Iowa Freemasonry is a personal journal of a Freemason in central Iowa. This blog documents my Masonic research interests, experiences, and reflections. Welcome!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The greatest library in the world




I traveled to the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s Masonic Library in Cedar Rapids yesterday to finish research on my symbolism paper- I posted a few pictures below in a slide show. I completed the body of the paper some time ago, but I needed to clarify several confusing bibliographic citations I had in my notes; I guess I should have listened to my sophomore English teacher and used index cards to keep track of everything!

The Iowa Masonic Library is a joy to visit and a pleasure in which to research. The assistant librarian, Bill Kreuger, was helpful as always. I’m amazed that this library, one of best Masonic Libraries in the world, is so accessible to Iowa Masons. And it’s difficult to describe the significance of the Index Rerum. The Index Rerum is the only index of Masonic periodicals of its kind, anywhere in the world. Librarians at the Masonic Library began indexing articles in Masonic periodicals sometime around 1905, according to Tim Anderson, Deputy Grand Secretary. The result is a massive card catalog which indexes every imaginable Masonic topic. I found almost 100 index cards on the topic of ashlars alone.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to libraries: I worked in one as a teenager, I nearly lived in one when I coached debate, and now I serve as a trustee on the board of my local public library. I suppose only a teacher would enjoy spending a vacation day researching at a library, but I think anyone with an interest in Freemasonry would find their time spent visiting the Iowa Masonic Library worthwhile.

For those interested, part of my research paper is posted at the Masonic Research network in the article submissions area under downloads. The title is Symbolism of the Ashlars: Three Interpretations.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Knights of Saint Andrew



The Des Moines Scottish Rite’s Knights of Saint Andrew welcomed six new Knights Tuesday, Dec. 27. The knighting ceremony featured a lecture regarding the history of the organization and background information about the emblems of the KSA including the saltire, or Saint Andrew’s Cross. After the ceremony, each of the six new Knights received a lapel pin, patent, and KSA medal on a green ribbon; after holding the medal in my hand I understood why it is sometimes referred to as a “boat anchor!”

The KSA provides hospitality at the Sheppard's Tavern, helps to put on the 28th degree at reunions, serves as greeters at Scottish Rite events, and provides service to the Valley as needed. I joined so that I could get more involved with the Scottish Rite. I’ve enjoyed participating on several of the degree teams and the KSA will allow for additional service to the Valley.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iowa Conference on Masonic Education




Iowa Conference of Masonic Education at the Iowa Masonic Library, 813 First Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on February 10 and 11, 2012

Monday, December 26, 2011

Marsengill Christmas Dinner 2011


Darrell Fremont, 2012 Operative Lodge #308 Worshipful Master

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nazis, Gold, and the Masons




My friend Jay over at Bailey's Buddy wrote about the novel, The Traitor's Emblem by Juan Gomez-Jurado, a few weeks ago. It took awhile for me to get a copy from the library as there was a waiting list, but when I did finally get it home, I wasted no time. One evening I thought I'd read a dozen or so pages before bed; I didn't get to bed until after 1:30 AM! I could not put this engaging book down!

I encourage you to check out this novel, especially if you're interested in history, Nazis, Freemasonry, or just a great story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Operative Lodge #308 2012 Officer Installation



Operative Lodge #308 will be holding an installation of our 2012 Officers on Saturday, January 7, 2011 beginning with a meal at 6:00pm; please RSVP to the Lodge Secretary, Jim Trotter at jimtrotter4524@gmail.com for the meal. The installation will take place at 7:00pm.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poinsettia delivery

Freemasons from Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa delivered Poinsettias to the widows of the Lodge this weekend. Six brothers and one very organized member of Eastern Star in Polk City helped with the effort.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Masonic Ritual and Civility


