In petitioning for the Three Degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry, your presumed desire was to become a member of the order that you might enjoy the fraternal fellowship of the brethren and that you might be of service to your fellow men. It will be helpful to you to have some conception in advance of what Lodge membership implies. This subject may as yet be only partially explained, although there is much that you can and should understand at the start of your journey.
You will become a member by receiving the three degrees. You will become entitled to all the rights and privileges of membership by proving your proficiency in each degree. By taking the obligations of the degrees, you enter into a contractual relationship with the Lodge, wherein you bind yourself to perform certain duties, and the Lodge binds itself to protect you in certain rights and privileges.
One of your first duties will be loyalty to the Fraternity and to your superior officers, and obedience to the laws. This is a fundamental requirement.
It will be your duty to pay regularly and promptly such dues as your Lodge may establish. No option is given; to do such is a necessary condition of membership. And it will be your duty, as your conscience shall guide and your means permit, to do your share in maintaining the charities of the Lodge and to stand ready to lend a helping hand to a Brother Mason in distress.
If you are present at a communication of the Lodge when a ballot is taken on a petition for initiation, advancement, affiliation, or reinstatement, you must vote. This is only another way of saying that the responsibility for deciding Masonic membership rests on each and every member. To cast a vote is not merely a right or privilege to be exercised by choice, but a duty.
It will be your duty to attend the communications of your Lodge, to join in its deliberations and decisions and to assist in discharging its responsibilities. You are not required nor even expected to attend if by doing it works an unnecessary hardship on yourself or your family, but otherwise your attendance is expected.
If the Master, acting according to the provisions of the Grand Lodge Laws, issues a summons to you to attend a communication of the Lodge for some special purpose, or to discharge some duty required of you as a Mason, it will be your duty to obey the summons, unless the circumstances render obedience impossible.
Such duties inhere membership in a Lodge; others will be made clear to you as you progress in Masonry. In many fundamental respects, a Lodge differs from any other organization; membership is not a mere gesture of honor, nor an idle privilege, with duties and obligations to be laid down or taken up at pleasure. A member should not stand outside in idleness until he has opportunity to secure something from it for his own selfish advantage, nor evade his responsibilities by shifting his duties to more willing shoulders. The Mystic Tie by which he is bound to his fellows has in it a strand of steel.
Certain rights and privileges accompany these duties and are equally maintained and made secure by the Fraternity.
As a member of a Lodge you will be eligible to any office in it, except that no member can become Worshipful Master, unless he has previously served as an installed Warden.
You will have the right to join in our public processions, a privilege carefully guarded and protected by our laws, since to join in such is to identify oneself with the Fraternity.
As a Master Mason in good standing, you will be entitled to additional rights and privileges which, in due time, will be explained to you.
As a Master Mason, you will be entitled to Masonic burial, a privilege to be valued over and above its public recognition of your standing.
In all communications of the Lodge, you will have a voice in its discussions and a vote on questions decided by the Lodge. Neither in Lodge nor in Grand Lodge is there taxation without representation, nor is any Masonic officer permitted to exercise arbitrary or unreasonable authority.
The Lodge and Grand Lodge give many services and extend many opportunities for entertainment, good fellowship and educational advantages; as a Mason you will have the privileges of enjoying these equally with all others of your fellow members.
When among strangers you will possess certain modes of recognition by which to prove yourself to another Mason and to exact similar proof from him, thereby enabling you to establish Fraternal relations with men who otherwise “must have remained at a perpetual distance.” To know that wherever you may go you will find brothers ready to extend the hand of fellowship, men whom you have never met but who already stand bound to you by the Mystic Tie, is one of the greatest of all privileges of membership.
These duties, rights, and privileges of Masonic membership are not exhaustive. We have just touched the fringe of a great theme, but it is our hope that, with such light as has been given you, you will go forward with a livelier, keener understanding of what Masonry can mean to you and also of what you may mean to it.