Robert G. Davis, 33
The character of Masons speaks more eloquently than
all the books and pamphlets written about Masonry.
“If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself.” Bro. Woodrow Wilson
Perhaps it’s true that all institutions ultimately move away from their orthodoxy. Times change. People move through their organizations; some affect them, others don’t. And over the long haul, it’s sometimes hard to keep the institution’s original definition and the member’s purpose for joining in focus.
Today, for instance, it seems every Grand Jurisdiction has at least one brochure defining Freemasonry, explaining Masonic principles, and what Masons do. They tell the world who we are, and are not; what Masons believe, what we do in Lodge, the kinds of charities we support, our importance in the world, why people should join us, how to join. My own Grand Lodge of Oklahoma has published at least five different pamphlets in an attempt to give an adequate definition. In addition, almost every national Masonic organization has jumped on the bandwagon and published one or more brochures of their own.
Then, of course, we usually suffer from our share of “not-so-informed” information about us. This is usually distributed by non-Masonic groups that delight in exploiting our foibles and exposing our alleged flaws. These jaundiced critics include the anti-Masons-some television evangelists, individuals who like to print hatred, and representatives of some fundamentalist churches of various faiths with the wrong mission at heart.
I, personally, don’t mind any of the above. The fact is that, although Freemasonry cannot be completely defined, Grand Lodges and other Masonic organizations should make as much available in the way of Masonic information and education as they can to both their members and the general public. And, in my view, the anti-Masonic materials do little actual damage. We get attention, even when the information is bad.
I’m still idealistic enough to believe that most folks form their own opinions about organizations regardless of what they read about them. I hold to the premise that thoughtful people will generally give little credence to information that appears biased in its content. And, while I have never met a thoughtful anti-Mason, I expect the reason they pay so little heed to all the education we try to give them is that they assume we are just as biased as they are!
It really makes little difference. But what does make a real difference to everyone is that we hold to our orthodoxy. The creed of Masonry is moral action. Masonry to the world is the character of Masons.
In short, the character of Freemasons speaks more eloquently than all the books and pamphlets written about Masonry!
This means that in the community where Masons are known as such and are men of high integrity, the Fraternity stands in high repute. And in the community in which there are some Masons who do not have the respect of the public, Masonry has no chance of being accepted as a beautiful system of morals and ethics worthy of support and membership.
It’s just that simple. The reputation of Freemasonry is literally in the character of each Mason. It is in the power of every member to glorify or diminish the institution.
It’s important that we, as Freemasons, understand that the overwhelming majority of the public will never read a word about Masonry or know of its philanthropies. Its idea of the Fraternity will never be well-defined. And on the sole basis of judgement it will always fall back on the character of the men they know as Masons and who, therefore, are supposed to exemplify Masonry’s teachings.
Generally, people do not read books; people read men. Masonry is to them what they read in the temperament and behavior of Masons. Of course, this places an awesome responsibility on every Mason in every community in the world.
The fact is that one bad example can do us a lot of harm. When one of us is caught up in some public scandal, or unethical business dealing or some immoral act, the public takes it for granted that Masonry, for all its beautiful system of morality, either condones such lapses or is too weak to be of adequate influence to prevent such behavior by its teachings.
So it really is up to each of us. The bottom line is that the Mason who lives up to the teachings and obligations of Masonry will be a man without reproach in all his dealings-not only with his Brethren, but also among his neighbors, his family, his friends, his fellow church members, and his community.
-It would be wonderful to hear the merchant note, “I have been taken in by a good many scoundrels, but never have I had any trouble with a man who wore the Square and Compasses.”
-Or, to have the minister proclaim, “I know nothing of the religious or non-religious teachings of Freemasonry, but I have never heard a Mason make a disparaging remark concerning the church.”
-Or to have the judge remark, “Never in my experiences on the bench have I had a case before me of two Masons going at each other through the law.”
-Or to hear good non-Masons mention, “I frequently attend social gatherings of Masons, and while I don’t know anything about the inner workings of the fraternity, the clean-mindedness and solid behavior of Masons impress me and makes me believe Masonry’s teachings must be good.”
-Or to have someone say, “I do not know what the Masonic emblem means, but I suppose the letter G stands for gentleman, because I have always found the man who wears it to be one.”
-Or to have it as common knowledge among the members of the community that they have never known a Mason to be involved in any scandal.
In a practical, public sense, we are what other people
say we are. Thus, the best argument for Freemasonry is a good Mason. Just
as the best example of humanity is a good human.