Masonic Customs: Then and Now
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A discussion of relevance regarding Masonic Customs in the 21st Century

presented at the
59th Annual Midwest Conference on Masonic Education, Omaha, Nebraska
April 26, 2008
R:.W:.B:. Tim Couch, DDGL 34th Masonic District of Missouri

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So, Masonic Customs: relevant or not relevant? It’s easy to see the relevance of them to the Lodge, to the organization, to the fraternity as a whole. They encourage harmony; they promote civility; they cause uniformity. But, are they relevant to you, the individual man and Mason? More importantly, how do we go about making them relevant to our fellow Brethren and to future Masons?

Why men join Freemasons:

Well, that will require a little tweak in our thinking. We are going to have to stop thinking of Freemasonry as a boys club and start thinking of it as a school for men.

Men come to Freemasonry for individual reasons but we'’re finding, and I don’'t believe this to be anything new, that most men come to Freemasonry for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They have a friend or family member in the fraternity and they want to share it. 
  • They have heard and read of the secrets of the Freemasons and they want in on it.
  • Or, they have realized that something is missing from their life and they think Freemasonry will help them find it, whatever it is.

•Most men who are actively searching for that missing something don'’t really know what it is. It’'s just a vague sense that there must be more. Whatever the reasons a man comes to Masonry our purpose is the same. We take good men and make them better.

Consider that simple sentence. “We take good men and make them better.”
It’'s not: “We take good men and enable them to become better.” 
It'’s not: “We take good men and encourage them to become better,” 
...ask them to become better.”
“…...hope they will become better.”

It’'s: “We take good men and make them better.”

Masonic customs make us better

And how do we make them better? By using the tools that our ancient Brethren handed down to us. Our customs have very real and very practical purposes. They are tools for teaching and tools for learning, but as with any tool they must be put to use in order to be productive. The carpenter'’s hammer is nothing more than a hunk of iron until the carpenter picks it up and puts it to its intended use, and then the most magnificent structures can be built. Likewise, if we place that same hammer with no instruction in the hand of someone who has never seen a hammer he is likely to think it a great tool for squashing bugs. The relevance of the tool becomes meaningful when its purpose becomes clear.

We pick up those tools and teach our younger Brethren how to use them. And then, only when they are ready, we place those tools in their hands so that they may continue to build, and to shape, and to strengthen, and to secure.

Our Masonic Customs have been tried and proven to be true by the generations of Masons who have gone before us. The benefits of them, the lessons they teach are timeless. Our ancient Brethren recognized their value and laid out our Masonic Customs, not to teach proper behavior, but because they are essential to the growth and development of a man. They are just as relevant today as they were in the beginning. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to pass them on, intact and unimpaired, to future generations.

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