Music by Brother J.L.F. Mendelssohn
The dreams, aspirations and plans for the
Masonic Service Association by the Executive
Commission back in the formative days of the
1920' s were carefully enumerated in a
mimeographed publication, The M.S.A.
Trestleboard. The designs on that
"trestleboard" have stood the test of time.
In the first issue, dated December 3, 1920
we find the following comments:
''A. We cannot be sectarian. Postulating in the
first instance Masonry's one dogma, the
Fatherhood of God, we cannot and will not
build a program which will disturb the faith of
any brother, be he Mohammedan or Jew,
Presbyterian or Episcopalian, Trinitarian or
''B. We cannot indulge in political partisanship. We cannot espouse the candidacy of any
man, or the political faith of any party. We can
say that the right to vote is a priceless privilege,
a weapon against wrong in the hand of every
free citizen. We can bring the Mason to realize
his obligation to vote, but we cannot tell him
how to cast that vote.''
''C. We cannot encroach upon Grand Lodge
polity. We have neither the right nor the desire
to interfere with Grand Lodge polity or discussion, much less endeavor to influence Grand
Lodge legislation. Masonic government is of
interest to every Mason, and he should exercise
his prerogatives therein, but direction of this
function does not fall within the scope of the
Masonic Service Association of the U.S. This
Association is a confederation for a specific
purpose as outlined in its Constitution and ByLaws, and contemplates no other activity than
is described therein."
"D. We cannot encroach upon Local Lodge
polity. For reasons already expressed the
Association contemplates no interference with
the activities of any local lodge. The Association will undertake the preparation of certain
material which it believes will be worthwhile for
the use of local lodges, but the method for using that material must be determined by the cooperative judgment of each Grand Lodge and
its constitutent lodges. The opinion of those
who prepare this material as to how best it may
be utilized will be given, but no lodge or Grand
Lodge should or can be bound thereby."
"The development of the great underlying
principles of Freemasonry is the real task
before us. Necessarily it must be undertaken in
a way which will tend to broaden the vision of
our brethren. Our exposition of those principles
will be in support of that which is right. Our
principles are external TRUTHS. Our program
must make them a living force. That force will
be ammunition against wrong. We may be able
to point out the wrong as a target. We will be
content if the Mason comes to learn what the
target is and has the ammunition at hand. The
rest we may confidently leave to him. His
Masonic manhood will act with intelligence."
In Trestleboard Number 2, we find a great
many more guidelines which have served your
Association well over the years:
.....There seems to be no difference
of opinion among forward-looking Masons of
today, that Freemasonry, working through its
membership, should become a more constructive agency in our civilization. If it is to accomplish this result, Masons must come to
realize certain things, and they must learn to
apply Masonic principles to present-day problems with a new conception of what
Freemasonry really is. Some of these things
were gathered together under "Functions" as
" 1. The function of Masonry is not the
mere conferring of degrees. When a brother
becomes a Master Mason, the Fraternity's duty
toward him has just begun. He will realize his
duty as a Freemason only when he knows what
Freemasonry really is and what are its aims.
Most initiates are hungry for such teaching.
Our lodge officers, chosen from all walks of
life, have seldom the time to study ways and
means--other than by 'work'--to teach the
fundamental principles of the Craft and supplement the Ritual. It is a function of this Association to provide the necessary information and
suggest successful methods.
"2. We must apply methods which shall be
interpretative of the 'work' and of our history,
our organization and form of government. We
must translate, in modern terms, that work
brought down to us through the centuries, so
that its usefulness may be the better rewarded.
"3. The work before the Fraternity, as contemplated herein, is one of originality and
adaptation. To accomplish it requires that men
charged with its promulgation shall be Masons
first--trained and educated Masons, schooled
in the lore and custom of the Craft, and
possessing a vision of the world's problems.
They must be able so to visualise Masonic principles that the brethren may learn
Freemasonry's solution of those problems.
"4. Our aim is to make our brethren better
Masons and to enable them, by a broader
understanding of Masonic principles, to work
effectively for civic righteousness and the betterment of humanity.
"Going further, the Commission has stated
as the immediate object of the 'Inculcation of
the Principles and Spirit of Masonry' the
"1. To preserve as a landmark of civilization the principle of monotheism. The civil
government of all nations of the world must
rest upon the common foundation of belief in
"2. To re-cast the ideals of Government on
the basis of the recognition of our duties
toward others, rather than as at present on our
rights against others; the basing of civilization
on declarations of dependence instead of
declarations of independence; on altruism instead of selfishness.
