Music by Brother J. L. F. Mendelssohn.
STANDARD OF MASONIC CONDUCT
This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted
from a paper of the same title prepared by the
Committee on Masonic Research and Education
of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota.
It has been said that the purpose of
Freemasonry is the pursuit of excellence. All of
the teachings of Masonry are directed to excellence in performing our duties to God, our
country, our neighbors and ourselves. The continuing effort to improve oneself is the true mark
of a Mason. This principle was stated well by
Grand Master Donald J. Flood at the annual
communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.
"We must constantly remember that in every
moment of our life - in public - at work - at
pleasure - with our families - even when you are
alone - You are a Mason!
"The non-Masons who know us will judge each
of US, and Masonry itself, by the way in which
we conduct ourselves. We have in trust the
reputation of Masonry. Let us not betray that
trust! Masonry will flourish if we follow these
"Before we can expect to attract good men
to the fraternity by our conduct and reputation
in public, we must learn to conduct ourselves
with propriety in the Lodge. One of our first
duties shall be loyalty to the fraternity and obedience to its laws. This is a fundamental requirement.
"Propriety is not the result of law, but rather
of tradition, custom and usage. Like good manners, it has behind it only the force of opinion.
While there (may be) no penalties for breaches,
there are tangible rewards for observance of the
rules and ceremonies of good manners!"
An ancient philosopher advised "When in
Rome, do as the Romans do." This also applies
to your actions when you are visiting another
Lodge, particularly in other states or countries.
While the principles and ideals of Masonry are
universal, social customs and Masonic traditions
and laws differ from place to place. For example, all Masonic Lodges open with a prayer, and
it is not surprising that the words of the prayer
may vary from place to place. When we go to
other states in our country we find that the attitude of prayer is not the same everywhere and
in other countries the name of Deity may even be
different. Likewise we find that the customs concerning such things as the proper way to address
a Brother or a Lodge officer, the appropriate
dress for a l.odge meeting, proper topics of conversation, and even the working tools and the
Grand Masonic Word change as we go around
the world. But wherever you may be, you can be
sure that respect and honesty toward Masons
and Masonry, as taught by the square and compass, will be the fundamental guide for your
In this paper we will discuss the principles,
traditions and ideals that should guide our conduct as Masons. This paper does not present a
list of Masonic do's and don't's. Such an attempt would fail for at least two reasons: first,
no one would read it, and second, as Masons,
each of us is expected to apply the tools and
principles of our Craft to our own lives.
One of the most interesting experiences in
Masonry is to visit a Lodge in another Grand
Jurisdiction. Whether it is in a foreign country
or just in another state, there will be interesting
and surprising differences. But, a word of caution, you must comply with the laws and
customs of the Masonic Jurisdiction in which
you are travelling! Therefore, before you visit,
find out what to expect. The List of Lodges
Masonic, found in every Lodge, give the names
and locations of all the Lodges in the world that
are recognized by the Grand Lodge. Since there
are clandestine Lodges, it is essential that this
book be consulted. Finally, if you are in a
foreign country, you should consult the Grand
Lodge office in that country.
In the United States and Canada, a current
dues card is required as proof of membership.
However, there are countries where a dues card
will not be accepted. In these cases a letter of in-
troduction from your Grand Lodge is necessary.
Concerning appropriate dress, a dark
business suit is often acceptable for a Lodge
meeting. But, in some Grand Jurisdictions, formal dress is required even for side-liners. Outside
of North America you will usually be expected to
have your own apron, so carry it with you.
Regarding Masonic pins, rings, etc., these are
often worn only within the Lodge. Some Grand
Lodges even have rules that prohibit wearing
these in public. And then there are countries
which have outlawed Freemasonry. It is not prudent to even carry a pin into those countries.
