The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR OBLIGATIONS
Bro. M. N. MacIver
Brethren: Let us, this evening, consider some of the obligations we have assumed through the Lectures and Charges contained in our Ritual.
I would like, first of all, to read to you a quotation of a well known American Brother Mason; a summary of the meaning of the Craft to him — he called it a “Meditation”:-
Masonry promised me nothing except the opportunity for mental and spiritual growth and the opportunity to serve God and man.
I came of my own free will and accord as all men in all ages have done. I was received as all others have been received in the ages past.
I learned that Masonry is interested in the character of man in man as a thinking, feeling being.
I learned that Masonry is not a religion in the sense that we think of the Church, but that it is the true ally of all religions. I found that one grows stronger in his own religion, whatever it may be, as the result of the moral and spiritual teachings of Masonry.
I learned the real meaning of charity and that one’s integrity of mind and soul is his most precious possession. All that I had learned before was enhanced by the manner in which Masonry teaches sublime lessons.
About me I see Brothers, some young in Masonry, others who have been Masons for many years. Toward all I feel a bond of friendship which is indescribable. To have the confidence of such a group of Brothers and to know that you are joined to them by mutual bonds as you are to every Mason in the World is, indeed, a priceless privilege.
All of this I learned; and I learned as well that to maintain and perpetuate all that I have received, I must give back my best to Masonry and to society.
There is much more to learn. But this I know — I shall always be grateful to those who taught me patiently and who brought me from darkness to light.
The author of that brief summary was Brother General Douglas MacArthur, Five Star General of the Army of the United States of America. What a beautiful endorsement of our Great Order; this from a man who served his Country with distinction in two Great Wars, as well as in peace. I would ask you my Brethren to contemplate on his Meditation, and ask yourselves, as individuals, “Does the Craft mean as much to me?”
I would like to spend a few moments considering the three basic tenets on which our Order is founded, namely, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; the tenets we have sworn to uphold. to quote the M.W. The Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of England, H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, at the Annual Investiture in Freemasons’s Hall, London on April 30th, 1980 — “I think it useful for us all, occasionally, to return to fundamentals and to think about the basis of the Craft, to see how we are applying the Principles which we all profess. It is to be borne in mind that they should apply to our dealings with all mankind and not only with our Brethren in the Craft.” The Principles referred to in this quotation are, of course, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
For some time now, we have been reading in the newspapers, and hearing on the radio and television, newscasts stating that Governments at all levels, and business corporations, are considering the establishment of a Code of Ethics for those in their employ. It would appear that these bodies are concerned over the unethical practices that, from time to time, come to light; offences committed by individuals in positions of trust. Could this be due to a decay in the moral values of our society?
This evening I am more interested bearing in mind the time available to us in a rededication to the basic tenets of our Craft — Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth which I submit to you constitute the Code of Ethics of Masonry.
In support of this statement let me suggest to you a definition of each of our basic tenets. Firstly, let us consider a definition of Brotherly Love — “By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human race as one family; the high, the low, rich and poor, who, being created by one almighty parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, ought to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” This definition reminds us of our duty and the expression of Brotherly Love we should exemplify to the whole human race. Let us as Masons treat all men as equal and oppose the concept of any barriers between races and religions. If we are to be true to our beliefs, then this we must do. From the Concepts of Freemasonry I quote — “Masonry is the common ground where true Brotherly Love is more than a congenial bond of friendship and understanding between friends. It is the practice of genuine toleration, charity (love), truth, and justice to all human beings, that makes it potentially the greatest single human force in the world.”
Let us now consider for a moment, a definition of the second tenet in our Code of Ethics — Relief. “To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but, particularly, on Masons who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, sympathize with them in their misfortunes, compassionate their miseries, and restore peace to their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.” Does this definition remind you of the “Golden Rule” — Do unto others as you would have others do unto you? So simply stated but so full of meaning. When my oldest daughter was in Junior High School, she came home one day and said, “Dad, I heard a new definition of the ‘Golden Rule’ today”. I said “What is it?” She said, “Do unto others — then split.” Unfortunately, there are in our society those who subscribe to this theory. There are also those in today’s society who have a tenet, not relief, but rather “Don’t get involved.” Daily we hear of instances in our cities and in our communities where someone has been victimized in some manner, people have been passing by, see the incident, but hurry on unheeding, offering no help or succour to the person in distress. If we are to be true to our beliefs as Masons, there can be no doubt as to the definition of Relief in our minds and in our actions towards those who may call our for assistance.
