Of the body of men who are Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in a year, of their number one is selected to present at the Installation a Response, an accounting of their initial year as a Freemason for the Lodge. The 2006 Response was given by Brother Guy Dodge.
Worshipful Master and Lady, Immediate (Junior) Past-Master, Brothers Warden, Right-Worshipful Deputy Grand Master,
Distinguished Guests of Utah and Salt Lake City, Brothers; Friends one and all:
It is a privilege for me to stand before you this evening on such an august occasion! Please know that I do so humbly, as only a representative of well-over sixteen equally-qualified, newly-raised Master Masons who were honored to have attained that sublime degree within the past year. On their behalf, I wish to acknowledge and thank all of you who have made our journeys possible: Ladies, families, officers, coaches, brothers and friends . . . For your sacrifice, efforts, and patience; we offer our deepest gratitude.
I have also been asked to respond to a few of the lessons, tenets and treasures revealed to me so far along my Masonic path. In doing so, I will be quoting four distinguished gentlemen. Two of whom are famous, legendary figures from both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and two are not. However, it is worth-noting that the two lesser-renowned (albeit equally-distinguished) gentlemen are physically here this evening. Regrettably, the other two have long-since laid-down the working tools of this life; and now attend and labor with us only in spirit, in legend, and in our hearts.
With permission, I challenge you not-only to recognize the identities of the great men who spoke these eloquent words, but to consider the similarities of their messages. What shared-virtues and guiding principles are demonstrated in their lives? And most-importantly; what does any of this have to do with Masonry?
Our first exemplar once said this:
â€śIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.â€?
I am sure that many of you are familiar with these words of President Theodore Roosevelt. And although originally-presented in 1910, their message is as ageless as it is inspirational.
Approximately thirty years later, another legendary statesman delivered this instruction:
â€śNever give in: Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty; never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently-overwhelming might of the enemy.â€?
In 1941, Britainâ€™s storied Prime Minister Winston Churchill included this advice in a speech that he gave to the boys of his old public school, Harrow. Clearly, his message also reveals a timeless-wisdom that transcends the date upon which it was originally delivered.
This subject of â€świse instruction given to boysâ€? leads directly into our next examples. As I recall, they were repeated NUMEROUS times between approximately 1968 through 1977:
All Iâ€™ll ever ask or expect is that you do your best.
Youâ€™ll never be a failure as long as you give it your best shot: 110%. And donâ€™t quit. Donâ€™t ever be a quitter!
If you screw-up, admit it; no lies and no excuses, period! If you choose to do something that you know is wrong, expect to face the consequences.
Your Mother and I will never care how much money you make, or if youâ€™re famous, or what-have-you . . . as long as youâ€™re honest, God-fearing, and do your best; we will always be proud of you.
Yes, these are indeed some of the words of my esteemed father, Wilson R. Dodge. I must also admit that a few are more paraphrases than literal quotations, based partially on my arguably-questionable memory; and also in deference to decorum!
And speaking of â€śdeferenceâ€?, my very presence before you this evening is a result of my deep respect, loyalty, obedience and brotherly-love for the gentleman about whom I now refer. His words were in response to my barrage of questions about Masonry in general, and Wasatch Lodge #1 in particular. As I recall, they went something like . . .
Oh yes, Iâ€™m a Mason. You never asked! The website? Oh, I forgot about that picture! Youâ€™re interested? Great! What would you like to know? No, I wonâ€™t have to â€śkillâ€? you! (. . . maybe â€śbeat you upâ€? a little, but not because I â€śhave toâ€? . . .)
Thus began my conscious-awareness that I had already embarked-upon a Masonic journey. The â€śdistinguished gentlemanâ€? on the other end of the phone that night was none-other than my long-time friend and colleague, the newly-installed Worshipful Master of Wasatch Lodge #1 Free & Accepted Masons of Utah for 2006; Drew C. Sanders!