Law Suits Between Masons - While this is not
an area of strict Masonic regulation, it is a subject addressed by ritual, traditions and Masonic
law. Our ritual states that "no contention should
ever exist" between Master Masons. Tradition
has interpreted this to include the subject of law
suits, requiring that Brothers make every attempt to resolve such differences without
recourse to the courts.
Business Advertisements and Contacts - The
general rule in these matters is that you should
not seek financial benefit from your Masonic
membership. To do otherwise is considered to be
in poor taste at the best and unmasonic or even
criminal at the worst. Lodge membership lists
cannot be used for business mailings. Masonic
membership cannot be used in a commercial or
political advertisement or sign. The square and
compasses cannot be used for any commercial
purpose, as a symbol or a design. This point has
been tested in the courts and Masonry has the exclusive use of this emblem.
Respect - Every person has a basic need for
both self-respect and the respect of others. When
our friends show, by word or deed, that they
hold us in low regard, we may react as strongly
as if we were threatened. On the other side, we
would do almost anything for a person who
holds us in high esteem. Thus, respect is both the
least honor that we require and the highest
honor that we can hope for in our dealings with
our fellow men.
The term "respect" includes courtesy,
tolerance, kindness, sympathy, prudence,
temperance, and a host of other concepts that
refer to our relationships with people. It encompasses our words, our actions, our appearance and even our thoughts. Inside the
Lodge and outside of it, we should strive to
demonstrate in every way our respect for a
Brother's honor, feelings, efforts, hopes and any
other part of his life that we may contact.
While conduct within the Lodge is the concern of all Masons, it is especially important for
the officers of the Lodge. Once again we quote
from Brother Flood's comments:
"We can't expect our Brothers to know these
principles if we don't teach them and practice
them. This is Masonic education in its finest
"It is not from the lack of desire to learn that
the Craft suffers, but rather from the lack of instruction.
"Masonry does not exist for the mechanics
of ritual alone. Just as important is the learning,
interpretation and exemplification of that ritual
and of the basic principles of our Order. Equally
important, too, for the candidate and for every
member is the need to fully understand these
principles, as well as our responsibilities as
"What is required of every single one of us is
the dedicated and devoted application of the
high moral principles of Masonry. By these simple methods, we develop the character that
guarantees our own self-improvement and
discharges the duties of God, our country, our
neighbors and ourselves."
Since officers set the example for the whole
Craft, before seeking or accepting a line position
a man should be certain that he is willing to
demonstrate the highest standards.
Dress - In many Jurisdictions there is no
mandatory dress code, but this does not mean
that we should disregard our appearance. Although as Masons "We regard no man for his
worldly wealth . . . . ", human society
everywhere considers a man's outward appearance to reflect his inner self and attitudes.
Your manner of dress reflects the respect that
you have for the dignity of Masonry, its work,
its goals, and its members. At all times your apparel should be appropriate for the occasion and
those attending, remembering that the altar of
Masonry is the altar of God. Thus the clothes
you would wear for a golf tournament or a
degree in an underground mine may not be appropriate for work done in the Lodge quarters.
At Tyled Meetings - At the sound of the
gavel in the East, the officers and brethren take
their places and the Lodge comes to order. This
means that everyone is seated unless called up by
the Worshipful Master or unless rising to address the Worshipful Master. In most introductions all speaking is directed to the East.
Therefore it is improper for two Brothers to
speak to each other during an open discussion,
unless directed by the Worshipful Master, and it
is never proper for two Brothers to hold a
private conversation (whispered or otherwise) in
a Lodge at labor.
Each candidate at each degree is instructed in
the proper way to salute. He is also told that he
should salute when rising to address the Worshipful Master and when entering or retiring
from a Lodge while it is at labor. These instructions remain in effect even after we have completed our degrees. Always rise when speaking,
even if you are only giving a second to a motion.
Give salutes that are accurate and precise. A
sloppy salute is actually a sign of disrespect !
