The Short Talk Bulletin December 1998 STB-DE98
Music by Brother J. L. F. Mendelssohn.
By. Nelson (PGM, Arizona)
In 1980 MSA published a Short Talk on Masonic Etiquette. 'It is hard to cover such a broad subject in one Short
Talk and Bro. Nelson (PGM, AZ) has-been kind enough to prepare a second Short Talk on the same subject,
however stressing many other points Of etiquette.
We thank Bro. Nelson for his efforts and recommend a careful reading of this Short Talk because politeness and
respect for others are always important masonic principles.
Each profession has its code of ethics governing the actions of its members. Ethics and rules of conduct are quite
different from etiquette however, and may vary from time to time. Etiquette, the consideration we show for others,
remains constant. This STB does not address customs or rules of conduct -- only etiquette. AD of the opinions
expressed have evolved from the generous actions and consideration shown to this author by many illustrious
Masons of our Craft. ,
While our relationship with other Masons is clearly explained by the ritual there are unwritten actions that will
improve our relationships with others and knowing them will give us self confidence. These actions are termed
etiquette. With minimal effort and thoughtfulness we can treat our Brethren with respect and improve friendships.
We might remember that Masonic etiquette is nothing more than plain manners and politeness, emphasized by
quickness of sympathy and fineness of observation. Masonic customs have been made a part of each jurisdiction's
ritual and regulations but they differ from the unwritten code of etiquette.
The meeting place of a lodge is considered a Masonic home by its members. When a visitor appears at a meeting it
is only proper for each member to welcome him as he would a visitor in his own home. Visitors should always be
welcomed into each conversational group and never left by themselves. To prevent a visitor from being slighted
some Masters wisely assign a member to accompany him throughout the evening. If the visitor is from another
jurisdiction he will appreciate knowing in advance what is
expected of him during the course of the meeting. For example, if he will be expected to know certain signs and
words or if he will be asked to speak. After the meeting visitors should again be welcomed by all members and
encouraged to share in refreshments or other activities. If the visitor does not have a car he will appreciate some
help with transportation.
It is customary and only common courtesy to rise when addressing the Master of a lodge. It is especially important
that a Mason stands when greeting another member or when being introduced to him. There may be exceptions to
this rule that age, custom, or ritual may preclude but it is good practice unless otherwise specified.
The first impressions of Freemasonry are received by the candidate in the preparation room. He is usually nervous
and ill at ease, often not knowing anyone present. He will respect the lodge if he is shown respect at this time,
particularly when he is garbed in the ritualistic clothing. The candidate will be impressed with the seriousness of the
occasion by the thoughtfulness of others.
Grand Honors, a form of Masonic applause, is the method of showing respect to certain Grand Lodge officers but
the form of recognition may vary from one jurisdiction to another. Visitors from another jurisdiction should be
informed about local customs before entering the lodge room. It is quite embarrassing to extend the public grand
honors of three times three when the private grand honors or another silent form of the grand honors are being
extended by others. Additional applause, after the grand honors, is entirely at the discretion of the presiding officer.
FOR THE MASON
Masons learn that, customs affecting etiquette may differ in each Masonic jurisdiction. it is understandable that
visitor's signs and even words may be different. The manner in which the apron is worn and even ritual language or
pronunciation may also differ. However, it would be discourteous to object to such differences.
Masonry has, for ages, taught lessons of tolerance but from time to time we still hear the voice of prejudice --
usually in ethnic jokes, sometimes in name-calling or in sweeping generalizations. If alone with a Brother there is no
need to laugh at such attempts at humor and one can quietly say that jokes are not appreciated that belittle people.
Perhaps, 'I don't agree with that remark' is sufficient. If one is in an embarrassing situation perhaps silence and a
change of subject is possible. In like manner, common courtesy and laws of the Craft forbid the use of discourteous
remarks, offensive personal comments, and expressions of bitterness or ill will toward a Brother. Such comments
should never be made during discussions in a Masonic gathering.
FOR THE MASTER
The Master of a Masonic lodge has been endowed with the title of Worshipful Master. It is a term of respect for the
office he holds or has held in the past. However, he does not call himself Worshipful any more than a judge would
call himself My Honor. He refers to himself simply as the Master.
