06 April 2008

Think about it..?

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brethren, Ladies and Guests Good Evening.

The title of tonight’s talk is “Freemasonry and the Generation Gap, Perception is not Reality”.

One of the definitions given to us by researchers, historians and to some extent by our detractors is that Freemasonry is a tired old Fraternity populated by relics of a different era. Without accepting a negative from out of this observation it is true that yes our Fraternity does have a large proportion of a seasoned membership.

Does this mean that there is a gap between our members both old and new?

I would argue that there is no generation gap merely a span of years.

Men no matter their age join Freemasonry for varied reasons. The phrase “Your Freemasonry is different from my Freemasonry” is not divisive but the very example of our strength.

This “strength” is the attraction for men to join our Fraternity. Although challenges arise these differences and the fact that we tolerate if not expect these differences, is what makes the fraternity work.

A man’s interest in Freemasonry is in its universality, in it’s consistency and in it’s unique structure.

Often we the younger membership are asked what we want. We have shown that we want the same as the more seasoned membership. We want in some cases to emulate their characteristics. These characteristics and traits they acquired from Freemasonry.

The fraternity, this educational source hands down her “secrets” through the experience and knowledge of well-learned Masons.

The thought that in becoming a Mason you suddenly inherit this great living source of wisdom, knowledge, history and perspective over night is something that unfortunately some of the younger membership never understands.

The term “old guy” or “past master” are descriptions I have tried to remove from my vocabulary. The wealth that is there in the more seasoned membership comes at so little a price we often overlook it as if passing a penny on a city street.

The energy and the vitality in the hearts and minds of young men can be infectious to a tired lodge. That excitement is so often dismissed by those that have been there and done that, that they often quench a fire stoked and ready to blossom before it has a chance to grow.

The conflicts I believe come not because of someone’s age be it young or old but in not truly practicing some of the first lessons we are taught in the Entered Apprentice Degree. Subduing our passions is not easy for most men. We are competitive, we are stubborn and no matter who we are sometimes we think we are always right.

This my friends is not just owned by the “old guy” or the “whippersnapper”, but by all of us.

It’s hard for the Mason that has held this “thing” together for so long to give a little up. And it’s hard for the Mason new and full of exuberance not being able to have it “all” now.

Funny, don’t you think this sounds as if we all have something in common after all?

The fact that we recognize these conflicts proves to us that Freemasonry is still working and will survive. If we did not have the pull and push the ying and yang if you will we would be representative of what those detractors believe we are.

The beauty is that so many Masons have labored long and kept lodges running. Perseverance has paid off and attracted new membership. Lodges have been performing degree work and rebuilding their officer lines. Lodges are working together for a common goal. And today for the first time in a long while many have created new members not by affiliation but by initiation.

The perception of the generation gap is that there is this great void or chasm between what was and what is. Yes for a long time “we” were in the shadows perhaps even a little lost. But what we learned and what we did was that old and new a like found a way to bridge the span, create ways to come together, to modernize yet leave the old patina so that the attraction is still there.

Although many of my friends may be perhaps ten, twenty thirty or more years my senior the reality is that we have a lot in common. A man that was fifty was once thirty and man of eighty was once sixty. “We” have all been there before and “we” are all there for the first time.

Freemasonry binds our membership in a way you cannot explain to the outside world. Sometimes the bond is stronger than that bond which we have with our Fathers, Uncles and Grandfathers. This fact may be unfortunate but in some cases is the saving grace to the younger man without a father figure and to the older man without a relationship with his son.

Freemasonry provides the tie that closes the gap. The Fraternity helps, aides, and assists in so many ways for so many Brethren that the perception is not reality.

The Generation Gap may very well be our strength and not our folly.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the rest of your evening.


Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brethren, Ladies and Guests Good Evening. The title of this evenings talk is “Freemasonry is Scary”.

Freemasonry is scary for many reasons.

