How Well Are We Guarding The West
by Michael D. Nanny,
The Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M.
speaking, the ritualists are the only well-organized group in our Lodges
today. They are organized because they have specific duties and
responsibilities, and as a general rule it is a group who take pride in
the quality of the ritualistic conferral of the degrees. There ought to be
many such groups in our Lodges, each with specific duties and interests,
and each with its own enthusiasm and pride. For instance, many Lodges have
a Funeral Group - composed of Brethren, many of whom are either retired or
self-employed - who attend and participate in Masonic funerals and
memorial services. Some Lodges have a well informed group who keep track
of the sick list, and another group who keep track of the widows, etc.
another group of even greater importance to the reputation of the Lodge -
indeed of utmost importance to the reputation of the Fraternity - and that
group is the Investigation Group. Unfortunately, in
many Lodges, it is a rather loosely organized group of members who are
called upon from time to time to investigate the character and reputation
of those who knock upon our doors for admission.
impossible to be too careful and painstaking in the investigation of a
petitioner for the Degrees of Freemasonry. In these days, nothing is more
dangerous - nor is there more potential for serious damage to the good
name and reputation of our Order and to our Lodges - than a slipshod
investigation of those who seek admission into our Order.
instances our own members have become more lax when it comes to
recommending a man for membership; thereby placing an even more demanding
burden upon Investigating Committees to ferret out the undesirable
applicants. Such demonstrated laxity is doubtless generated to some degree
by our zeal for new members, and the eventual outcome is dependent almost
entirely upon those who perform the investigation.
present “three black ball rule” has placed even more pressure upon the
investigators, and has added to the frustration of well-meaning and
sincere Masons whose sole purpose in exercising the black ball privilege
is to keep undesirables applicants out of our Fraternity.
documented instances of well meaning Masons recommending a man for
membership whom they have known for only a few days, and - yes,
there have been instances of a man walking in off the street, and a member
of the Lodge has recommended him; relying solely upon the Investigating
Committee to dig into his past and make their recommendation - and in some
instances - during the short span of a couple of weeks. Some are found to
be convicted felons on probation, and the recommender knew nothing about
his past. And, yes - some are elected to receive the Degrees of Masonry
simply because lazy and indifferent members of the Investigating Committee
have not been honest - either with themselves or with the literally
thousands of good Masons who have completely relied upon their
investigation of the petitioner.
whatever reason we are unable to explain, the average member of a Lodge is
reluctant to share any information about the petitioner - either good or
bad - with the members of the Investigating Committee. Such sharing should
be emphasized and encouraged by the Worshipful
Masters of our Lodges, and it should be respected by
the members of the Investigating Committee and by the Lodge.
in a great many of our Lodges, little thought is given to selecting
members of the Investigating Committee. Regrettably, there are Lodges
whose process is to simply pick the next three names from the Roster. Such
practice is not logical. Would you pick a degree team in such a manner?
Would you select a name from the Roster, call the Brother on the telephone
and tell him to be at Lodge next Monday to confer the Entered Apprentice
Degree? Of course not! If you want a degree conferred with dignity and in
an impressive manner, you choose a special member for his special skills
and ability to fill whatever place on the degree team that would
contribute to an impressive degree.
should we not be equally selective when it comes to selecting those
members whose special job is to carefully scrutinize those who knock at
our doors? We are talking about scrutiny that should consist of much more
than a casual interview, or a couple of hurried telephone calls to a
petitioner’s references, or an exchange of information with other members
of the Investigating Committee. Let’s be honest and admit that an
increasing number of Texas Lodges have taken in members of whom neither
they nor the Fraternity can be justly proud, and who - had they been
thoroughly investigated would never have passed the
needs a group of men who will not only consider the statements of the
petitioner, but will go behind them, and take them to pieces to see if
they are really true in fact. If a petitioner is honest
about the information he gives the Lodge, he should welcome a thorough
investigation of his background - consistent with the relative laws
governing individual privacy. If he is sincere in his desire to become a
Mason, he will be patient with the process, and if he will make a good
Mason, he will maintain his interest throughout the process of
addition to being just plain difficult in many instances, our efforts are
complicated by an ever increasing number of federal and state laws, rules
and regulations concerning the privacy of individuals. Sometimes, we run
the risk of beinga criminal in our efforts to
identify criminals. But, we have a job to do, and we must
find a way to develop trained investigators - that is - trained to the
extent of understanding the basic fundamentals necessary to
thoroughly and properly do their job, and attempt to train and develop as
many potential investigators as possible.
to say, most potentially good ideas are beset with questions posed by
nay-sayers whose standard offering is the age old; “We’ve never done
it that way,” but Worshipful Masters - there IS a
way to ensure good and thorough investigations of petitioners. Select
members with a sprinkling of experience, wisdom, discretion and knowledge;
and bring some of the younger members into service to the Lodge so they
can gain useful experience for future benefit of your Lodge.
