Public Perception #1
Provo Visitation Oration
By Worshipful Brother Lorenzo E. Tibbitts, Grand Orator
Friday, February 21, 2014
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful, Right Worshipful and Worshipful Brothers, Ladies and Distinguished Guests, Brethren, Good Evening;
At the beginning of the popular CBS Crime Drama, Person of Interest, and in the voice of the character called "Finch," we hear, "They're watching you!" "They" is a government surveillance system, developed to watch out for terrorists which sees everything, and which has grown a mind of its own and uses its creator and a small circle of people recruited to protect regular citizens from harm. Now the idea of a government system that is more benevolently watching over ordinary citizens than the government itself may make good TV, but in some ways it's not too far from the world we live in.
On your way here this evening, you passed through the observation radius of many more video cameras than you noticed. In September 1968, Olean, New York became the first city in the US to install video cameras along its main business street in an effort to fight crime.1 In the decade following 9/11 more than 30 million security cameras were purchased and installed.2
But security cameras are not the only - or even the most important - eyes on you. It may be very hard for you to fathom, because you know and are known to hundreds and perhaps even thousands of Masons, but you may be the only Mason that some people may ever meet. The truth of the matter is that many of those we know nothing about The Craft, and many others know only what they have read on the internet, seen on TV, or learned from us.
In his address at the Grand Lodge Communication less than a month ago, our Grand Master, Most Worshipful Drew C. Sanders said, "Brethren, whether you think so or not as a general rule people around you know you are a Freemason… Therefore, each of us is someone's impression of Utah Freemasonry… I strongly urge each of you to uphold the ideals of the fraternity before the world, whether it be in our online presence, driving habits, or in our personal interactions with others."3
At the Conference of Grand Masters in 1966, Worshipful Brother Alexander Duff, Grand Master of Manitoba, said, "The Profane world has no criteria by which to judge Freemasonry other than the fruits produced by the Masonic lives of those who are members of our beloved craft."4
In his Oration at the 2008 Visitation in Tooele, MW Bro. Allen W. Record taught, "Ultimately, Masons and Non-Masons alike observe everything we do and say. They look to see if we 'practice what we preach'. Do we practice Brotherly Love, do we work with others on the Level, and do we square our actions toward all mankind. When we do these things, then it's seen that we not only speak, but also live the Truth of what Freemasonry Offers… This, Brethren is our Truth in Action."5
What Most Worshipful Brother Sanders calls "the ideals of the fraternity," Most Worshipful Brother Record refers to as "Truth in Action," and Most Worshipful Brother Duff calls the "fruit produced by… Masonic lives," are nothing more or less than the principles we agreed to uphold in our obligations.
I was a stranger who saw The Fraternity in the lives of Masons. As a child and teenager, I was a military brat and as my family traveled the world I got to see Freemasonry up close and personal. I came to see that many of the most professional, most successful and capable officers and NCOs were masons. I saw the rings. And I saw their behavior. They were the very definition of the title "gentleman." From these men I developed a favorable impression of The Craft.
Brethren, sometimes it's our family that is watching. My wife, Lana, did not grow up with a favorable opinion of Freemasonry. She was not that thrilled when I petitioned a lodge. She trusted me but remained worried for several months. All of that changed for her the night that we attended a Scottish Rite Open House at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple and heard Most Worshipful Brother Curtis N. Lancaster speak about the purpose and principles of Masonry. She relaxed and gave me her full - unworried - support from then on.
Later the same year she heard Brother Lancaster speak, Lana attended my lodge BBQ, where she witnessed some outrageous behavior from one of our members. He was boorish and obnoxious. She leaned over and whispered to me, "How do guys like that get into Masonry?" While I had an opportunity to address her question, sometimes those who see our behavior don't look any farther and don't ask any questions or give us an opportunity to respond.
Recently I sat in a meeting in my office with a circle of colleagues that I'd only worked with by phone. One of them noticed my ring and after the meeting and when we reached the hall, she asked me many questions. She told me that her Grandfather and Great-Grandfather were important Masons but her own Father had never joined. She told me she had always wanted to be a member of the Eastern Star.
When I asked her about her husband - whether he had an interest - she told me that her husband had no interest. She said he had been adopted as a young child and his step-father was a mason. She told me a little about his upbringing and without dwelling on the ugly details, let's just say his experiences with this mason were less than exemplary.
Many men in our jurisdiction fill the official position of Grand Representative to another Grand Jurisdiction. Well my brothers, you are the Grand Representative to your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, fellow congregants, and, as I have noted today, complete strangers we encounter.
As you can see, there are many people watching you. But Most Worshipful Brother Sanders also asked us to take a look at ourselves. I believe he did so for two reasons. First, he, like Plato, is well aware that the examined life is the only one worth living. Introspection and self-examination are necessary for personal growth. Second, we may be able to fool others, but we can't fool ourselves. Peter Wimbrow said this so well when he wrote:
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn't your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He's the fellow to please - never mind all the rest
For he's with you, clear to the end
And you've passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.6
When I consider the men I've come to know in this fraternity, I find that the impression I had of the fraternity in my youth has been largely correct. I've been disappointed when I've seen otherwise, but I am wise enough to know that some slip through the West Gate without our knowledge, and it is rare. When I've seen the damage these men have done to our lodges, our brothers, and even the public perception, I'm dismayed. And when we fail to take action I am just confused.
Just as you have no idea how often you are being filmed by Closed Circuit TV (CCTV), you have no idea how often others are judging the fraternity through your behavior. Please join me tonight in recommitting ourselves to principles of brotherhood, relief and truth that would lead us to showing the world that masonry has made us better men.
Most Worshipful Grand Master, I thank you for the opportunity to share these few thoughts, and pray you will enjoy the rest of your visitation.
1 Robb, Gary C. (1979) "Police Use of CCTV Surveillance: Constitutional Implications and Proposed Regulations" University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, pg. 572
2"Post 9/11, surveillance cameras everywhere" by Allison Linn, MSNBC.com, September 11, 2011
3Remarks of the Deputy Grand Master, Rt. Worshipful Drew C. Sanders, Proceedings of the 142nd Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons in Utah.
4"What if anything can be done about the lack of interest in Masonry by non-masons?" Alexander Duff, Proceedings of the Conference of Grand Masters, 1966, Feb. 23-24, 1966 85-103.
5"Why Masonry Survives - The Truth," Tooele 2008 Visitation Oration by Allen W. Record, Grand Orator; http://www.utahgrandlodge.org/gl-orations/allen-record/oration-2008-12.html
6"The Man in the Glass," Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr., 1934