Since that fateful phone conversation, I was later surprised to discover that not-only was Worshipful Master Sanders a Mason, but so were more-than a few â€śother peopleâ€? whom I admired! For example: Those two previously-referenced, â€śstatesmenâ€? whose words have been framed and displayed in my home for years; Masonic Brothers Theodore Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill!
The internet can be a wonderful thing! I soon learned of hundreds of famous figures whom I had never-known were Masons. Insofar as such a list would be much-too long for inclusion this evening, suffice it to say that while I was impressed, I gradually became less-surprised. I began to notice a pattern: These â€śfamousâ€? Masons, at least the ones whom I recognized and most-admired, seemed to have some of the following qualities in common:
- A Belief in a Supreme Being, and the immortality of the soul.
- The possession of a moral compass (or conscience), and a consistent striving to live within its borders.
- A commitment to serve the Supreme Being according to the dictates of their respective consciences and beliefs.
- A capacity for brotherly-love and charity toward ALL mankind, and service to those in need.
- A quest for truth, knowledge, virtue and self-improvement.
- A dedication to secure and sustain the noble principles of liberty, duty, honor, justice, and human dignity.
- The courage to risk their own lives if necessary, in the defense of their loved-ones, their neighbors, and to protect and preserve their freedoms and noble pursuits.
Of course, one certainly need-not be a member of the Masonic fraternity to possess such commendable traits. Still, I was fascinated and intrigued by this fact: So-many of the men (whom I had studied, admired, and in some cases revered for most of my life) were Masons . . . and I never knew it!
So I telephoned my father. I knew that his father (who had passed-away before I was born) had been a Mason. I had held my grandfatherâ€™s Masonic (Knightâ€™s Templar) sword in my hands.
And I recalled that my dad once told me about his father having-played in a Shrine Band. I also vaguely remembered that my dad used to wear his â€śPopâ€™sâ€? old Masonic ring.
After 44 years on this planet, I finally asked my father about Masonry.
I told him how excited I was about the things that I was learning. I told him that he would be surprised how many â€śgreat menâ€? had-been and are Masons. I told him how I had recently discovered that a good friend of mine, (literally one of the finest men I know) was a Mason, and that I was petitioning to become a member of his lodge.
My father told me what an honor it would be for him to sign that petition, in recommendation of my consideration. Sadly, I then told him how sorry I was that he could not; explaining the eligibility requirements for one to be able to do so, etc. He then told me why that would not be a problem . . .
My father is a card-carrying, dues-paying member in good-standing of Ashlar Lodge #98 Free & Accepted Masons of Florida, and has been continuously so-distinguished for over fifty years! You talk about
â€śDonâ€™t Ask; Donâ€™t Tell!â€?
For the sake of harmony, please allow me to set-aside certain controversial points for debate, such as: growth of membership, â€śtraditionally low-keyâ€? versus a â€śhigher-profileâ€? approach, public misperceptions concerning the supposed â€śsecrecyâ€? of Masonry, etc.
I know this: The brothers whom I have been honored to meet, know, love, and venerate . . . who cherish their affiliation with this beloved fraternal order with a level of discretion that may appear to be more meek or circumspect than others; do so out of a depth of reverence, vigilance, and respect that is consistent with their deep-affection for Masonry, its benevolent nature, noble traditions, and its beautiful symbolism.
Men like my father, and so many others whom I have been blessed to meet along this path, are not embarrassed or ashamed of their association . . . It is literally quite the opposite. They believe it is most honorable and virtuous to be humble and quiet about their good and charitable works. They may live their lives with the gusto of Brothers Roosevelt, Churchill, Sanders and Dodge . . . but never expect them to boast, seek-attention, or even be conspicuous in their altruistic and selfless pursuits.
These are a few of my humble observations so-far along my journey. I pray that someday I may be found worthy by God, my family, my brethren and my fellow-man to be deserving of the rich treasures that are mine to enjoy in this life . . . and by those men with whom I am honored and privileged to serve and labor-with in this life; may they ever-regard me as an upright-man . . . and Mason!
On behalf of my recently-raised brothers from the Class of 2005: Thank You! . . . God Bless You . . . and Good Evening.