A free lecture will be held to clear up misconceptions, tell some of the history and explain some of the ritual ideas behind the Freemason society on Thursday.
The Free and Accepted Masons, commonly referred to as the Masons, is a fraternity that has a long — and to some mysterious — history.
Matt Nelson, local member of the Freemasons and a national educator for the fraternity, will present an hour-long lecture at the Provo Library. Because of the misconceptions about Freemasons, Nelson presents lectures throughout the country. He is a member of the Damascus No. 10 lodge in Provo, which was founded in 1973, according to utahvalleymasons.com.
The presentation is titled “Who are the Freemasons? Who they are, what they do and why.” Nelson said he believes there is a lot of interest to learning more about the Freemason Society in Utah County.
“It is a relatively hot topic in the area, particularly about the connection between the early LDS Church and the Masons,” Nelson said. “Beyond that, people are generally interested in learning about an ancient fraternity that inspired the great thinkers of our time.”
While there were several men in the early years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were members of the Freemasons, including Joseph Smith and his father, Nelson said there isn’t really any connection anymore.
“The highest concentration of LDS members in a lodge is here in Provo,” Nelson said. “Elsewhere, you’ll find about 10 percent in Utah, and less in other states.”
Nelson said a lot of people feel the Freemasons are “shrouded in secrets,” when in reality, there is a lot they can talk about. While there are oaths and pledges that only members are allowed to know, Freemasons are simply involved in the community and being good, moral citizens. He said he hopes this lecture will clear up misconceptions some may have.
“In reality, we are just grown up Boy Scouts — without the camping,” Nelson said. “We have oaths and pledges, we hang out and have dinners together, we do charity work, and so on.”
The history of the Freemason society is tricky, Nelson said. He said while some believe it began during the time of King Solomon, there is no evidence of this.
“Really, the accepted history is that the modern-day Masons stemmed from the eighth-century stonemason guilds in England, Scotland and France,” Nelson said. “But that doesn’t stop people from telling a good story.”
The headquarters for the Utah Freemasons is located in Salt Lake City. According to its website, utahgrandlodge.org, there are 29 lodges throughout Utah, including Damascus No. 10. The website indicates that the Grand Lodge in Utah was formed in 1872. Nelson said there are roughly more than 2,000 members of the fraternity in Utah.
“There are millions of Masons in the United States,” Nelson said. “Utah is the second-smallest jurisdiction in the United States, next to Hawaii.”
Because it is a fraternity, only men are allowed to join. Nelson said there are only a few requirements to join. A potential member must be at least 18, believe in a supreme being, and be a citizen in good moral standing.
“Typically, there is no acceptance of felonies,” Nelson said. “If you’ve had one, you have to explain it and it is then up to the judgment of the lodge.”
Once a person becomes a Mason, they are one for life, Nelson said. However, they are asked to participate and come to meetings, although the level of commitment is up to the individual.
“One should take an active part in anything they take on, otherwise, what’s the point?” Nelson said.
The lecture will be held on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Provo Library in the Young Events Room. Anyone is welcome to come and a Q-and-A will be held afterward.