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What is Freemasonry about today?

Modern Freemasonry is experiencing a resurgence, thanks to a measurable up tick in interest among men in their 20s and 30s. Popular culture has picked up on this, with the release of several movies and books that paint the Fraternity in a positive light. Such publicity is welcome, even when it involves tall tales about fictitious organizations that sound vaguely masonic, like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, or yarns like National Treasure, which got the virtues right, if not the facts.

The Masonic family, and specifically its core: the centuries-old mens' fraternity of Freemasons, which we call Masons for short, has a place for anyone of good character who believes in a Supreme Being. Values-led and tradition-minded, our message may sound quaint to modern sensibilities. But by taking the long view of history we think we're more timeless than quaint.

What brought us together here is shared values and these shared values are what keep us connected. Still, we're not going to tell you what your political leanings ought to be, and we're not going to tell you how to worship God, as you see Him. We may differ therefore on the finer points of our politics and theology, yet we firmly believe we can still create community.

Freemasons understand that men of good character may differ on some of the big questions in life and still be men of integrity. We agree to respect each other's 'sovereignty' or self-rule over these issues, and therefore we focus on the points we have in common:

* We love our families and care for our children, our widows and orphans.

* We are motivated to help our communities and protect the unfortunate, the weak, the young or old.

* We all want to become better men -- better fathers or grandfathers, better husbands, better workers or leaders.

* In this, we don't compete against each other; this is a matter of personal improvement against our younger selves, as we mature.

* We believe in God, but leave matters of faith and doctrine to the individual. This sets us apart from an atheistic, secular worldview that would deny the existence of a Being that, we believe, is the creator and preserver of the Universe.

* We allow for similar freedom of conscience in matters of political view.

* We understand the importance of listening to the lessons of history.

In the most basic sense, Masonry is therefore a highly personal pursuit, embracing values like those listed above. It's how we, as individuals, have decided to interact with our world, by building community in spite of our differences.

Herb Highum and Dean Hatlevig don their aprons and take a seat in the Lodge room before a meeting.

Within the Masonic Family, virtually all Masons belong to a Lodge: a local, community-based group of Masons. The only exceptions are when a Mason demits, or leaves a Lodge in good standing, with a plan to join another Lodge, or, when a Lodge closes, temporarily leaving a few members without a Lodge home. Some Masons belong to multiple Lodges, and often, one or more of the other organizations in the Masonic family. We join any of these at our own option, or upon invitation, once we've become Freemasons. For example, many Masons have an interest in history and philosophy, seeking to enjoy a lifetime of learning and growth. The Fraternity provides a wealth of opportunity for this pursuit. For them, the Scottish Rite or York Rite may be especially fulfilling due to their focus on the philosophical underpinnings of the Fraternity. We have nothing less to contemplate than the awesome inheritance of Western Civilization, which we had a hand in establishing. Not coincidentally, it's been said that there has been more written over the years about Masonry than any other subject except Religion. Equally rewarding and fulfilling are the numerous social functions offered by lodges and our associated (we call them appendant) groups. The Shrine is a good example of the light-hearted side of the Fraternity. Other Masons relish in the many charitable and community projects we support, like local philanthropy, our support of children's hospitals, cancer research, our Kids ID program and the thousands of events of unheralded daily charity that men of good character perform each day.

Since no one knows just how old the Fraternity is nor how it started, it's been the topic of much conjecture over the years. We first appeared publicly in England some 50 years prior to the American Revolutionary War; but most scholars think our roots go much further back. Even as early as 1717 Masons had begun to publicly support such radical concepts as Political Freedom, Religious Tolerance, and Personal Integrity. These ideals still motivate us -- they're why we joined, seeking the company of like-minded men. If such ideals appeal to you, too, we invite you to take a closer look.

How do I become a Mason?

Becoming a member of our Fraternity is not a difficult task.

If you look around you, you very well may discover that you are already in the company of Masons. Look closely for bumper stickers or medallions with the "Square and Compass" insignia. Look for rings, tie tacks and/or lapel pins with the insignia, and if you find one amongst your acquaintances, make inquiry with him about joining "the Lodge". If you do not know a Mason in Rushford or Houston, email Past Master of the Lodge, Bob Erickson, or get in touch with one of the Lodge Officers. Ask him about submitting your petition for membership in the Lodge. He will be more than happy to assist you. If you like, you can download a copy of the petition form in PDF format.

Once a petition is submitted, the following things happen, in the following order:

The petition is read, for the benefit of the membership, at the next regular Stated Communication (business meeting), and the Master of the Lodge will appoint an investigating committee, usually several senior members of the Lodge, who will contact you and find a mutually convenient time to meet with you to talk to you and determine if you meet the prerequisites for membership. Prerequisites are generally that you are an honest and upright man who conducts his affairs with dignity and treats all mankind fairly and decently. They will then report their findings to the Master of the Lodge. Since it is not practical that you meet all the people who will be balloting on your petition, the committee interviews you and reports their findings, through the Master, to the entire Lodge.

The petition will be read at the next Stated Communication and it will be voted on by the membership present. If you are accepted as a member, you will be contacted by the Secretary, and instructed as to when and where to report for your "First Degree", that of "Entered Apprentice", at which time the Lodge, in full ceremony, will confer the ancient rites and rituals of that Degree.

After the Degree, there will be some study on your part to commit parts of what happened to you and with you that night to memory and recite it before the Lodge, and then on to the Second Degree, that of "Fellowcraft", or in the terms of our ancient brethren, "Fellow of the Craft", and then on to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.

You can meet no finer group of men than those you will find in a Lodge of Free Masons and, in our opinion, no higher ideals to hold yourself to.

In the last three centuries, famous men joined the Masonic Fraternity, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindberg, Will Rogers, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, John Wayne, Buzz Aldrin, and many others too numerous to mention. Their legacies shaped history and the way we live today.


There are many different aspects and levels in the structure of Freemasonry to get involved in. Click on the drawing below to see a larger view:

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