What is Masonry?
Masonry, also known as “Freemasonry,” is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Its main purpose is to make good men better.
Masons are men of charity and good works, respected leaders of their communities. Many of our nations’s founding fathers were Masons, including thirteen signers of the Constitution. Fourteen U.S. Presidents were brothers of the craft, beginning with George Washington. Over four-million Masons in the U.S., from diverse religious, professional, and political backgrounds, have built this fraternity on the cornerstones of friendship, compassion, and brotherly love.
The Freemasons of South Dakota engage and inspire good men, who believe in a Supreme Being, to live according to Masonic tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Our mission is guided by the core values of our fraternity:
- Freedom: Freemasons champion the liberties and values outlined in the founding documents of the United States of America.
- Integrity: Freemasons strive to be honest, truthful and reliable, living in a just and upright manner.
- Tolerance: Freemasons embrace diversity of opinion, religious, ethnic, cultural, social, and educational differences.
Each Mason belongs to a local lodge, sometimes called a “Blue Lodge.” The elected chairman of the local lodge is called the “Master of the Lodge.” Local lodges are organized into state groups, known as “Grand Lodges.”
The Blue Lodge confers three sequential degrees: the Entered Apprentice degree, the Fellowcraft degree, and the Master Mason degree.
There are many other Masonic bodies, such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite, the Shriners, Job’s Daughters, DeMolay, Eastern Star, and Rainbow for Girls. Some of these affiliated bodies confer degrees. For example, the Scottish Rite confers degrees 4 through 32, and an honorary 33rd degree for special service. Although these degrees are numerically greater than the 3rd degree conferred by the Blue Lodge, they are not superior degrees. As Brother Mitchell M. Waring wrote in the Scottish Rite Journal (January 2003):
“No degree is higher than a Master Mason.... They amplify the Masonic story, add to knowledge, and increase interest. But, as they cannot make more complete that which is already perfect, they cannot be considered ‛higher’ than the Master Mason Degree.”
One goal of Masonry is to make good men better men. To accomplish this, Masonry teaches morals and virtues through the use of symbols, metaphors, and allegories.
To newcomers, these symbols seem strange and even unsettling, but I assure you that they have no sinister purpose. For example, you have probably seen a single eye on Masonic decorations. This eye is intended to remind us that our Creator watches over us. It is a symbol, or metaphor, of God’s omnipresence; it is not an image of God, nor is does it represent anything deeper than that. The use of this symbol is common in many cultures and many religions. In slightly different forms, it appears on the American dollar bill, in stained glass windows in many European churches, and in Latin American Christmas decorations.
This — with other symbols, metaphors, and allegories — is intended to make you a better man, reverent to your Creator, helpful to the Brotherhood of Man, and mindful of the virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice.