Three Things You Can Do To Improve The New Member Experience

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason

One of the initiatives that I'm interested in advancing in my corner of the globe is the idea of improving the new member experience.  As far as I'm concerned there's few subjects more important to Freemasonry today.  I've had a lot of conversations about this topic with a lot of Masons from all over the United States.  It's not only a topic of interest in Blue Lodges, but also something that many of the appendant bodies are looking at as well--the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the Shrine, etc. 

It's an important issue because it's at the center of another huge concern--retention of membership.  We've all seen it.  We get a petition, and the new member is excited about it.  He becomes an Entered Apprentice, then a Fellow Craft, and finally is raised a Master Mason.  He comes to a few meetings, and then we don't see him again.  We don't know why.  Maybe it wasn't what he thought it would be.  He didn't get what he thought he would out of it.  We tell ourselves it's certainly not our fault--Freemasonry isn't for everyone, and not everybody "gets" it.  And it's just one guy, right?  And so we move on. 

That's the wrong way to look at it.  It's not just one guy we've lost when this happens.  There's another thing I'm sure many of us have seen.  That one guy that joins our Lodge, and gets active in it.  He really, really enjoys it.  He's talking about it, and his friend joins, and then his cousin, and then his uncle, and then the friend invites his friend, and the uncle invites a co-worker . . . next thing you know that one guy has his entire high school class and half his family petitioning the Lodge.  I came in on a membership wave like that.  In fact, the year I served as Master, nine of our twelve officers had been members five years or less. Three members came through together--they'd been friends since high school.  You know one of them, he's Midnight Freemasons contributor Greg Knott.

Almost every Lodge can improve that new member experience.  There are a lot of things your Lodge can do, but there are three that I think almost everyone will agree on.  So I'll talk briefly about those three things.

This should start during his investigation.  Find out why he wants to be a Freemason.  Find out what his expectations are.  Find out what he enjoys doing.  Meet his family.  Talk to them about the Fraternity and who we are and what we represent.  We have to get to know our new members and make them part of our fellowship.  Communicate with him.  Let him know what the Lodge expects of its members as well.  At my Lodge, we tell our potential members they can be as active as they want in our Lodge, but at a minimum, we'd like them to attend our monthly meetings and special events.  Too many times a new members gets through all three degrees without a good idea of what he's actually going to be doing once he's a Master Mason.  And that goes the other way, too.  Very often the Lodge has no idea how much time that new member has, or how involved that new Master Mason wants to be either.  If you get a young petitioner who is starting a career and a family, you have to understand that his family is going to come first.  If you start putting a lot on him, you'll lose him.  You have to communicate.

Not long after I was raised, actually the first meeting I attended as a Master Mason, I was approached by a group of officers in the lodge, and they wanted to know what I wanted to do in the Lodge--specifically if I wanted to try my hand at sitting in a chair.  I started as Chaplain, and those officers taught me the things I needed to know, and the responsibilities of that position in detail.  I knew what I was doing, was never embarrassed, and was never asked to sit in a chair I didn't know.  Each time I advanced, I was taught all that I needed to know in order to do the job correctly (however, as the members of my Lodge would tell you, I did better in some chairs than others).  When I made mistakes I wasn't ridiculed.  If I put a foot wrong on the floor without realizing I'd made a mistake in the ritual, somebody would quietly correct me after the meeting.  I always felt that my Brothers were there to help me, and I never felt as though I was being picked on when I made a mistake.  During the monthly meetings when I first joined, the members would often stop and explain things to me.  If they were talking about attending Grand Lodge, they'd stop for my benefit and tell me about the annual meeting.  If we were planning a pancake breakfast, they'd stop and tell me how I might help and how often we had a breakfast like that.  From the beginning I was made to feel like part of the group, and I became active from day one, and have stayed active.  Five years later, I served as Master of that Lodge, and I knew exactly what I was doing because my Brothers had taken the time to mentor me.

