What Is Masonry?
Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. No one knows just how
old it is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the
guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly,
they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed
in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.
In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge
was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Masonry in some
geographical area. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge in each state and the
District of Columbia. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge in each province. Local
organizations of Masons are called lodges. There are lodges in most towns, and large
cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.
How Did It Get To America?
In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing
speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several
lodges in the Colonies, and Masonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In
addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers — men such as George Washington,
Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock — were Masons. Masons and Masonry
played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in
the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of
Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic lodges.
How Does A Man Become A Mason?
The person who wants to join Freemasonry must be a man (it’s a fraternity), sound in
body and mind, who believes in God, is at least the minimum age required by Masonry in
his state, and has a good reputation. (Incidentally, the “sound in body” requirement — which
comes from the stonemasons of the Middle Ages — doesn’t mean that a physically challenged
man cannot be a Mason; many are).
Those are the only “formal” requirements. But there are others, not so formal. He should
believe in helping others. He should believe there is more to life than pleasure and money.
He should be willing to respect the opinions of others. And he should want to grow and
develop as a human being.
Some men are surprised that no one has ever asked them to become a Mason. They may
even feel that the Masons in their town don’t think they are “good enough” to join. But it doesn’t
work that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to join the
fraternity. We can talk to friends about Freemasonry. We can tell them about what Freemasonry
does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can’t ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.
There’s a good reason for that. It isn’t that we’re trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason
is a very serious thing. Joining Freemasonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in
certain ways. We’ve listed most of them above — to live with honor and integrity, to be willing to
share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God. No one
should be “talked into” making such a decision.
So, when a man decides he wants to be a Freemasonry Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition
or application. He fills it out and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge.
The Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his family, find out a little
about him and why he wants to become a member of the Masons, tell him and his family about
Freemasonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes
on the petition. If the vote is affirmative — and it usually is — the lodge will contact the man to set the
date for the Entered Apprentice Degree. When the person has completed all three degrees, he is a
Master Mason and a full member of the Freemasonry fraternity.
To learn more about our lodge or to join, visit the About Us page.