I am basing this musing on something Loyd Davis wrote when he was the Worshipful Grand Orator for the Grand Lodge of Utah. In his oration he mentioned that "there are six things you know about a mason before you know his name." They are:
- He believes in God.
- He believes in the immortality of the soul.
- He offers himself in the service of God.
- He strives to live a moral life.
- He believes in charity toward all mankind.
- He has pledged to assist and protect his Brother Masons.
I want to talk about what each of those items mean, and why they matter in the modern world; why they are not just outdated concepts. Let's start with number 1: He believes in God. Notice that this is not qualified by naming a particular denomination's god, it is just God; capital G. Freemasons admit all who believe in a higher power into their fellowship, and do not allow any atheists. Why does this matter, why is a belief in a supreme being so important to Freemasons? When you become a Freemason, in the very first degree, you are counselled to never begin any undertaking without invoking the name of God, and you are instructed to put your trust in Him. If you do not believe in God, what good would it do you to put your trust in Him. You can not even embark on the first step without this confidence. Another reason for this requirement is that you have solemn obligations that you willingly take on yourself (see #'s 3 through 6), and that you confirm before God, making yourself answerable to Him. Why is this important in the modern scope of things? Too often, people do things because there are no repercussions, there is no punishment at all. For a Mason, there are two sources of repercussions, God, and his fellow Masons. You see, there is no Masonic God, there is only the God of the individual, and I am answerable to mine, as a Muslim is answerable to his, and a Jew to his. The important thing isn't whether other people believe in my God, it is if I do. If I make a promise in His name, then I better keep it. An atheist has no such concern, for when they die, that is the end, or so they believe. What difference does it make to them if they have kept their promise or not? This brings us nicely to number 2: He believes in the immortality of the soul. This means that he believes that he will continue to be responsible for his obligations even after he dies. He knows that he will face the judgement bar of God and have to answer for the things done, whether good or bad. He knows that his state in the afterlife depends, in some measure at least, on how he fares in this judgement. This matters for much the same reason as number 1; there will be a moment when all the past errors will have to be answered for. There is no "till death do us part" for a Mason and his sins, he will have to stand before the Grand Architect (a Masonic name for God) and show his life, as an Apprentice would have to show the master his Master's piece, the work that demonstrated that the apprentice was worthy to become a master himself. After this life we Masons will have to show our Master the life we have lived, and He will decide if we have done well. Because of this, we find number 3: He offers himself in the service of God. King Benjamin asked in Mosiah 5:13:
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
Only by serving God, and God's children, can we truly come to know him. Just as an Apprentice Mason has to learn from a Master Mason how to carve stone, or how to square his work, a man must learn from God how to carve his life in the likeness of God, and how to square his actions to God's desires for him. Too often, in this day of science and moral relativism, men will only follow their own version of truth, rather than looking for a universal truth. Masons seek the light and knowledge from God to know how to live, and what they need to do to help their fellow man. Number 4 and 5 go together... He strives to live a moral life because he believes in charity (Love) towards all mankind. A true Mason could not defraud another out of anything of any value, simply because he loves that person in a perfect way. He truly understands the golden rule and "does unto others as he would have them do unto him." This has obvious implications in the crazy world we live in, where men and women beat, torture, and kill for a pretense. Where parents ignore their children, and where aged parents are left alone in homes. Charity (Pure Love) towards our fellow men, more especially fellow Masons, means that we take care of their needs, we look after them, as well as their widows and orphans, when necessary. Finally, he has pledged himself in the defense of his brother Masons. A mason will care for a fellow mason, if it is within his power to do so, and will fly to the aid of a Mason in distress. Whether this means defending his character in the face of criticisms, or just offering a friendly face to a visitor during a lodge meeting, no matter where he goes, a Mason has friends there at the local lodge building. Across the world, Freemasons do amazing works of charity, giving of their time, treasure, and lives to help those around them, their communities, and their fellow Masons. So if you have ever wondered why I became a Master Mason, read the above and ask yourself if you wouldn't want to associate with a group of men of such high caliber.