Admiration Chapter U.D. (IL) enjoying an education presentation at the Homer Masonic Temple (IL)
Freemasonry is more than just memorizing ritual.  There is a lot there for a new member to learn.  In my experience, Lodge education isn't something a lot of Lodges put enough focus on.  It's something we're doing a better job at these days in my corner of the world.  During our meetings we're learning about our Craft.  We're learning about the working tools.  We're learning how to put the principles of Freemasonry into use in our everyday lives.  Our new members really enjoy it, but you know what?  So do our old members!  We've had some great discussions in our Lodges lately--and not just about fund raisers and bank account balances.  Slowly we're starting to remember our primary goal, which is to make good men better.  Our members really enjoy finding things to share with the Lodge--it's like show and tell for grownups.  Making education a focus of our meetings has brought new energy into the Lodge.  The members look forward to sharing things and learning things they didn't know.  Many of our members never knew a tremendous amount about our Fraternity to begin with because education really wasn't a focus in many of our Lodges for many years.  There's no question that education can enhance the new member, and the old member experience.  It gives us all a deeper appreciation for our Fraternity, and it reminds us that our Lodge is more than just a social club--it's also supposed to be a place to learn and grow as men.   

One thing I think you'll find if you work on improving the new member experience, is that it not only helps you retain your new members and grow your Lodge, but you old members will enjoy their membership a lot more, too.  They will enjoy teaching new members the things they've learned about the ritual.  They enjoy sharing information about our Fraternity.  They'll quickly make the transition from being a leader to a teacher and advisor.  And as they see these new members learn and grow and begin to take a leadership role in the Lodge, they take solace in knowing that the Lodge is in good hands, and will continue to thrive for another generation.

Why not try it?  What have you got to lose . . . besides your new members?


Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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 is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

A Brand New Old Way To Do Masonic Research

by Midnight Freemason Contributor

By Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Sometimes when I'm researching Masonic articles I think back to how I did that kind of research in college.  Today, most of my research is done sitting in my living room, feet back, staring at a computer screen.  Back in the day, to use the trite and overused aphorism, doing research for a paper meant a trip to the library... several trips usually.  We were taught to keep our research notes on 3 x 5 cards, alphabetized or otherwise organized.  This, so the researcher could move the cards to various sections of information and eventually have an incredibly well-organized way of not being able to find what he was looking for.  I found this method especially effective at 3AM on mornings before the aforementioned paper was due.

Today, it's all online — most of it, anyway.  I still use the library a lot.  It's more than a source of books.  The videos there as well as microfilm copies of old newspapers really come in handy.  However, I think it's safe to say with anything I write now, the article begins with an online search.  I almost always just start with Google.  Not to slight the other search engines, but let's face it, Google is the gold standard.  It's almost safe to say, if you've used a computer you've used Google.  But this isn't about Google.

Another source I use is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia and I have a strained relationship.  According to my wife's soap opera, relationships are built on trust, and I don't trust Wikipedia.  I think it's a great resource and I'm amazed at some of the things I find there, but any Tom, Dick or Harry — or Steve — can put anything in it, so if I find something I want to use in an article there, my rule is I always require corroboration somewhere else.  But this isn't about Wikipedia.

"Well," you might ask, "what the heck is it about?"  Lately, I've been making more and more use of Google Books.  So, yeah, the Google Books project is a part of Google, but it's in large part directed to full texts of books Google has scanned into a database.  That makes the books searchable. Within limits, with the permission of authors and publishers, this even includes books still under copyright. 

At the moment, I'm deep into research for my next book.  As a part of that I'm looking back at the Baltimore Convention of 1843 — what it accomplished, what it didn't and why it was deemed necessary.  In a search of Google Books I turned up a volume on the history of Freemasonry in New York with a section that talked about a whole new — make that forgotten — reason the conference came about.  I'm preparing another Midnight Freemasons piece to discuss that but, for the time being, what a find in an obscure 19th century book.

I think Google Books is great even for contemporary literature, just to search for content, but it's even better for Masonic research, since (in case they hadn't told you) Masonry has been around a long time and many of those books are in the public domain.  There are advantages to being old. 

I'm not touting Google books as a panacea, but it is another tool in the arsenal.  Even if you don't do a lot of Masonic research, it might lead you to that next book you want to read, even if it's not about Masonry.  And it's a heck of a lot better than keeping notes on those 3 x 5 cards.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason 

On behalf of the Midnight Freemasons, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  One thing I know we're all thankful for here at the Midnight Freemasons, is for our readers who have made this blog such a success over the last several years.  So enjoy this story about Thanksgiving and a famous Freemason.  I put this same story up every year.  It's becoming a Thanksgiving tradition in itself.  And it goes like this . . .

