Suitable Proficiency

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR
I’ve seen it often — a candidate enters the Lodge room to receive his Fellowcraft or Master Mason degree. In each, the Senior Deacon leads the candidate around the room, stopping at stations for an interrogation. The officers at those stations ask if the candidate has made suitable proficiency in the preceding degree.

“He has,” replies the Senior Deacon… as he shakes his head “no.” Muffled snickering from around the room usually follows.

You see, about 15 years ago my jurisdiction — Missouri — dropped the requirement for proficiencies. Many of our Brothers considered that decision to be the worst thing that had happened in our state since the Pony Express went belly up; and it’s not exactly breaking news that the debate continues — those Senior Deacons aren’t shaking their heads for nothing.

I recall receiving the pamphlet with the proficiencies when I became an Entered Apprentice. (Yes, in Missouri they’re written down, in code, but still a practice some consider heretical.) Discovering I had to memorize the material gave the word “daunting” new meaning. Somehow, though, I “manned-up” and learned them for all three degrees.

Having gone through the experience I consider it one of the highlights of my Masonic journey. I spent time with my mentor who not only took me through the rote memorization process, but also explained things along the way. At the end, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I also found all that memory work paved the way for learning other parts in the future. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m still not sure, however, where I fall in the debate we’re still having 15 years after the proficiencies went away. I think there is a feeling that the lack of proficiencies increases membership; or maybe a better way of putting that is having proficiencies might scare some men away. I have to say, in all those years we haven’t had them, I’ve seen men come through who are some of the finest Brothers I know. We wouldn’t want to do without them. But would they have joined anyway?

In the end, I probably fall somewhere in the middle of the road. I really think it should take more of a commitment to join the fraternity than it does, say, to become a member of your local Public TV station. We should require new Brothers to demonstrate at least a knowledge of signs, passwords and maybe even learn the obligation.

Going through some old Missouri records recently I noticed one more interesting fact to consider — historically, there were a lot of Brothers who were initiated, passed and raised in a matter of days — sometimes, in fact, on the same day. Meriwether Lewis, for example, was initiated on January 28, 1797, and received his Second and Third Degrees on the following evening. Obviously, he did not learn “suitable proficiencies” in that time span.

Lewis and many others who came into the fraternity that way served the Craft well. Don’t we become a little more proficient in Freemasonry every day, with every meeting, every experience? Perhaps we should look at proficiency as something other than memorizing a boatload of material. To me, understanding that material is proficiency, and it doesn’t come overnight.

I wonder what would happen the next time I’m asked if the candidate has obtained suitable proficiency if I responded, “Define proficiency.”

You’re right… maybe not a good idea.

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

from The Midnight Freemasons

Brother Against Brother – The Masonic Civil War

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM
Brethren, there is unrest and dissension brewing among us. Brother against brother, peace and harmony being cast aside like yesterday’s newspaper. Battle lines have been drawn and most have picked their side and will fight for their side until the bitter end. The shot heard around the Masonic world has been sounded and civil war is at hand!

OK, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but honestly when I read about this in Facebook groups or hear Brethren discuss this topic you would think the lodge room as we know it will cease to exist. (Yes I’m braced and ready for the comments when this piece is published.)

Since I became a Freemason I have heard the constant arguments amongst Brethren on many subjects. Most of these arguments are good natured and have been discussed by members for years: how to wear your ring, the pronunciation of certain words, how to hold your rod in lodge…etc. Most of these make good conversation while eating dinner. But there is one subject that will bring usually good natured brothers close to blows: one day classes. Nothing will throw peace and harmony out the window as the mere thought of participating in a one day class.

Both sides of the argument have plenty of ammunition to use. Each has their point of view, either Pro or Con…

The pro side says one day classes are a great way to bring in new members who under usual circumstances, couldn’t or wouldn’t become members of the Fraternity. These young men work odd hours or don’t have the time to devote three evenings to go through the degrees “the usual way.” A man can walk into an auditorium in the morning, receive the three degrees of Freemasonry, have lunch, become a thirty second degree Scottish Rite Mason and finish off the day by donning the red fez of the Shriners and go home with the knowledge he now possesses within his heart the mysteries of Masonry and has started his journey to become a better man, just like he was promised.

