About Masonry

Freemasonry—Just who are the Freemasons?

That’s not a surprising question. Even though Freemasons are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, and even though almost everyone has a father or grandfather or uncle who was a Mason, many people aren’t quite certain just who Masons are or what freemasonry is about.

The answer is simple. Freemasons are members of a fraternity known as Freemasonry or Masonry. A fraternity is a group of men (just as a sorority is a group of women) who join together because:

  • There are things they want to do in the world.
  • There are things they want to do “inside their own minds”
  • They enjoy the fellowship of men they both like and respect.

Freemasonry Explained—What is it?

No one knows just how old freemasonry is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stone masons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.

In 1717, Freemasonry members created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Freemasonry in some geographical area. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in each state and the District of Columbia. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in each province. Local organizations of Freemasonry are called lodges. There are freemasonry lodges in most towns, and large cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.

Who are the Masons?

Masons are men who have decided they like to feel good about themselves and others. They care about the future as well as the past, and do what they can, both alone and with others, to make the future good for everyone.

From Briatin to America—How?

In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several lodges in the Colonies, and Freemasonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers—men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock—were Masons. Masons and Freemasonry played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic lodges.

What is a Lodge?

The word ‘lodge’ means both a group of Freemasonry members meeting in some place and the physical room or building in which they meet. Masonic buildings are also sometimes called ‘temples’ because much of the symbolism Freemasonry uses to teach its lessons comes from the building of King Solomon’s Temple in the Holy Land. The term ‘lodge’ itself comes from the structures which the stonemasons built against the sides of the cathedrals during construction. In winter, when building had to stop, they lived in these lodges and worked at carving stone.

If you’ve ever watched C-SPAN’s coverage of the House of Commons in London, you’ll notice that the layout is about the same. Since Freemasonry came to America from England, we still use the English floorplan and English titles for the officers. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge sits in the East. ‘Worshipful’ is an English term of respect which means the same thing as ‘Honorable.’ He is called the Master of the lodge for the same reason that the leader of an orchestra is called the Concert Master. It’s simply an older term for leader. In other organizations, he would be called President. The Senior and Junior Wardens are the First and Second Vice-Presidents. The Deacons are messengers, and the Stewards have charge of refreshments.

Every lodge has an altar holding a ‘Volume of the Sacred Law.’ In The United States and Canada, that is almost always a Bible.

What are the requirements to join the masons?

The person who wants to join Freemasonry must be a man (it’s a fraternity), sound in body and mind, who believes in God, is at least the minimum age required by Masonry in his state, and has a good reputation. (Incidentally, the “sound in body” requirement—which comes from the stonemasons of the Middle Ages—doesn’t mean that a physically challenged man cannot be a Mason; many are).

Those are the only formal requirements. But there are others, not so formal. He should believe in helping others. He should believe there is more to life than pleasure and money. He should be willing to respect the opinions of others. And he should want to grow and develop as a human being.

How does a man become a Freemason?

Some men are surprised that no one has ever asked them to become a Mason. They may even feel that the Masons in their town don’t think they are “good enough” to join. But it doesn’t work that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to join the fraternity. We can talk to friends about Freemasonry. We can tell them about what Freemasonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can’t ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.

There’s a good reason for that. It isn’t that we’re trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason is a very serious thing. Joining Freemasonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways. We’ve listed most of them above—to live with honor and integrity, to be willing to share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God. No one should be “talked into” making such a decision.

So, when a man decides he wants to be a Freemasonry Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition or application. He fills it out and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge. The Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his family, find out a little about him and why he wants to become a member of the Masons, tell him and his family about Freemasonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. If the vote is affirmative—and it usually is—the lodge will contact the man to set the date for the Entered Apprentice Degree. When the person has completed all three degrees, he is a Master Mason and a full member of the Freemasonry fraternity.