"3. To combat destructive tendencies and
agencies seeking to undermine and destroy free
institutions, by teaching, constructively, the
true principles and functions of government
and of civilization.
"4. To arouse the conscience of every individual Mason to the necessity for his own
practical application of Masonic principles to
his activities in life, governmental, social,
business and otherwise.
"5. To stimulate charity and benevolence.
"Taken in connection with the pronouncements already made in regard to relief
and research work to be undertaken by the
Association, it is the judment of your Executive
Commission that the above forms a complete
and comprehensive program calculated to meet
the needs of the coming years in a truly
The Third Trestleboard, dated December
24, 1920 had these observations:
".....Freemasonry teaches us that the
first stone laid upon that foundation is the
Brotherhood of Man. For two centuries
Freemasonry has been inculcating an interpretation of this doctrine which is at once unique and practical. Civilization, however, has
chosen to make selfishness the cornerstone of
its superstructure. That cornerstone is crumbling.
"Masonry's task is to place a new cornerstone. The quality of the material of that
cornerstone cannot be doubted, but we have
always been taught that each stone must be
squared and fitted for the place it is to occupy.
In other words, if we are to impress civilization
with the value of the Brotherhood of Man as a
fundamental doctrine, we must shape it--that
is, interpret it--in such a way as to make it
available and understood by men.
"Essentially our study will have three
phases: Historical, general (that is, the theory
of government), and modern application (to
"A . HISTORICAL BACKCROUND.
When we come to map out in a practical way
the field covered by the doctrine of the
Brotherhood of Man we must consider (I) how
that doctrine has been crystallized into government; and (2) the part which Masonry has
played in bringing about the result. We shall
discuss and study (3) the lives of the great men
who were the instruments through which this
work was accomplished, and (4) the great principles which actuated them; (5) how they fought
for the incorporation of the fundamentals of
religious liberty in our great state documents,
and how they insisted on the separation of
church and state as a defense both for the state
and for religion. We shall also pass in review (6)
the obstacles against which they worked; (7) the
anti-Masonic crusade and other historic conditions, all of which have contributed to the making of America. These are the things which your
Commission believes need to be understood,
for inevitably they form the background for
our Masonic activities of today.
''B. CENERAL APPLICATION.
equally important that we shall discuss (I) the
functions of government, (2) the conditions
under which we live which are the test of that
government, (3) the principles which Masonry
has contributed in the past to the end that the
government might be a success, and (4) an interpretation of those same principles in modern
terms so that they may continue to be a factor
"Today forces are at work within the body
politic to undermine the foundations of government. Some of these are active agencies working in the open; others seek by insidious propaganda to accomplish their ends.
"If we would be honest with ourselves,
however, we must admit that these are not the
only undermining forces at work. Indifference
is itself a form of selfishness, and indifference
has sometimes written itself into law. Take, for
example, the tendency to organize, legalize and
formalize the duties of the citizen. Lacking the
urge of the lessons of pioneering, which caused
each man formerly to want to perform his functions as a citizen, we have now come to the time
when we provide by law for the entire participation of each individual in his government."
"C. AMERICAN APPLICATION.
Turning to another phase of our program, we believe
that true patriotism would dictate a study of
what government does for us. Our pride in our
own government, and our enthusiasm for the
principles which underline it, will increase as we
come to know more of what is done for us in
America, as compared with what other governments do for their citizens. That the study will
also emphasize things which we may learn from
them cannot be doubted.
"We shall find that the Masonic principles
which have been taught and exemplified by the
great leaders in American history have been
written into our constitutional form of government. They are there as a direct result of
Masonic teaching. They constitute the heritage
which Masonry has brought down from the
days of feudalism. That heritage is the body of
principles which at the time of the formation of
the Grand Lodge of England could be expressed only within the confines of a lodge. They are
the principles which Masons of the modern day
have neither had to fight nor work for, and of
which they, in common with the world at large,
fail to appreciate the value.
"Ours is the task, therefore, of bringing a
keener realization of the value of these principles to Masons, and through Masons to the
world; making our citizenry value America and
realize something of what we owe in return.
This logically leads us into very practical fields,
and as your Commission interprets it the Plan
and Scope already adopted by the Association
points very definitely the way for the development of such a program."
The WISDOM of the Founders of the
Masonic Service Association of the U.S. in formulating these basic guidelines, has proved to
be the STRENGTH of your Association in
stimulating an awareness in the BEAUTY of
the Craft to countless brethren.