodges joined together (albeit reluctantly) and officially formed the Grand Lodge of Utah in 1872. Masonic growth in Utah was relatively slow because of the prohibitions in place against Mormons joining: although Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and most other early church leaders were Masons, animosity developed between the two groups anyway. For almost sixty years, members of the LDS Church were prohibited from joining under the Utah Grand Lodge, a prohibition that wasn’t rescinded until 1984.

Freemasonry in Utah is still among the smallest of all Masonic jurisdictions nationwide (Alaska is the only one smaller), falling in with roughly 1,900 members as of 2013 within 34 lodges. The group continues their tradition of ritual, fraternal brotherhood, and service in Utah’s communities.

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