WHAT SHOULD WE TELL THEM ?
Presentation made to Sanford Lodge No. 62, F. & A. M.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008by M∴ W∴ Robert D. Trump, Past Grand Master of Florida – 2007 One of the most frequently asked questions today seems to be: what can we do to improve Lodge attendance, reduce, or better, stop the number of demits and increase the number of applicants for initiation? I think many of these problems can be addressed to a very large extent before a candidate ever joins Freemasonry.If you should meet a man carrying a briefcase, and if, because of its attractive appearance you should inquire into its contents and his response was – “Give me $500 and I will let you have the briefcase and its contents sight unseen” – what would your reaction be? You might not embrace this idea with a lot of enthusiasm. I expect you would want to know what was in the briefcase before committing yourself. Why then should we expect an applicant for initiation into Freemasonry to buy a ‘briefcase’ without knowing anything about its contents?I believe it is time to be more ‘up front’ with anyone making any inquiries about Freemasonry. I certainly don’t suggest that the applicant or inquirer be exposed to a detailed account of our three degrees, but I do suggest that we make available more information than is generally done. In many cases no information of any substance is given. I have come to believe that our investigating committees don’t do a very good job. If we made more information available in the beginning, we would be less likely to hear such comments as; “I didn’t know what to expect”, “I didn’t know it would be like this”, “If I had known I would have to do this or that I would not have joined”, and “My wife doesn’t agree with my Lodge responsibilities”.It is extremely unfortunate that some men join our Fraternity only to find that Freemasonry has no relevance to their lives or that of their families, and they eventually take a demit or simply do not attend our Lodge meetings. What can we do to rectify this? What can we do to instill and increase commitment and enthusiasm for Freemasonry?
The answer I believe is, in part, very simple. When the investigating committee plans to meet with an applicant, it should be made clear that the meeting is to include the applicant’s wife. There needs to be a clear understanding on the part of his wife as to the motives of Freemasonry and the potential member’s obligations in terms of both time and money. Instruct our investigating committees they should transmit certain information to the applicant and his wife at the time of their first meeting.
The committee should evaluate him as a future member on the basis of his and her responses, and let the applicant decide on his future as a Freemason on the basis of the information provided. It is no longer sufficient to simply present him as ‘a good old boy’. It is in the best interest of both the applicant and the Lodge that these decisions are based on sure and true information.
The visit of the investigating committee might properly open with; “You have expressed an interest in joining the Masons, do you know what Freemasonry is all about?” The follow-up should be straight forward and in simple terms. It is not sufficient to say – “Freemasonry is a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” It might be more appropriately defined by invoking excerpts from our rituals and welding them into a single statement.
For example – “Freemasonry is a system of morality that is intended to induce the habit of virtue. It encourages its members to give regard to intellectual activities and to the improvement of one’s mind. In other words, it cultivates a state of mind and attitude in the individual and as such is a very personal activity”. Freemasonry does not deny a man his right to think for himself and his right to follow the dictates of his own faith.
Every Mason has a right to seek in our Fraternity what he, himself, wants to find, but no Mason’s expression of opinion is binding on other Masons or on the Fraternity itself. We believe while it is everyone’s right to believe as they wish, it is not right to force their belief on others. Freemasonry is a place to spend time with good men who will want you to become a better man. They assert a belief in God, and adhere to a belief about the nature of God, their relationship with Him, and the moral conduct that He requires. Freemasons worship God in their own way and no discussions of religion ever takes place in a Masonic Lodge. Freemasonry permits men of all religions, faiths, creed, and political persuasion to come together, to meet, to mix and to share in the belief that charity, in its broadest interpretation, and brotherly love are the wishes of their God.
Then, you ask, is Freemasonry a religion? No, Freemasonry is not a religion but it is religious in nature. We have no conflict with Christianity or any other faith. We offer no plan of salvation or path by which one reaches the after-life. We open and close all our meetings with prayer to God, the Holy Bible is always open during a Masonic meeting, and we teach that no one should begin any great or important undertaking without first seeking the guidance of God. We never tell a man how to pray or for what he should pray. Instead, we tell him he must find the answers to these great questions in his own faith, his own church or synagogue, or otherhouse of worship.
