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Focus June 2011

Freemasonry And Secrecy

            Freemasonry is oftentimes referred to as a "Secret Society." This happens many times in books, TV shows and movies about the fraternity. The following statement was prepared by the Masonic Information Center. 

Freemasonry and Secrecy

People sometimes refer to Freemasonry as being a "Secret Society." In one sense the statement is true. Any social group or private business is "secret" in the sense that its business meetings may be open only to its members. In Freemasonry, the process of joining is also a private matter, and its members are pledged not to discuss with non-members certain parts of the ceremonies associated with the organization.

Freemasonry does have certain handshakes and passwords, customs incorporated into later fraternities, which are kept private. They are means of recognizing each other--necessary in an organization which spans the entire world and which encompasses many languages.

The tradition of using handshakes and passwords was very common in the Middle Ages, when the ability to identify oneself as belonging to a building or trade guild often made the difference in getting a job or in obtaining help for yourself and family. Today, Freemasons make the same pledge to every member that he will be offered assistance if he, or his family, ever requests it.

Freemasonry can't be called a "secret society" in a literal sense. A truly secret society forbids its members to disclose that they belong to the organization, or that it even exists. Much of the Masonic ritual is in books called "Monitors" that are widely available, even in public libraries. Most Freemasons wear rings and lapel pins which clearly identify them as members of the fraternity. Masonic lodges are listed in public phone books, Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and in many areas of the country Masonic lodges place signs on the roads leading into town, along with civic organizations, showing the time and place of meetings.

In terms of what it does, what it teaches, who belongs, where it meets, there are no secrets in Freemasonry! It is a private fraternal association of men who contribute much toward the public good, while enjoying the benefits of the brotherhood of a fraternity.


Mark Twain Award Picture


Frequently Asked Questions about the Mark Twain Award

1.  Why select Mark Twain as the Award's namesake?

The Award borrows Brother Mark Twain's identity as a lively, innovative communicator whose work consistently challenged his listeners and readers to think and act responsibly, to ask questions, and to seek enlightenment. Decades later, we remain aware of Twain's intellect and productivity.

2. Does the Twain Award recognize work within the Lodge (INTERNAL) or throughout the greater community (EXTERNAL) 

Excellence in both internal and external Masonic Awareness is essential to winning a Twain Award. The Twain Award emphasizes that it is equally important to Masonic Awareness to stimulate the quality of the Lodge experience and to raise awareness among the community about Freemasonry's history and value to the community.

Lodges gain additional knowledge of the Fraternity, and they learn more about their own strengths, assets, needs, and community.

4.       When was the Twain Award formed and what was the goal?

 Initiated in response to the 2004 Grand Masters' call for the MIC to improve Masonic awareness, the Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award recognizes the urgent need for Masons to:

1.   Clarify and heighten Masonic identity throughout the greater community.
2.   Energize their experience of Freemasonry within the Lodge.

5. How do Lodges participate in the competition?

The Masonic Information Center (MIC) asks Lodges to submit an entry/ registration form enabling us to work with entrants throughout the year of their submission development. Entry/registration forms are available to download from www.msansa.com; just click on Twain Award to get to the link. Lodges should submit the form to MIC via email (msana@ix.netcom.com) or fax (301) 608-3457.

6. How will Twain Award entries be evaluated?

The MIC Task Force reviews each submission based upon the Lodge's individual merits. Lodges are not compared to one another. Merit is based upon the quality of the submission, which should follow the guidelines posted on the www.msansa.com website under the link to Mark Twain Award.

7. How does a Lodge win a Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award?

Entries are judged by the MIC Task Force based upon the Lodge's submission of a binder, detailing the activities that the Lodge planned, implemented, and evaluated in response to the MIC's call to action in the MIC Report, It's About Time!.

8. When will the Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award winners be announced?

The Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award winners are announced each February at the Grand Masters' Conference. In some cases, Richard Fletcher has been available to present the Twain Award at Grand Lodge sessions.

9.   How do we organize our submission? Your Lodge's submission should include the following:

  1. Registration/Contact Information Form
  2. 200-word typed summary
  3. A 3- to 4-page typed narrative that describes your Lodge's quest toward the Twain Award, including references to both internal and external work throughout the three stages: Planning, Implementation, and Reflection
  4. Appendices of supporting documentation

10. What is the schedule for the award?

To participate in the Twain Award competition, submit Entry/Registration forms no later June than of the award year. The deadline for entry submissions is December 1 of the award year.

11. What kind of support documentation is appropriate?

Support documentation is important to evaluating the overall quality of an entry. Both project narrative and support materials provide evidence of the work the Lodge accomplished to raise Masonic Awareness. The documentation may be submitted in print and non-print media including the following: photographs, DVDs, CDs, brochures, websites, press releases, magazine feature stories, news articles, and much more.

12. Will submissions be returned?

Because this is a continent-wide competition, it will not be possible to return your submissions. Please send copies. Retain your originals.

13.  What can we learn from other winners?

If you would like a former winner to contact you, please let MIC know. Call or email msana@ix.netcom.com with any questions.

Masonic Information Center, att: Twain Award
Tel: (301) 588-4010 Fax: (301) 608-3457
8120 Fenton Street, Suite 203, Silver Spring, MD 20910-4785
Email: msana@ix.netcom.com


(The date for entering the 2011 Twain Award Program has been extended to August 1, 2011. The entry form will be found on our website at www.msana.com)