Monday, December 31, 2007

The dance that Mormonism had with Freemasonry

On John Ratcliff's blog, one of the commentors on a recent post of his made a speculative statement about Brigham Young (the second president of the Mormon church) which I found to be a rather unstudied and inaccurate statement.

In order to not hijack Brother Ratcliff's thread, I'd like to move this particular discussion over to this blog so that his thread can remain on-topic. Yes, this subject has been done over and over in many places. But here it is again.

First, I'd like to refer anyone to read The Mormon Church and Freemasonry by Terry Chateau. From my point of view, having experienced both groups thoroughly, and studied and poured over the history of both ad nauseum, I find Terry's treatment of the subject to be mostly accurate, however basic it is.

Next, I'd like to point out that this post is intended for Freemasons, which is why I posted it on my Masonic blog. I hope not to draw in a large Mormon crowd to this post. To those Mormons who do show up, and who aren't either Masons or true scholars of Masonic history, I would rather see you over at one of my other, religious themed, blogs. I don't mean any harm by this, but I'm just trying to keep the noise level down on this post except for those who have direct experience in the subject.

In spite of my experience level, at this point, my opinion is one desirous of historical accuracy and indifference on the subject.

Well, thats it for now!

AMD: I - Royal Ark Mariners

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

The story of this degree contains events before, during and after the Biblical Flood. The apron and emblems of this degree are easily recognizable by the ark and rainbow motif, although the degree itself claims the original apron to have been made of unfinished lambskin.

The historic prerequisite to be made a Royal Ark Mason is to be a Mark Master Mason, however, the degree has no connection symbolically or otherwise to the Mark degree.

A brother is said to be "Elevated" to the Degree of Royal Ark Mariner.

Earlier in AMD history, this Degree was conferred in separate Royal Ark Mariner Lodges which were “moored” to a Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees. There are still a few surviving RAM Lodges moored to Councils, but warrants are no longer issued for new RAM Lodges. Other than those remaining Lodges, the Degree, if worked today, is worked directly by the Council upon their own AMD members.

In Canada, it is conferred by a Council of Royal & Select Masters (Cryptic Masons), bringing the number of Degrees worked by R&SM in that country to four (the third being Super Excellent Master.)

Overseas, RAM Lodges are moored to Lodges of Mark Masters which work under a separate Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons. The existence of Mark Grand Lodges is another fascinating study, worthy of its own lengthy discussion.

It is fascinating to me that this Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners exists worldwide, while being administered by three very different bodies of Masonry.

The Principal Officers of a Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners represent Noah, and two of his sons: Shem, and Japheth, and the Lodge room is made to represent the Ark of Safety. Indeed, our Brethren of the nineteenth century considered Noah to be one of the Grand Masters of Masonry. (Do you?) He is a celebrated Builder, and a man of integrity in the face of great opposition (if not a little bit of a drunkard.) Indeed, the early brethren of our Craft did not hesitate to trace the line of Masonry even back to Adam in the Garden of Eden, who was the first to build an Altar (of unhewn stone, the Rough Ashlar), and the first man to don an apron (though his was of fig leaves.) While it is ridiculous to think that Modern Freemasonry was known to Adam or Noah, there is something inherently true in the idea that Masonry is heir to the fruits of the greatest and noblest accomplishment of a more primitive generation of man. The Royal Ark Mariner degree is special because it embodies this speculative reference to far antiquity, which if taken literally, implies that all of humanity was saved from the great flood by a Grand Master Mason.

The Ark and the Anchor are symbols to which our attention is drawn, seemingly at random, in the Lecture of the Master Mason Degree. This proves the antiquity of their Masonic significance. I will now diverge from the subject of the Royal Ark Mariners in particular in order to quote at great length about "The Ark and Anchor," from "Freemasory, its Symbolism, Religious Nature, and Law of Perfection, by Brother Chalmers I. Paton (Past-Master, No. 393, England)" printed in 1873. If it doesn't suit you, please look past the Christian references present in this piece, as I believe the point being made regarding Salvation (Deliverance) and Trust are equally applicable to all of us who depend upon the Great Architect:

THE Ark and the Anchor sometimes represented separately, and sometimes conjointly, are symbolic of the safety and the sure hope of him who puts his trust in God, and walks in the way of God's Commandments. Tossed on a tempestuous sea of troubles, and exposed to many dangers in his earthly life, a good man is still preserved in safety, as Noah and his family were preserved in the ark, when it floated on the waters of the deluge, and all the rest of mankind perished. The ark refers our thoughts to this great historic fact, but at the same time leads us to think of that which even it symbolised or typified. As Noah and his family were saved in the ark, from the destruction which overwhelmed the multitudes of the unbelieving and ungodly, so all who put their trust in God are saved, whatever the dangers which beset them, and the storms which thicken around them. We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Heb. xi. 7). Even so, every believer, listening to the voice of God, and yielding a willing obedience, finds an ark of refuge ready, an ark which he does not need to prepare as Noah did, but in which he is in perfect safety.

