What Role Should The Masons Have?


– Why we must become the “Merchants of Morality.”

It is no secret Masonic membership is in decline. According to the MSA, membership has gone down a whopping 68% since its high in 1959. With each passing year, fewer young men join to replace those who departed due to death. There is also no abating the number of members being suspended for non-payment of dues. A lot of people are baffled by these trends including our leaders who are at a loss as to what to do. One day classes and amnesty programs have proven ineffective. To me, the decline is indicative of an identity crisis as to who and what we are as Masons. There are those who become a Mason as nothing more than some sort of badge of honor, to make business connections, or perhaps to move on to an affiliated body, such as the Shrine. Then there are those who aspire to seek further light and seek to improve themselves in accordance with the basic tenets of Freemasonry: friendship, morality, and Brotherly love. To these people, Freemasonry is viewed as an on-going process of development as opposed to a one time proposition. The disparity between the two interpretations leads to political problems within Freemasonry and harmony suffers.

There is also the argument that membership is in decline due to changing attitudes and values among the public, and the fraternity’s inability to adapt to changing times. Socially, the world has changed substantially since the 20th century. It could be argued people are more apathetic, less industrious, more self-centered, and assume less personal responsibility for their actions. Further, the family unit has been steadily deteriorating, and we are witnessing an overall decline in the moral values of the country. According to a recent Gallup poll, “Values and Beliefs” (May 2013), 73% of the American public believes morality is getting worse, not better. This is unsettling to Masons and contributes to our problem of finding qualified people to fill our ranks. More importantly, there is a growing frustration within the fraternity as to the direction the country is moving.

Our choice is rather simple: we either abandon our principles and become a club like the Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc., or we maintain our integrity and educate the public in the necessity for leading a virtuous life. In other words, promote morality. To this end, there are two areas to concentrate on: Education and Role Models.

First, Masons need to renew their sense of identity and educate themselves internally on the principles of morality. This can be done through discussion groups and presentations. Following this, they can educate the public through open presentations. Such seminars would help dispel misconceptions about the fraternity and promote membership.

Second, morality is more effectively taught through role models. As such, Masons should be viewed as the “Merchants of Morality” thereby creating living models for how morality is to be practiced, such as basic courtesy and manners, and assisting others, e.g., neighbors, friends, co-workers, and the community. Freemasonry may not be a philanthropy, but we do a lot of philanthropic work. Our goal should be simple: to become living models for others to emulate (and possibly join our ranks in the process).

We should also recognize others in our community exhibiting outstanding morality, be it through a simple thank you, an award, or whatever. By acknowledging the work of role models, we are telling the public this person exhibits traits which should be applauded and emulated.

In the morality seminars I have been conducting lately, I am finding Masons to be particularly receptive to these ideas, not just the older members but particularly the younger members who crave a society based on integrity and honor as opposed to deceit and unscrupulous behavior. Memorizing catechisms may be nice, but trying to make the world a better place appears to be their idea of seeking “further light.”

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant who writes commentaries about the times we live in be it in the corporate world, the Masonic world, or our personal lives. His writings are well known on the Internet and are humorous, educational, and at times controversial. You won’t always agree with him, but Tim will definitely get you thinking.

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  1. The main reason we are losing member is the fact that we are not living up to the standards we are taught to live by. Too many want to make Freemasonry an Icon in the community and show the community what we can do.
    That was never the goal of Freemasonry. The craft was formed to make it members better, wiser and consequently happier. In other words it is an educational institution. The teaching take place in the lodge and being so taught each member is supposed to live his life beyond reproach.
    We were never meant to be the community support, however being taught to be a mason cause us to act in our community to support it. The craft has secrets for a reason, not to keep others from knowing, but so that the lessons taught a re impressed upon the mind. ” A quote from a brother so long ago I have forgotten his name, but it say the whole story. “if every man was a mason, and every mason walked his mile. there would be peace in every nation and life would be worthwhile”
    My contention is that we are not fully walking our mile. We prefer public notoriety to self satisfaction of doing the right thing. I do realize I am in the minority of those that think this way.
    Working our stoned and walking our mile, will start the membership roles to increase. So says ole Blake

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that Masons should set the example.

    Back when I joined I (naively) thought that’s what I was becoming a part of. Then reality (political infighting, memorization for its own sake, etc.) became revealed.

    I’m very saddened to even see the same erosions of morality within the Lodge.

    You’re right, if we don’t take a stand, who will?

    Whomever does will invariably have a massive bullseye on their back.

    The phrase “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is frequently overused to avoid responsibility.

    Mediocrity is celebrated.

    Personal entitlement is at an all-time high.

    Only together can we hope to have a positive impact. Only together can we change things for the better. Only together can we stand against the onslaught of the vile, despicable things people are doing to and against one another.

    The question is, can Masons ourselves rise above these character flaws and rediscover forgotten principles? Can we stand, publicly, for decency and morality without coming across as the fire and brimstone Bible thumpers of yesteryear? Can we demonstrate the quiet, steadfast, solid perseverance of what a good man should aspire to?

  3. There are three of points that I want to bring up.

    First, historically, Freemason Lodges were never huge congregations of men. They were usually smaller and more difficult to become part of and advance within (ask three times, memorize far more such as lectures etc.). There were a few large bursts of growth and I am greatful for them, but what we are experiencing is a *return* to normal numbers.