Masonic ritual dictates the Master's actions but usually only during open lodge. At other times he is expected to use
good judgement and practice good etiquette. He will never be criticized for expressing sympathy or for observing
and alleviating the discomfort of others.
When a visitor is introduced to the Master it is appropriate for the Master to rise and welcome him with a
handshake. This action elevates the status of the visitor and can only improve the image of the Master. To extend
additional respect the Master may invite visitors who are Past Masters to a seat in the East and may even offer them
the opportunity to speak to the lodge.
As a mark of respect to the Great Architect of the Universe the Master should always remove his hat whenever the
name of Deity is spoken and during all prayers. And as a mark of respect to his country he does the same during the
Pledge of Allegiance or during the playing of the National Anthem. It is also good manners for a Master to rise and
remove his hat when being introduced to a lady visitor in a public meeting where he is presiding and to offer her the
hand of friendship. It is particularly important that the Master remove his hat when offering condolences at funerals.
Respect for the office of Master is a universally accepted custom in Masonic circles. For anyone to correct him or
criticize him during his 'labors' is considered rude. If the Master asks for assistance with the ritual then one
knowledgeable member, usually designated beforehand, will help him. In like manner, It is also discourteous to
prompt or correct any of the other lodge officers 'in the discharge of their duties. If they require assistance, the
Master will provide it. Criticism is best offered in private when it will not offend or embarrass anyone.
The Rules of Order in Masonic meetings may be determined by the Constitution of the Grand Lodge or by the
Lodge bylaws. If none are specified, then the Grand Master and/or the Master will determine the Rules of Order. A
Mason would be ill-advised to request that the presiding officer follow Robert's Rules of Order or any other course
of action. Harmony and dignity among the Craft must prevail and the Master will enforce it.
The careful selection of prayers used at Masonic gatherings, other than those included in the ritual, is the
responsibility of the Master. Sectarian prayers can easily offend those in attendance and it is important that the
Master explain this to anyone who may be called upon to offer a prayer. In like fashion a careless choice of
refreshments can embarrass members or
guests of certain religions or denominations and for that reason the menu selection at refreshment should be
When attending a Masonic funeral or memorial service it is well to determine, in advance whether the lodge
conducting the service will be wearing only white aprons or whether officer regalia is appropriate. White gloves
may be required in some localities.
FOR THE VISITOR
The expression, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do' is generally appropriate for Masonic visitors. -Many Brethren
believe that there is a universal Masonic custom called the 'right of visitation. ' Such is not the case in all
jurisdictions although unexpected visitors usually will be welcomed at most Masonic meetings. However, there are
circumstances when visitation is not guaranteed or even appropriate.
One such circumstance is when a Masonic Trial is in progress. There are other situations when a visitor might not
gain admittance: Perhaps a lodge has no remaining space or has a 'reservations only' policy for the evening or the
master might believe that the visitor's presence would disturb the peace and harmony of the lodge. Some American
jurisdictions that recognize the right of visitation are: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New
Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and
In some jurisdictions banquets are held occasionally as part of the lodge activities and therefore such meetings are
not considered open for visitation because of the advance planning that is required.
In some foreign lodges a response to a toast may be expected of the visitor. Therefore, arrangements to visit these
lodges should be made well in advance. Such arrangements often can be made by the Grand Secretary of the
In the United States a visitor's dues card will be examined for current status but it alone will not guarantee his
admittance. A visitor must expect to be examined when visiting another lodge unless someone will vouch for him.
In some countries other credentials may be requested. A visitor should appear for examination early enough so that
it will not delay any part of the planned activities. If he requests to see the lodge charter it should be made available.
It goes without saying that the visitor should always be treated with kindness and consideration.
There are few places that require greater self restraint and consideration for other people than a Masonic gathering.
Let us remember that the cardinal principle of etiquette is thoughtfulness and it implies a concern for the effect of
our actions on others around us. Certainly Freemasons are concerned with all members of the Craft and, we need to
treat each other with Brotherly respect.
So mote it be!
The Short Talk Bulletin Published monthly by the Masonic Service Association of North America. 8120 Fenton Street, Silver Spring,
Maryland 209104785. Tel: (301) 5884010, under the auspices of its member Grand Jurisdictions.