The tradition of celebrating the harvest on a Thursday goes back to Plymouth and the Pilgrims.  The most famous of these was the three day festival in 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims feast.

But it wasn't until the 17th century that it became an annual custom.  George Washington, issuing the very first Presidential proclamation, declared November 26th, 1789 as a day of national thanksgiving for the United States Constitution.  But it never really caught on until 1863, when President Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursday of November and the holiday began to be celebrated nationally.

Then comes Franklin D. Roosevelt, who decided after 75 years, he wanted to change what Lincoln had established.  He proclaimed Thanksgiving as the next to last Thursday of November.  Very few liked the change, and there was a huge controversy surrounding it.  Some Americans simply ignored FDR and celebrated Thanksgiving as they always had on the date they always had.  For the next two years, Franklin Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation.  Finally, in 1941, Roosevelt gave up on it.  He signed a bill into law officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving.

And we've been celebrating it on that day ever since . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!


Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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 is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

Another "Secret Society"?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert H. Johnson, PM

As I do from time to time, flipping through conspiracy, occult, religious and other texts, I always find myself reading my 1908 copy of Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia. In my readings I have come across several odd societies, rites and "clubs".

One you may remember from a while back was the "Gormogons". Follow the link for a good read. This time though, I came across another one, this time it was called "The Anonymous Society". This isn't the famed society of hackers who are fighting with terrorists either. The Anonymous Society existed in Germany and was limited to having just 24 Entered Apprentices, 24 Fellowcrafts and 24 Masters. A total of 72 in all. One wonders how advancement worked. Did a Master have to die off before a Fellow was allowed to advance and then an Apprentice to follow?

I was curious about the number 72. Was there a gematria tie? In any case, the Anonymous Society is gone (or is it) and it seems their true focus was two fold; distributing charity and their primary which was cultivation of the occult sciences. Mackey's claims that the members openly pretended that their Grand Master was a man named Tajo and who lived in Spain.

Pretending is fun I guess.


Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus 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 also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

Titles and Fancy Aprons

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

When I became a Freemason a little over a decade ago the number of men knocking on the door of the temple were few.  Members of the lodge would get excited when the Secretary mentioned the lodge had a petition. Brothers would scurry to find someone who could play a certain part in the degree work and everyone started boning up on ritual they hadn't studied in a long time.  

Becoming an officer of the lodge during those days was usually pretty easy. If you showed up to lodge you became an officer! When I was raised I hadn't even considered becoming an lodge officer but the very first meeting I attended as a Master Mason, I sat in as Junior Steward. “Just sit in the chair and do what the Senior Steward does.” I was told. “Just stand up and pick up the rod. Don't worry, there aren't any speaking parts.” I kept showing up month after month and by default I was the Junior Steward.

As the years progressed so did my offices until that faithful day I was installed into the Oriental Chair of the Worshipful Master after little over four years as a Master Mason.  When I am asked about my time as Master of my lodge I usually quote Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was once asked how he liked being president and Lincoln responded “You have heard,” said Lincoln, “about the man tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail? A man in the crowd asked him how he liked it, and his reply was, ‘If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I would rather walk."

It amazes me how in just a few short years of being a Freemason how much membership has swelled. When I was going through the degrees I was told by a Brother “I don't know why you are joining. Masonry is going to be dead in a few years.” and now there are lodges that have nearly constant degree work.  Mostly I'd suspect this to be because of Dan Brown's books.  While this has been great for the Fraternity the increase in membership has caused some issues few would have thought of just a few years ago.

Recently I had heard about a young Brother who was expecting to become a lodge officer during the next upcoming Masonic year. When the Senior Warden announced his list of appointed officers for his year, this young Brother's name wasn't on the list. After lodge was closed this Brother became very angry claiming his office was “stolen from him”. It was “His turn” and that he had been "cheated."  Since then, the young Brother has not come back to the lodge. 

I feel for the Brother. These days being a Masonic lodge officer in many lodges is like trying out for the football team. If you have a lodge where forty men regularly attend and there are only eleven officer positions someone's not going to make the cut. It's easy math.