    Second, we lost a generation. The baby-boomers just didn’t want to join anything associated with “The System” and they were free to avoid it. Let’s face it, “The System” had some major issues that really did need to be addressed from without. They did it and many things have changed for the better.

    Third, the newer generations *are* starting to join. The lack of the *good* things “The System” offered is starting to show and these young guys are looking for that sense of community that we have strayed away from. I know that my lodge is getting more guys from Generation-X and later. We *do* provide value and people are starting to realize it. (Freemasonry owes Dan Brown some gratitude for bringing our fraternity to the attention of many people today. I know that I joined because of how the Masonic values described in “The Lost Symbol” coincided with my own so closely.)

    I think that we just need to be seen a little more. Participate in community events like charity races or the like. Be seen. Answer questions. But most important of all, be examples of what Masons are. Live the lessons and people will notice. Show how much better good men can be. (And not just through donations of money, be that great guy that people want as a neighbor!)

    Just my $0.02
    Steven Warner
    Anchorage Lodge 17
    GL of F&AM of Alaska

  4. A B.H. of Western Australia wrote…

    “We’re on the same page here, and I agree with you in all regards to the problems within the Craft. Adding that Western Australia has also been diminishing in size at a rapid rate.

    Lodges folding or amalgamating outweighs by far the number of new Lodges being consecrated.

    We have a membership committee at Grand Lodge, but I see them preaching only to the converted. I hold a strong view, which sadly many disagree with, that we should get out there in the public arena. Taking part in, organizing, or joint venturing with others public activities. Which can be done honorably and without jeopardizing the tenets and principles of Freemasonry.

    In lay terms, don’t tell the public how good the Craft is – show them. Utilizing the logic that actions speaks louder than words.”

  5. A D.M. of Tampa, Florida wrote…

    “Consider that morality should not be commoditised…like we do with human rights. Of course, this is because the economic sector does not act interdependently with human right. Effectively, the economic sector will turn everything into a commodity- that’s it’s job; what is does. Morality should not be sold, traded or bartered with. Rather, it should be as common as the bodily functions that enable the physical vehicle (e.g. breathing).

    Personally, I have taken oaths- that have nothing to do with the Craft itself -that forbid being compensated for the fruits of the spirit. FYI: that would be black magic…not the path I am on.

    One of the main reasons why memberships are down is the same exact reason why test scores in the schools are down. More precisely, the content has been crystalised; does/can not live within the human being- as a force!

    Ultimately, the Mason (and ALL human beings, today) should understand how the path leading upwards work. Then they would understand how/why morality is a key…one they absolutely acquire to adapt to a spiritual world that is, in fact, built on wisdom (i.e. morality being a sub-effect). Instead, they choose to believe that we all end up in the same place; get the same. This is incomplete and incorrect! As is above, so is below; as is below, so is above. Why wants to be deaf, dumb and blind when they go to Disney World? Yet, this is what most choose out of slothfulness and ignorance…shame and a sin. Yeah ignorance is the only real sin. “

  6. A B.B. wrote…

    “Read your latest post about membership in Freemasonry. First, let me say that I agree with what you say. I would also add the fact that younger people today are not joiners. Not only is membership in Masonry declining but also in many of the other clubs you mentioned, such as Lions and Rotary.

    What disturbs me about Masonry is a lot of the negative material about it that is available on the Internet. One post in particular is the one I’ve posted below. If you have the time to review the video, please do so.”

  7. Brother Tim,
    I know that there is much negative information about Freemasonry on the internet, yet that negative information has been around a long time. We have since early times talked about in negative terms. The internet is just a faster means of seeing it in print. My lady and I just watched the movie “42”, the story of Jackie Robinson. I think of the adversity that he face being the first Black baseball player and the movie confirmed it. It really matter not what is said about us. My dad this to me very often in my early years and as I grew I came to appreciate them a lot more: “Action speak louder than words.”
    In truth is is not what is said about us that puts us down, it is the way we address our lives in response to the negative. If we act like masons, the world will see us as good men in the community and when they find that the community is better because we are there as men, (not as Freemasons) they will see the negative criticism is unfounded. It is when we try to publicly refute it that we have problems. As I see it the bast way to proceed is to go back to the lodge as an educational institution and take the lesson to heart. The act upon what we learned.
    ole Blake

  8. I agree with this article. I truly believe that the reason all faternities’ memberships are in decline is because they offer no substance. The TV and internet offer all the entertainment and social networking a person could want and fraternities can not compete with that.
    What young men of substance yearn for is something of solid value to base their lives upon and give it meaning so they can be a part of something larger than themselves.
    Freemasonry has this and can fill this need in men’s lives if we will get to our real purpose and that is to give LIGHT to men, not entertainment. I believe if we would focus on Masonic education the thirsty would come to drink of the cup that overflows for those of us that seek it.

  9. I could not watch all the video that Brother Tim posted. It is too bad that folks like this never understood what it meant to be a mason. Yet I can see why he goes on speaking tours. It generates a great deal of money, Folks believe that he is exposing masonry. Sadly masonry is not concealed. Our works are not hidden behind closed doors. What masonry teaches is for men to go forth into the world and do what is just, right and true.

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