What is Freemasonry?
It is an important question for you to ponder. There have been a great number of definitions put forth throughout the years and there are nearly as many definitions of Freemasonry as there are Masons. One common definition is: “Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.” The system of morality to which we refer as Freemasonry is that which every Mason is bound to profess and practice. The elementary principles of Freemasonry are exemplified in the three degrees of the lodge. In joining a local lodge you become a part of the world’s largest Fraternity with a membership of approximately 4,000,000 worldwide, nearly 2,000,000 men in the United States, and 25,000 in Iowa. Each lodge in the State of Iowa operates by authority of a Charter granted by the State organization called “The Grand Lodge.” There is no international or national organization of Symbolic Masonry nor is there a single spokesman for Freemasonry. While we cannot categorically define what Masonry is, we can say with assurance what it is not. It is NOT a cult, a religion, a secret society, or a political group. While Masonry is not a religion it is religious in nature. Belief in a Supreme Being is a fundamental requirement for becoming a Mason. Masonry is a charitable organization, an organization dedicated to strengthening a man’s character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook, and broadening his mental horizons. Masonry seeks to make good men better; not better than others, but better than themselves.
A Brief History of Freemasonry
In relating this brief history of the Fraternity of Freemasons reference is made only to documented information. The oldest verifiable Masonic document is called the Regius Manuscript or Halliwell Poem. It is believed to have been written in the area near Germany in approximately 1390. The earliest existing Lodge minutes are from Edinburgh Lodge No. 1 in Scotland and are dated 1599. The Grand Lodge of England, from which most of the Grand Lodges in existence today have descended, was formed in 1717. The first officially warranted lodge on record in America is St. John’s Lodge of Boston founded in 1733. The lineage of the Grand Lodge of Iowa is as follows. The Grand Lodge of North Carolina received its Charter from the Grand Lodge of England in 1787. The Grand Lodge of Tennessee received its Charter from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in 1813. The Grand Lodge of Missouri received its Charter from the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1821 and the Grand Lodge of Iowa received its Charter from the Grand Lodge of Missouri in 1844. The first four lodges which formed the Grand Lodge of Iowa Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in 1844 were: Des Moines Lodge No. 1 at Burlington; Iowa Lodge No. 2 at Muscatine; Dubuque Lodge No. 3 at Dubuque; and Iowa City Lodge No. 4 at Iowa City.