"Freemasonry in Perspective"
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 in Perspective a Positive Approach to our Future”.
When I joined the Fraternity in 1998 I was excited and had a sense of purpose and knew I wanted to be a Freemason. In conversations with my friends and in books and articles I read it was evident to me that this was the right choice in my life. However soon after I put on the white leatheren apron and sat in lodge stories and tales of the good old days surrounded me. Conversations such as “We are sure glad to have you but man had you been around years ago you would have seen this room filled”. “Doesn’t happen anymore we are just dying off.” I then started reading articles on-line and in periodicals about the death of fraternal societies and more especially the grand Daddy of them all “The Masons”. The very society that I just decided to join.
Glad to have you here but we’re not going to be around much longer. Pretty positive message huh? Negative damaging comments to the new member whether it was me or anyone else.
Lets now fast forward a few years to today and look at the amount of degree work in our lodges. It’s awesome what we see around our state. Lodges may be consolidating but they are stronger and making amazing amounts of progress. I believe Golden Spike is guilty of this. They are initiating numerous candidates. Men are joining our Fraternity and bringing their families into our Masonic circle.
Now lets look at the naysayers in the press. If we are in our death throws why do movies and books capitalize on the square and compass to sell their product? I bet everyone in here has seen a Masonic book or two in the discount rack at Barnes and Noble. And much to the chagrin of our spouses and partners we always leave a bit lighter in the wallet and our library grows some more.
Obviously then Freemasonry is a relevant topic.
So I ask you then if we are dying off why are we so incredibly popular with the outside world?
Here is my observation of “perspective” “specifically” with membership. We (new guys) didn’t know any better when we joined and didn’t know that we were “declining”. So we did what we supposed too and we grew. Men that have been sitting on the sidelines for years were waiting for us to join. Then these men our established membership embraced this enthusiasm and we all worked together to grow even more. As a result all of our side orders and appendant bodies are now growing. The Scottish Rite has seen a positive growth in the last three years. The Shrine last year showed positive growth. On a personal note my wife Audrey and I will be joining the Eastern Star in June.
The long and the short of it is that in the last few years we changed our perspective and stopped letting fear rule our fraternity.
My wife mentioned to me a few weeks ago how strange it was that in our Masonic travels “some” dwell on the decline of our fraternity. See she and I have only known each other since 2004 and all she knows and has seen is growth. And such is the same with much of our newer membership regardless of their age. All they know is growth and all they know is that we as a fraternity in the state of Utah are busy.
However we as the established membership must practice caution and take care in the expressions of negativity in front of our new members. Our old quarrels and past challenges are not their problems. Lets make sure we lead by a positive example. It’s important that we give the new guys a chance. It’s important that we don’t discount ideas because we may have tried them before and failed. Like I said the new guy doesn’t know any better. Let them try and maybe they just might succeed. We must check our perspectives. All is not lost. There is much to gain.
Many of you may have seen Ron Howard’s 1995 film Apollo 13. The film is a portrayal of that ill-fated moon voyage and the successful and triumphal return of the three astronauts to earth all in one piece. Just before the end of the film in mission control there is a scene in which a NASA official is talking to another of all the odds against the capsule returning to earth safely. The heat shield is probably damaged, the parachute probably won’t open and there is typhoon in the pacific near the landing zone. Just too many variables for a successful outcome. The other official agrees that this would be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced. At that point Ed Harris who portrays Gene Kranz the NASA flight Director turns around and says, “with all due respect Sir I believe this will be our finest hour”.
He cinched up his tie, buttoned up his vest and went to work. Just like we do. Everyday should be the finest hour to Utah Freemasonry. Interesting perspective wouldn’t you agree? In the face of all that doom and gloom someone stood up and believed in the positive. It can be done. It will be done. We have that here with in Utah Freemasonry. We are growing we are succeeding; don’t let anybody tell you different. As Brother Ben Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
Thanks for listening and have a good evening.