Freemasonry has been a college of learning for me. Throughout my adult life, the Bible has always been my “text book” but Freemasonry has served me well as the “learning lab.” I’ve learned how to run a meeting. I’ve learned how to apply minimal resources for maximum impact. I’ve learned to network. I’ve gained leadership skills. I’ve gained speaking skills. Most importantly I’ve been able to take the sharp edges off aspects of my character and personality through the teachings of Freemasonry and by my association with men that possessed those skills I lacked. I’m not the same person that I was at all, and I don’t think I’m finished learning either. Masonry took me down a path I never thought I’d be on, and changed me in ways I never thought possible. Over the last year or two, that path has lead me to another fork in the road—another of life’s adventures I’m about to embark on and that I never would have found if not for the benefits I’ve gained through my Fraternity. Masonry has taught me what is possible. What is possible as individuals. What’s possible as a small group. What’s possible as a community.
And I feel like I’m just getting started. Like Masons learn, we are a project that’s never finished—an ashlar that is never truly perfected on Earth but we none-the-less continue to chip away at until our final day comes. I get it! I was taught well, I took well to the lessons offered, and I’ve applied them to my life. That’s what it’s all about.
And I know many of my Brothers have had this same experience because we’ve talked about it at length. And we all seem to have the same concern about the future as well. That the men we’re raising in our Lodge’s today aren’t getting that same quality of mentorship that we had when we joined. We’ve gotten away from teaching Freemasonry and applying Freemasonry. We’ve gotten away from building our new members into tomorrow’s leaders. And over the last decade, those men we’ve raised and failed to teach have risen in the ranks without the benefit of really understanding what the Fraternity is truly about.
I was talking to a Mason a few months ago, and he made an interesting remark. He said that Freemasonry is built on a set of moral and ethical principles, much like a church is built upon the Bible. Then he asked what would happen if you took the Bible out of the church. And we had a long and illuminating talk about what the results of that would be.
Well, you’d get together every week for a service. You’d probably run the service the same way you always have even though you’ve forgotten why you’re doing it that way. If you’re in a hurry you might skip parts of the service. You’d sing a little. You’d listen to announcements. Talk about people who are sick or are in need and take up a collection. You’d have lunch afterwards. Your membership would begin to drop because the congregation would realize they’re not getting much out of the service other than listening to announcements, and putting money in the plate every week. Some of the older members would find other places to go, because they remember what church used to be about. Next thing you know money is an issue and the pews are growing more sparse by the week. The church board would get very concerned. Some might suggest getting back to teaching that Bible again since that was what the church was original built upon, but the majority would say that the new members who have joined since they got away from teaching from the Bible don’t have any interest in learning those old scriptures—they joined for fellowship, and fund raising. So what would they do to attract new members? Maybe they’d plan a golf outing, or a movie night. And money? We’ve got that nice fellowship hall and kitchen. Maybe we ought to have a pancake breakfast . . . or a fish fry.
Sound familiar? That’s just an example—Freemasonry isn’t a church, but it would be the same story with any organization built with a core purpose. What if the Cancer Foundation was no longer funded cancer research. Or the Humane Society got away from running animal shelters.
Freemasonry is an organization built upon a purpose . . . a mission. But in too many places, we’ve gotten away from that purpose, which is to build strong men. Men of character. Men with strong moral and ethical values. When you take the core purpose out of an organization, all you’re left with is an empty meeting room full of empty chairs.
We must get back to what we’re truly about.