May 2022: Talking About Freemasonry

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    Talking About Freemasonry

    New: Download our new virtual booklet full of simple answers to common questions about Freemasonry and advice for talking about it with non-members.

    In a typical year, Masonic lodges throughout the state provide millions of dollars in time and resources to their local communities. From scholarships to food drives, California Masons are making a difference just about every day. For all their good deeds, you’d think more members would be singing the fraternity’s praises from the rooftops. On the contrary: Most members are tight-lipped when it comes to talking about Freemasonry, either out of bashfulness or a sense that they’re not allowed to talk about Masonry. “At the heart of the problem is a misunderstanding,” says Adam Hanin, past master of Acalanes Fellowship No. 480.

    And not just a misunderstanding, but a missed opportunity: When members are open and articulate in discussing Freemasonry with their families, friends, and prospects, we all benefit. That’s what brings new members coming in and keeps the tradition moving forward. But at the heart of all of that is getting straight on how to talk about Freemasonry.

    Talking About Freemasonry:
    Back to the Basics

    Unfortunately, Freemasonry is the subject of a whole lot of misconceptions. And not all of those come from Hollywood. One of the most common of these is the difference between sharing information about Masonry, on the one hand, and “recruiting.”

    That’s an issue Hanin has dealt with often in his lodge. “There’s a belief that ‘one’s own free will and accord’ means prospects have to make up their minds about the fraternity without the benefit of information provided by current members,” Hanin says. That’s not true. Members should feel free to talk about the fraternity’s history and the specific activities of their lodge. “We should feel empowered to share the best parts of the fraternity with friends and family. If we’re truly proud of our membership, we should share it.”

    That’s an important point, and perhaps the one that’s most important to clarify: Members are free to discuss Freemasonry in general, or their lodge in particular, with anyone at all. We have lots of information geared toward prospective members or those curious about Masonry available online, as well—including a series of brand-new pages meant to answer basic questions about Freemasonry.

    The only things that members are prohibited from talking about are the particulars of the ritual and the signs (words and gestures) that Masons use to identify themselves. Those are considered private and only shared with members as they progress through the degrees.

    Talking About Freemasonry:
    Where to Begin

    Now that we’ve established what members can and can’t say, a new question emerges: What should they say?

    For many members, this is harder than it sounds. To help his own lodge achieve some uniformity on the matter, Hanin has produced a brief informational brochure that outlines some basic information about the lodge, Freemasonry, and what members can and can’t say. “We were finding that we had prospects attending our dinners and talking to members, but still leaving having no idea what the fraternity was really all about,” he says.

    The Grand Lodge has developed a similar booklet, which offers simple and concise answers to common questions about Freemasonry that can be helpful for those looking for more information. It’s also helpful for current members who might struggle to explain certain aspects of the organization. DOWNLOAD THE BOOKLET HERE.

    By aligning on these kinds of questions and sharing simple, accurate information, we can help inform the next generation of potential members and help to correct some of the misconceptions about Masonry that have endured in popular culture.

    Talking About Freemasonry:
    A Primer

    Some common questions about Freemasonry are relatively easy to answer. What’s a lodge? How many degrees are there? Others are harder, or at least more nuanced. Here are a few of the most frequent—and difficult—questions we hear. (Review more in the new booklet.)

    Is Masonry a religion?

    Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It is a social organization that focuses on personal development, philanthropy, and service. Freemasonry welcomes people of all spiritual backgrounds. But, to get the most out of Freemasonry, a requirement of membership is to believe in a higher power. What that means is personal to each person. Some may refer to it by a name and others might not have a name for the higher power at all.

    Are there women Masons?

    Women have been Masons for centuries. In California today, there are several lodges made up of exclusively women. There are also lodges with both men and women as members. Others, like those belonging to the Grand Lodge of California, are made up solely of men. A list of women’s and co-ed lodges can be found at

    Is Masonry a secret society?

    Freemasonry is not a secret society. We keep parts of our ceremonies private because they are deeply meaningful, and we want each person to have experience them firsthand in the lodge room. We're big fans of NO SPOILERS!

    What’s the relationship to Prince Hall Masonry?

    Prince Hall Masonry is a historically Black branch of Freemasonry that began in the 1700s. Today, Prince Hall lodges accept people of all races and ethnicities, as does the Grand Lodge of California. It maintains its structure to preserve and perpetuate the memory of Prince Hall, the founder of the organization. The Grand Lodge of California and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California are different organizations but partner on many social and charitable events throughout the state. Read more about this relationship in California Freemason Magazine.

    The Takeaway

    Masons are totally free—even encouraged—to discuss the history of the fraternity, the nature of their lodge, and their own experience in it with anyone they choose. The only things they can’t discuss are the signs, grips, and passwords that Masons use to greet one another, or the specifics of the degree ceremonies. That means we can talk about Masonic symbols and what they mean. We can talk about the roles of different lodge officers, and why they wear certain regalia and sit in certain positions. Perhaps most importantly, we can talk about how Masonry has impacted our life, and what it means to us.

    For Your Trestleboard

    Use this content to spread the word about joining the Cornerstone Society and to share resources provided by the Masonic Homes of California.

    New: The Pavilion at the Masonic Homes

    Cornerstone Society

    Masonic Homes of California Resources

    Masonic Youth Order Resources Library

    Masonic Value Network

    Your May Checklist

    Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your May checklist.

     Executive Committee

     Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee

    • If you haven’t already, register for the 2022 Master and Wardens retreat in Palm Springs.
    • Identify and approach members for 2023 open elected and appointed officer positions 
    • Identify and approach members for the 2023 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
    • Set calendar for 2023 and identify event leaders.
    • Continue preparing 2023 budget.
    • Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain
    • Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.

    Junior Warden

    • If you haven’t yet, register for the 2022 Master and Wardens retreat in Palm Springs.
    • Continue tracking 100 percent officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs.


    • Send list of members with late dues to the Retention Committee.
    • Send any suspension notices via certified mail.
    • Provide necessary information so Charity Committee can consider remissions.
    • Begin reviewing roster for accuracy in preparation for the end of the Grand Lodge membership year, June 30.


    • Important: By May 15, submit IRS form 990 and FTB form 199 (unless your lodge has previously agreed to have Grand Lodge prepare and file these forms). Please contact financial services at (415) 292-9170 for any questions.
    • Lodges not using Intacct should submit their annual financial statements to Grand Lodge by May 15.

    Hall Association

    • Important: By May 15, submit IRS form 990 and FTB form 199.
    • Important: By May 15, submit form 200 to Grand Lodge. In iMember 2.0, download form 200 from the Hall Resources section of the Resources tile, and then upload the completed form to the lodge vault or submit to or
    • Pay insurance premium.

    Questions? Contact Member Services at or (415) 776-7000.

    Question of the Month

    Last month we asked if your lodge has a calendar of degree dates planned for the rest of 2022. Of those that responded:

    • Yes - 21%
    • No -  71%
    • Other - 7% (Yes and no. We have a general ongoing degree process and assign dates when candidates are ready),(
      Partial, still recovering from COVID issues),(for most of the year, depends on advancement)

    Here's your next survey question