My latest projects include memorizing the Door Lecture in the Entered Apprentice degree and reading about the Royal Arch chapter degrees. I came across an interesting piece of writing that illustrates a similarity between these two seemingly disparate topics. This is from the book Lessons in Capitular Masonry by Charles C. Hunt, 1929. In the book, he reprints a talk by Pierre Cushing in 1913 titled The Spirit of Masonry:

"And as with the secrets and Ancient Landmarks of Masonry, so with its ritual and the very language in which it is expressed. What careful provision is made, what agencies are employed, that no change or innovation shall creep in, that unauthorized shoots shall be pruned away as soon as they appear; that all shall be handed on in the quaint dignity and simplicity and beauty in which we receive it from the fathers. No branch of the (church) is more conservative of its ritual than the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons…We need the spirit which it symbolizes and fosters in this age and country, perhaps, as never before. For indeed, it is an age of recklessness in act and speech…"

Cushing’s analysis really makes sense to me. Moreover, he justifies why I need to be careful not to stick in an “of” or make the word “ceremony” plural. The ritual matters. It matters because it symbolically represents dignity, simplicity, and an unbroken connection to a common, fraternal past. We show respect for that past by preserving it.

In addition, Cushing’s argument promotes civility in social discourse. Through the practice of learning the ritual, a Freemason becomes part of a process recognizing the value of tradition which maintains a continuous link, through language, with a time in our culture when incivility was perhaps not unheard of but at a minimum not glorified. Masonic blogs spend a lot of time debating what’s wrong with the fraternity or how it can do a better job attracting new members. To me, as crazy at it may sound, the act of learning the ritual is something that I’m really enjoying. The process of learning it shouldn’t be seen as a weakness of Freemasonry but as a strength. The act itself is symbolic.

Is this only a tenuous link to memorizing the Door Lecture? I think not. Rather than focus on the mundane act of repetition and misreading a ciphered text, learning ritual symbolically represents something more.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Door Lecture and no electricity



Polk City lost electricity for about two hours Monday night right about supper time. Now that it’s getting dark early, we needed all the flashlights and candles we could round up. Even with a half dozen flashlights, all of which seemed to be running low on battery power, and three or four candles putting out a head-spinning combination of scents, our time without power threw us for a loop. We’re just not used to sitting around without the TV, the iPad, the internet, or the dvd player running. We tired quickly of listening to the battery powered radio. After about the first hour, I asked my wife if she’d play the piano for us. So, we moved into the front room of our house and my three-year old son and I enjoyed an impromptu concert by flashlight. I decided this would be a good time to work on memorizing the Door Lecture too, so I grabbed my King Solomon and read it by flashlight as my wife played piano and my son explored the ornaments on the Christmas tree. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable 20 minutes or so. I actually felt like I was getting used to no electricity. Memorizing ritual doesn’t require much in the way of modern conveniences, and in some ways it seemed an appropriate activity for such a situation.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

University of Freemasonry at the Des Moines Scottish Rite



From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
- traditional Scottish Prayer

Ghosties, ghoulies, and long-leggedy beasties were present last night in Pete Taggart’s, 32 ยบ KCCH, presentation of “Things that go Bump in the Night: the Ghosts.” Professor Taggart reviewed a history of the ghosts from Plato to Bacon to the Stanley Hotel, perhaps better known as the Overlook Hotel from the movie The Shining. Prof. Taggart kept the audience entertained throughout his talk, which took place in the potentially haunted Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple. His tales included local spots reputed to be haunted such as the Salisbury House, the Blue Lodge room in the Scottish Rite building, and other locations in Des Moines.

