Q & A
- What is Freemasonry?
- How Much Do Freemasons Contribute to Charity?
- When & How did Freemasonry begin?
- What are the requirements for membership?
- What is the relationship between Freemasonry and religion?
- Is the Masonic Organization a "Secret Society?"
- Are women allowed in the Masonic Organization?
- Does the Masonic Organization have any programs for youth?
- Do the Masons have any famous members?
1. What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternity in the world, based on the cardinal values of brotherly love, charity and truth. The purpose of Freemasonry is to make good men better. Its bonds of friendship, compassion and brotherly love have survived even the most divisive political, military and religious conflicts through the centuries. Freemasons worldwide number more than 3 million today.
2. How Much Do Freemasons Contribute to Charity?
The Freemasons of North America contribute more than $1.5 million every day to charitable causes which they alone have established. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania provides more than $18 million in charitable care and services every year through the Masonic Temple/Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, the Masonic Villages in Dallas, Elizabethtown, Lafayette Hill, Sewickley and Warminster, Pa.; the Masonic Children's Home and the Masonic Charities Fund.
3. When & How did Freemasonry begin?
It is not known for certain when Freemasonry began. It evolved through the centuries with the understanding of geometry and the development of techniques for building. Many historians trace its beginnings to the Middle Ages, when stone masons and other craftsmen traveled throughout Europe. They were known as free masons, because, unlike bondsmen, they were free to move where their work demanded. As free masons moved from one construction site to the next, they had to be recognized and had to prove their skills if they were to secure work. As free masons, they would gather in shelter houses. Thus, they formed a bond, or guilds, to recognize their skills as bona fide masons, to perfect their art and to protect the secrets of their trade. They used the secrets of their craft to identify themselves and the square and compasses-the tools of the masons' trade- became the symbol of their brotherhood.
4. What are the requirements for membership?
Anyone seeking membership in Freemasonry must ask a Masonic friend to recommend him. He must sign a petition stating his age, occupation, and place of residence. Members of the lodge vote by ballot. To be accepted, the ballot must be unanimous. To qualify for membership, a petitioner must be:
• male, at least 18 years of age
• a believer in the existence of a Supreme Being
• a voluntary candidate for membership, unsolicited by friends
• motivated to join for reasons unrelated to personal gain or profit
• prompted by a favorable opinion of Freemasonry
• desirous of knowledge, and willing to earn it
• a first-time petitioner for membership
• willing to conform to the Ancient Usages and Customs of the fraternity.
Only individuals believed to be of the finest character are favorably considered for membership. All Freemasons believe in one God and in respect for each other.
5. What is the relationship between Freemasonry and religion?
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.
6. Is the Masonic Organization a "Secret Society?"
In terms of what it does, what it teaches, who belongs and where it meets, there are no secrets in Freemasonry. It is a private fraternal association of men who contribute much toward the public good, while enjoying the benefits of the brotherhood of a fraternity. Most Freemasons wear rings and lapel pins which clearly identify them as members of the fraternity. Masonic lodges are listed in public phone books, Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and in many areas of the country Masonic lodges place signs on the roads leading into town, along with civic organizations, showing the time and place of meetings.
7. Are women allowed in the Masonic Organization?
The opportunities for women to participate in Freemasonry are widespread and meet a variety of needs, from social interaction in the Orders for both men and women, to the unique needs met in the "women only" Masonic-related organizations. Masonic Lodges maintain today a long-standing tradition of restricting membership in Freemasonry to men. However, in the middle 1800s the fraternity took the progressive step, for that time, of creating organizations that included women, so that men and women could share Masonic fraternalism. The Order of the Eastern Star (the largest of these Masonic-related groups) was established in 1855, the Order of the Amaranth in 1873 and the White Shrine of Jerusalem in 1894.
8. Does the Masonic Organization have any programs for youth?
While there are several youth organizations sponsored or supported by the various Masonic organizations, three are the largest and best known:
• The Order of DeMolay - for young men, ages 12-21
• The International Order of Rainbow for Girls - for young women ages, 10-20
• The International Order of Job's Daughters - for young women who are related to a Mason, ages 10-20.
The youth organizations are separate and independent organizations that emphasize the importance of character development, community service and leadership.
9. Do the Masons have any famous members?
Yes. Some of the founding fathers and presidents of the United States were Masons. A very small list includes:
• Benjamin Franklin
• Paul Revere
• John Hancock
• John Paul Jones
• Chief Justice John Marshall
• George Washington
• James Monroe
• Andrew Jackson
• James K. Polk
• James A. Buchanan
• Andrew Johnson
• James A. Garfield
• William McKinley
• Theodore Roosevelt
• William H. Taft
• Warren G. Harding
• Franklin D. Roosevelt
• Harry S. Truman
• Gerald R. Ford
For additional information about Freemasonry, visit the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.