What Is a Masonic Apprenticeship?

by Sir Knight Wayne T. Adams

If we want our newly Raised candidates to take an active part in Lodge life,
we need at least to give them an introduction to Masonry. Ritual alone, no
matter how well done, is not going to make a knowledgeable Mason or an active
Lodge member. If we want a man who believes in Masonry, a man who is an
active Lodge member, we have to take the time to show, to teach, to guide
that new Mason to a clearer understanding of the tenets of his profession as
a Mason. In short, we cannot just Raise a candidate and then drop him.

We have to start by making sure that we, ourselves, have a positive attitude.
Masonry has much to offer. It has been a source of wisdom and personal
satisfaction to millions of good men. Its principles and its benefits are as
valuable and as timely today as they ever have been. Still, this question
confronts us: Why are not more young men today interested in joining and
participating in our Fraternity? I believe the answer, in large part, is that
we fail to present Masonry in ways that appeal to a younger generation of

The men we want are activity oriented. We want the men who would rather to do
something than be something.

Let us look at some of the community activities which compete for young men's
time. Service clubs are growing. They explain to men their community projects
and how they raise money to fund them. They are able to show a committed
group of people doing something to make a positive impact on their
communities. Public safety groups, such as fire companies and rescue squads,
are growing. They show young people the scope of their activity. They
demonstrate their equipment and their training programs, and they show a
committed group of members intent on doing something to improve their skills.
Social clubs, usually centered around sports such as golf, tennis, hunting or
fishing, have no trouble maintaining membership. They are able to show
interested people their facilities, their schedule of events, and their
activities. They are able to show a group of people who are passionate about
their sport and about doing something to improve their performance.

The success of these organizations gives us a clue. It tells us what appeals
to good men today. They want to do something. They want to become more
effective in what they do. They want to be involved with others, to be part
of an effort, and to share goals.

Now, let us look at Masonry. What can Masonry offer? We can start with
brotherly love, relief and truth. The elements of brotherly love are our
perfect points: the obligation to go out of our way to serve a worthy
Brother; the obligation to be ever mindful of the Brother in our meditations;
the obligation to keep a confidence; the obligation to help a Brother and to
protect his good name; and finally, the obligation to warn a worthy Brother
of an approaching danger. We offer this bond to a man who is willing to

Relief need not be material relief. It can be a helping hand or an
understanding ear, a favor or a word of encouragement. The underlying
commitment is a willingness to help another Mason or his family with the same
level of concern that a man might show to his own brother. We can offer this
commitment to a man who is willing to reciprocate.

Truth is a value and a measure of the values we are committed to. Each of the
three degrees of symbolic Masonry teaches by precept, allegory and symbol the
virtues of fidelity, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice, all of
which we hold to be true true today, true yesterday, and true tomorrow. We
are willing to share the legends and the allegories and symbols which
illustrate them with men who are willing to commit themselves to the virtues
they represent.

Brotherly love, relief and truth require personal activity and commitment. We
have to do something to put them into practice. Masonry can provide men with
an opportunity to do something to improve themselves in pursuit of those

Let us look at ourselves in practice. Is our emphasis on just being a member
or on thinking and acting as a Mason? Do we try to create new members, or do
we try to show a man how he can live Masonry? The answer, of course, varies
from Lodge to Lodge. A Lodge which wants to attract young men today needs to
offer them an opportunity to do something which will give them personal
satisfaction. Sadly, many of our Lodges offer a new Mason little or nothing
to do unless he is interested in taking part in ritual work.

Our own legends teach us that ancient apprentices and fellowcrafts learned to
improve their skills under the guidance and tutelage of Masters. That was
true in operative Masonry. It can become true in speculative Masonry. We
should not permit a candidate simply to "take" three degrees. We should
demonstrate to him that the tenets of his profession as a Freemason offer him
a way of thinking and a way of living.

Fine words you may say. Fine and high sounding words. But, just how would you
go about instructing a candidate on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of
living. I suggest a twelve-point apprenticeship plan to get new members
involved, to give them something to do, twelve points which are closely
related to the tenets of our profession as Freemasons.

Let us first consider Brotherly Love. The candidate must get to know his new
Brothers. Here is what a presiding Master can do:

Task 1.