We are founded on the basic principal of the ‘Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God’. Every man who becomes a member of a Masonic Lodge must express a belief in God and that he has an immortal soul. No atheist can be made a Mason. We generally refer to God as the ‘Great Architect of the Universe’ but that is done only to avoid giving religious offense to anyone whose faith prefers to refer to God by some other name.
The God to whom Freemasons pray is the same God to whom all Christians pray. Given reference to the preceding statements, do you consider yourself a legitimate candidate for Freemasonry? You must acknowledge the existence of and believe in a Supreme Being.
In addition, you must be a just and upright person, free by birth, at least 21 years of age and free of any felony conviction in a court of law. If accepted as a candidate for Freemasonry, you will assume certain responsibilities.
You will be required to keep certain things secret. There are many Masons who don’t really understand what is secret and what is not. There are some men who relish secrets in order to ‘feel special’. Freemasonry is not a secret society. The biggest secret we have is that we have no secrets. Our Lodges are clearly marked and easy to find. Any organization whose members wear insignias of identification, who advertise their meetings on signboards and who identify their meeting places with known symbols cannot be considered secret.
There are some things, however, that are known only among Lodge members and Masonic Brothers, but these are limited to our obligation, certain parts of our ritual, and our modes of recognition, such as passwords and grips. These type secrets are the reminders of the days when men had to meet and identify each other in total secrecy as a practice to save their lives. There were at this time terms, phrases, and questions that allowed a Mason to identify another Brother, especially a Brother in need. There are other reasons today for secret identification.
As previously stated, Masonry is very personal and it binds together only men of similar attitude and moral state ofmind. Like a close knit family, certain things are shared only within the family, not with casual acquaintances.
The same can be said of the Brotherhood of Freemasonry. The titles applied to Masonic Brothers – the officers of the Lodge – may be of some concern toyou, because of their association with literature of religion or cults. The titles identifying these officers are full of ancient symbolism only. “Deacon” does not have a reference to religion in a Masonic Lodge. Masons do not worship their Master. According to the Oxford English Dictionary “Worshipful” simply implies “Distinguished in respect of character or rank” and “Entitled to honor or respect”.
The initiation rituals of Freemasonry are not in any way pagan as has often been said. It is not like the hazing of initiation associated with many organizations such as college fraternities. You can no more make a man a Mason by ceremony than you can make a righteous man blasphemous by ceremony.
A real Mason is known and distinguished from the rest of the world by his actions and deportment. Some men are honest in fear of punishment; some are religious in expectation of reward. But a true Mason – a TRUE Mason – would be just and honest even if there were no laws, either civil laws or Masonic laws. His law is written in hisheart by his Creator.In the Lodge you have applied to join, there are three steps or degrees in becoming a Master Mason. At the first step, your initiation, you will immediately assume certain responsibilities,study what you have been exposed to, and commit to memory certain parts of the ceremony.
With the other two steps, these lessons will continue as you progress to being raised a Master Mason. Committing parts of the ceremony to memory will help impress upon your mind certain fundamentals. The greatness of our Fraternity is not due to any secret teachings, mysteries, or deeds. It is due to learning the lessons taught to us by our ceremonies and rituals, and the comfort, inspirations, and enlightenment brought to all of us who take the time to study, learn, and then begin to live these lessons.
Every Mason’s search for Masonic Light is, and should always be, a purely personal, individual, and never-ending process. You have the opportunity to join the most ancient and moral fraternal institution known to man. There are many things inherently good about becoming and being a Mason.
Freemasonry has stood throughout the years with the shining light of its membership as a beacon to the rest of the world. Freemasonry provides a framework for moral living, and can be best defined as “kindness in the home, courtesy in society, fairness in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward evil, help for the weak, love for one another, and above all – reverence and love for God”. Freemasonry has many different meanings to many different people, but most of all………………
“Freemasonry is a way of life.”