What's More Important: Quantity Or Quality?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°


It's an old argument amongst Freemasons--quantity or quality.  Everybody wants more members, so there's sometimes a push to make it easier for a man to become a Freemason.  Lower the standard so that more will join.

Others argue that making things easier cheapens what it means to be a Mason.  Perhaps it's better that it is difficult to become a Freemason, because when you have to work at something, it means more to you.  It means you really want it.

So which argument is correct?

It depends on your perspective.  If you're a Grand Lodge, you want more members paying dues.  That's your budget.  If you're a Lodge Secretary like me, you want more active members.  Masons who are involved in the events at the Lodge.  Masons who participate.  Masons who are engaged.  Masons who get it--that understand what it's all about.

So I understand both arguments; however, for my money, I'll take quality over quantity every time.  Good solid candidates of good report.  Men of honor.  Men who are willing to work.  Men who desire to improve themselves and strive to make the world a better place.  I'd rather add one Mason like that to my Lodge than ten I never see again after his 3rd degree.

Because I have seen what one motivated Mason can accomplish.  I've seen how the Fraternity can change a man for the better.  I've seen how just one inspired and industrious Mason can bring new energy into a lodge.  There's a Lodge near me that would be gone today if it weren't for a new Mason's stubborn determination to save it.  They couldn't even get enough of their members there to have a meeting, and weren't too many meetings away from losing their charter.  He dug his heels in and fought a hard battle for it--and he won.  One new member, then three, then five . . . Today, it's one of the healthiest Lodges in our area, with great leadership, and an enthusiastic membership.  They are always doing something new, and they are always being pointed at as an example.

I see the "quality" argument kind of like a college handing out the bachelor's degree before the student completes the coursework.  No college does that.  First, all the graduates of that college that worked for that same degree are going to be furious.  Secondly, that college gets a bad reputation, and those alumni that worked hard to earn that degree are holding a piece of paper that means a lot less now considering the lowered standards of the institution that issued it.  That's why college's maintain high standards.  That degree must mean something.  It must signify that a graduate worked hard, learned something, and met the standard of the institution.

The things that are most important aren't the things that come easy, they are the things you have to work for.  Because the determination and dedication required to earn that distinction are part of the experience itself.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org


  1. In the theoretical world of binary opposites, the choice is easy; quality should win hands down. The problem is that things are just not that simple. On the one hand, Freemasonry should have always been concerned merely with quality. However, the choice was made in the 19th century, and accelerated in the 20th, to go all out for quantity. The implication for Freemasonry today of that decision is that either it throws its values out the window once more and continues the path of numbers, which given the changes that have taken place in society since that time, is unlikely to work - those numbers simply don't join anything anymore, except perhaps Facebook, or, go for quality. However, for quality to be a functional choice, either Freemasonry has to get the likes of Bill Gates on board to pay for the amassed real estate, or it needs to find an effective way to unload that real estate. We can talk about speculative ethics and morals, and we're good at that, but we have some very concrete problems we need to wrestle with. Waiting will seal our fates.

  2. Another part of this equation that I didn't go into, is the dues issue. We've brought the price of those down dramatically over time. If you go back and look you'll see that dues used to be a lot higher, the equivalent of $200 or $300 a year today. My lodge dues were $30 a year until last year--now they are $45. Small lodge with about 100 members. You still have to have a place to meet, and you can't pay for a building, or rent one for $4,500 a year. It means Lodges are constantly scrambling to pay the bills. If you dues were more in line with what they once were, most Lodges could pay their bills and building expenses (based on 100 members) for 20 or 30 thousand a year. Lowering the standards (and the price) doesn't seem to have paid off. It's back to that quantity or quality issue again.

  3. In my opinion, quality is more important than quantity. Freemasonry was never meant to Include everyone. We have standards, and now more than ever we need to uphold those standards and guard the west gate for the good of the craft.


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