Mason in your Lodge ....or possibly in your area .... who is in some area
of law enforcement .... - and have your members meet with you, the
Wardens, the Secretary and the “expert.” Rely upon the “expert” to point
out the many facets of the investigative process; availability of
information sources; legalities of certain procedures --- what
should be done and what should not be done,
etc. Add new talent from your newer members, and invite them to meet with
the others periodically for review - even if you have no petitions to
investigate. Keep them interested! In the long haul, qualified
investigators will not only increase in ability, but in
credibility as well.
membership will learn to rely in great measure upon their expertise, and
as they approach the ballot box to make the decision for themselves, the
Lodge and for the Fraternity, they can do their duty with a great deal of
confidence that the Investigating Committee has done its job. It is a
decision that should - and must be made - with the best interests of
Masonry in mind.
Worshipful Master should appoint a Chairman of the
Investigating Committee, and he should insist that the
Chairman call a meeting of the Committee -- to meet at the
Lodge as soon as possible. As “coordinator,” he should be in
complete charge of the investigative process.
thing that should be done by the investigating committee is to review the
petition itself. That instrument is literally loaded with vital
information which is too voluminous to be transferred to the report blank
furnished each member of the committee. In many instances, the Secretary
is the only member of the Lodge - other than the
recommenders - who actually sees the petition, but the Investigating
Committee needs to examine the petition for
comparison to answers given by the petitioner during the
investigation. As a matter of fact, it would be an excellent idea
to invite the petitioner and his recommenders to meet with
the Investigating Committee at some point during their first meeting at
the Lodge. For one thing, it would impress upon the petitioner the
importance and seriousness of the step he has taken, and would put
him on notice that he must be honest and forthright with the
committee during the investigation.
after the petitioner has been excused from the meeting with the
committee, the Chairman should assign certain line of inquiry to be
followed by each member of the committee. When this has been done, they
should meet again to compare and correlate their findings, and finally
should go as a body ..... or one member could be assigned ..... to visit
the petitioner in his home. A petitioner with honest motivation and
sincere desire to become a Mason should not be intimidated by such a
committee should meet again for a final conference and decision as to
their report and recommendation to the Lodge. Thus, each member of the
Investigating Committee has made his own investigation as instructed on
Form 28. A good report should and must reflect the opinion and
recommendation of each member of the Investigating Committee.
we arrive at our recommendation to our Lodges? Well, we simply base our
recommendation upon what our investigation shows to be in the best
interests of a world-wide Fraternity of good men who desire
to be better men. We do not base our recommendation on the possibility
that our Fraternity might be able to reform a man of
questionable character by the lessons of Freemasonry. We do not
concentrate upon finding what is wrong with a
Of course this
is important, but it is equally important - if not more important - to
find out what is right about him.
are some things about a petitioner upon which the members of the
Investigating Committee should satisfy themselves. The suggestions which
follow are not all-inclusive, but provide a basis for thorough
investigation of petitioners:
FAMILY LIFE: If married, is he a good husband, father
and provider? Is he kind, gentle and considerate with his wife? Does
she support his desire to become a Mason? Do both of
them understand that some “time away from home” will be a part of
his Masonic endeavor?
Does he guide his children by example? If
divorced, does he provide for their education, share in and maintain
interest in their activities?
REPUTATION IN HOME NEIGHBORHOOD: What do his
neighbors think of him? Part of the Investigator’s job should be to visit
with his neighbors - tell him that you would like to know how he is
regarded by his neighbors. There is really no reason to go into detail
unless his neighbor happens to be a Mason. Ask his neighbors what kind of
a neighbor he is. (You need to keep in mind that in today’s society, many
neighbors never see each other, much less visit “across the fence” as in
the old days.) Does he take pride in his home and property? Many
petitioners live in apartments and/or townhouses, but: what does his
residence look like?
RECORD IN FORMER PLACE OF RESIDENCE: A good
Investigator will not overlook information to be obtained by such inquiry.
True, it will take some extra time and work, but is well worth the effort
when it comes to a good, solid investigation. If he recently moved into
your area from another city, call the Secretary of a Lodge in the town or
city where he moved from, and ask for help - particularly in those
instances where a petitioner has recently moved from a smaller community
where people know people - what they do, and how they have been regarded
as residents of the community.
CREDIT RECORD / LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES: Although
the credit record of a petitioner cannot be obtained without his written
consent for the purpose of Masonic investigation into his character, you
may obtain at the county courthouse in which he resides, or has resided,
copies of any civil judgement that has been filed against him, including
those that arise as a result of failure to pay indebtedness, and
copies of any criminal conviction; you cannot obtain criminal
background information from law enforcement officers, as it is illegal for
them to provide it. Also, you may obtain from the bankruptcy court
that includes such county in its jurisdiction, a copy of any bankruptcy
It is the
Grand Master’s desire that the lodges know how to obtain such information
from proper sources and the availability of such information while doing
an investigation concerning a petitioner for Masonry. Our present form of
“Petition for the Degrees” and the “Investigation Report Form” are
woefully inadequate instruments by which desirable information may be
gathered for benefit of the good name and reputation of our
be taken, and recommendations will be made to implement the ability of the
investigating committee to gather such information about the petitioners -
possibly on a subscription basis through a designated source - and to make
such information available to all Texas lodges.
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Does he share in worthwhile
community activities? Is he interested in the area of Public Education, in
the School Board, in City and County government? Is he willing - if given
the opportunity - to serve on Committees and Boards? Is he a registered
voter? Does he participate in local, state-wide and national elections?
Such information need not - indeed ...MUST NOT ... involve
partisan discussions, but such matters can tell an Investigator a lot
about a petitioner. Among other things, it might provide some insight as
to whether he plans to be involved in Masonic activities, or if he plans
to be satisfied to simply be a member.
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND RELATED ACTIVITIES: Does he
belong to a church? While church membership isn’t required for Masonic
membership, such information is useful to a serious investigator. In your
opinion, is he genuinely “religious” or does his “religion” appear to be a
per functionary thing?
REPUTATION IN BUSINESS AND OCCUPATION: Is he
self-employed? How do you perceive his competitors regard him? Is he
ethical, or does he take advantage of others? If he works for others, what
does his employer think of him? Does he give a full day’s work for a full
day’s pay? What about his fellow-workers: do they hold him in high regard?
ARMED FORCES RECORD: Many petitioners either have
served, or are presently serving in the Armed Forces. If a petitioner has
served in the Armed Forces, ask to see his discharge record. You might
learn something by such request. All discharges are NOT
“honorable.” On the other hand, if he HAS been honorably
discharged from the Armed Forces, he should be very proud to share his
record with you.
REASON FOR PETITIONING: Such information is getting
down to the nitty-gritty, and gives the investigator an opportunity to
allow the petitioner his time to express himself. Does he want to be a
Mason for “social, business or political reasons?” Does he want to be a
Master Mason as a stepping stone to other “Rites?” Has his wife suggested
that he petition to accommodate her desire to get into some
organization predicating membership on her husband’s Masonic membership?
Ask leading questions. Let the petitioner express himself. There are
several reasons for a man to want to be a Mason. Perhaps the example set
by a friend, family member - or simply following a family tradition. There
is nothing quite so comprehensive as digging into motives!
undeniable that our gentle fraternity has - in some instances - sown to
the wind with indifferent, hurried and incomplete investigation of the
character and qualifications of some who have knocked upon our doors for
admission. The result of such carelessness and indifference on our part
has been characterized by breaches of morality that have reflected
unfavorably upon our gentle fraternity - traditionally composed of good
prominent utilities company has a slogan for its employees: “No job
is so important, and no service so urgent, that we cannot take time to
perform our job safely.”
paraphrase that slogan, and adopt the practice that: “No petitioner
is so important, and no increase in numbers is so urgent, that we cannot
take time to thoroughly investigate all who knock upon our doors.”
Worshipful Masters, when you assign a Brother the task to investigate a
petitioner, you might remind him that he not only has the responsibility
of investigating for your Lodge ....indeed .... his responsibility is to
Freemasons throughout the entire world. His is an awesome responsibility
to say the very least. It should be treated as such.
Guard well the West Gate! Your reputation is at
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