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The Characteristics of a True Mason

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows." Sitting Bull (Teton Sioux)  

"Together we live our values." Brother Norm Coleman  

It is with sadness that I need to report to you that our Good Brother Joe Seltzer, PGM of Masons in Minnesota, died March 25, 2004 just 23 days shy of his 100th Birthday. Brother Joe had been looking forward to his 100th Birthday celebration. He had been planning it for over a year, and many were privileged to receive an invitation to his party. I attended the funeral service for Brother Joe at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, and while it is sad to see such a man leave us, the service was a celebration of Joe's life, and those that knew him celebrate that Joe was a part of their life, that's for sure. Joe was the kind of man anyone would be proud to call a friend. At the funeral it was mentioned what Joe's mother used to have as a saying, and Joe adopted it into his own life: titled by Joe as "My Mother's words;"

"Money is round - it goes from this person to the next - it goes around. But a good name is the most valuable possession you own. Never let it go." Esther Seltzer  

Our Brother Benjamin Franklin wrote what I believe is a beautiful letter to Miss E. Hubbard, his Brother's step-daughter, upon the passing of Franklin's Brother. When, our Past Grand Master, M.W Brother Terry Tilton was our Grand Chaplain he read this letter to the members of our Grand Lodge as part of his Necrology report. I think it is something Masons would like to keep in mind when death enters our Lodge.  

Brother Franklin's letter is dated February 23, 1756 at Philadelphia, "in which he succinctly reminds us of God's eternal plan."  

"I condole with you. We have lost a dear and valuable relation. But it is the will of God and nature, that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life. This rather an embryo state, a preparation for living. A man is not completely born until he is dead. Why then should we grieve, that a new child is born among the immortals, a new member added to their happy society?  

We are spirits; that bodies should be lent to us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or in doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God. When they become unfit for these purposes, and afford us pain instead of pleasure, instead of an aid become an encumbrance, and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way.  

We ourselves in some cases, prudently choose a partial death. A mangled painful limb, which cannot be restored, we willingly cut off. He who plucks out a tooth parts with it freely, since the pain goes with it; and he, who quits the whole body, parts at once with all the pains and the possibilities of pains and diseases which it was liable to, or capable of making him suffer.  

Our friend and we are invited abroad to a party of pleasure, which is to last forever. His chair was ready first, and he has gone before us. We could not all conveniently start together; and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and know where to find him?" Adieu, B. Franklin  

"Birth is a beginning; Life is a journey; Death is the destination."  

The Rabbi at M.W. Brother Joe's Funeral  

"People cannot change truth - but truth can change people." Omar Gaffney  

The Characteristics of a True Mason  

By Brother Albert Mackey "A Mason is a man whose conduct should be squared by strict rectitude and justice towards his fellow creatures; his demeanor should be marked by the level of courtesy and kindness; while uprightness of heart and integrity of action, symbolized by the plumb, should be his distinguishing characteristic; and thus guided by the moveable jewels of Masonry, he may descend the vale of life with joy, in the hope of being accepted by the most high, as a successful candidate for admission into the Grand Lodge above."  

"Responsibility only sees goals; Failure to take responsibility sees scapegoats." Brother Dave M. Daugherty  

When does your Lodge hold its Stated Communications? Both Lodges I belong to meet at night. At one of my Lodges we always have an excellent supper prepared by the Brother who volunteered to cook for that Communication, and then after supper we open Lodge.  

It seems that in the early days of Freemasonry both before and after 1717, (the beginning of the Grand Lodge era,) there were many Lodges that met during the daylight hours. Here is the reason: Many times Lodges met at the convenience of most members, which often was in the daytime.ii In the writings of Elias Ashmole he tells us the Lodge he was initiated in met at 4 P.M. and his other Lodge, which met at the Masons Company in 1682 met about the noon hour. Many times in large cities over the centuries, where men were working nights, there were Daylight Lodges for the Masons who worked nights and also for those Masons who preferred not to go out at night.  

In the Twin Cities in Minnesota we currently have one Daylight Lodge, which meets in a suburb of St. Paul, but there appears to be interest in forming another Daylight Lodge in Minneapolis in the fall of 2004. If Lodges today were to meet at the convenience of most of its members we might see more Lodges meeting at times different than the night time hours.  

"Neither distance nor death can truly separate those who love." John Muir  

A Creed

Bt Brother Edwin Markham  
There is a destiny that makes us Brothers:  
None goes his way alone:  
All that we send into the lives of others  
Comes back into our own.  

I care not what his temples or his creeds,  
One thing holds firm and fast -  
That into his fateful heap of days and deeds  
The soul of man is cast.  

"We have committed the golden rule to memory; let us now commit it to life." Brother Edwin Markham  

When is a man a Mason? Is it when he is a member of a Lodge, or is it after he receives his first degree of Freemasonry? When does a man become a member of our Fraternity? When does he become a member of a Lodge?  

That's a lot of questions, I know, but they are questions a new Mason will ask sometimes. In Minnesota a man becomes a Mason when he receives his First Degree, but he is not a member of a Lodge at that time. To me it's interesting because at the beginning of the degree when the candidate is told in part; "this institution of which you are about to become a member," is thought sometimes as meaning he is about to join the Lodge, but in fact, it means he is about to join the fraternity, not the Lodge.  

As a member of the fraternity he is expected to conduct himself properly and not to violate any Masonic rules, regulations, or customs. In order to do this he needs to be informed, and that is the job of his Mentor. An Entered Apprentice should not be left on his own between his degrees. If he is left alone, if he is ignored, he may never learn what he wanted to learn from us, and he may never take the next degree.  

In Minnesota a Mason can only become a member of a Lodge after he has taken his Third Degree, but he is not a member of a Lodge until he has signed the by-laws of the Lodge. This is true also of a Mason who has been elected by a Lodge to membership in the Lodge; he is not yet a member until he has signed the by-laws of the Lodge.  

What about a Mason who only takes his first or second degree or what about a Mason who demits from his Lodge, what's our attitude towards them? None of them are members of a Lodge, but they all are members of our fraternity. They are all subject to Masonic responsibilities and discipline, but when we are speaking of the Masons in our town do we include these Masons, and do we include them in our Masonic activities that do not include Lodge Communications? In other words do we treat them as Masonic Brothers? Or are they just kind of forgotten by the rest of us who are members of the Lodge?  

We like to quote sayings and point with pride that a famous person was a Freemason. Masons such as Voltaire, and Samuel Clemens, (Mark Twain,) for instance, but Brother Voltaireiii was only initiated shortly before his death, (only receiving the first degree,) and Brother Clemens demitted from his Lodge, and was really only a member of it for relatively short time.iv There are other similar situations, and a look through 10,000 Famous Freemasons will bring them to mind. My point is, whether Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, or demitted Master Mason they are Brothers, and we should treat them as such. They should know we regard them as Brothers, and are willing to pass on Masonic Information to them, and help them when they need it. They are our Brothers and possibly when they know this, by what we say and do, they might become members of the Lodge. "Let the world observe how Mason's love one another."  

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read." Brother Samuel Clemens

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Last modified: March 22, 2014