The third tenet in our Masonic Code of Ethics is — Truth. Let us consider this definition of Truth: — “Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate and, by its dictates, endeavour to regulate our conduct; hence, while governed by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us; sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us; and the heart and the tongue join in promoting each others welfare, and rejoicing in each others prosperity.” A portion of this definition, namely, “While governed by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us and, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us” indicates to us as Masons, the example we are to show to others and, especially, to exemplify to each other. We must always remember that, by our actions in our day to day life, we will be judged by those with whom we come in contact and, remember that, sincerity and plain dealing will distinguish us as Masons. It is so easy, my Brethren, to excuse small indiscretions; pas them off as not being important — but I ask you — can you be half honest; can you tell half the truth? I am reminded of a small article that I read some twenty years ago called, “Everybody Does It” and, because I feel it contains a moral message, I would like to repeat it to you now:
When Johnny was six years old, he was with his father when they were caught speeding. His father handed the officer a $5.00 bill with his driver’s licence. “It’s O.K. son” his father said, as they drove off. “Everybody does it”.
When he was nine his mother took him to his first theatre production. The box office man couldn’t find any seats until his mother discovered an extra $2.00 in her purse. “It’s O.K. son”, she said, “Everybody does it.”
When he was twelve he broke his glasses on the way to school. His Aunt Francine persuaded the insurance company that they had been stolen and they collect $27.00. “It’s O.K. son”, she said, “Everybody does it.”
When he was fifteen, he made right guard on the high school football team. His coach showed him how to block and, at the same time, grab the opposing end by the shirt so the official couldn’t see it. “It’s O.K.”, the coach said, “Everybody does it.”
When he was sixteen he took his first summer job at the big market. His assignment was to put over-ripe tomatoes in the bottom of the boxes and the good ones on top where they would show. “It’s O.K.”, the manager said, “Everybody does it.”
When he was eighteen, Johnny and a neighbour applied for a college scholarship. Johnny was a marginal student. His neighbour was in the upper three percent of his class but, he couldn’t play right guard. Johnny got the assignment. “It’s O.K.”, they told him, “Everybody does it.”
When he was nineteen, he was approached by an upper class man who offered the test answers for $3.00. “It’s O.K. kid”, he said, “Everybody does it.” Johnny was caught and sent home in disgrace. “How could you do this to your mother and me?”, his father said. “You never learned anything like this at home.” His aunt and uncle were also shocked.
If there is one thing the adult world can’t stand, it’s a kid who cheats.
I am sure that you all get the message contained in the article; it boils down to the one word “Example”. We are told in the Volume of the Sacred Law — “By their deeds ye shall know them”.
Will our deeds and actions in the sphere of our life, indicate an exemplification of our Basic Tenets, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, bearing in mind the definitions we have considered for each tenet? I have heard it stated that Masonry is the Invisible Craft. Our Craft is not invisible, but maybe at times it is difficult to find Masons. If we were all to practice outside of the Lodge, those excellent precepts practised within it, Masonry in action would be very visible indeed.
We have now considered our Basic Tenets, or, as I submitted earlier, our Code of Ethics, namely, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; these tenets we have obligated ourselves to uphold and, I would remind you that they con never be laid aside of repudiated.
Let me remind you, my Brethren, of another responsibility we have sworn to uphold, which is contained in that beautiful portion of our ritual which is presented in the N.E. corner of the Lodge. We are reminded to practice Charity and to assist those who may call on us for assistance. I feel that in recent years we have as a Craft tended to concentrate rather too much on the purely financial aspects of Charity. As you are probably aware, some years ago the Anglican Church changed the wording of Faith, Hope and Charity to Faith, Hope and Love. There are many ways in which we can exemplify Love or Charity to our Brethren. There are those who are confined to their homes or hospitals, who would appreciate a visit from a Brother, or, if they are able to attend Lodge, a ride to the Lodge Hall to meet with their Brethren and enjoy the Fellowship of Masonry. There are others who are sorely tried, to keep medical appointments or, even the chore of shopping for their needs. By providing transportation to such cases, a Brother would, indeed, be exemplifying the true meaning of Charity. I am sure there are many more examples we can think of where a helping hand can be extended to a Brother. Have you given some thought to this lately?
Finally, my Brethren, I would like to remind you of the great responsibility you have undertaken to your Brother Masons. I refer to the Points of Fellowship. I know that they are well to you and, therefore, I will not elaborate on them at this time. Suffice to say that you are to uphold and respect the good name of your Brothers, in their absence as well as in their presence. You are charged with the welfare of your Brethren in all respects, and this obligation you can never lay aside or repudiate. I urge you to review the Points of Fellowship, understand the great commitment given from one Mason to another, and you will then be able to show the world how Masons love one another.
I would like to close by quoting the final paragraph contained in the Lodge Plan for Masonic Education: Remember — in every moment of your life — in public — at work — at pleasure — with your family — even when you are alone, — you are a Mason. The non-Masons who know you will judge you as a Mason and Masonry itself, by the way in which you conduct yourself. You have, in trust, the reputation of every one of us. Moreover, and, most importantly, you are to apply the teachings of Freemasonry in the world about you; to give leadership to your community, your country, the nations of the world — as it may be in your power, thus, ever endeavouring to contribute to the betterment of mankind: Master Mason.
Till we meet again, My Brethren — May God hold you in the palm of his hand.