For years the Masons have been hounded by stories of less than Christian-like activities and rituals. Their history has been associated with men meeting in closed session to decide the fate of the community at large.
But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Masons are a fraternal order whose sole purpose is to give back to the community and to make men better.
“The biggest misconception is that we worship the devil,” said Jim Woodfin, the District Deputy Grand Master. “The only thing we ask of a person becoming a Mason is that they believe in God.”
According to Lee Francis, the secretary of the local lodge, the masons are not a religious order. What they try to do is to have a belief in God and encourage each member to pursue his own religion.
Francis went on to explain that the main purpose of the Masons is try and improve themselves and to make each one a better citizen.
“One of our mottos is we take good men and make them better,” Francis said. “That is our basic thing. And along with fraternal ties, we take care of each other in times of need.”
It is this simple philosophy that has made men search the out the Masons and become active members for centuries, even before the United States was a country.
In fact, according to Francis, just in this country’s history the Masons have played an important role.
“Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were both Masons,” Francis said. “Beside those two, 18 signers of the Declaration of Independance were also members, as well as past presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman just to name a few.”
In addition to the Masons playing such an important role in the history of the nation, they have also have played an important role in the founding of Farmington.
“This building, the Eugene M. Cole Masonic Center, has been here since 1911,” Lee said. “It was named after Cole who gave 60 years of service to the order, but the lodge itself has been around since 1849.”
In fact, history is so ingrained into the organization they actually have the minutes from every meeting dating back to the original meeting.
“I have had a chance to go through all of the minutes recorded since the first meeting,” Lee said. “Would you believe they never missed a meeting, not even during the Civil War? They made every meeting.”
Over the years, the Masons have become a very philanthropic organization in both the state and local community.
The local lodge holds a pancake breakfast in which the proceeds help fund donations the lodge may make during the year. In addition, they also help local sports by sponsoring a soccer team.
But what the Masonic lodge is most proud of is their work identifying children and protecting them from abduction with MO CHIP, (Missouri Child Identification Program), an aid in the identification and recovery of missing children.
According to the MO CHIP website, the program consist of five major components: a digital photograph, digital fingerprints, the child’s information and emergency contacts, a dental bite impression and two laminated ID badges.
The information is stored on a CD and can be given to law enforcement in case of a missing child and the information is immediately downloaded into the Amber Alert System.
“We have done over 200,000 children so far,” Woodfin said. “The program has recovered eight children so far. If we only found one child the program would have been well worth it.”
For many of the men who have joined the local fraternal order there has been one basic commonality they share. It was the fact they all wanted to be a better person and they saw qualities in members they wanted to emulate.
“I joined because I wanted to be a better person, and I like what I was saw the lodge doing,” said Mike Pulliam, the lodge Master. “I was really impressed with MO CHIP and a chance to meet new people.”
In the past the only way a person could become a Mason was to ask someone who was already a Mason. They would start the process by recommending membership. Nowadays a member can ask any one they think would be a good member.
“It’s getting a little more difficult because the young people have so much on their plate now,” Francis said. “But there will always be good people who will want to belong.”
For more information on becoming a Mason contact the lodge at 573-705-2190.
Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or at firstname.lastname@example.org