The anchor may be regarded as securing the ark from danger amidst the storms of life. Or by itself it may be accounted as a symbol of the security of a good man who puts his trust in God. And thus the figure of the anchor is used in Scripture, to represent the perfect security of the believer's hope. "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail" (Heb. vi. 19).

The Anchor and the Ark remind us both of the dangers to which we are exposed, and of the refuge which we may find from them. They encourage us to choose and persevere in a right course, all dangers notwithstanding, and they assure us that if we do so, all shall be well. We shall not be overwhelmed in the surging billows; we shall not be driven from our place to be the sport of winds, and to be dashed by them to destruction; but we shall weather every storm, and find ourselves after all in a haven of peace and rest. It is a terrible picture of human life which is presented to us by the ark on the shoreless waters of the deluge; but we are comforted and encouraged by the thought of the safety in which it was preserved, till it rested on the mountains of Ararat, and its inmates went forth to enter on possession of the regenerated earth. Amidst the storm, a well-built and well-appointed ship rides securely at anchor in a good harbour, and we are encouraged to confidence of perfect security, as knowing how good both our anchor and our harbour are. But let us see to it that all is right, that ours is indeed a well-built and well-appointed ship, and our anchor is that which is "sure and steadfast."

The very significant symbol now under our consideration, is therefore far from being merely intended to remind us of the deliverance of Noah and his family, the progenitors of the whole existing human race, from the deluge which overwhelmed the old world, and swept away the workers of iniquity, but still more to suggest to our thoughts those great truths which were typified even in Noah's ark itself, and in the salvation accomplished by it. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust," says the Apostle Peter, "that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit. By which also lie went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1 Pet. iii. 18-22).

Traditions of the flood are common throughout the world, and are found in the earliest records of ancient times, mingling with the other legends of all the mythologies, and with the accounts which different nations have received of their origin. These traditions have been sought out and compared with great diligence by learned authors; for they afford an important argument in favour of the unity of the human race, and of the truth of the Bible. We find the ark figured in the ancient monuments of Egypt; and we find in many other of the most ancient sculptures, and on coins or medals of various countries, not uncertain evidence of the prevalence of the tradition of the flood, and of the preservation of Noah and his family.

The ark fitly symbolises the means of salvation. The flood rages around, but within the ark there is no danger. The perfect safety of those who seek refuge in it, is still further symbolised by the anchor. The ark is not represented as floating wildly, at the mercy of the winds and waves, but as secured by its anchor. And thus the believer has hope, "as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb. vi. 19-20). That hope cannot fail; disappointment is impossible; for it is a hope resting on the promise—nay, upon the oath of God; for "God," says the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it wns impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb. vi. 17-18).

He is safe who puts his trust in the Lord. The fiery deluge of wrath shall sweep away the workers of iniquity; perdition awaits them; but the believer is free from danger. No billow shall overwhelm the ark in which he has taken refuge; and it cannot be wrecked by any storm.
For further reading about the Royal Ark Mariner degree in particular, I refer you to "Following in Noah's Footsteps" at Freemasonry Today.

A woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle. Published in 1493. The series from which this image was taken were illustrated and engraved by Michael Wohlgemuth, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and Albrecht Dürer.

Whether or not to become a Knight Templar.

I have contemplated whether or not to become a Knight Templar for quite some time. Ever since I petitioned my Royal Arch Chapter I've been thinking on this subject. It has been hard to find any information or reassurance at all regarding what type of religious sensitivities might be jostled by experience in the Commandery. I thought I would share the information I have been given for the aid of any other Companions who may develop questions similar to my own.

Apparently, a Candidate seeking to be a Knight Templar (at least in the USA?) must be able to answer these questions before being admitted:
  • 1) Do you solemnly declare, upon your honor, that in seeking admission to this Valiant and Magnificent Order of Christian Knighthood you are actuated by no mercenary or other unworthy motive?
  • 2) If called upon to draw your sword in a religious cause, will you give preference to the Christian Religion?
  • 3) Does your conscience accuse you of any crime, unrepented of, which would render you unworthy of becoming a member of an Institution founded upon the Christian Religion and the practice of the Christian Virtues?
I'm unclear whether or not there are "right answers" to these questions. I'm assuming they're looking for "I do", "I will", and "It does not." I don't know how much variation would be tolerated here. :-) Also, it is curious to me that question 3 specifically refers to Crimes. Doctrine does not seem to be the factor here, but whether you've committed a crime contrary to "the Christian Virtues." Which makes me contemplate that I'm not really sure what makes Christian virtues different from the virtues of other faiths.

One point which I'd like to clear up: On the Internet there are some exposes of the Knight Templar ritual floating around which claim the Obligation is made "in the name of the Holy, Blessed and Glorious Trinity," but I have been assured that this is not the case in the USA, and that the obligation is here made "in the presence of Almighty God."

So, as has been said in many places elsewhere, it doesn't appear that one is required to be a Christian or confess any Christian creed or dogma in order to become a K.T. That being said, I have been told that Hebrews, James, Revelation, and particularly Matthew, Luke and Acts are quoted extensively throughout the ceremony. I am here speaking of the Order of the Temple only -- the third Order which the Commandery confers. I have not studied the other two, but am told that they are not implicitly Christian as the Order of the Temple is.

Personally, I'm still undecided. But I thought I'd share what my research has yielded so far.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees

The Allied Masonic Degrees is an invitational Masonic body for Royal Arch Masons which meets in Councils for the purpose of research and study. Each council is limited to 27 members and controls ten degrees which at one time in history were detached Masonic side-degrees. Whether any or all of these degrees are worked (conferred) is up to each individual Council. The degrees do not have degree numbers, but I have numbered them based on the chronological order of their various "stories."
AMD also controls the Red Branch of Eri, an Irish order of Knighthood that is conferred as an honorary order upon AMD brethren in recognition of their service.

Over the next ten days I will be posting a short explanation of each of these degrees and the history of their development.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A New Charge - Holiness in Masonry

Reading about some of the troubles in Masonry around the USA lately, I was inspired to write this little "charge" which could be delivered at the refreshment table to any Mason upon obtaining any degree or office, as a reminder of the importance of their conduct. It is possible that any of our Brethren could some day become Grand Master, and so we should start training them in appropriate behavior for such an office:

My Brother, as you have now been given the distinguished title of ____ (Fill in the blank: Master Mason, Tyler, Worshipful Master, Grand Master, etc.), it becomes my duty to inform you that the station to which you have been called constitutes a most solemn, sacred, and Holy engagement. Holy, because it is only by your trust in the Great Architect of the Universe that you have been extended this privilege, and because it is only through His continuing Providence that you are able to serve therein.

You should ask the blessing of God upon every act and endeavor you undertake in your capacity as ____, for as Masons, we are accountable to God above all others, He who is the Supreme Grand Master and the highest authority in every institution of Freemasonry.

Throughout the entire world Masons are, or should be, known as men who place their trust in God. Every action, therefore, that we make as Masons, reflects not only upon the honor of this ancient and noble institution, but also demonstrates to the public the seriousness and earnestness with which Freemasonry reverences and serves Him. To other people of faith, as well as to the atheist or libertine, our conduct should be a most impressive beacon of light, showing that we strive to uphold the moral precepts set forth in the Volume of Sacred Law and to live a life free of bigotry and hypocrisy.

Turn altogether away from any temptation you may have to disobey the Good Counsel which God whispers in your ear, and ever remember to walk uprightly before Him, dealing in a plain and honest manner with your fellow man, so that you will be enabled to pass the square of virtue, being filled with peace and joy as you anticipate those welcome words, "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant."

Request for Help for a Worthy Brother

Brethren, I am not passing any judgment on the following, nor have I verified any of the information to be accurate. Neither do I know the individuals involved. It is a request I received via and I am merely relaying it here so that anyone who might be interested may be able to follow up. The deadline they expressed was December 31, so it is near:

--- quote ---

where on your sight may a Brother post a blog for need of assistance? Would you be able to post this for me? This tax credit thing gives a Bother a chance to donate and return his donation to himself penny for penny.


