SPEECH ABOUT "WHAT IS FREEMASONRY"
by MWB Jeffrey O. Nations, Grand Master (1997-1998)
Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Missouri
RWB Phillip G. Elam,
Grand Orator (1999-2000)
Grand Lodge of A.F.&A.M. of
- A Fraternal Organization
- With a Strong Social Purpose
- Whose Members Have High Moral Standards and Work to the Benefit of
Freemasonry is the science by which morality is taught
through the visible symbols and instructive traditions associated with
the erection of King Solomonís Temple some 3,000 years ago. Like every
science and permanent institution, Freemasonry is built on certain
conceded principles. These include a belief in the one living and true
God, a revelation of His Will, the resurrection of the body, and the
immortality of the soul. When we say "one God," we refer to whatever
Supreme and Benevolent Being in which a man places his ultimate trust.
We are a non-denominational institution accepting men of all faiths.
Freemasonry is the ardent supporter of every religion. It denies to no
man his particular theological or secular beliefs, but rather
complements and fulfills those beliefs.
Without an expressed belief in these principles, no man
can ever become a Freemason. Acceptance of the Fatherhood of God is
the very foundation of the Masonic Institution; from this Fatherhood
logically flows the Brotherhood of Man.
The Masonic Fraternity stands before the world today, not
merely as a marvelous monument of antiquity, older, larger and more
widely spread than any other human institution, but as having
maintained for so many centuries the essentials of its primary
organization. It has long outlived the circumstances which gave it
birth. Originally an association of operative stonemasons and
builders, whose monuments of rare skill still adorn almost every part
of the old world, the hands of time have brought those operative
labors to a close. The Everlasting Principles, however, upon which our
beloved Craft was founded, are as intact today as they were when it
emerged from the very shadows of prehistory. Thus, over the centuries,
as the demand for builders of physical temples has subsided,
Freemasons have transitioned their efforts to building "spiritual
temples" in the hearts of men.
Our ancient Brethren sought to erect temples fit
for worship. Freemasonryís great mission today is, and forever shall
be, to make those who worship fit to enter those temples.
Since its founding, dynasties have come and gone,
nations have been born and buried, and countless orders and societies
have been organized and passed into obscurity. Our Order alone has
maintained its ancient organization, teaching its lessons of love,
peace on earth, goodwill toward man, and is today greater and stronger
than it has ever been.
Freemasonry is a broad system of Morals and Ethics. That
is, a science of human duties, whose principals are accepted by all
religions as essential to human excellence. The cornerstone of these
principles rests upon the recognition of a Divine Truth that mankind
has a common origin and a common destiny; and that God is the Creator
and Father of all of us. Out of that relationship with Deity grows the
Brotherhood of Man. Freemasonryís great purpose is to intensify that
relationship. Thus, Freemasonry teaches Love, Faith, and Duty, unites
man in the strong embrace of fraternal fellowship, and induces
emulation of who can best work and best agree. Freemasonry thus
becomes a system of spiritual education wherein is taught not only the
virtues, but also the useful lessons of everyday life.
The Temple of King Solomon signifies to us the Temple of
our bodies, that is, our Inner Spiritual Temple. The tools and
implements used in the building of Solomonís Temple signify to us the
cultivation of the virtues to be practiced in the erection of the
inner spiritual temple of man. The traditions associated with
Solomonís Temple serve as worthy examples for our imitation, and to
inspire in us a love of all that is good and true.
Freemasonry teaches us that the most important part of
life lies in the discharge of our duties
toward God and our fellow man. That eminent patron of Freemasonry, St.
John the Evangelist, when so old that he had to be carried in the arms
of his friends into an assembly of children, lifted himself up and
said: "Little children, love one another." When asked, "Have you
nothing else to tell us?" he replied, "I say this again and again,
because if you do this, nothing more is needed." That, dear reader, is
the foundation of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is not a mere pastime; not a mere amusement.
It is an active, living principle. Its ritual, its symbolism, and its
drama are not empty ceremonies. Formed and perfected over the
centuries, they serve to exemplify and impart important truths for
mankind. Freemasonry adapts its theories, its ethical thought, and its
teachings to the practical relations of life.
There are no dogmas in Freemasonry. Its so-called
"secrecy" is confined to simple means of communication and methods of
recognition. Its tenets are universally approved. What Freemasonry
condemns no good man upholds. The essence of Freemasonry is character.
A man is what he does. The Masonís manhood and worth is not measured
by wealth, fame or fortune, but by faithful, consistent and unselfish
service. In like manner, the measure and worth of any institution is
the effect it has upon the individual and society.
