Why I did what I did, when I know what I know...
One of the most common questions I get when people find out that I am a Master Mason is; "Why did you decide to become a Mason?" The question is usually posed by my fellow Latter-day saints, and is often followed by "Can you be both?" I will attempt to answer both questions in this post.
Why did you decide to become a Mason?
When I was first introduced to Masonry, or The Craft as it is sometimes called, it was through a group of Civil War re-enacters that donate their time at Camp Floyd State Park. During the course of out interactions I came to understand more about Masonry. I should mention here that Masons do not recruit or proselytize, if you are interested you petition them for membership. I was introduced to men like Loyd "One L" Davis, who would later become Grand Master of Masons for Utah, Michael Moon and John Liley, the current Grand Master. These were men who, although not of the same faith, background, economic class, etc. always treated each other with respect and behaved in a way that spoke more about the Love of God than many a sermon or testimony I have heard. Another influencing factor behind my decision to petition for membership is the history of Masonry and the LDS Church. Joseph Smith was a Master Mason, as were almost all the men that lived in Nauvoo. My own Great-great-great Grandfather, Wilford Woodruff, was a Master Mason; as well as the fourth president of the LDS Church. I wanted to see what they had learned from Masonry, and what influences Masonry has had on the LDS faith. The final reason for my petitioning for membership was that Masons perform a great deal of service and charity work in their communities. Blue Lodge Masonry (comprising the first 3 degrees) perform different fundraising activities within their local lodges and then donate those funds to a variety of worthy causes. In our lodge (Uintah #7 in Bountiful) we keep a Mason jar and collect change from members. At the end of the year whatever we have collected is donated to a local charity; last year we donated to the Bountiful food bank. In addition, there are Masonic Learning Centers maintained by the Scottish Rite and, of course, the Shriner's hospitals. As Latter-day Saints we are commanded to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness." We are presented with many opportunities to serve from within the church, but there are times when a Mason can serve where a "Mormon" might not be as welcomed. In the end, it was the opportunity to associate with great men of diverse faiths, beliefs, social and economic backgrounds that brought me to Masonry, but it is the service and good will produced by these men that keep me here.
Can you be both a Mason and a "Mormon"?
The simple answer to this question is "yes", but there is more to the question that meets the eye. The history of the LDS faith and Masonry is long and storied. As I mentioned before, Joseph Smith was a Master Mason and served as the Chaplain in the Lodge in Nauvoo. Hyrum was the Worshipful Master (the head of a lodge of Masons), and in an ironic twist Porter Rockwell was the Tyler (he stands outside the door of the lodge during meetings, armed with a sword, and keeps away anyone that isn't supposed to be there). Since the days of Nauvoo, there has never been a prohibition against a Latter-day Saint joining the Masonic fraternity from the Church side of things. In fact, when I asked my Stake President for his thought on my petitioning his response was "go ahead." There was a period of time, however, where masonry denied entry to members of the LDS faith. This was only in Utah, and was rescinded in 1984, but there are still fewer Masons in Utah compared with other states and fewer still that are both. For the reasons behind the restrictions see "Freemasonry in Utah." Masonry provides an additional outlet for service and is not in conflict with the principles of the restored Gospel. I have never regretted my decision to join the Craft, and hope that if you are interested in Masonry you will feel free to ask me any questions you might have. In the spirit of the great men that influenced me; Mike Moon, Loyd Davis, and John Liley; I hope I can provide you with both information and an example of what it means to be a Mason.