My Brothers,

One of our worthy brothers is in financial need and has come to the Lodge in hopes of finding Relief. This brother is a single Dad, taking sole care of his early-teens daughter. His daughter has been having her developmental needs met at Casas Christian School after less than satisfactory results in the public schools. Through no fault of his own, he has not been able to make the tuition payments for her this year. He needs two months back tuition ($488.00).

FYI - We've been able to come up with one of the 3 months back tuition, so we're gettting there!

On going-tuition is $244.00 per month.

If you are able to assist him, you may contact him directly by email at or, you may contact the school for a direct donation on his behalf at: (Genetta Holt), at 297-0922. - For the benefit of Amanda Thacker -

Casas Christian School WEB SITE

Below, you will find information on the Arizona Tax Credit Program. It is possible to donate to the school DIRECTLY on his behalf AND RECEIVE a tax credit. (Read the info below and consult your tax advisor!) As tax time comes closer, you may be considering a tax credit donation this year. What better way could you find than one that helps a brother?

Thank you, Brothers! Br Steve Harrington PM


In 1997, the Private School Tuition Credit Law was passed in Arizona. This law allows any Arizona tax payer to redirect up to $1,000 a year in state tax dollars to a "private school tuition organization" and receive a dollar for dollar tax credit when filing a state income tax return. Contributions up to $1,000 can be made throughout the year; however, the deadline for making the contribution is December 31.

Casas Christian School (CCS) raises money through this program each year and provides need-based financial aid to families who desire a Christian education for their children but are not financially able to make that dream a reality. Last year the CCS provided financial aid to 82 children through tax dollars redirected to the Christian Scholarship Fund, the state funding organization that distributes contributions made to Casas Christian School.

If you would like to participate in this wonderful program, follow these steps:

1. Contact Genetta Holt, CCS Public Relations Manager, to request donor and tax forms at

2. Then, using those forms, donate a gift of up to $1,000 to Casas Christian School through the Christian Scholarship Fund of Arizona.

3. When you file your annual state income taxes, attach the tax form and receipt indicating your contribution.

4. You will receive a dollar for dollar credit for up to $1,000 on your state income tax.

5. This credit reduces the amount of state income tax you owe.

6. You can also claim the gift as a charitable tax deduction on your Federal tax form.

This is a win/win situation for both Casas Christian School and the taxpayer.

For additional information on the Arizona Tax Credit Program, contact CCS at

Mark Master Degree - The Overseers

In the Mark Master Degree (the fourth step in Masonry, and the first of the degrees offered by the Royal Arch Chapter in York Rite) the allegory teaches about a Keystone which was found, whose purpose and design, while recognized as beautiful, were unknown to the overseers of the work, and caused it to be consequently thrown among the rubbish of the Temple.

I have been thinking about the character of the Overseers: They were either innocent, or perhaps ignorant. They were doing exactly what they had been told, and it was their chief duty to make sure that only work of the approved design (square) would be accepted. Metaphorically, this could be an important lesson if we ever find ourselves in the position of the Keystone. (In keeping with my last post, it seems that, as of late, I am taking non-human characters from the story and applying myself to them symbolically.) If we find ourselves to be thrown among the rubbish in a particular group or organization, instead of feeling negative towards the people who did the throwing out we should first determine whether or not they are following orders. If they are, be patient with them: They may come back to search for and reclaim you once they learn your true value.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I am the WORD?

I've been studying the Cryptic Degrees in York Rite lately. To set the stage for those who are unfamiliar: Blue Lodge features the story of the loss of the "Ancient Masters Word," while the Royal Arch tells the story of its rediscovery. The Cryptic Degrees, on the other hand, go back to the time before the tragedy of the Master Mason Degree to explain how the WORD was preserved so that it could be later obtained during the events of the Royal Arch Degree.

In the Select Master degree, we witness the deposit of the Word for safekeeping. This takes place in an underground Crypt, hence the name "Cryptic." I had an interesting thought pop into my head while studying this degree. What if we are the WORD, and the deposit of it represents our own deposit, at our death, back into the earth for safekeeping so that we can one day be rediscovered?

To be exalted means to be raised up, or elevated. We are said to be "exalted" to the degree of Royal Arch. Could this be referring to the lifting up of the WORD from the Crypt back to the surface?

This is a line of symbolic interpretation that I have not explored before. I admit it is a little odd, but it might provide powerful fruit if studied out to its completion in the full context of these degrees.