According to “An Introduction to Freemasonry,” Freemasonry is defined as an organized society of men symbolically applying the principles of operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art of character building. Simply, this mean applying Masonic principles will make you a better person.
This is the message that members of Masonry want the public to understand when it comes to being a member of this organization.
Terry Boggess of Murray is the district Deputy Grand Master, which means he is responsible for overseeing Masonic Lodges in three counties, including Calloway. There is one Grand Master in each of the states. Boggess travels around the state visiting lodges and promoting the principles of Masonry and he wants people to understand that it is not a type of “secret society” that many have been led to believe because of books, television and movies.
Freemasonry started on June 24, 1917 in England, forming the first Grand Lodge in the world.
In Boggess’ words, the purpose of Freemasonry is to make better men out of good men.
“Everything we do is in the Bible,” said Boggess. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do in church that I wouldn’t do in the lodge and vice versa.”
According to “An Introduction to Freemasonry,” it says Masonry tries to educate its members about the principles of personal responsibility and righteousness; understanding of and feeling for Freemasonry’s character; and how to put these lessons into practice in their daily life.
Many may have noticed that titles of Grand Lodges vary. Some are called A.F. & A.M., which means Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The most commonly used title is F. & A.M. or Free and Accepted Masons.
The word “free” refers to the ancient craftsmen who were very skilled and their craft was considered to be indispensable to the welfare of both church and state. For this reason, they were not placed under the same restrictions as other workers – they were “free” to do their work, travel and live their lives in a manner which befitted their importance.
In Medieval England, this freedom was almost unheard of. Most workers were under bond to the owners of the land on which they worked.
The word “accepted” also goes back to the time of the operative mason. There were few educated men outside the monasteries of the church. Men wanted to become Freemasons to get the advantages the Craft had to offer. These were “accepted” Masons rather than operative masons.
According to Boggess, Freemasonry is not a secret society. A secret society, by definition, is one which conceals its membership, has secret meeting places of which the public has little or no knowledge of its organization or its principles.
“We are not a secret society,” said Boggess, “but we are a society with secrets. Our secrets are very few in number and deal mostly with the obligations and modes of recognition. These requirements have been handed down by word of mouth for centuries. We have a handshake and secret word we give one another. We can tell if someone is a mason by these two things. We open every meeting with a prayer and there is an open Bible present on the alter in every lodge at every meeting.”
There are three Masonic Lodges in Calloway County – Temple Hill, Murray and Ruling Star. The district Boggess covers consists of 11 lodges.
Boggess is a member of the Temple Hill Masonic Lodge and he wants the public to know the Masonic Lodges do quite a few community projects.
“We want to give back to our community,” he said. “Here in Calloway County, we are involved in a bike program that was started several years ago for the students in Murray and Calloway County schools. It is an attendance award for children who do not miss any days of school. We have found that it has raised the school attendance and generated approximately $80,000 more from the state because of the numbers. This is a win-win situation for the school and the students.”
According to Boggess, Temple Hill also donates to the Tiger and Laker Christmas programs through the Family Resource Centers and they give scholarships to graduating seniors, not only for college, but also for technical school.
“We fund these scholarships by passing the hat each month at our lodge meetings,” said Boggess.
Also supported are Soup for the Soul and Need Line. He said all lodges have their own charities they support.
Temple Hill has a fish fry twice a year and the money raised is all donated back to the community, Boggess said.
Some may have observed a bumper sticker that says 2B1ASK1, which means, “To be a Mason you have to ask a Mason.”
“If anyone sees that bumper sticker, then you know that car is owned by a Mason,” said Boggess. “It is just another way for us to recognize each other.”
To be a member of a Masonic Lodge, a man can petition to join when he is 18 or older. A committee will visit the potential member and ask a few questions to get to know the candidate. At the next lodge meeting, the committee presents its findings and the membership votes to accept or reject the candidate. Once accepted, the candidate begins to learn the basics of Masonry and there are three degrees they pursue to become a Master Mason.
Each degree is passed orally, without reading, the information they have been taught by an appointed group of Masons. There is a time period of at least 28 days between degrees and each degree goes into more depth.
“New members also have to learn the Oath and Obligation,” said Boggess. “It is basically saying that they are going to try to be an outstanding citizen in their community and if someone sees them, they will want to be just like them.”
Shriners are a part of Masonry. According to Boggess, you have to be a Mason before you can be a Shriner or York Rite or Scottish Rite, which are also branches of a Masonic Lodge.
“After you become a Master Mason, you can branch out into these other groups if you wish,” said Boggess.
Many are familiar with the Shriners organization which helps and supports children who are burn victims.
“We have vans that will transport children to the Shriner’s Hospital in Louisville,” said Boggess. “There are people assigned to transport the families to the hospital and back and we also cover all the lodging, food, et cetera. It does not cost the families a penny.”
The York Rite deals with children with learning disabilities and hearing problems and the Scottish Rite works with children with speech difficulties.
Boggess also wants the public to know about the Masonry Matters Program.
“Each lodge donates to this program state-wide,” said Boggess. “For instance, I knew of a Mason who had cancer and he was having a lot of financial difficulty. We had a fundraiser and raised more than $2,000 and the Masonry Matters Program matched that amount, which we presented to him.”
The Masons also support the veterans and have a veterans appreciation dinner each year.
“This is for all veterans,” said Boggess. “Not for veterans who are also Masons.”
Boggess said that part of the popular misconception that Freemasonry is a secret society stemmed from the fact that in the beginning, everything was done by word of mouth. Masons were taught without using anything written and were told not to repeat what they were taught, so it was somewhat of a secret. Today, you can get on the internet and find out about Masonry.
Boggess said each lodge meeting is opened with a prayer and closed with a prayer.
“Everything we do is in the Bible,” he said.
There is nothing secret in a Masonic Lodge, Boggess said.
“The pubic cannot attend a meeting, but if anyone is curious, they can come to the lodge and even go upstairs. We have family nights and everyone is invited upstairs. We don’t hide anything from the public and we don’t put things away in closets when we have visitors.”
Boggess said there is nothing that Masons do that will interfere with your family, your obligation to God or your church.
Because Freemasonry is for men only, there is an organization for women called Eastern Star, and, according to Boggess, there are also men who are members of Eastern Star. There are groups available for men and women who are under 18, Rainbow Girls and Demolay. You only have to have a relative who is a Mason to be a part of any of these groups.
There were 14 presidents of the United States who were Masons, and the membership consists of men in every profession.
According to “An Introduction to Freemasonry,” Freemasonry is not a fraternity or association of men banded together for social, political or economic advantages. The foundation is built on a philosophy of friendship and brotherly love, while making worthwhile contributions to society.
Boggess said that he has visited lodges all over the state of Kentucky and some in Tennessee.
“When I walk in a lodge, it is as if I have known the members all my life.”