Freemasonry (also called “Masonry”) is the world’s first and largest fraternity, based on the belief that each man can make a difference in the world. Freemasonry enhances and strengthens the character of the individual man by providing opportunities for fellowship, charity, and education.
Freemasonry began when stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members, as well as the families of those who were killed on the job. The masons also used the lodges as places to meet, receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize. Today, this term refers both to a unit of Masons and the room or building in which they meet. There are approximately 13,000 lodges in the United States.
Membership in Masonry is not a secret; all members are free to acknowledge their membership. There is no secret about any of Masonry’s aims or principles. Masonry’s constitutions and rules are available to the public, and meeting locations are clearly identifiable. Like many similar organizations, some of Masonry’s internal affairs, such as ceremonies, grips, and passwords, are regarded as private matters for members only.
There are three stages of Masonic membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These stages are referred to as “degrees,” and correspond with members’ self-development and increased knowledge of Freemasonry. As a man completes each phase of learning, the lodge holds a ceremony to confer his degree.
Degree names are taken from craft guilds: In the Middle Ages, to become a stonemason, a man would first be apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a “fellow of the craft,” and when he gained exceptional ability, he was known as a “master of the craft.”
Symbols allow people to communicate quickly, and to transcend language barriers. When you see a green light or a circle with a line through it, you know what it means. Likewise, Masons use metaphors from geometry and the architecture of stonemasonry to inform their continuing pursuit of knowledge, ethics, and leadership skills.
To reflect their heritage, Masons wear aprons while in lodge, at certain public events, and at funerals to demonstrate their pride in the fraternity, and their lineage from stonemasons, who historically carried their tools in leather aprons. The square and compass is the most widely known symbol of Masonry: When you see the symbol on a building, you know that Masons meet there.
Masonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. The fraternity requires its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but the fraternity itself is not affiliated with any religion, and men of all faiths are represented in the fraternity. Religion is not discussed at lodge meetings.
One of Masonry’s customs is not to solicit members; men must seek membership on their own through a Mason they know or a local lodge.
Masonic membership is open to men age 21 or older who meet the qualifications and standards of character and intention, and who believe in a Supreme Being. Men of all ethnic and religious backgrounds are welcome.
A Mason who recommends you for membership will assist with completing and submitting the application. After submitting the application, you will be interviewed by members of the lodge you wish to join so they can learn more about you and you can learn more about Freemasonry. If the interview is favorable, your application is presented to the lodge for a vote. If the vote is affirmative, you receive the Entered Apprentice degree – the first degree of Freemasonry. When you advance through the next two degrees, you are a Master Mason and a full member of the fraternity.