The con side believes that one day classes are just a way for Grand Lodges to rake in new revenue from the dues of these unknowing young men who are blind to the fact that “they’re doing it wrong”, that their Grand lodge is just trying to bolster their membership numbers. “You might as well put in a drive-thru lane at the temple!” has often been heard in the Tyler’s room of many lodges throughout the country. Thus, the term “McMasons” has been created. The con side believes a young man who wishes to receive further light must visit the lodge in which he petitioned and progress through the Masonic degrees as many of us have done since time immemorial. The con side also differs from their “pro” counterparts in the opinion that the man should advance through these degrees alone. Multiple candidates taking the same degrees should be discouraged, or outright prohibited. There seems to be no common ground between these two warring factions.

Sadly, there are casualties in this conflict: innocents caught in the crossfire of these warring factions. They are the ones that suffer the wounds. I have personally seen Brethren enter the lodge room for their first meeting after they were raised to the sublime degree at a one day class, expecting brotherhood and eager to take his first upright step in his Masonic career, only to be told at the point of a bony old finger of a Past Master that he “isn’t a real Mason”, and to be called names such as “McMason” or “one-day wonder”, making them feel worthless and unworthy, and then to be called names by the men he was told were his “brothers” and would have his back, who would teach him to be a better man seems outrageous. Chances are, he isn’t going to return, and his opinion of the Craft will be forever changed. There is an even greater chance that he will tell other potential Masons how he was treated, and they won’t even bother to knock on the door of your lodge at all. All of this, because the man had the audacity to take his degrees in one day instead of over the course of three evenings. In my personal opinion treating a brother like that, for any reason, is unmasonic.

Most of us know that Masonry is a lifelong journey; if this is the case, then why does the way a new Brother is obligated matter? Whether he was on his knees in a small lodge room, or in a large auditorium with the assistance of a mentor, that man repeated the same obligation as you did: that vow to help, aid and assist. I don’t remember repeating words such as “unless he was raised in a one day class” in my obligation. Most of us say Masonry needs new members to survive. If we need this influx of new men why are we alienating the ones we are getting?

We need to treat all of these men on the level, and help them take their first upright step on their path in Masonry. These men asked to join our fraternity, and went to the trouble of going through our petitioning process. They deserve our respect, and the title of “Brother”.

Let’s put all of these silly differences behind us. In the end we are Brothers, and deserve to be treated as such. Let’s get back to that noble emulation of “he who can best work or best agree”. It’s time we turn these swords into trowels and restore peace and harmony to our Gentle Craft.


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana’s Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne’s Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

from The Midnight Freemasons

Picking Up Where School Had Failed

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Wayne D.J. Greeley

Myself surrounded by some of the most awesome blokes I’ve ever met at my third degree

My personal life goal is the motto of the New Zealand poet Katherine Mansfield, ‘I want to be all I am capable of being’. I’m going to tell you how Freemasonry is helping me become the man that I am capable of being. This one might seem weird, but I have my reasons for writing this article.
Please note that I’m not writing this for sympathy points

From the age of four to seventeen I attended 1 primary school and 4 different secondary/high schools, not because of juvenile delinquency but because my family emigrated … twice. When I started primary school I was very shy, polite and friendly. Qualities which were in that’s school year were considered to be unusual. Even more unusual for them when I joined the choir and began playing the violin. Basically I didn’t have any friends (don’t worry this story has a happy ending) so I couldn’t develop the social skills a young child should do.

At my first high school, all those previous qualities I had meant only one thing to the bullies … GAY. Turns out they were right, but at the age of 12 I didn’t even know what that was. From then on I was defined by my sexuality, “You are gay therefore you are this or that, you can’t hang out with us”. I had to change schools because the physical bullying became too much, though sending me to a private school really didn’t help. At this school, I did start making friends. A group of five girls to be exact. It was logical, they weren’t mean, we had a lot it common and they were always polite. This type of friendship making continued on when I moved to high schools in New Zealand and in Australia. My experience at school made me develop a type of intimidation towards heterosexual men, most I’d met were homophobic and weren’t averse to showing it verbally or physically.

  • In 2015, I joined a fraternity that changed my life and continues to do so. 
  • Qualities such as politeness and musical skills aren’t disregarded but embraced. 
  • I’m not defined by my sexuality 
  • If I was attacked in a homophobic manner, the men around me wouldn’t join in, they’d defend me. 

If I’d told myself this 10 years ago I wouldn’t have believed it.