Make sure the candidate's sponsor introduces him to everyone present the
night he is initiated. I have seen a candidate prepared for his degree
sitting alone in a room where a whole group of Masons were chatting with each
other, none of whom had been introduced to him or had taken the time to
introduce themselves to him.

Task 2.

Request the candidate and his sponsor to be greeters at the door the night of
his second and third degrees. This is a good opportunity for him to speak to
the members he met earlier and to meet additional members who are attending
that evening. Task 3.

Invite the candidate to help out on the first three suppers following his
initiation. Remember, he sought membership because he wanted to do something.
Involving him in the work of the Lodge will make him begin to feel a part of

Now, let us look at Relief. Each new Mason needs to learn firsthand some of
the aspects of Masonic relief and caring.

Task 4.

Invite the new Mason to work on the first special ladies' night following his
initiation and see that he personally meets several of them.

Task 5.

Include the new Mason on the team delivering flowers or baskets or whatever
the Lodge may do for widows and elder Brothers during the holiday season.

Task 6.

Invite him to accompany the Master on a visit to a hospitalized Brother or to
a Brother who is shut in.

Task 7.

Request him to attend the first two Masonic Memorial Services following his
initiation to witness the concern our Fraternity feels for the family of a
departed Brother.

Our third tenet is Truth. The candidate should be told that he is expected to
obtain a basic familiarity with the legends and symbols which illustrate
truths we value.

Task 8.

Make sure the candidate has the benefit of the four instructional sessions
outlined in our Instructor's Manual. We seriously shortchange a man if we
make him a member of our Lodge but fail to give him a basic familiarity with
the ritual which is at the heart of our Fraternity.

Task 9.

See to it that the candidate visits another Lodge three times as he
progresses through his degrees, each time to witness the degree he has just
taken. This will give him a better understanding of the degree he has just
taken. It will also show him that he is part of a wider Fraternity, one that
he can take with him wherever he goes. It goes without saying that he ought
to be accompanied by his sponsor or Brothers he knows well.

Task 10.

Invite the new Mason to take a nonspeaking chair within a month or two after
he is Raised either for a degree or simply for a stated meeting. He may never
want to do it again, but it is important for him to do it at least once and
have the opportunity to feel he is a part of that ritual.

Task 11.

Arrange for the candidate to give his third degree lesson either along or
with other recent candidates within the prescribed time. The rule, after all,
is ours. We have many, many new Masons who feel that they have failed to do
something they should do. They haven't failed. We have failed when we tell
them they are expected to do something and then never follow up.

Brotherly love, relief and truth are the tenets of our profession as
Freemasons. There is another characteristic of Masons that is as old as the
history of our country. Every community in this country is a better place to
live because of the public spirited Masons, who, in hundreds of ways, keep
their communities and this country going. They contribute as volunteer
firemen, rescue squad members, little league coaches, church deacons and
Sunday school teachers, as members of boards of hospitals and libraries and
in countless other ways. Masons are the bedrock of every community in this

Task 12.

Tell each new Mason, if he has not already done so, that we would like to see
him identify one civic, community or church endeavor where he could carry
into his community some of the lessons he has learned in his Lodge. Twelve
points. We should tell a man who indicates an interest in Freemasonry what he
would be expected to do in becoming a member. We might give him a pamphlet
describing this apprenticeship plan so that he will understand in advance
what it is, why we are asking him to do it, and how it will benefit him. Such
a commitment might discourage a few donothing types who simply want to be
known as Masons. I am convinced that men who want to do something are
attracted to membership in organizations which clearly state their
principles, which ask them to make a commitment, and which relate those
principles to a specific plan of activity for them. Any presiding Master can
do a great service to Masonry, to his Lodge, and to his candidates if he will
just give them something to do.

We have the greatest Fraternity in the world, founded on the noblest of
principles. But let us never forget that it is not enough simply to make a
man a member. Our Fraternity will grow as an influence for good, our Lodges
will prosper, and our members will grow as good men and Masons only if we
focus our thoughts and efforts and the thoughts and efforts of our candidates
on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of living in which brotherhood is
the vehicle, the mission, and the goal.

Sir Knight Wayne T. Adams, Past Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of
Maine, is a member of St. Amand Commandery No. 20, West Kennebunk, Maine. He
resides at 21 Walker's Lane, Kennebunkport, Maine.

Knight Templar Magazine, February 1996