Look for another session of the University of Freemasonry at the Des Moines Consistory webpage.
(cross posted on the Des Moines Consistory blog)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

AP Government and Politics: US


Last week I discovered I had inadvertently published a post here that was meant for the high school class I teach. My high school government class blog uses Blogger, as does Iowa Freemasonry, and I had forgotten to sign out of the Iowa Freemasonry account so the post about federalism, the bureaucracy and congressional oversight, or some other topic current presidential candidates probably wouldn't understand wound up here. If you're curious, take a look at the page I use for my high school students here: www.APGov.net. I use it to post assignments, links to articles and political events, and anything that will help them score higher on the Advanced Placement test. I wonder...how would the current folks running for president fare on the AP test...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scottish Rite Seventeenth Degree




The Master Craftsman II course is designed by the A.& A.S.R. Southern Jurisdiction for those Masons who wish to discover more about the degrees of the Scottish Rite. The course consists of a short multiple-choice test and an essay of 500 – 1000 words for each degree. I am just about halfway through the course. For the Seventeenth degree, one of the essay topics is to write about how the lessons of the degree can help one deal with the pain and/or suffering experienced in life. The degree itself features the writing’s of St. John in the Book of Revelations. In fact, A Bridge to Light, a book which explains the basics of the degrees, claims that both parts of the drama acted out as part of the degree and the words of the ritual itself are directly taken from this book of the Bible. As such, there is rich imagery found in the degree as well as the writings about it

Here is the essay I wrote for this assignment. Please understand that this is my own opinion and my own interpretation of the lessons of the degree; I do not speak for anyone in Freemasonry except myself. My opinion is based on my own personal experience and understanding, or perhaps more likely, misunderstanding, of the degree.

As always, your comments are welcome!

Seventeenth Degree Essay
The Seventeenth degree is “…the first of the philosophical degrees and the beginning of a course of instruction which will fully unveil to you the heart and inner mysteries of Masonry” according to Albert Pike in Morals and Dogma. For a newer member of the Rite, just starting to seriously study the degrees, I find this most definitely to be true. Pike writes nearly thirty pages in Morals and Dogma on the Seventeenth degree discussing religious beliefs and philosophies. While I am somewhat familiar with the basics Christianity, John’s Gospel, the Book of Revelations, and even the Essenes to some extent, I found this degree very challenging. Applying the degree to my personal experiences is one way I can better grasp its rich lessons. To that extent, I will analyze the Seventeenth Degree to examine how its teachings can help us through pain and/or suffering. Three elements stand out for me: first pain and suffering are only temporary conditions, second these temporary conditions will lead to the development of permanent strengths, and finally there will be eternal rewards for those that suffer for the sake of God.

My first point is that the pain and suffering we experience are only temporary. Pike tells us this directly as a means to explain the similarities in the several religions and philosophies he discusses. We can find solace in this concept: only God can guarantee us that good ultimately will prevail over evil. In our finite existence on earth, we will experience pain and suffering in life and this can cause doubt and perhaps even lead one to question his faith on a deeper level. How can a just and merciful God allow these conditions? This degree helps us to understand that temporary afflictions are exactly that, temporary, and in no way reflect the love expressed by God.

Second, the Seventeenth degree teaches us that not only are pain and suffering temporary, but that they actually strengthen us. The Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide tells us on page 389 that wisdom and knowledge cannot be gained except through pain and suffering. I find the imagery of the Book of Revelations to be a good way to understand this. Hutchens explains in A Bridge to Light: “these evils which cause the suffering of man strengthen the human soul and offer an incentive for the noblest virtues." Hutchens is talking about the evils of bigotry, intolerance, fanaticism, and ambition, which are a Masonic interpretation of St. John’s metaphorical writings. Through our perseverance and reliance on God, we will emerge from such trials stronger. We have God’s promise of this.

Finally, eternal rewards are assured those who overcome pain and suffering for the sake of God. The Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide quotes the Book of Revelations, chapters two and three, stating that those who overcome will be rewarded by God. I don’t mean to argue that pain and suffering should be considered the price one pays for God’s favor, but rather that we need to remember that our life on earth is only the temporary phase of existence for us; we are meant to dwell with God eternally and the trials we suffer here are not what God intends for us. His plans are forever; ours on earth are fleeting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Des Moines York Rite Fall Festival




The Des Moines York Rite Fall Festival was Saturday, November 19, 2011. Eight candidates participated and as a member of the class, I can say that it was a long day but a great experience!

