Local Freemasons speak out on Dan Brown’s latest novel
At midnight, Sept. 15, the much anticipated Dan Brown novel The Lost Symbol became available for readers to delve into and get lost in. Among the group of midnight purchasers was John Liley, Director of PR for the Grand Lodge,of Free and Accepted Masons of Utah. The Lost Symbol integrates themes of Masonry and even has a few characters that are Masons. The Freemasons of Utah were understandably a little apprehensive and worried about Dan Brown’s new book and how they would be portrayed in it.
“It turned out the book was quite favorable for us … a big sigh of relief that we weren’t the bad guys,” Liley said in response to the new book. When asked how he felt Brown had done in portraying the Masons, his response was, “It is a bit of fiction, but basic themes of Freemasonry such as religious tolerance, belief in a supreme being, things of that nature are true … As far as the rituals and all that fancy stuff, things you can get off the Internet, I wouldn’t necessarily believe that to be true.” All in all, Brown did a fair job at accurately portraying the Masons, with only small amounts of fictitious embellishments thrown in.
With the release of a novel such as this, there is understandably a lot of questions, particularly about the Masons and who they are. So who are Freemasons and what do they do? Liley puts it this way: “Remember that kid that used to shovel snow for the lady down the street, the one that delivered the newspapers, the one that would sell the most raffle tickets and do all those things? Well, [he] grew up to be me and then I needed something to join, to be with people that are like-minded, and that’s why I joined and why a lot of men join.”
The Masons are a fraternity of brothers who work together to better themselves and the community around them. As mentioned in the book, there are different degrees, or “levels of learning,” as Liley puts it, and “Freemasonry uses implements and tools of architecture, symbolism and metaphors to teach moral lessons to its membership.” This brotherhood takes pride in taking “good men and making them better.” When they talk about their brotherhood they talk about “charity, being responsible to yourself, your family, your country, your neighborhood and being a model citizen,” says Liley.
While conspiracy theorists love to talk about the strange and bizarre “secrets” that the Masons hold, it’s good to understand that while something may not be visible, this does not make it secret, but merely private. And while we may not understand everything about them or their organization, it is important to offer them respect, as such a peaceable group deserves.
Glen Cook, a past Grand Master of the Utah Grand Lodge said, “In a world where people shed blood in the name of religion, isn’t it refreshing that men of different faiths, colors, creeds, etc., can meet on the level and deal squarely with each other and be who they are not because of their religion, or their party, or politics that they follow.”
After all the buzz and talk about the peculiarity of the Masons, perhaps in our world today they might rightly be seen as peculiar. This is not because what they do is peculiar, but more because nowadays it is not as common for men to be “good men.” Masons are good citizens and genuinely care about the world around them. They have taken the steps to enlighten their minds and deepen their understanding, so that they might be better people and better the world.
The Grand Lodge of Utah has been around since 1872, and Masonry in Utah has been around since 1859. They have a rich tradition of working with their communities and providing help to local charities. In November, the Grand Lodge will be holding a luncheon where they will be giving out around $250,000 in grants and scholarships. They are also involved with numerous charities, including Shriner’s hospital. Many may have questions for the Masons after reading Brown’s book, and they are open to speaking with anyone. They will also be having an open house at their major Lodge locations in Salt Lake, Logan, Ogden and Price, and invite all to go and take a tour of their facilities and ask questions. To get in contact with the Masons in Utah or to find locations to take a tour, visit www.UtahGrandLodge.org.
The Lost Symbol will surely be sparking new rumors, but one that John Liley squelched was regarding the pyramid.
“I know for a fact in the Grand Lodge building downtown we have no arc of the covenant, we have no pyramid buried anywhere, we don’t have any treasures or riches.” This is not, of course, counting their strong bond of brotherhood and wealth of knowledge, which is full of treasures and riches. John Liley’s advice to those looking to read THE LOST SYMBOL is this: “Understand it’s a work of fiction, take it and enjoy it – it’s a heck of a good story.”