Obtaining and Retaining Members
Illustrious Jack R. Levitt, 33°, PGM (CA)
Much has been written about our Fraternity obtaining and retaining members and many programs have been advocated in an attempt to accomplish both objectives. This article presents a different perspective - learning more about the principles of our Fraternity and communicating them to prospects.
I believe there are three major reasons why men join Freemasonry: 1. To emulate and associate with men they admire (usually a relative, friend or fellow worker); 2. To seek a moral anchor, especially in times of crises (wars etc.); and 3. To belong to a premier organization where membership is highly regarded.
Whatever programs are considered, they must be directed to the proposition that becoming a Freemason is a worthy goal that must be earned, and a challenge worth a few sacrifices. They must underscore that Freemasonry is primarily a philosophic and educational institution, and that its members will be treated with brotherly love, have their distresses relieved, and be dealt with without hypocrisy and deceit.
Any consideration of how to acquire members must deal with determining what constitutes solicitation. Our Fraternity's approach to it has changed over time. Our Code once provided that "This Grand Lodge forbids the improper solicitation of petitioners for the degrees of Masonry, and a violation of this article shall be considered a Masonic offense." Now it provides that "Neither a Lodge nor a Mason shall improperly solicit petitioners for the degrees of masonry, which includes improper influence, use of position of authority or coercion. A Lodge or a Mason may inform a potential petitioner about the Craft, its principles and programs, and may ask if he desires a petition."
Although the present code does not set forth everything that constitutes improper solicitation, the definition of solicitation itself, which is the practice or act or instance of asking for or trying to obtain something from someone, provides more guidance.
Men whom we consider to be qualified to be members want to learn more than common moral principles, which they can obtain elsewhere. They are interested in spending their time, efforts and talents in improving society and accomplishing something beyond day to day ordinary achievements. The principles of our fraternity allow them to do so.
Information nights (presenting information about our Craft), social, and other non-tyled events by a Lodge, can properly be attended by non-masons. Communication of the principles of Freemasonry is permitted, with only the modes of recognition, the content of our obligations, and the manner of conferring degrees not to be included.
It is a tradition of Freemasonry that its formal and tyled assemblies should be dedicated to the attainment of more knowledge and understanding of Freemasonry. Further light entails more than ritual, it requires further understanding of its principles and tenants.
The major purpose of our Fraternity is to provide means of self-improvement. This is designed to be accomplished by applying the principles of Freemasonry in our everyday lives. By such application we cause ourselves to be exemplars worthy of emulation.
Masonic Education is needed to greater explain Freemasonry's principles, since the ritual on the surface is more limited to the exoteric rather than the esoteric, and the ritual explanations are directed more to morality than to philosophy and spirituality. It also provides an incentive to attend Lodge and to continue interest in our Craft.
Masonic meetings differ from all others because there is required masonic protocol (etiquette) which has been created by ancient tradition and practice. None of it is set forth in the code, and little explanation is given in our ritual of this protocol or of the deeper meanings of our allegories and emblems.
Our traditions and practices, along with our principles, are the things which make our Fraternity stand out from all others, and which should make membership sought after and desired by good men.
Consider the following:
- Each candidate declares upon his honor that he will cheerfully conform to all the ancient usages and established customs of the Fraternity, and never countenance any deviation from them. Very few are in the ritual or set forth in written form.
- We are told to manifest our fidelity to our principles by adhering to the ancient Landmarks of the Order. They are not referred to further in the ritual, nor enumerated anywhere by Grand Lodge.
- We are to conduct business - "under the usual masonic restrictions." How are we to know what they are?
- Where are we instructed in what the rights, lights and benefits of the Lodge are?
Workshops explaining protocol and providing interpretations explaining these lapses in ritual and incomplete information of the principles of our Fraternity should be conducted by knowledgeable Brethern.
Masonic Education should be presented at every tyled meeting, as well as being abundantly available for reading at every Lodge.
To obtain members, each of us should learn as much about the teachings of our Fraternity as possible, and then communicate our knowledge to prospective members. In doing so we will also be more motivated to remain a member.