I cannot look into the Brothers heart as to why he became so upset that night.  It could be, he really did feel it was “his turn” and that he was missing out on some current or future Masonic honor or it could be that being an officer was the only way he knew that he could serve the Craft.  

For the last few decades being an officer and getting an honorary title and a fancy apron was the way you were rewarded  for years of  dedicated service. It was kinda like one of those punch cards you get when you visit a restaurant and after each visit an employee punches your card and after so many visits you get free food. You went through a line in a lodge or appendant body and once you served your time as the head of that group you were given a fancy new apron and a new title which forevermore will be attached to your name in Masonic circles. 

You may think it's easy for me to say these things, since I already had a “PM” behind my name and this is just a case of “He got his so he isn't worried about it anymore.” But, I can assure you this isn't the case.

This young mans response to the slight made me do some deep soul searching.  We are told Freemasonry's job is to “Make good men better.” Serving as an officer of a body might be and is a great honor but it isn't going to make you a better man.  All of us, regardless of our fancy titles and the color of our aprons must begin to restart the practice of working together, back in the quarries. We must remember there are other ways of serving Freemasonry.

Masonic Charity:  Masonic charity is one of the purest forms of our gentle craft. Extending your hand to help up a Brother who has been knocked down by life. Making sure a Brothers widow has enough to eat or her house is warm and in good repair.  The Brothers orphans had clean clothes and plenty to eat. Sadly, today many Brothers think that our charity is helping a local school or donating blood or some large charity designed to get Masonry good press in hopes that new members will come. These are all worthy charities but they are not Masonic charity. 

Masonic Education:  Taking the time to educate yourself might not seem like it is helping Masonry but it is.  The more educated in Masonic knowledge you become, the more you can help share your light with others.  As it says in the charge of an Entered Apprentice:  “At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give, as you will be to receive information.”  

Serve a committee:  Every lodge needs things done. Putting together a degree team or repainting the lodge room are just some examples of ways you can be of service. If your lodge building is in perfect condition (and for some reason I doubt that this is the case) you can serve on an investigation committee. There are countless things a man can do to serve his Brethren. In a way, it's like starting a business. Find a hole and fill it!

Appendant or concordant bodies: First of all, I am not saying neglect your home lodge by becoming active in another Masonic body.  Symbolic lodge should always be your first priority but there are many Masonic bodies and most (if not all of them) are starving for membership.  Working on a Scottish Rite stage crew or joining a Knights Templar drill team could be fun and you might learn some new skills.  It also allows you to work with more charities, if that is your thing.  

Other lodges:  If you are blessed to belong to a lodge that is healthy and has a thriving membership you may consider finding a lodge that needs help and become a plural member.  Maybe your attendance and involvement in the other lodge could help keep it going and maybe it will begin to thrive. I would suggest if you make this choice, check out the lodge before you join. Sometimes there is a reason a lodge is smaller and it isn't thriving.  Make sure the lodge is a good fit for you.

No matter which option you choose just don't give up.  If your goal is to be an officer of a Masonic lodge, one day you will get there. Remember Masonry is a lifetime commitment.  Keep working in the quarries until you achieve your goal.  Experience will make a better officer when you finally get there and Freemasonry will make you a better man.


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Abraham Lincoln's Lesson To Freemasons

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR 
"Whatever you are, be a good one."

~Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States

I've told this story before, and most Masons know that Abraham Lincoln wasn't a Freemason.  But it was Lincoln's intention to join later.  That story of Abraham Lincoln's decision not to join Freemasonry may provide Freemasons with something to think about today.

Lincoln applied for membership in Tyrian Lodge, in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after his nomination for the presidency in 1860.  However, after further consideration he withdrew his petition because he didn't want his motives for joining to be misconstrued as an attempt to garner favor amongst Freemasons in order to obtain votes in the upcoming election. It was his intention to resubmit his application when he returned from the presidency.  It was a decision that without question gained him a great deal of respect from the members of Tyrian Lodge.

Think about that for a moment.  Abraham Lincoln withdrew his petition, because he knew some might misconstrue his motives for joining.  In fact, he may have gained a few more votes if he had become a Mason in 1860.  But Lincoln didn't want anyone to believe he had used the good name of the Freemasons for personal gain.  Like many famous Masons who had come before him, and many who have lived in the years since, he wished for his good name and conduct to reflect positively on our Fraternity, rather than to be viewed as using the Fraternity to promote and advance himself.

