Some of the answers were, frankly, boring or ‘dictionary-esque.’  They include:

  • Freemasonry is a fraternity that uses ceremonies of initiation to teach symbolic lessons about morality, character and philosophy. It is a social fellowship and a vehicle to assist in spiritual growth. It is not a religion, a conspiracy to rule neither the world, nor a path to social advantage or to political power.
  • It is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values and one of the world’s oldest and most popular fraternal organizations.
  • A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
  • Freemasonry is a brotherhood of men concerned with moral and spiritual values, who believe in one Supreme Being and three core principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Its rituals teach those principles through allegorical drama about the building of King Solomon’s Temple, the aim of which teaching is to make good men better. It is a global fraternity of roughly 6 million members of many faiths and callings, organized into local Lodges. Freemasonry provides charitable support to many health care and other community efforts.
  • “Freemasonry is the largest and oldest fraternity in the world. For centuries going back to the medieval stonemason guilds who built the great castles and cathedrals of Europe, Masons have taught the wisdom and philosophy of the ages through a series of lessons using the tools, traditions and terminology of those stonemasons, to help men become better family members, citizens, and neighbors and live more fulfilling lives.”


Not satisfied with these, I wrote an alternative: When someone asks, “What is Freemasonry?,“ oft times they are opening a door to us, showing that they are interested. They’re not just looking for a dictionary entry. I appreciate the efforts made at the short answers above, but I don’t think they address the man’s possible interest in JOINING. Think about it: Some of these bullets are old ackward stand-bys, like the line about “…veiled in allegory…” People don’t talk that way any more. Others are heartfelt but cludgy attempts to sum things up, but in my opinion, none of them are especially useful for recruitment or as an effective, compelling presentation.

They end conversations, and don’t inspire more interest.

Why is this so?: Because in most of these, for the non-Mason, the language is hard to understand. Face it, our culture is dumbed down a bit since most of us were in school, or the language has shifted. When someone doesn’t understand a few words of this kind of intro, his eyes glass over and he thinks of his lunch instead.

And why would we want to make an ‘effective, compelling presentation’? Because we should hope to attract like-minded candidates who would fill our ranks and help us achieve another century of effectiveness. Some would call this marketing and mean something ugly; I would call it ‘influencing the better angels of a man’s nature’, and be closer to the truth.

I disagree fully with those Masons who think they need to diffuse the slight mystery and even the natural and fun ‘fraternal spookiness’ of the Craft. Nor do I think it effective to worry about countering the anti-Masonic blather that a man may have heard by refuting it in the first paragraph. No: Let our actions speak louder than the anti-Mason’s words. Instead, smile, and hint that your friend hasn’t heard the whole story. A little mystery will drive him nuts, and he’ll want more.

Therefore, my response to this question would be measured out depending on the audience, and time. I try to get at least a minute to give my intro to Masonry. Then, especially when talking to young men, I would say IN MY OWN WORDS:

Freemasonry is my fraternity. I first learned of them from my grandfather, who was the greatest role model I’d ever met. As a kid, he ushered me and my family into massive pancake breakfasts where all the proceeds went to charities like childrens hospitals or scholarships. Later, I learned that Masonry was much like my collegiate fraternity, but for adults. When I joined my lodge I got to know 50 or 100 more men just like him, plus fellows my age who realized that grandpa knew something we didn’t. These are my boys: fellows that I’ve grown to trust, who trust me, who have banded together to protect each other’s families in case of a tragedy. But John, more than that, we help each other and our communities along the way. I asked to pitch in with them after I realized I could make a difference, too. But [with a smile] truth be told, we don’t let everyone in; there are many men our age who are content to watch sports, play video games or who don’t forge friendships outside of work. Not me – I wanted something bigger, and better than that: To be a Mason a guy has to want to connect on the basis of honor, with something larger than his life. That’s why I asked one of the brothers how to join.

I’d also suggest that the reason this kind of ‘elevator speech’ is so difficult is that we don’t practice it. The solution is… to practice! This is a terrific educational presentation in lodge, when the members pair off to practice how to speak from the heart this kind of quick introduction, which, instead of making their friend’s eyes glaze over, it leaves them with a friendly challenge to seek more information.

What do YOU think?  -Tom Jackson


Minnesota’s Grand Lodge educational committee poses a weekly educational question called Masonic Monday on Jackson’s old Lodgebuilder website. Recently, the question was asked: If you only have time to give a two or three line answer (about 15 seconds), what do you say to someone who asks “What is Masonry”?