Finally, when referring to a Brother or when addressing him, courtesy requires that we use the
term "Brother" followed by his last name. Of
course, "Worshipful Brother Jones," "Right
Worshipful Brother Smith," or "Most Worshipful Brother Flood" are also proper forms.
The proper way to enter or retire from a
Lodge is not always clear to new Masons. When
entering or leaving a Lodge at labor, the proper
place to stand, while giving the salute, is at the
west of the altar. Not at at the door or at your
seat. The salute is normally given to the East,
but the Worshipful Master may direct these
salutes to be given to the Senior Warden. Of
course, everyone should enter through the
Tyler's door. The preparation room door is for
candidates only. Every member guards that
door, and the ballot is the key that locks or
There are probably no other topics of discussion that have caused as much ill will, alienation
and contention as have politics and religion. In
the interest of harmony among Brothers, it is
considered un-Masonic to introduce any
religious, political, or other divisive topic into a
A final word for the officers of the lodge.
The fiag of our country and the Great Light of
Masonry merit our utmost respect, both in their
care and their handling. The Bible should be
handled with reverence and care, the flag should
be treated with honor and should fly freely when
being carried. The other jewels, furniture, and
regalia snould be cared for and kept in good
repair to demonstrate the high regard we hold
for our Craft and its work.
During Degrees - One of the most solemn
and meaningful events in a Mason's life is the
time of his raising. Yet we often see this degree
marred by laughter and inappropriate comments. The Grand Lodge of Arizona requires the
following to be read at the beginning of the second section of the Master Mason degree:
"A candidate is about to be raised to the
sublime degree of Master Mason. The Lodge
room will be used as a stage to enact a drama
which, symbolicaly unfolds the great lesson of
the immortality of the soul.
"To properly impress the candidate with the
seriousness of this ceremony, there must be no
talking, whispering, laughing or other commotion during the conferring of the degree. Bear in
mind the fact the Temple, for this portion of the
degree, is supposed to be silent and unoccupied.
"Only the participants in the drama are to
speak, and they are instructed to make no facial
expressions, gestures or other unusual deliveries
which might induce levity. The cooperation of
each one here present is EXPECTED.
"An adherence to these instructions will help
serve as an impressive climax to the candidate's
progress in Freemasonry and this section of the
degrees could well be one of the richest experiences of his life."
The principles contained in this statement are
equally appropriate for all degree work, lectures,
preparations and gatherings connected with the
degrees. Nowhere does Masonry give any man
license to take liberties with another. Comments
that are intended to arouse a candidate's concern
for his personal dignity or safety are among the
most discourteous acts that can be inflicted upon
a candidate. Such actions are a gross
misrepresentation of the Craft and are
disrespectful to all of its members.
There is one form of disruption of degree
work which comes from the best of intentions
- side-line prompting. How often have we seen
a forgotten word, or even a dramatic pause,
produce an uproar as a number of concerned
Brothers attempt to help the speaker. Prompting
should be done only by the Worshipful Master
or the one designated by him. The Masonic virtues of silence and circumspection are nowhere
more appropriate than in this situation.
The perfect points of our entrance, as
reflected in the four cardinal virtues of
temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice,
provide us with a complete guide for truly
Masonic acfion. It behooves each of us to
periodically evaluate ourselves against these four
standards, to see where we have those rough corners to which the common gavel can profitably
Am I temperate in my relations with others,
or have I been excessive in my actions toward
someone? Have I displayed fortitude in pursuing
the excellence I can achieve, or have I chosen
to do as everyone else does? Do I direct myself
wisely and prudently, or do I sometimes go
beyond the bounds of courtesy and good taste?
Have I given to each Brother, candidate, friend,
and associate the consideration, help, and
respect which they justly deserve, or have I let
my own pride, comfort, and desires blind me to
These are the standards of Masonry. It is not
easy to apply them to ourselves. But then, being
a master of any craft is never easy, and being the
Master of oneself is perhaps the most difficult of