"Freemasonry Why Men Join and Why Men Leave"
John C. Liley Jr., W. Grand Orator
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brethren, Ladies and guests Good Evening.
The title of tonight’s talk is “Freemasonry Why Men Join and Why Men Leave?”
I want to tell you a story about two Masons. Two men join the lodge because their friend recently becomes a Freemason. They both concentrate hard on their memory work and make it a little competition to see who could finish first. They both receive their Master Mason degree and soon they receive officer appointments in the lodge. Both Brethren excel in their ritual and their Masonic skills but as the years pass by one of the Brothers falls by the wayside. He attends fewer and fewer meetings. He doesn’t attend degree work when he agreed to come. He soon finds himself out of the officer line and soon thereafter we don’t see him at all. He doesn’t answer our calls, and he doesn’t respond to our mail.
His Brother progresses and finds himself one day elected to the office of Worshipful Master, where one of his first duties is to sign the paperwork that his Brother has been dropped from the roles for non-payment of dues.
Does this story sound familiar to some of you? It is familiar to me. You see I’m the one who made it to Master. I’m the one who is still here. How did we fail to help my Brother or was he doomed from the very start?
At one time both of us had the fire within us that made us both want to be Freemasons. What was it that made one of us succeed and one of us fall away? Did somebody say something? Did somebody not say something? Were we not diligent at our portals and allow someone into our fold that wasn’t ready to be a Mason? Or worse yet should this person never have been admitted into our Fraternity in the first place?
All valid questions wouldn’t you agree?
With all the free publicity the Fraternity has received in the last few years many men have knocked on our doors and many men have gained entry. In our rush for membership have we neglected the basics? It is true some have become viable productive members of our Masonic Family and included their own families in our many appendant and affiliate organizations. Still there are those that join and we never see them again.
The other day I was talking with a younger member of my home lodge and asked him what his member number was on his dues card so to compare to my own. The numbers were almost a hundred digits apart. Mine was issued in 1998 and his some years later. I thought about that a long time and wondered if I could remember all the faces that were represented by those one hundred digits. Some of those faces are in this room tonight, but where are all those other guys?
In August 2005 Worshipful Brother Drew Sanders performed a survey of the Brethren that had joined Wasatch Lodge in recent years and found out some very important information. Most men joined the lodge because they had a friend already in the lodge.
That was the very reason I had joined.
A fellow that is 18 joins for a different reason than a man of 25. Just as the man of 40 joins for a different reason than a man of 65.
Men in general join our Fraternity to be part of something, they join because they want to work and be busy and they want to have a sense of pride and feel special in their membership a feeling they just don’t receive in the outside world.
For some it’s the friendships for some it’s the philosophies and for some it the charitable endeavors. What we do know is that the experience of the “elusive male bonding” is different for every man and because of that we the established membership should practice caution. Not every body is here for the same reason that you are.
The night I joined the fraternity it was told to me, “you get out of Freemasonry what you put into it”.
Never were truer words spoken. It is often said that in order to appreciate something one must work for it. That is why I think some folks don’t make the cut and some do.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we as a Fraternity beat ourselves up pretty bad when we lose someone. We try justify it with the fact that our system is broken or maybe we could have done something more. Is there any real answer? Are these things simply out of our control?
The other important thing Worshipful Brother Sanders survey pointed out was that at the six to seven year marks some men’s interest begin to wane. Maybe their friends move on or they concentrate their efforts in the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shrine or outside of the Fraternity.
The truth of the matter is that the fraternity is not a static thing and it ebbs and flows like the tide with gains and losses. And the Fraternity still remains. We should be happy with our positive growth and not so hung up on how big we need to be.
Freemasonry has a different experience for everybody and maybe that’s why some men join and some men leave.
Thanks for listening and have a good evening.