It took time after I first joined, but I started visiting lodges and interacted with good men. I feel as though my social skills are developing more and more. I’m not afraid, I don’t feel anxiety talking to men anymore, I feel like I can be one of the lads and have a good laugh during the festive board. This is also affecting my life outside the lodge with my work and studies.

I know for other gay masons, their stories aren’t as positive as mine and their stories should be told as well. I’ve written this article to show how freemasonry has helped myself as a gay man and to give an example of how Freemasonry can affect a man in ways people might not have thought of.

For me however, Freemasonry has accepted me for the man I am and is helping me to become the better man that I am capable of being.

To the brothers pictured up above, my mother lodge, my affiliate lodge, Queensland Freemasonry and international brethren I have just one thing to say …. Thank you.

Bro. Wayne Greenley is member of Mount Pleasant Lodge No. 361 and research lodge Barron Barnett Lodge No 146 both holding under the United Grand Lodge of Queensland. Currently he is studying a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Business at QUT. In his spare time he likes to read, listen to music and research the Craft. He is looking forward to joining other orders when he’s permitted to in the next year and also to soon begin his journey through the progression of officers starting off with the Inner Guard.

from The Midnight Freemasons

Whence Came You? – Episode 0258 – The Common Gavel

Join us this week for a timely look at the common gavel, that instrument we use so frequently in the fraternity. Going into the end of summer, it has some special significance. We also have a great piece from the Midnight Freemasons as well. App extras include a wallpaper for your mobile device as well as the papers we read on the show. Thanks for listening and have an amazing week!



Support the show!

Buy a Pin

Alpha Brain

The Midnight Freemasons

Check out this episode!

from Whence Came You?

The Real Strength Of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason

I’ve said it many times before.  I was telling somebody the other night that I think one of the great strengths of Freemasonry is that a.) it gives us the opportunity to use skills we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to use, b.) develop skills we wouldn’t normally use, c.) use skills we already possess to greater effect, and d.) have the opportunity to improve ourselves as we work together towards making the world a better place.

I went into Freemasonry with well honed skills in leadership, management and organization which I use in a variety of ways.   From Masonry I’ve gained skills in writing, researching, speaking, networking, and fundraising–as well as some refinements in how I conduct myself and present myself (it should be obvious I’ve got a lot more work to do there).  And I’ve been given the opportunity to build on a use some of the skills I have in art in music.

But I never really appreciated the self-improvement aspect of the Fraternity until recently.  I’m aware that I’ve changed over the years, and gained a lot of wisdom from my mentors and teachers along with a good deal of knowledge from my studies.  I’ve always worked to pass that along to new members, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job as a mentor and teacher.  But recently I saw an example that really showed me the potential of what Freemasonry is capable of accomplishing in a man’s life when properly applied.

I’ve been mentoring a young man for about a year now.  He contacted me through the Midnight Freemasons with some questions about the Fraternity, thought it sounded like something he could benefit from, and he’s now a  new Master Mason.  He’s very enthusiastic about Freemasonry, and it occurred to me in talking with him why.  This is the first time in his life that he’s been able to see what he has to offer, see the potential of what he can become, and see what the contributions of just one person can do to make one thing better in the world–and then compound that by joining forces with a group of like-minded men all with that same desire.

The Fraternity has opened his eyes, and there’s a good chance he’ll never be the same again.  His life was off track when he joined–our original conversations were about whether a Lodge would even want him.  Of course they did, and he joined.  Freemasonry helped put him back on the right track.  He’s contributing to the work of his Lodge, he’s helping out in his community, he’s got a new job he loves, replaced a few bad habits with a few good ones, and is in a new relationship that’s much better than the one that got him off track.  He’s even begun attending church, which he hadn’t done since he was a boy.  He’s transformed his life, and it’s truly been a marvel to see. 

I might get boos for this, but it isn’t all about doing Freemasonry–attending events, degrees, meetings, etc.  It’s about living Freemasonry, and when given the opportunity teaching Freemasonry.  Those of us who do, who take those ancient teachings and apply them to our life and help others do the same thing find the greatest strength of Freemasonry–the path to a well-balanced, peaceful and happy life.

This piece was original posted on Todd E. Creason’s From Labor To Refreshment blog.


Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshmentblog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He  currently serves as Excellent Grand Orator of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois.  You can contact him at: [email protected]

from The Midnight Freemasons

My Brother, You Missed The Whole Point

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

Recently, I was in the unfortunate position of reading a negative Facebook comment from a formerly active brother of our lodge, and it has been bothering me for nearly two weeks now. The comment, and I’m paraphrasing here, said that he didn’t understand the appeal of Freemasonry; he had joined to find friendship and brotherhood, and instead found dull business meetings and endless ritual practices. In time, he grew more and more disenchanted with what he saw, and so he quit coming.

