One joins the Freemason fraternity for one of three reasons: to feel part of something, to gain a social network of people or to find out their secrets.
Junior Warden of the Damascus number 10 chapter, Matthew Nelson, joined for what he describes as a healthy combination of the three. In the early 2000s, Nelson became interested in Freemasonry. He looked into it for some time before deciding to join, but in the seven years since his initiation, he has become more involved with the group’s purpose of “making good men better.”
The fraternity, often confused with a religious group, is intended to coexist with and strengthen the faith of its members. In fact, the requirements to become a Mason include belief in a Supreme Being and good moral standing. The only other requirement is that one must be a male over age 18.
As a fraternity, they make no qualms about excluding women, but offshoots like Order of the Eastern Star, Job’s Daughters and DeMolay are specifically for women and younger members. These other groups, however, are not under the Grand Lodge, the regional entity of officers and members that oversee the local lodges.
The explanation Nelson offers is simple: it’s a fraternity “invented by men and run by men.” One could think of it along the same lines as the priesthood in the Latter-Day Saint faith or, in DeMolay, an older version of the Boy Scouts.
Perhaps most well-known for its mysteries, the Freemasons hold ceremonial meetings kept not exactly secret, but private. The physical symbols in the Masonic Temple such as the compass, square and plumb reflect the fraternity’s beginnings in stonemasonry. Further reflecting their history in stonemasonry, two large stones sit at the foot of the Lodge’s leader, known as “Worshipful Master.” One, in its rough, freshly quarried state lays at the left side while its smoothed counterpart sits on the right. According to Nelson, the stones represent the journey of men as they go through their lives, working out imperfections.
Throughout the ceremony, there are specific requirements for moving on the Lodge floor. Officers must carry a staff across the floor, and those without staffs must be escorted by someone who has one. Hierarchy is respected and followed.
“The ceremonies focus a lot on respect,” Nelson said, explaining the seating of wardens, members and the Lodge Master, as well as how members must approach senior members.
This idea – focusing on respect – is a large part of the Freemason fraternity. They involve themselves in events and charity work and in Nelson’s case, educational lectures about his participation with the fraternity.
People outside the group may be seeing its positive affect; the Provo Damascus number 10 chapter is currently the fastest growing in the state, even more so than the other two chapters that share the Masonic Temple.