Guarding the West Gate: Part Two

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners

I recently wrote regarding a dilemma that I was facing in one of the Lodges that I belong to. You can read that article HERE. If you want the TL;DR(Too Long Didn’t Read) version of it, it dealt with my thought process regarding allowing a man into the Fraternity who had a felony conviction. I felt conflicted regarding this, balancing what I felt was every Master Mason’s obligation to guard the west gate against what could have just been a youthful indiscretion. The dilemma was, if a man is the same person at age 18, 19, 20 versus 30, 40, 50, etc. I think that we can all agree that the answer is no.

The candidate joined us for dinner prior to lodge a few nights ago. Both I and fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott were able to meet him and investigate him. None of the other brothers seemed to be interested in asking him questions at this time, so I sat next to him and introduced myself. We engaged in small talk, with me asking him what he did for a living and he asked me the same thing. Then Greg and I got down to business. The first thing we asked him was regarding his felony. He was forthright and honest. He was 17, and he and two friends who were younger, fell in with some kids who had been doing something on campus here at the University of Illinois. The short story is that they were caught and the candidate was given a choice. He could plead guilty to the felony as an adult and get parole, or face prison. To complicate matters, he had just had a son. So left with not much of a choice, he chose to remain free to care for his child.

As he was telling us this story, you could see the sadness in his eyes and expressions. I could tell that he deeply regretted that choice. He discussed the difficulty of finding work with a felony conviction. He said he was lucky that his older brother had a business so he could work for him. He learned his brother’s craft and started his own business. He works mostly on contract for realtors and leasing agents in the home improvement business. We also found out that two years ago he was in a terrible motorcycle accident, and he lost a leg. He was going too fast for conditions and the road curved and he dumped the bike. He’s lucky to be alive.

Greg and I asked him why he wanted to become a Mason. He simply stated that he had heard that we were a good organization that did charitable things and he had a desire to do that. He said that he was tired of ‘twiddling his thumbs’ at home, and needed something positive in his life. I explained to him that we also were about improving ourselves as men. He asked us what our expectations of him were. I told him that I would expect him to be an active member. That he would be at the meetings, degrees, and other lodge activities like the charitable activities. He said that he’d do that. He expressed a concern that he wouldn’t be voted in because of his past. I was quite frank in telling him that I was very concerned about hearing he had a record. After hearing that it occurred when he was a minor gave me pause for thought. Yes he was old enough to know better, but not technically an adult. Given that he was forthright in his sorrow over the incident, I saw how he desired to make a change in his life.

We asked him if he believed in God. He affirmed a belief in a supreme being, and that he was Christian. Not knowing much about Masonry, he was under the impression that it was a Christian organization. I explained to him that it is an organization that requires a belief in a supreme being, but leaves it up to you to define what that is. I did tell him that in the York Rite appendant body, the Knights Templar degree is only offered to. Greg then asked him, if this were a job interview, what would you say to me to try to get the job? He answered, that he was a good listener and a hard worker. That he doesn’t complain, and will get the job done.

In my previous article, I mentioned that the candidate’s answer to why he wanted to join would determine my course of action. The fact that he answered that he wanted to help others through acts of charity satisfied me. He didn’t mention himself. He showed remorse for what he did in the past. He wanted to do charitable works in the community. I think he saw this as a way to continue to pay penance for what he did, even if he didn’t say that. Greg and I asked him the difficult questions, ones that usually aren’t asked. We guarded the West Gate.

You are made a Mason in your heart. My brothers, I will be the first to admit I was hasty in a rush to judgement. I looked at the man’s crime, and expected that he’d be some hardened criminal unworthy to join our ranks. I looked him in the eye and apologized that night. I also decided that should he get elected, I would mentor him. I owe him that. He was humble and honest about his past. His heart was pure. He is a good man, and he wants to become better. Isn’t that what we advertise we do?


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at

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