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Membership in the brotherhood of Masons means many things.
It means being part of an unbroken tradition that stretches back over 500 years to a time when guilds of freemasons traveled throughout Europe laying the stones of the great Gothic cathedrals.
It means sharing the values of our nation's founding fathers; the ideals of men who believed in the brotherhood of man are firmly rooted in the Constitution of the United States.
It means becoming a better person while helping to improve the quality of life for others. It means forming deep and lasting friendships that transcend the boundaries of race, religion and culture, as well as those of geography.
But most of all, being a Mason means the kind of deep satisfaction that comes only from selfless giving; from doing for others without expecting anything in return.
Masons were active in America even before 1733, the year the first Provincial Grand Lodge of Masons was formally organized by Henry Price. Today the United States can proudly claim the oldest continuously operating Masonic organization in the Western Hemisphere.
In its early years, Masonry numbered among its members some of the nation's most influential citizens - among them George Washington, Henry Knox, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere.Many of those who participated in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and Bunker Hill were Masons. Many patriots who participated in the Boston Tea Party were believed to be Masons. Others, such as Dr. Joseph Warren, who was a Grand Master, sacrificed their lives in the struggle for independence from British rule.
The values that were important then - loyalty, patriotism, liberty, courage and faith - are just as important to Masons today. The principles upon which this country was founded are deeply embedded in Masonry.
Basic to most of the world's great religions is the belief in what some might call the "old fashioned" values of honesty, fair play and unselfishness in dealing with others.
Freemasonry shares many of the same beliefs; and, through its traditions and teachings, attempts to instill in its members both the desire and the means to improve themselves and the lives of others
However, while it may adhere to many of the same values associated with a religious faith, Masonry is not a religion. It is a brotherhood of men from every country, sect, and opinion, joined in a common effort to make themselves better people, to ease the suffering of others, and to make the world a better place
To achieve these goals, Masonry does not promote itself or its individual members. Instead, it teaches by example. New members are not publicly recruited; they are attracted by the example of good men performing good works and living good lives.
Who becomes a Mason? Anyone and everyone -- accountants, businessmen, teachers, contractors, professional men and laborers. Masons come from all walks of life and levels of income. They represent every race, creed and culture.
In Masonry, it doesn't matter whether a man is a bricklayer or a physician, a waiter or the mayor of the city. All are on equal footing in the Lodge room.
The ceremonies and practices of the Masons have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. No matter where a Lodge is located, its members share the common bond of having passed through the same solemn ceremony of degrees.
Because of this, members can find brother Masons wherever they go. Across the country and around the world, there are Lodges in nearly every city and in many smaller communities.
It's a good feeling to know that, wherever a man's travels may take him, he has friends he can depend upon and trust.
Freemasonry is built upon three basic tenets - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Brotherly Love is the practice of the Golden Rule. Relief embodies charity for all mankind. Truth is honesty, fair play and adherence to the cardinal virtues.
These moral lessons are taught during three ceremonies, or "degrees" through allegory and symbolism using the traditional stonemasons tools.
The First Degree uses the gavel and gauge to remind the new member of his dependence on others and his subordination to God. In the Second Degree, the square, level, and plumb are used to reinforce the moral lessons of brotherly love and service. And in the Third Degree, the trowel and other tools encourage the candidate to reflect on life and on the value of faithfulness to his promises.
After the Three Degrees, members may explore other branches of Masonry, such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine.
Freemasonry is not a secret organization. Lodge buildings are clearly marked and listed in the phone book. Members frequently wear rings and pins identifying themselves as Masons. However, Masonry values confidentiality and, as with many other organizations, many of its meetings are not open to the public.
Of all the cardinal virtues, none is more valued in Masonry than selfless giving. Examples of Masonic charity are legion.
Nationally, Masons contribute more than $2 million every day to relieve suffering and for the enrichment of mankind. Masons are the founding sponsors and supporters of the Shriners Burns Institutes and the Shriners Hospitals for Children, both of which offer their services free of charge. Every Shriner is a Mason. Scottish Rite Masons are responsible for the the other charitable efforts described elsewhere on these Web pages.
Satisfaction derived from these endeavors cannot be measured in ordinary terms. We will say, however, that it is through helping others that man most helps himself.
If you would like to learn more about Masonry or to become a Mason, contact any Mason or Masonic Lodge or telephone the Grand Lodge of your state.