The vast majority of LDS historical and theological thinking about the temple has attempted to find ancient parallels to Mormon temple rituals. In this view the Mormon temple is a restored completion of fragments and traces of an original, authentic temple ritual. However, this approach doesn’t explain how modern American Mormons understood such rituals. Other approaches have attempted to account for the temple in a strictly derivative relationship to Masonry. The Mormon temple ritual is thus a “borrowed” version of what the Masons were doing. But this doesn’t explain why such borrowings were successful and appealed to Mormons. I want to suggest that both frameworks are impoverished ways of making sense of the temple. Instead, I think that situating the temple rituals in larger American cultural frameworks makes better sense than these two approaches, while also explaining the appeal of the temple to 19th- and early-20th-century Mormons. This cultural framework is the flourishing of voluntary associations and fraternal organizations that dominated American society from the early 1800′s through the 1950′s, which were especially strong from 1850 to 1920. Some estimates have noted that over one third of American men were involved in one or more fraternal organization during this time.