The Best Restaurants Have Small Menus

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
 SK Robert Johnson

Not long ago and all too frequently, I happen upon one of those greasy spoon restaurants. You know the place--perhaps you love the chicken strips but the roast beef is just awful. There are about one-thousand-and-one things on the menu, but something is awry. Almost everything on the menu is something you can make at home and better for that matter.

There exists too much on the menu for the establishment to make any one thing great. Sure there is a hit every once in awhile but on the whole, it's severely lacking. It isn’t the chefs' fault. It’s the owners or board trying to please the lunch hour masses. Trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. What ensues is a smorgasbord of mediocrity.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Do you know what I am getting at? Eureka! That’s right. I am talking about our lodges. Quality over quantity my brothers. Perhaps the time has come to research each entree before we add it to the menu, checking it for flavor, aroma, presentation etc. We can’t be afraid to use the dirty word here. Money. Freemasonry has built an empire of sorts. We need continued membership to pay for what we have already established. That money comes from dues and donations.

But how much is too much? Blue lightnings and mass degree work? A brother recently told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if you could find a lodge in the near future, make a credit card payment online and get your ring and certificate after watching a short slide show on the degrees. It is quite clear that we need good men. It is also quite clear that there is fear over the dwindling numbers of good men coming in, which coincidentally means less per capita for our Grand Lodges.

Grand Lodges are amazing and they are indeed doing the best job they can to keep the fraternity alive. But perhaps like a good restaurant, we’ll need to remodel, take stock, and cut back on the menu items. I believe in the traditions of our fraternity, I believe you have to return each degree in open lodge in long form, I believe in the mandatory returning of your 3rd degree in order to hold a chair and I believe that these things weed out the lesser minded in most cases.

Perhaps after this stocktaking we would be left with a stronger more open minded, philosophical and on the whole better temple. You can liken this idea to a darwinism of sorts for the Masonic fraternity, survival of the fittest. All too often there are men coming in who receive their first degrees and never return. Most likely this is in part, due to the lodges presentation and welcomeness of the candidate, perhaps even a lack of explanation to the candidate about what he is about to embark upon. But, on the other side of that is the men who come in and get turned off when they realize how much work is to be done and may in fact realize that they are not ready for this yet. And so my contention, is that perhaps we don’t need all the men in the world. Perhaps we just need a few great ones to carry this forward into time infinitum.

Like the analogy I made earlier, there is, as infrequently as it may be, a hit on the menu, a man who comes in, learns all he can and continues to let Freemasonry be a guide in his life, he comes to meetings and gives everything he can to help and be a good Mason. But there is also the roast beef, which was added to the menu when the board decided it needed to have a mass tasting and adding of foods in order to please everyone that comes in to the restaurant. Sure it brings us money to which we put to good use, but do we really need all those extra dishes?

Lets focus on the members we have and strive to find new qualified men, men who were indeed prepared in their hearts to be Masons. It was told to me long ago by my mentor that Freemasonry does not accept just any stone. We only accept rough ashlars, in other words the good men that Freemasonry will inevitably make better. Perhaps it’s time to make that menu a bit smaller and offer some truly remarkable entrees.


Sir Knight Robert Johnson is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is also working on two books, one is of a Masonic nature.

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