We started early at 7:30 AM and finished the Royal Arch degrees just before lunch. The Order of the Amaranth served us a delicious lunch and then we started the Royal and Select Master degrees of Cryptic Masonry. We finished the day by receiving the Chivalric Orders: the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, Knights of Malta, and finally the Order of the Temple. We finished just after 6 PM. I posted a couple of pictures below.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

National Weather Service Storm Spotter?



Are you interested in becoming a storm spotter for the National Weather Service? The NWS needs trained storm spotters for all seasons. Here's a Google doc presentation from the NWS about their storm spotter program.

The Ragains Masonic Rifle

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall reunion 2011 pictures- first weekend

I took a few pictures at the first weekend of the Fall reunion- here they are:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Master Craftsman II Quiz #5 is here!


I just received the fifth quiz for the Scottish Rite's Master Craftsman II program in the mail yesterday. Quiz five covers the fifteenth through the eighteenth degrees. By coincidence, those degrees will be performed this afternoon by the Des Moines Scottish Rite as part of the Fall Reunion honoring Ellis E. Monk.

The Fifteenth degree was one of my favorite degrees when I was a candidate, and this time around I have a part with just a few lines in the degree. To me, it isn't a small part, however. My good friend and past Master of Operative Lodge #308 had this part. Steve, I'll be thinking of you this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Master Craftsman Part Two: Thirteenth Degree


The Master Craftsman Two program was developed by the Scottish Rite to encourage further study of the Scottish Rite degrees. It differs significantly from Master Craftsman One, primarily in the essay requirement. As a high school social studies teacher, I've always been a huge fan of essay tests, and I'm even more so after my experience this past summer. I was fortunate to have been an Advanced Placement (AP) reader for the College Board's AP Government and Politics: US course. As a reader, I worked with a group of eight others in scoring over 250,000 essay tests written by high school students who completed the AP class at their individual schools in May. The College Board hires approximately 700 high school teachers and college professors to read and score these quarter of a million essays. After a day of training on specific questions, we read for seven days, approximately eight hours a day. Admittedly, you have to enjoy your subject and enjoy reading high school student's writing, but I had a great time; it didn't hurt that the reading was in Daytona Beach and that I had a chance to visit a Lodge there! I plan to return next summer.

In any case, here is my most recent rough draft for the MC2 quiz over the 13th degree:

The dictionary defines keystone as the central supporting piece of a larger structure. In the context of this essay, the U.S. Constitution functions as a keystone to the extent that it provides the support necessary to maintain our liberties within the framework of our political system. This framework includes both our three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, as well as legal protections including the right to trial by jury first guaranteed by Magna Carta in 1215. Pike summarizes this arrangement in Morals and Dogma: “…an independent judiciary, an elective legislature of two branches, an executive responsible to the people, and the right to trial by jury…” While the U.S. Constitution is a political document developed through a political process, it performs a significant and nonpartisan role in American democracy.

The claim that our Constitution is the central point to protecting the rights and liberties of the people is a common one, but the warrant for that claim is often ignored. Many countries have constitutions, in fact, even the former Soviet Union had a constitution, yet one would hardly argue that Soviet citizens enjoyed the same political freedoms as Americans! The explanation of the relationship between our Constitution and its power to secure our liberties is found in the classic U.S. Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison, just sixteen years after the Constitution was created. In Marbury v. Madison, the Court ruled that a law passed by an elected legislature, the U.S. Congress, violated the Constitution and was thus invalid. This power of the judicial branch to overrule the legislative branch is called judicial review, and while the power is merely implied in the Constitution, the Federalist papers, a series of newspaper columns written by Madison and other framers in support of the new Constitution, contain arguments explaining how judicial review protects the minority from the “tyranny of the majority.” Marbury v. Madison established the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land, and an independent judiciary served to safeguard our liberties, even those liberties of a political minority, as written in that fundamental law. To some extent, Marbury v. Madison can be seen as the keystone to the concept of the protection of our liberties which Pike discusses.

