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is Freemasonry | Where did Freemasonry
begin? | What do Freemasons
What is the Masonic Lodge?
| Who Can Qualify To Join?
Men of Character and Integrity Join the Masons | Some
Freemasonry & Religion | Freemasonry
& Secrecy | Youth Orders
Who are the Masons?
Masons are men of good character who strive to improve
themselves and make the world a better place. They belong to the oldest
and most honorable fraternity known to man. If you think you may be interested
in becoming a member, you can begin by contacting a Lodge in your area
or speaking to a Mason. Masons (also known as Freemasons) belong to the
oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Today, there are
more than two million Freemasons in North America. Masons represent virtually
every occupation and profession, yet within the fraternity, all meet as
equals. Masons come from diverse political ideologies, yet meet as friends.
Masons come from varied religious beliefs and creeds, yet all believe
in one God. Many of North America's early patriots were Freemasons. Thirteen
signers of the Constitution and fourteen Presidents of the United States,
including George Washington, were Masons. In Canada, the Father of the
Confederation, Sir John A. MacDonald, was a Mason, as were other Canadian
and American leaders. One of the most fascinating aspects of Freemasonry
is how so many men, from so many walks of life, can meet together in peace,
always conducting their affairs in harmony and friendship and calling
each other "Brother."
What is Freemasonry
Freemasonry (or Masonry) is dedicated to the Brotherhood
of Man under the Fatherhood of God. It uses the tools and implements of
ancient architectural craftsmen symbolically in a system of instruction
designed to build character and moral values in its members. Its singular
purpose is to make good men better. Its bonds of friendship, compassion,
and brotherly love have survived even the most divisive political, military,
and religious conflicts through the centuries. Freemasonry is a fraternity
which encourages its members to practice the faith of their personal acceptance.
Masonry teaches that each person, through self-improvement and helping
others, had an obligation to make a difference for good in the world.
Where Did Freemasonry Begin?
No one knows just how old Freemasonry is because the
actual origins have been lost in time. Some believe Masonry arose from
the guilds of stonemasons who built the majestic castles and cathedrals
of the middle ages. In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization when
four Lodges in London joined in forming England's first Grand Lodge. By
1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the Fraternity, there were already
several Lodges in the Colonies, and in Canada the first Lodge was established
in 1738. Today, Masonic Lodges are found in almost every community throughout
North America, and in large cities there are usually several Lodges. A
Mason can travel to almost any country in the world and find a Masonic
Lodge where he will be welcomed as a "Brother."
What Do Freemasons Do?
The Masonic experience encourages members to become
better men. and better citizens. The fraternal bonds formed in the Lodge
help build lifelong friendships among men with similar goals and values.
Beyond its focus on individual development and growth, Masonry is deeply
involved in helping people. The Freemasons of North America contribute
over two million dollars per day to charitable causes. This philanthropy
represents an unparalleled example of humanitarian commitment of this
great and honorable Fraternity. Much of that assistance goes to people
who are not Masons. Some of these charities are vast projects. The Shrine
Masons (Shriners) operate the largest network of hospitals for burned
and orthopedically impaired children in the country, and there is never
a fee for treatment. The Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network
of over 150 Childhood Language Disorder Clinics, Centers, and Programs.
Many other Masonic organizations sponsor a variety of philanthropies,
including scholarship programs for children, and perform public service
activities in their communities. Masons also enjoy the fellowship of each
other and their families in social and recreational activities.
What is The Masonic Lodge?
The word "Lodge" means both a group of Masons meeting
together as well as the room or building in which they meet. Masonic buildings
are sometimes called "temples" because the original meaning of the term
was "place of knowledge" and Masonry encourages the advancement of knowledge.
Masonic Lodges usually meet once or twice a month to conduct regular business,
vote upon petitions for membership, and bring new Masons into the Fraternity
through three ceremonies called degrees. In the Lodge room Masons share
in a variety of programs. Here the bonds of friendship and fellowship
are formed and strengthened.
Who Can Qualify
Petitioners must be men of good character who believe
in a Supreme Being. To become a Mason one must petition a particular Blue
Lodge (such as John A. Lejeune Lodge #350, Quantico, Virginia). The Master
of the Lodge appoints a committee to visit the applicant prior to the
Lodge balloting upon his petition.
Men of Character and
Integrity Join the Masons
Most are men who go about their jobs and professions
with no hint they are Freemasons except for the way they lead their lives.
Many are readily recognizable by name, face, or accomplishment. George
Washington and thirteen other Presidents, eight Vice Presidents and forty-two
Justices of the Supreme Court have been Masons.
Some Notable Masons
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin
L. Van Beethoven
Richard E. Byrd
George M. Cohan
Cecil B. deMille
Sir Alexander Fleming
Gerald R. Ford
Hubert H. Humphrey
John Paul Jones
Marquis de Lafayette
Charles W. Mayo
Wolfgang A. Mozart
Dr. Norman V. Peale
John Philip Sousa
Harry S. Truman
Thomas J. Watson
Freemasonry and Religion
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It
requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every
responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic
ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm
each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry
is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic
The Supreme Being.
Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different
ways to seek, and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily
uses the appellation, "Grand Architect of the Universe," and other non-sectarian
titles, to address the Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths
may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences
among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship
between the individual and God is personal, private, and sacred.
Volume of the Sacred Law.
An open volume of the Sacred Law, "the rule and guide of life," is an
essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law
in the Judeo/Christian tradition is the Bible; to Freemasons of other
faiths, it is the book held holy by them.
The Oath of Freemasonry.
The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred
Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and
to keep confidential a Freemason's means of recognition. The much discussed
"penalties," judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not
literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the
thought of violating his word.
Freemasonry Compared with Religion.
Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: (a) It has no dogma
or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy. (b) It offers
no sacraments. (c) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by
secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are
concerned with modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation.
Freemasonry Supports Religion.
Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering
in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith
and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings
are acceptable to all religions.
Freemasonry and Secrecy
People sometimes refer to Freemasonry as being a "Secret
Society." In one sense the statement is true. Any social group or private
business is "secret" in the sense that its business meetings may be open
only to its members. In Freemasonry, the process of joining is also a
private matter, and its members are pledged not to discuss with non-members
certain parts of the ceremonies associated with the organization. Freemasonry
does have certain handshakes and passwords, customs incorporated into
later fraternities, which are kept private. They are means of recognizing
each other--necessary in an organization which spans the entire world
and which encompasses many languages. The tradition of using handshakes
and passwords was very common in the Middle Ages, when the ability to
identify oneself as belonging to a building or trade guild often made
the difference in getting a job or in obtaining help for yourself and
family. Today, Freemasons make the same pledge to every member that he
will be offered assistance if he, or his family, ever requests it. Freemasonry
canít be called a "secret society" in a literal sense. A truly secret
society forbids its members to disclose that they belong to the organization,
or that it even exists. Much of the Masonic ritual is in books called
"Monitors" that are widely available, even in public libraries. Most Freemasons
wear rings and lapel pins which clearly identify them as members of the
fraternity. Masonic lodges are listed in public phone books, Masonic buildings
are clearly marked, and in many areas of the country Masonic lodges place
signs on the roads leading into town, along with civic organizations,
showing the time and place of meetings. In terms of what it does, what
it teaches, who belongs, where it meets, there are no secrets in Freemasonry!
It is a private fraternal association of men who contribute much toward
the public good, while enjoying the benefits of the brotherhood of a fraternity.
The Youth Orders
While there are several youth organizations sponsored or
supported by the various Masonic organizations, three are the largest
and best known.
The Order of DeMolay is an organization for
young men aged 13 to 21. Young men do not need to have a Masonic relative
to join the organization. DeMolay was founded in Kansas City, Missouri,
in 1919, and is now international in scope. Like the other Masonic Youth
Orders, DeMolay Chapters (local groups) usually meet in a room at a local
Masonic Lodge. Adult leadership is provided by men (usually Masons) known
as Chapter Dads or advisors. The Order takes its name from Jacques DeMolay,
the last Grand Master of the Templars, who was martyred in the Middle
Ages for refusing to compromise his honor. The Order teaches the virtues
of reverence, love of parents, comradeship, patriotism, courtesy, cleanness,
and fidelity. The Order provides many social events and activities, which
help to teach social skills and leadership.
The International Order of Rainbow for Girls is an
organization for young women aged 11 to 20. It was founded in McAlester,
Oklahoma, in 1922. No relationship to a member of the Masonic Order is
required for membership. Local groups or Assemblies are generally sponsored
by either a Masonic Lodge or a Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Women known as Mother Advisors give adult supervision and guidance. Each
of the colors of the rainbow is associated with a particular virtue or
source of inspiration. Like the other Youth Orders, Rainbow is deeply
involved with local charity and support of education. It teaches character
development, planning, leadership, and social skills through training
programs and social events.
The International Order of Jobís Daughters takes
its name from a story in the Biblical Book of Job. It was organized in
Omaha, Nebraska, in 1920. Membership requires the young woman be related
to a Mason. The local organization is called a Bethel. The teachings of
the Order are Biblically based, and similar virtues are stressed as in
the other Masonic Youth Orders. Jobís Daughters places special emphasis
on community service. Many Bethels work with drug education programs and
with the Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment (HIKE) Program. Membership is
for young women age 11 to 20. The youth organizations are separate and
independent organizations that stress the importance of character development,
community service and leadership.
While members of the youth groups are free to seek membership
in Freemasonry or the Eastern Star, it is a personal choice and not a
requirement of membership in a youth order.
Prepared by the Masonic Information Center
(12/93) Revised (9/98)
Originally Published by the Masonic Information