Now, just a little background: this brother had joined our lodge when I was still basically new, and very excited about everything Masonry had to offer. (As opposed to today, when I am still basically new, and very excited about everything Masonry has to offer.) At the time, my job allowed me quite a bit of freedom to take a few hours during the day to meet with brothers for lunch, or coffee, and to sit and talk and soak in all the wisdom I could. A few times, I met with this specific brother, and I still treasure the things I was able to learn from him.

As I said, his comment has been bothering me since I first read it, and one of the luxuries afforded to me as a Midnight Freemason (aside from the high pay and excellent benefits package) is that I can answer statements like that, and while he may never read it, I’ve at least had the chance to say it, and it’s a weight taken off my chest.

My brother, I’m sorry to say that you missed the whole point. Those thing that you found to be onerous, I find to be a never-ending source of joy and inspiration in my life.

I don’t think that any reader here will be surprised to learn that business meetings are, generally speaking, boring. They are a necessary evil that allows us to continue to function; they are the secular world invading the sacred space, however if we don’t pay our bills, we no longer have an organization.

In a perfect world, our business meetings could be exceptionally short affairs, where we meet simply to pay the bills, perhaps give some money to charity, and then adjourn to the library to discuss loftier ideals and improve our inner selves. In our imperfect reality, certain rules have to be followed so that those with mercenary motives cannot infiltrate our society and tear us apart from the inside. Things such as keeping and reading the minutes, the report of the Treasurer, and committee reports all help protect us. While they are not exciting or fun, they are so vitally important that we should treat them with the proper respect they deserve.

Ritual practice, while not the most enjoyable time for most people, is what allows us to continue to perform our initiation rituals at the peak level that our new candidates deserve. It forces us to focus on the impression we give to our candidates, and find ways to improve that so that they, in turn, can carry us into the future.

I once said that true Masonry doesn’t happen in the lodge room, and I still absolutely believe this to be true, however I also have to acknowledge the fact that Masonry doesn’t happen WITHOUT the lodge room. Without our distinctive rituals, we are no different from any of the animal lodges (the Elks, the Eagles, etc) that are struggling to keep their doors open.

Of course, these “boring” parts of Masonry generally don’t exist in a vacuum. Before our meetings and our practices we eat, and around the dinner tables true friendships are formed, and our bonds of brotherhood are strengthened. Our dining hall rings with laughter, with a free exchange of ideas, with love and caring for each other, and for our families. Those things you believed were lacking were right there, available to you, and all it cost was a little bit of your time.


WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at [email protected] He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

from The Midnight Freemasons

By Force of Habit

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

I’m now a Hoosier. We’ve been in the process of moving to Indiana for over a month now, with no clear end in sight, but the kids are registered for school, the animals have adjusted, our jobs proceed, and, despite frequent trips back to Illinois to deal with the giant house we haven’t sold yet, it all feels like home here.

With one exception: in all the relentless business of the move, I haven’t done anything Masonic in over a month.

Masonry took up a good part of my life in Illinois, and it was no mere habit, but the conscious choice to involve myself in things. But habitual attendance at meetings mattered. . Our stated meeting was the foundation of everything I did, and I ran in smooth tracks between my house and my lodge. And now, with my lodge three hours drive away, I just can’t go. And I find myself busy and scattered, with ever more things demanding my time and attention. I know where the local lodge is and I know when the stated meeting is, but I’ve just been too occupied with other necessary things to get there.

And so I’ve discovered that it’s easy to fall out of the habit of going to lodge. It will take effort to go back, as I’m not on any email lists, I don’t know when degrees occur, and my next real opportunity to got to a stated meeting will come in September. And here’s the problem with that: all it takes is a few missed meetings and inertia takes over. As I got into the habit of going to lodge, I could just as easily get into the habit of not going.

So I’ve got the next stated meeting of Franklin Lodge No. 107 marked on my calendar, with reminders set to text me every day for a good week in advance. Just as it took an act of will to petition for my degrees, it will take an act of will to go to a new lodge amidst the chaos of moving, and to keep going until it once again takes on the force of habit.

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: [email protected]

from The Midnight Freemasons