The CLI Exam

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley


I have four graduate degrees, two of them doctorates, and have been a teacher for twenty-seven years. I have taken more than my share of quizzes, tests, and exams in my life, and have some understanding of how to structure them. I say that not to brag, but to give some context to this statement: the Certified Lodge Instructor’s exam I took and passed in May was the hardest and most nerve-wracking exam I have ever taken. The exam covers opening, closing, and the first section of all three degrees in every chair, both ritual and floor work. All nine of us who took the exam that day were proficient in everything we were supposed to know, but an eight-hour exam under the eye of four very nice but very intimidating Grand Examiners was by turns exciting, unnerving, and exhausting. I had been studying for over a year with Right Worshipful Brother Ken McDonald, a Grand Lodge Instructor, and I knew my stuff, but by the end of the day if you had asked me my name I’d have second guessed myself enough that I might have remained mute.

So why do it?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s simply unacceptable to me to be unable to teach something that is so central to my life. I don’t think there’s a man who decides to study for the exam who doesn’t love the Work, but certification isn’t just about love of the Work and exemplifying it properly: it’s about passing it on to other Masons, exactly as that Work is supposed to be. And it’s also a challenge. There’s something about being certified to teach that make it important to keep studying, to refine things even more, to work until you’re nearly as good as you’re supposed to be. There’s always more to learn. 

In my case, that means studying for the Grand Lecturer’s exam. I have more lectures to memorize, more floor work to figure out, more catechisms to work through. Right Worshipful Brother McDonald won’t sign my petition until I’m ready, and I don’t know how long that’s going to take; the rest of my life, both Masonic and otherwise, is kind of busy. But I’ll get there. Failure is not an alternative.

Note: Those of us who are certified by the Grand Lodge of Illinois to teach the Standard Work are not to volunteer corrections. We are to teach only if asked. So if you want to improve your Work, and there’s a CLI or a Grand Lecturer at your next stated or special meeting, ask him to criticize your Work. He’ll be glad to do so, and even happier to help you improve. 


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley is the Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M.  He is the Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

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