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Montana Freemason  August 2015                         Volume 91 Number 2

Oddfellows, e Knights of Pythias, etc) had all         Susie, or build more hospitals, and so on, we can
thrived during the Golden Age of Fraternity (yes,      plug the hole in the side of the sinking ship of
there is such a designation). Most of these fraternal  membership with the bodies of new members who
groups performed a service for members that was        were brought there because we had a spaghetti feed
not otherwise available to them: their dues would      or pancake breakfast to raise money. We want this
go toward death bene ts, emergency assistance,         community involvement because we think we can
and so on. Almost invariably a fraternal group         buy our way into communities with the charity.
would pick a cause to be their special charity
project. For example, one fraternal group was            Any membership program that ts those two
responsible for most of the nations TB hospitals       models in some way is pretty much doomed
when a Tuberculosis pandemic broke out.                to failure. Why do I think these two methods
                                                       of getting members are doomed to fail?
     ese special-purpose fraternities failed a er
their“purposes”wereful lled-thosethatsponsored                   Throwing Members At It
hospitals for certain diseases disappeared as the      Trying to lower our standards to attract new
diseases were eradicated, those that relied upon       members might attract people, but it usually
their social services no longer needed them with       isn’t the type of member we want to attract.
the rise of the modern state: 8-hour work days,        A Past Master from a lodge who belongs to
Workman’s Compensation, widespread insurance,          the Shrine once told me, “Bad Masons make
OSHA and other safety plans, etc. While these          Bad Shriners.” When asked why he thought
fraternities sometimes had beautiful rituals (at       that way, and his answer was, “What do
least one enjoyed a reputation of being even more      Masons do? Go to meetings. A Mason who
sonorous than the Masonic blue lodge degrees),         won’t go to meetings is usually going to be
they existed for one reason, and vanished when         dropped from his lodge as Suspended NPD
people had better access to those same services        - Suspended for Non-Payment of Dues - and
without needing the rituals and dues attached.         thus not participate in his Shrine, either.”
                                                       In his estimation, some Masons want to
  Masonry, notwithstanding, still survives: we         pander to a “faster, cheaper, easier” method to
thrived at one time (the post-Civil War era)           Masonic membership without understanding
in part because we met a need (mutual aid/             that people who don’t have the time to show
welfare), and we endured because that was not          up for their own degree correspondingly
all that we did. If we only had one purpose or         don’t have the time to show up to anything
gimmick (provide life insurance, emergency             else. And, subsequently, they won’t show up
relief, hospital charity), we would face the same      to the appendant Masonic groups, either. His
crisis other fraternal groups faced. ese lessons       remark was just as applicable regardless of
more o en than not seem to get lost on Masons.         any membership in other Masonic bodies.
                                                       Masons go to meetings - that’s what they do.
                “Saving” Masonry                       Today you will nd more Brothers who think
                                                       that any membership program that wants more
  Most of the programs introduced to “save”            Masons through the “fast, cheap, and easy”
Masonry are aimed at only two possible methods         method that does not address this elephant
of Salvation:                                          in the room is doomed to fail: Masons go to
                                                       meetings. Starting with the premise that going
  1. row members at the problem by lowering            to meetings (to be initiated, to be coached, to get
standards. is method says that if we just make         yet another degree, to get pro cient in by their
it faster, cheaper, and easier, we can plug the hole   coaching again, to attend lodge and see other
in the side of the sinking ship with the bodies of     degrees, to watch the business of the lodge, to
enough new members who were brought there              be coached some more, to have another degree
because they like things that are cheap and easy. We   conferred upon them, to become pro cient
think less of potential new members, and give them     once more in order to become an o cer in
what we think of them: something cheap and easy.       the lodge) is “too much” is starting with the
                                                       premise that doing what Masons DO is too
  2. row money at the problem in an e ort to           much. What do you expect? A man can’t show
buy our way into the hearts of communities. is
method says that if we can just buy enough coats
for Johnny in Winter, or Christmas presents for

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