Memorizing and Delivering the Work

by Bro.  Myron Lusk

As I look around this lodgeroom, I see many accomplished
ritualists.  You are quite accustomed to hearing your brethren
say how easily you memorize the Work.  No one knows better than
you how simplistic that assumption is.  The photographic memory
we hear about is certainly a rare thing, if not a myth.  The
reality is that you probably approach the task of memorizing with
a higher degree of discipline, concentration and organized system
which works for you.  I do not feel presumptuous speaking about
this subject to men who are experts.  Achievers are always alert
to hear ideas from others who share their interests.  That is why
they are winners.

Without a doubt, I believe that the greatest preparation for
committing anything to memory is to understand thoroughly that
which we intend to memorize.  We must understand what the writer
intended to communicate, what it means to us and what our
delivery will ultimately mean to those who listen.  All three
considerations are important.

First, I recommend sitting down in a quiet, well lit location
with a dictionary at your side.  Read the entire piece.  Then,
read it again, stopping to consult the dictionary for meaning and
pronunciation of any words which bring questions to mind.  The
dictionary is an indispensable "working tool".  Many words in our
ritual are obscure to modern day conversation.  We must be aware
that there may be several meanings to consider.  Time, custom and
fashion have a way of changing or distorting the connotation of
words, so we must give consideration to this in forming our

Read the piece over and over again.  You cannot read it too much. 
Impress it indelibly on your mind.  This initial contact will
prove its value manyfold.  Understanding what you are talking
about will make memorization infinitely more pleasant, lend
creditability to your presentation and earn the confidence and
attention of your audience.

Now read it ALOUD.  You have done your study to understand the
piece; now become familiar with its SOUND.  Much like memorizing
music, the writing will have a rhythm and continuity in our
mind's ear.  Read the piece, aloud, over and over until it sounds
comfortable and familiar.  I liken this preparation to learning
to swim.  Until you gain the confidence that you can FLOAT, I
think that learning the mechanics of swimming is a waste of time.

Now, and only after this mental familiarity with the subject, is
it time to begin memorizing the Work.  Technically, you will have
done a lot more memorizing than you may realize.

Always memorize by sentences or complete statements and thoughts. 
Do NOT attempt to memorize by rote.  Word by word commitment can
be accomplished but it never produces a smooth, natural delivery. 
It will also leave you vulnerable to mental blocks and lapses
caused by the loss of a single word.  When you memorize thoughts
or statements you are capable of "ad-ribbing", if necessary.

This does not mean that I advocate innovation or deviation from
the ritual.  I love to hear the Work perfectly quoted, but I see
no great crime in describing an Officer's "performance" of his
duties rather than the "discharge" of his duties.  But I think
the dignity and impact of the ritual is diminished by stumbling,
hesitant delivery, continually interrupted by prompting.  When a
Brother smoothly substitutes a word, it is apparent that he knows
what he is talking about.  When he is thrown by a single word it
brings doubt.  I never feel completely complimented when someone
tells me I was "word perfect".  I strive for that goal, but more
importantly, I desire to convey the message of Masonry in the
most tender and meaningful way within my capability.

There will be certain words which are troublesome to memorize. 
For some unknown reason they continue to bother you.  I find I
must not dwell on the individual word too much or it becomes even
more troublesome.  I try to make the problem disappear by
reciting the complete sentence over and over until the word
becomes part of the statement, rather than a single word.

It is valuable to speak ALOUD when memorizing.  It helps
establish the sound in your mind and is the first step in
building style.  I find it helpful to recite the ritual while
standing.  It simulates the physical situation of your actual
delivery.  Similarly, practising the Work in the lodgeroom
prepares you to be more comfortable in that atmosphere.

As soon as possible, you should divest yourselves of the luxury
of holding the book of the Work.  It is all too easy to fool
yourself that you know the Work by sneaking a peek.  You will not
have that book on the floor of the lodge.  It doesn't look good
with your tuxedo.

Observe the punctuation marks in the ritual.  The commas,
semicolons, colons, colons and periods will help you with
phrasing.  You should deliver the Work in your own style, rather
than to attempt to imitate our favourite ritualist.  Try to speak
from the heart.  Everyone has his own touch to add to Masonry's

Practise, practise, practise! Make use of every opportunity.  For
example, I find my travel time on the road perfect.  Before I
know it I have driven from Edmonton to Calgary and have memorized
another bit of Work or freshened up one I have not done for a

Assuming that you have done your homework you now know your Work
and know that you really do KNOW it.  Now, comes the moment of
truth.  You must be mentally and emotionally prepared to deliver
it.  I always sit near the situation in the lodge where my Work
will be performed.  I make particular note of the piece of Work
which precedes mine so there is no anxiety or surprise.  I recite
the first sentence of my piece mentally as the guide positions
the Candidate, take several deep breaths to relax and slowly move
into position.

You can make yourself and the subject more relaxed and attentive
by displaying a friendly countenance.  Remember, you are among
brethren.  Each of them has stood where you stand.  Each of them
has felt the "butterflies" too.  All of them want you to succeed.

You should position yourself so you can be seen and heard to best
advantage.  When working in the East, a 450 angle will still give
the impression of addressing the Master, while allowing you to be
observed and heard instead of talking to the wall.  Remember,
what you say is for the benefit of the whole lodge, not just your
subject.  Project your voice! We are all capable of speaking from
the diaphragm rather than the throat alone.  What a difference it
makes! Speak out, enunciate, vary your delivery speed and pause
for effect.  Your audience cannot comprehend as quickly as you
can speak, so do not rush.  What you have to say is important. 
One of the most common mistakes made is to let the voice tall off
at the end of a sentence.  Be conscious of this pitfall and
maintain audibility.

When you are demonstrating something you should demonstrate.  For
example: "I now present to you the Working Tools of a
Fellowcraft, which are the Square, (display it to the Candidate
and then pass it to him for his examination), the Level, (do the
same), and the Plumb Rule, (do so again).  This involves the
subject, informs him and holds his attention.  Be demonstrative,
but excessive gesticulation is distracting and produces an
undesirable, melodramatic effect.

None of us is perfect.  Each of us can have a mental lapse or a
nervous loss of concentration.  When this happens you should
calmly turn to the Director of Ceremonies and ask for a word.  As
I said before, you are among brethren, They want you to do well. 
They love you.

What I have offered you today is only part of what could be said. 
It may be nothing new to you.  Perhaps you have learned
something.  Maybe I have reminded you of something you already
know but have neglected to apply for a while; whatever the case,
I offer these suggestions for your consideration.  Coining the
phrase from our Installation Ceremony, I say" "Suffice it to
mention that what you have seen praiseworthy in others, it is
expected you will carefully imitate."