If you have ever typed the word “Freemasonry” into a Google search you are returned with 1,030,000 hits. On the first page alone half of the sites listed are what we could call Anti-Masonic. The others are legitimate, personal or Fringe. When a potential candidate sifts through this information it is not only daunting but also based on some of the ridiculous claims could be a bit frightening. Although I must say I am still looking for my cut of the world money supply.

The one thing you will learn is that you need to go meet a Mason so that you can become one. This can be a challenge because some people have to build up the courage to knock on the door of a local Masonic Temple in hopes of meeting someone. We might find this hard to believe, as we know we are a very social organization but think about the first time you may have made a few distinct knocks on a door. This challenge is further exacerbated when you go to the imposing structure of the Salt Lake Masonic Temple for instance only to find we use the back door.

Once a fellow has gained admission to one of our Temples he suddenly finds himself the most popular guy in the room. Everyone is happy to see him. Everyone greets him with an outstretched hand and a smile. If he has brought his spouse, partner or family everyone is welcomed. Sometimes though we have a tendency to smother the visitor in the room. Little does he know that he may be the only new person that a lodge has seen in months or years and the zealous welcome of the Brethren can sometimes be off-putting on your first time through the door when you were just curious to meet a Mason.

This jubilant fascination with the new guy normally keeps building, as the fellow becomes a candidate and eventually a new Mason in the Lodge.

I can remember what it was like.

Can you in this room hearken back when you were in the North East corner of the Lodge for the first time?

Remember how it felt everybody was happy to see you and then you earned your seat among the Brethren.

Then at the next meeting another new guy up and decides to go join the lodge and sometimes not always you ended up sitting by yourself.

Suddenly all the attention was drawn from you to the next customer in line. How did that make you feel? You knew nobody here you knocked on the door and became a rock-star for a while and worked hard became one of the Fraternity only to sit all alone in a room full of Brotherhood.

I have talked to a few Masons where this has unfortunately happened and that’s a little scary in more ways than one.

Freemasonry will push you out of your comfort zone.

How many people here like to speak in public?

When joining the lodge a Brother is suddenly introduced to new ideas, customs and traditions. He is told to memorize a bunch of letters in a book that are actually words and how fortunate he is that he gets to sit in front of everybody at the next meeting and recite this stuff.

Unfortunately not everybody wants to do this. Sometimes we forget to ask the new guy if it’s ok with him. He doesn’t know about or what “the code” is and quite frankly may not want to sit and recite in front of the lodge. I was told I had to do this in my own Lodge and truthfully I almost didn’t come back to the next meeting. This can be scary stuff to some folks.

How about the first time you had to deliver ritual in open lodge. You studied and studied. Mumbled in your family room and in your car on the way to and from work. Your wife and kids thought you were going nuts talking to yourself. I guess that’s scary too, Dad joins the Freemasons and starts talking to himself. Anyway you cleaned up the best you could and put on your “new” used Tuxedo the first one you ever wore that wasn’t for a Prom or a wedding and then you ran out the door only to forget you cipher. The anxiety builds and the traffic is bad. It’s the first time you’ve worn braces with your trousers and which way does that dang cummerbund supposed to be on anyway? Your plastic shoes have no support and the lodge room is hot even though the air-conditioning is on. The lodge meeting starts and the Worshipful Master asks you a question and then…..Your mind goes blank. Welcome to the fraternity, not scary at all, eh?

What about rebuilding a lodge when half it’s officers don’t sign up again? What about buying land and then building a Lodge Hall when you don’t know where the money is going to come from. Scary maybe? Brave probably..

Some of these things that I have mentioned may have happened to you or maybe we have been guilty of them ourselves. The beauty is that Freemasonry more than a Fraternity is a means of instruction. If we follow its teachings and tenants we can overcome our shortfalls. If we need help we can converse with well-informed Brethren who are always ready to give as well as receive instruction. We can conquer fear by taking advantage of the rich history that we have in our seasoned membership. And we can sooth the discomfort of change by embracing the exuberance of youth.

Our Grand Lodge and her lodges have designed websites with good information for the curious and serious researcher.