It's a good lesson for Masons to reflect on today.  As I've said many times, as the author of a couple books about Famous American Freemasons--Freemasonry's best advertisement has always been Freemasons.  A true Freemason always strives to improve himself-- to possess the qualities associated with men of good character.  But there are those out there that get that backwards--instead of creating themselves as an exemplar of Freemasonry, they use Freemasonry to advertise themselves.  And even though Abraham Lincoln wasn't a Freemason, he understood Freemasonry well enough to know that it would be better to join later rather than sooner so that his motives wouldn't seem self-serving.  It provides a good insight into Abraham Lincoln's character. 

Think about that this week.  What were your motives to join the Fraternity?  To improve yourself and serve as an example of a true and upright Mason?  Or did you join, as Lincoln feared his petition would be viewed, in order to promote and advance yourself through the good name of the Fraternity? 


Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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 is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

The Case For Peace

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

I imagine this will be quite unpopular this morning, as I'm seeing cries for war and violence from many of my friends and brothers who should know better, but I believe that it is important in times of trouble to make the case for peace and nonviolence. When our hearts are broken and our spirits crushed, it can be very comforting to seek retribution and vengeance, and so terribly difficult to find the path of love and compassion.

In the days to come, there will be beautiful political rhetoric coming from all quarters, shouting that France should use the recent attacks as a justification to invade Middle-Eastern countries, seeking out the terrorists who chose to give their lives in pursuit of creating chaos. Already, President Hollande stating that French retribution will be “swift and merciless,” and later says “We will lead the fight. It will be ruthless.” As the machines of war begin their horrible grinding anew, those of us who are the raw materials for the machines wait in fear to see the inevitable result. Must it only be this way, and no other?

It is often thought that seeking peace is a path of cowardice, of appeasement, and of taking the easiest solution, but I tell you that there is nothing more difficult than to rail against your natural inclination to meet violence with violence. To fight against our own nature requires us to not only be aware of our reactions and prejudices, but to actively seek to overcome them.

Still, some will say, we cannot let an attack go unanswered, since it would be a sign of our weakness. We must make a show of our strength, by the sheer power of our military forces, so that none will dare attack us again. Instead, I say to you, let your compassion be your strength. Turn your other cheek while it is still an option; show your enemies that you will not be bullied into responding with violence, but are enlightened by the ways of peace and love.

Many great men have said many great words about peace. One quote that should resonate with Freemasons is found in the words of Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” As Freemasons, we are called to be the light in the world, by our very presence to improve our surroundings, and to leave the world a better place than it was when came into it. We cannot do this by carrying around the darkness of hatred in our hearts.

It will be said that we must fight for our peace. The only way we can feel truly safe is to destroy those who would destroy us. Instead, I would tell you what The Doctor told a town who had turned to a mob: “Violence doesn’t end violence, it extends it.” You cannot hope to remove a quantity by adding to it; add water to a bucket, and you’ll have a full bucket. Continue to add water and you’ll overflow the bucket, but you will still not succeed at having less water in the bucket. The same holds true for violence; you cannot hope to remove violence from the world by adding to it; rather, you will reach a point where you have filled the world with it while forcing out those good qualities we should be building towards. As George Carlin says, fighting for peace is like (euphemism for making love) for virginity.

To play Devil’s Advocate, however, let us assume for one moment that you are somehow able to destroy every single one of your enemies. Have you attained real peace? If so, how will you be expected to keep it? Anything won by force must be kept by force; once you have established that you are willing to turn to violence, then violence is what will be expected from you.

I understand what the French citizens are feeling right now; I, like many of my countrymen, turned to retribution in the days following September 11th, and was seduced by the promise of finding peace through murder. When the leader of the terrorists who had attacked us had been killed, I should have found peace, but in the years since I’ve found that we are not any safer than I did on the day we were attacked, and that if anything we have only found more enemies to fight.

We don’t often talk about the fear that our Brother Hiram must have faced in his final moments. Seeing the trap set for him, he attempted to flee in fear, but instead found himself in progressively worse danger until, finally facing his inevitable demise, he found courage and peace at the last. He displayed a courage that is sadly undervalued in today’s society: the courage to stay true to one’s convictions in the face of adversity.