What has Freemasonry given to mankind and society? It
paved the way for freedom of speech. It has ever been the enemy of any
power that suppressed free thought and the enslavement of the mind. It
rejects the bigotry and superstition that erected inquisitions and
persecution of all types; and the ignorance and fanaticism that
invented instruments of torture and deprivation. It points out to man
that free thought and free speech, and the study of the sciences, are
necessary for mankindís mental and intellectual emancipation; that the
study of nature brings manís soul nearer to his Creator; and that
knowledge drives out ignorance and superstition. It has taught mankind
that, after he has emancipated himself from the vices that tyrannize
and oppress, he must learn to govern himself wisely by practicing the
Cardinal Virtues of Freemasonry: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and
Man is a social creature. As such, our nature compels us
to seek the companionship of others. We, therefore, see our Brothers
and their families, animated by the same noble purpose, meeting in the
Lodge where they can feel the hearty touch of the hand, hear words of
inspiration and encouragement, and enjoy the pleasure, entertainment,
and fellowship of this time-honored institution. While gathered in
these great assemblies, we confer our ceremonial degrees, provide
relief to the indigent, assistance to the worthy, and administer
systems of care to those who are less fortunate. Freemasonry is all of
this and much, much more. Beneath and beyond all of these is the deep,
permanent passion for the betterment of the Brotherhood of Man.
Freemasonry, as the ardent supporter of religion, benevolence, and
morality places before man the incentives to goodness through the
contemplation of the Holy Principles of Divine Truth.
The tenets our Ancient Order are Brotherly Love,
Relief and Truth -Ė and first among them is Brotherly Love. It is the
very cement which holds together the social edifice of this world. No
one can measure the extent of human sympathy or brotherly love, but we
know it to be one of the mightiest social forces of all time, and that
without it, life would be a merciless and cruel existence. We know
that when there is an unselfish love in the hearts of men, the better
nature within each of us responds in kind. It is this kindly spirit of
Brotherhood, the gentle touch of the hand, and the sympathetic word
that brings forth a harvest of good deeds, noble thoughts, and the
highest aspirations of mankind.
Freemasonry has ever been the patron of learning. Its votaries long
ago discovered that ignorance was the mother of nearly all of the
evils and dangerous environments that afflicted humanity; that
education dispelled this evil, set free the victims of its influence,
and put a smile where terror and despair had planted sorrow. In its
unending efforts to eliminate such human afflictions, Freemasonry has
perhaps performed its greatest labor, breaking down the walls of
religious hatred and intolerance that for too long divided men into
opposing sects and hostile camps. The great religious ecumenical
councils of today, and the religious tolerance and mutual
understanding they endeavor to convey, has been the foundation and
practice of Freemasonry since time immemorial. The Freemason is thus
prepared through ceremonies, ritual and moral lessons to undertake his
grand mission to teach, by precept and example, all that is beautiful
and useful in this life, and to prepare for life hereafter.
After all of the great lectures on philosophy have been delivered,
when the wisest statesmen shall have done their utmost to alleviate
what is harsh and cruel in social conditions, and science shall have
unraveled the mysteries of the universe, there will still be the
necessity for a kindly smile, a helping hand, a cup of cool water, and
a quiet word of encouragement. It is because Freemasonry has ever
given the cup of cool water, extended a hand to one who has fallen,
and spoken the words of comfort and cheer, that millions of good men
of every religion and culture, and from every corner of the world have
knelt at its altar.
It is these same men, Brothers in spirit and deed, with eyes
uplifted and hearts responsive to the needs of those who are
journeying through life with them, that form the Masonic Fraternity
throughout the world. It is the good and true men of this Brotherhood
that live with the great satisfaction which comes only from relieving
suffering, dispensing happiness, and to aid the unification of
Our charitable efforts today are many. The Masonic family
encompasses many different organizations. Men's organizations
include the Blue Lodges, the Scottish and York Rites, the Ancient
Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Grotto, and the
Knights Templar. Ladies organizations include the Order of the Eastern
Star, which also includes men who are Freemasons. Youth organizations
include The Daughters of Job and Rainbow for Girls for our young
women, and the Order of DeMolay for our young men. Each of these
organizations has its own unique ceremonies, and supports charitable
and philanthropic causes. Every day the Masonic Family is responsible
for contributing literally millions of dollars in charitable
donations, and thousands of volunteer hours to worthwhile causes of
This, my friends, is Freemasonry. May it live on through us for
countless ages, and may we be ever worthy to spread Masonic Light for
the generations yet to come.
To these, our principal beliefs and poetic truths, we say as our
forefathers did before us: "So mote it be."
We hope that men of a higher character who seek to share
in our Brotherly Love, who wish to contribute to the relief of others
less fortunate, and who use Divine Truth as the cornerstone of all
their endeavors will consider joining the oldest, largest, and most
prestigious fraternal organization in the world Ė Freemasonry.
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