Basic Information about Freemasonry
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a fraternity dedicated to positive growth in our communities and families, and the religious development of each member in his own beliefs. Masons assist the less fortunate as well as share fellowship with like-minded men from all walks of life. Freemasonry encourages its members to strive to become better men, husbands, fathers and employees and contemplate the ‘sublime mysteries’ in the world around them.
Masonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world, founded on values, which teaches trust in fellow man and helping those less fortunate. Its lessons of brotherly love, relief and truth are taught as allegories and meant for the improvement and education of our members.
Over the centuries, Masonic scholars have explored numerous theories of its origins. However, no one knows with certainty how Freemasonry began. We do know that Masonry is based on the Stonemason’s guilds formed in the middle ages to build castles, cathedrals and monasteries.
Freemasonry can be found in every free country in the world.
What does Freemasonry support?
The Masonic fraternity believes its members have an obligation to give back to their communities for the benefit of others. Nationwide, Masons give more than $2 million a day to charities. It is an important point to emphasize that Masons are taught to go about these tasks in a quiet, unassuming fashion. This is meant to impress upon our members that it is the work, and not the individual, that is of importance. It also preserves the dignity of the recipients. The philanthropic work of our Grand Lodge and its lodges include:
- Child Identification Program (CHIP). Local lodges provide to families at no cost several means of identifying their children in the event they are missing: videotaped interview, fingerprint, a Toothprints® bite impression, a DNA cheek swab and a digital still photograph.
- Scholarships. A number of academic scholarships are presented by the Grand Lodge as well as local lodges.
- Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children. Quality care is available to children separated from their homes because of death, divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, or inability to adjust to their present living situation. The Home, located in Fremont, offers an environment of love, security, and acceptance where children can grow and develop as individuals.
- The Nebraska Masonic Home. The Home in Plattsmouth provides quality long-term health care and an independent living environment for Nebraska Master Masons and their qualified relatives.
- Masonic All-Star Marching Band Clinic. Annually, about 260 of Nebraska’s best high school band students attend the five-day Masonic All-Star Marching Band Clinic from all corners of the state. After practicing music and parade and field marching, the students perform in the Shrine Bowl Parade and during half-time of the Shrine Bowl Football Game. Masonic lodges, and other Masonic-related organizations, pay the entire cost for each student to attend.
Local Masonic lodges not only support these charities, but also many community charitable efforts.
How is Freemasonry organized?
The Grand Lodge of Nebraska is the governing body for the more than 134 lodges in over 130 communities.
Members join local lodges where instruction is given and the actual work of the fraternity is conducted. The primary officers of Masonic lodges are elected by the membership and serve one year, although some may be re-elected in a succeeding year. The Worshipful Master is the primary officer of the lodge. The term “worshipful” has no religious connotation but is a term of respect just as the designation “honorable” is used in our legislative branches. His role is similar to the presiding officer of any organization. He appoints other officers and committees to carry out the work of the lodge.
What is a degree?
A degree is a level of membership; the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft or Master Mason. A degree also refers to a morality play or ceremony in which a man participates to achieve each stage of membership. Degrees teach lessons using a system of symbols and allegories. There is never any hazing or poor taste in the degrees.
Each degree uses symbols to teach lessons in life based on the architectural symbolism of the medieval Stonemasons who built castles, cathedrals and monasteries — the importance of honor and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely, of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual nature as well as a physical or animal nature, of the importance of self-control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep confidential what others tell you so that they can “open up” without fear.
Is Freemasonry a secret organization?
This is a widespread misconception. Masonry is not a secret organization but rather an organization that keeps certain signs and words private that are used to recognize other members, which is no different than the practices of other fraternal groups.
With more than 100,000 books written on the subject, the so-called secrets of Freemasonry have been in print for well over a century. There simply are no secrets to be found. The fraternity does not hide its existence or its purpose. There are countless sources of reputable information available in bookstores, on the Internet, and in libraries.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Although the moral philosophy of Freemasonry is founded on religious principles, it is not a religion or a substitute for one. It does not try to compete with religion, nor does it supplant the teachings of any religion. We pray in our meetings, but each member offers his prayer in line with his own beliefs.
Freemasonry welcomes men of all faiths. It requires that a man profess a sincere belief in a Supreme Being to become a member. Beyond that belief, a Mason's personal convictions toward his religion are his own.
Religion and politics are never discussed in Lodge out of respect for the beliefs of others. When we meet as Masons, we put aside political and religious differences and meet on the level. The lesson Masonry teaches is that we ought to be gentlemen about our differences, and that good men can disagree and still get along.
What is the role of Family in Freemasonry?
While Freemasonry is for men, we actively support family events in local lodges. And, Freemasonry teaches that your obligations to the fraternity come after any duties you owe to your Creator, your country, your family/neighbor or yourself.
Where can I find out more about Freemasonry?
Three well-written, factual and easy-to-read books contain a wealth of accurate information about Freemasonry:
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry by S. Brent Morris, PHD,
- Freemasons for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp, and
- The Pilgrim’s Path by John J. Robinson.