The world, right now, is a terrifying place. We see enemies lurking in every bush, hiding around every corner, and in the faces of strangers who look different than us. As Freemasons, we are called to shine our light in every place, even when we’re afraid, and to greet the stranger on the level. We may be hurt for it, we may even meet with death, however we are called to face it bravely, and not give in to our fears. In this, we can set the example for generations to come.

My brothers, I have often ended my writings by turning to Fred Rogers for wisdom, and if you will bear with me, I will do so again. When faced with world-changing events such as the attacks on Paris, he would remember the words of his mother: “Always look for the helpers, there’s always someone who is trying to help.” We are surrounded by good people who are ready to rush in to aid and assist us, and more importantly, we have the power to BE the helpers. I hope that, when you feel the urge to turn to hatred because of your fear, you will instead turn to compassion because of your love.


Bro. Adam Thayer is the Junior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Worshipful Master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member of the Scottish Rite, and Knight Master of the Lincoln Valley Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at

Printed Rituals

by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
RWB Michael H. Shirley

My 30-Day Ritual Challenge was intended to get some Brethren working on ritual, and it apparently did. I’ve heard that some individuals are trying it out, and one Junior Warden in Chicago issued assignments to the officers in his lodge and is testing them weekly. I met him and several of his lodge Brethren at our recent Grand Communication in Illinois, and was delighted at the seriousness with which they’re approaching the Work. 

What I did not expect were the comments offered by some Masons directed at something not addressed in my post: printed ritual books. Several commenters expressed a deep antipathy to their existence, with one going so far as to call them “a cancer destroying Freemasonry from within.” Another commenter said that operative Masons didn’t use a book for reference, so we shouldn’t either. Instead, he said, we should use our minds. Leaving aside the point that they also didn’t use antibiotics, soap, or power tools, the idea that the printed word is somehow opposed to thought leaves me baffled. I honestly don’t know what to say in response to that, other than to suggest the commenter read more.

I have no doubt that those sentiments are sincerely held, if less vehemently expressed, by many Brethren. I disagree with them. Illinois has had a printed ritual, The Book of Standard Work, since 1986.  Without it, I, for one, would not have had the time to learn ritual to the point of being commissioned to teach it. I learn best from text and spoken word combined, not from the spoken word or text alone, and am grateful that my Grand Lodge had the wisdom to standardize the ritual so that more of my Brethren, including the ones who have too little unscheduled time to meet with an instructor several times a week to learn mouth to ear only, can become ritually proficient. Limiting the learning of ritual to one method is to ignore decades of educational research, and is, in fact, antithetical to the enlightenment values that Masonry espouses: to experiment, try new things, discarding what doesn’t work, keeping what does, and always remembering the goal of learning more every day.

Some commenters noted that learning ritual mouth to ear several times a week would create a relationship with one’s mentor that would be the most important relationship a new Mason would have in the Craft. Nothing in a relationship with a mentor is dependent on learning ritual; in Masonry, a mentor is meant to exemplify the Craft itself, not the ritual alone.  My closest mentors in Masonry are not necessarily the men with whom I’ve spent the most time, but those whose example radiate Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.  If the only point of mentorship is to learn ritual, then we are not a fraternity, but a memorization society.

Brethren in other comment threads have said that a printed ritual is a violation of one’s Masonic oath not to print our secrets. That entirely depends on how a given Grand Lodge has defined “secrets.” Illinois defines them as pertaining to certain signs, words, and penalties, which are not printed in our ritual. Given that each Grand Lodge is sovereign, what Illinois says is true for Illinois. If another Grand Lodge defines “secrets” more broadly, that’s fine, although I disagree with that interpretation. It’s certainly none of my business to say they’re wrong.

All I can say in conclusion about this “controversy” is this: if your Grand Lodge doesn’t permit printed rituals or cypher books, don’t use them. If you learn best by mouth-to-ear instruction, find a good teacher who has the time to spend with you. If your Grand Lodge permits them, and you learn well by reading, read.  Read as much as you can. Go to lodge meetings. Practice the Work. Try to exemplify Masonry in your life. After all, the only cancer that can kill the Craft from within is when Masons stop acting like Masons.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: