Explaining The Explanatory


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
L. Scott Niccum 33°




The very first lecture of the 1st Degree that a new Mason hears is called the Explanatory. Very simply, it is supposed to give explanations to why he went through what he did during his Degree.

It has been almost 2 years since I received my 33rd Degree for Scottish Rite and as is custom in our area one of my Lodges had a reception for me. I kinda’ broke tradition and had a roast,-- yeah, anyone who knows me knows I really go against the grain on a lot of things. My thought process about a “roast” was that I love to have fun and it would be a great event, second as I told Steve Bell “The Worm runs his mouth at a lot of guys, here’s a chance for them to zing me back.”

That night it was said I was a Mason before being brought to light. And I truly believe it was because of the lessons I learned growing up.

The last time I was reviewing for an upcoming 1st Degree that I would be helping with, I really looked closely at the ritual and saw many instances which reminded me of my Father Larry Niccum and Father-In-Law Robert Westover.

The first part makes reference to getting ready for the ceremony. It begins with removing all metal so 
 othing offensive or defensive can brought into the Lodge. No, it doesn’t mean we as a Fraternity are concerned about a shootout, but it is to help the candidate drop the defensive thoughts and nervousness he has and to help keep his mind open to what he will experience.
My father who was a lineman for the local power company for many years (30+), was the guy you saw hanging onto a power pole in a blizzard and got your electricity going again. I remember many times he would mention that when a new procedure was implemented, his job function as foreman was to educate his crew. More times than not he would be concerned with something new because of his philosophy “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. But when he would go to training, he would walk in with a true open mind. I remember those times when I was young, when he reminded me to keep an open mind in conversations. One quote he had was “If you want people to respect your opinion you need to respect theirs even if you don’t agree. If you want to talk your points, and you want them to listen then you need to listen too.” It’s ok to disagree but in the end we need to remember we are Brothers

Next, is a reference to a particular garment for the ceremony. As a Fraternity we as Freemasons don’t consider a person for their net income or portfolio but rather the character of their heart. One thing Dad loved to do was have his morning coffee. He worked like clockwork, 5:30 at the Arcade Café and on the weekend it was 6:00. Every now and then I got to go with and I felt like a hot shot sitting at the table with his buddies. 

It was my job to flip the top of the carafe when it was empty. I used to drink my chocolate milk in a coffee cup (a prelude of things to come as Todd Creason would say). What a time, listening to his friends talk about work, farming and the school football team etc. He’d also tell me info about everyone who walked the streets. It was a small town, everyone knew everyone. One morning an older guy came in kinda’ dirty and weird and sat down by himself. At that particular moment the table was razzing each other and trying to fit in and caught up in the moment I made a comment about “The creepy guy at the end of the counter…” Everyone at the table laughed except dad, I didn’t know why. 


Later next week my mother told me I had to do something after school for a friend of theirs. I got home from school and she took me to a house and said they would bring me home. I knocked on the door and it was the “Creepy weird old guy”. I remember I wanted to run but mom had left and he called me by name and smiled so warmly and invited me in. He led me to the kitchen where there were several paper plates wrapped in foil on his table. He asked me to put them in boxes for him and carry them to the car outside. I noticed as I was packing them, that there were names on the foil. After the car was loaded we left and took the plates to three older ladies he knew, we brought them in, he visited with each for a short time and we left for another. When we were done, he took me home and said how much he appreciated the help and I was “Such a nice young man, Larry must be very proud”. I went in, Dad was home and we had supper. During supper, I asked him why he made me do that. His response “The creepy old guy you made fun of is a WW1 vet and that food you delivered was for the wives of his buddies in his group who had passed away, they all promised to take care of each others families if anything happened. He’s fulfilling a promise”. This was before there was such a thing as Meals On Wheels. 

In my hometown, this same lesson which I remember to this day is the reason when I took communion to homebound church members I would make it a point to spend a chunk of time with them and visit to let them know that they are not forgotten. This “creepy old man”, who I had so quickly labeled had a heart of gold and integrity to match, Dad just had to remind me things are not always what they seem. Look at the whole picture and the whole person. Through the years he would tell me, “If you can get past this (whatever it was), this person is a really good person because of this or that“. I think we all need to be reminded daily to look past outward things and look at the heart of person before we make a decision. As Masons we say “the strength of our character and our heart is what defines us.” Dad taught me a hard lesson, what happens when we judge too quick. I still learn from that to this day. Thanks Dad for that lesson.


~LSN

L. Scott Niccum, 33° is a member and Past Master of Greenup Lodge No. 125 (IL) and a plural member of Hutton Lodge No. 698 (IL). He is a member of the Valley of Danville, and is Past Thrice Potent Master of the Danville Lodge of Perfection. He also serves as the Eastern Illinois Area Coordinator for the IL CHIP Program for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. and is the Traveling Degrees Chairman for the Valley of Danville. Scott and his wife Marie live in Charleston, Illinois.

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