The Masonic Family has opened her doors, even the front doors, throughout the state to the public.

We have put on a public face in the Masonic Meet-up Groups breaking bread and building trust with those that might join us.

We have looked internally at our failings and chose to move forward as the time is always now in all things.

Yes we have challenges, misinformation, locked doors, petty squabbles and a few scary things.

However in Freemasonry there are also the answers a “Right” course if you will and this is how we will stay positive, we will grow, we will combat fear and be the Masonic Family we know we all can be.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the rest of your evening.

Something I wrote about a year ago... Food for thought...

“Freemasonry Why is Just the Tyler Left to Guard the Door?”

Most Worshipful Grand Master and Brethren Good Afternoon.

The title of my talk today is “Freemasonry why is just the Tyler left to guard the door?”

Our ancient rituals, elaborate regalia and impressive titles, leave a mystery about us that makes us one of the darlings of today’s pop culture.

The curiosity of the outside world continues to build.

Men want to join Freemasonry. But is it for the right reasons?

Are we sure?

From our ritual we know that the duty of the Tyler is to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers and to see that none enter our lodges without permission. Yes this is his symbolic and actual duty but why have we left it just to him?

Should we the Brethren be not more diligent?

Each of us as a Mason is charged with the solemn duty to make sure good men enter our Fraternity. In the closing paragraph of the Entered Apprentice Charge it reads, “If, in the circle of your acquaintance, you find a person desirous of being initiated into Masonry, be particularly careful not to recommend him unless you are convinced the he will conform to our rules; that the honor, glory, and reputation of our institution may be firmly established, and the world at large be convinced of it’s good effects.”

In the Thirtieth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite it says, “Let us increase in number our companions in arms admitting not even our most intimate of friends unless we are certain of their discretion and fitness.”

Our Masonic ritual as you see is laced with instruction.

How then are we sure of the men that knock upon our doors?

How do we make the positive or negative decision about the prospective candidate?

In recent years the Internet and the proliferation of Masonic websites have become one of the many public faces of our Fraternity.

Open houses tied in with movie or book premieres have brought in tens if not hundreds of people into our Temples. No longer do we hide in the shadows. We are more and more the public fraternity that in reality we always were.

The concept of the Masonic Meet-up has grown and spread to many lodges around the state and has lead to many men asking for petitions and joining our Fraternity. Think about it you get to sit down, break bread and talk with a guy that wants to talk to you about Freemasonry.

These extensions of ourselves into the outside world are the golden opportunities for us to know the man before he joins the Fraternity. Better yet it gives the potential candidate the opportunity to know us before he asks for his petition.

So often in the past the curious fellow knocked on the door of his local lodge talked with a Brother and returned six months later in search of a promised signature. An unfortunate thing I know I for one have been guilty of.

Did we really know the man?

Did he really know what he was committing to?

Everything needs to evolve though. If it does not it stagnates, shrinks and eventually ceases to exist.

These “new” methods of attracting and interacting with potential members are refreshing and exciting and hopefully fill that gap on how we get to know that man before he becomes privileged to call himself a Mason.

Just as our ritual instructs and cautions us our policies and procedures provide safeguards. These safeguards are not only traditions but were laid out for us to keep us honest.

The committee of investigation now more than ever is a vital part of the mix.

Whereas in the past the committees have sometimes been accused of being the welcome wagon or the rubber stamp on a man’s membership they now need to be more thorough and truly investigative.

The fear of running a fellow off because the questions are too tough needs to be overcome. There is nothing wrong with challenging a man on why he wants to be a Mason and see if he can defend his argument and reasons. I would argue the potential candidate expects the questions to be probing and might be disappointed if we did not delve that deeply.

He wants to know “he” is part of something special.

In closing, “We” all are the “Tyler” in effect for our Fraternity.

“We” all are the guardians of our past ever moving forward towards a brighter future. Embracing the ever-changing opportunities with caution and discretion.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the rest of your day.