The following is a lightly edited short talk which speaks to Creating Interest in new and current members alike.
Written by R.W. Brother Edward L. Bennett, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Washington. Originally presented at the Conference of Grand Secretaries of North America in Washington, D. C., in February, 1970.
Creating interest is like building a structure; the first step is to lay a good foundation. Similarly, to build interest in Masonic affairs, the foundation should be the newly-raised Master Mason.
Well-informed Masons usually become interested Masons. Therefore, instruction of our new members should include teaching all these things:
that the object of our Fraternity is to elevate and uphold standards of morality,
to instill virtue, to encourage loyalty, to foster patriotism, to protect liberty,
and to proclaim the sublime doctrine of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
Our members should know that we do not devise ways and means of acquiring political power, or to impose political ideas upon their minds. That we do not challenge or contest, affirm or deny the religious creeds of our fellow man, nor do we solicit the favor, influence the prejudices, or pursue the admiration of our fellow man.
They should be taught that Masonry seeks to elevate the meek and lowly and to reduce the powerful and influential to one common plane, and upon the level field of equality it teaches the prince and the peasant that the only worthy rivalry is that of who best can work and best agree.
They should know with the force of a conviction that Masonry ignores and repudiates the trappings and distinctions which men have invented to obtain and to maintain dominance over their fellow man. Masonry insists on the sublime truth that all men are brethren, so that each member may kneel at her altar, assume her vows, and discharge the obligations imposed, side by side with the man of influence, the man of letters, and the man of wealth. Freemasonry teaches that it is not a man’s belief, but his actions that she contemplates. That it does not weave a network of intricate doctrines about him, to confuse and hamper his mind, but leaves him free to choose his religion, his politics and the course of his social life. That Masonry simply asks that he be a man, a whole man, and nothing but a man.
The newly-made Mason should be taught that Masonry is free from social distinctions, that it stands outside, dissociated from politics, from affiliation with any religious denomination and domination by any religion. Even though many Masons have made history, Masonry has not emblazoned her triumphs upon the pages of history, because she fosters no revolutions, she attacks no governments, she enters no conspiracies, she sheds no blood. It does not point to battle flags and fields of carnage as an incentive to loyalty in her members. Her mission is one of peace; her motto, “Fraternity.” The field of her labor is moral, not physical. It is the character and conduct of her members that she seeks to improve. Her followers must know that Masonry has always been a harbinger of peace, the advocate of justice, and the champion of truth.
Masonry must make clear to her members that she seeks to make us better individuals and to alleviate the sorrows of others. It teaches universal love, which enriches both recipient and donor. It whispers the word of friendly admonition in the ear of the erring, and in silence and secrecy drops its charities in the hand of the impoverished with a touch so delicate that it relieves without humiliation. It binds its devotees in an ever increasing bond of sacred union. Strand after strand is added until the cable is impossible to break. That cable, made of the very fibers of our hearts and intertwined with our most sacred affections, is attached to the derrick of the spiritual temple, that building not made with hands.
A newly-made Mason should be told that the unchangeable nature of Masonry is a wonder among its best friends, but the reason is very simple. She has laid hold upon the great fundamental truths that are commensurate with human existence, truths that will be applicable as far and as long as the human race exists: “Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.” The day has never been, and never will be, when brotherly love will not be a necessity and a virtue among men. The day has never been, and, in the present order of things, will never be, when relief will not be a necessity and a virtue. The declaration, “The poor you will always have with you,” is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. To comfort and relieve the distressed, to rescue the perishing, to warn of danger, to aid in counsel, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked are just as much the imperative duty of the Mason today as when the first great light shone down upon her sacred altar. And truth, which has long been buried beneath a mass of human error and superstition, is emerging from the debris of exploded theories and distorted fancies, and is rising like a shining sun upon a dark sky, to illuminate the minds and permeate the hearts, and to dominate the lives of men.
If the mind of the newly-raised Master Mason has been impressed with this foundation of the purposes and aims of Masonry, his interest in Masonic affairs will ever be uppermost in his daily life and actions. To be impressed he must be taught.
Then he could say that Masonic work does not stop at the conferring of degrees and dispatching the routine business of the lodge. These are but means to an end, necessary preliminaries which equip Masons to work together.
Then he must realize that Masonic work is to assist, encourage and defend the Brethren, protect the oppressed, right the wrongs, raise the fallen, relieve want and distress, enlighten the people, and be fruitful in all good works.
He would further say that to be true to my obligation as a Mason, I will participate in lodge work, serve on committees of the lodge, support its programs and those of Grand Lodge, and work in and for my community, state and country. He would, by his actions, inspire other men to believe that Masonry truly makes good men better men.
If the necessity of teaching all these lessons to one new member is also impressed on the members of the lodge, the teacher becomes the pupil and relearns these old truths. As he teaches, he thinks of his obligations; and again the truth is proven, “The more I give, the greater the debt.”
A building will stand only as long as its foundation endures, and our Fraternity rests on its foundation, the newly-raised Master Mason. To create his interest in Masonic activities, we must make sure that he is well-informed about our purposes and genuinely inspired to act according to them.