In Morals and Dogma, Pike uses a metaphor to further explain the unique nature of the U.S. Constitution: he compares it to the Ark of the Covenant. Like most of Pike’s writing, this metaphor is not meant to be taken literally. Instead, Pike uses it as a figurative device to illustrate the special place the U.S. Constitution occupies in our political system. The Constitution is not a fixed, monolithic document impossible to change, however, as Pike writes, it “cannot be hastily changed,” as evidenced by the relative difficulty of the amendment process. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be proposed by a two-thirds vote of either both houses of Congress or by a national convention, and then it must be ratified by three-fourths of either the state legislatures or state conventions. That this procedure is difficult is clearly demonstrated by the few times the Constitution has been amended in the past 220 years: the first ten amendments were enacted all at once as the Bill of Rights and there have been only 17 other amendments successfully ratified since then. This political document certainly reflects our “fixed habits and settled thoughts.”

In summary, our Constitution provides powerful protection of liberty through judicial review, and it also allows for a constant, stable protection of these same liberties due to the difficult amendment process.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Whither are we Traveling?


I came across this article on the website of the Past Grand Master of Iowa, Donald E. Mosier. Dwight L. Smith, PGM of Indiana, wrote it years ago. Here's a link if you'd like to read it again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Master Craftsman Essay- Eleventh Degree, Elu of the Twelve


In the Eleventh Degree- Elu of the Twelve- we find King Solomon selecting twelve of the fifteen Elus to be governors in Israel. King Solomon charged these men with the responsibility of supervising their provinces, but more especially to oversee the fair collection of revenue. Hutchens writes in a Bridge to Light that “this degree should remind us of another institution necessary for true liberty- the trial by a jury of twelve men....” Most Americans do not question this fundamental right, perhaps because we are so familiar with it. But why is it so important? Why does the U.S. Constitution even list it? Why would liberty “often be but a name” without trial by jury? I will examine these questions by examining the history of this right, the significance of the redundant listing of the right in the U.S. Constitution, and how the right to trial by jury is an illustration of popular sovereignty and perhaps the ultimate example of checks and balances.

The history of jury trials can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. Citizens rotated service on trials, in some instances for an entire year. In Rome, laymen were appointed even to serve as judges. The juries and other legal procedures were very different from what we use today in both civil and criminal cases, but the concept of a judgment rendered by citizens was a feature of these civilizations.

Magna Carta, issued in 1215, is the most significant historical aspect of trial by jury. The King of England was forced to sign Magna Carta by a group of lords and is perhaps the first instance of the power of a king being limited in writing. The document established basic liberties, including a right to trial “...by the lawful judgment of his equals....” Our founding fathers wrote the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish a jury trial as a fundamental right in the U.S. The right to trial by jury is also found in Article III section 2; it states quite clearly “Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury.” The redundancy of listing this right twice in our most fundamental expression of law, the U.S. Constitution, helps to answer the question of why trial by jury is inherent to liberty.

My final examination of how the right to trial by jury is a basic requirement of liberty relates to the nature of our constitutional system. The framers established a system of checks and balances in which each branch has the power to restrain the others. For example, the President has the power to veto legislation passed by Congress, and Congress also has the power to override the President’s veto. The reason for this system, which lately has created political fights on topics ranging from the national debt to Libya, is simply that it keeps one branch from dominating. James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 47 that “ the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, in the same hands...may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” This system of checks and balances is well known even to high school students in American Government class. What may not be as well known, however, is that trial by jury is one of these checks, as well as an example of the principle of popular sovereignty. Moreover, the right to a trial by your equals could be considered the ultimate example of a check. Trial by private citizens operates as a check on all three branches. First, it is a check on the judicial branch because jurors determine questions of fact independent of judges. Second, it is a check on the legislative branch because jurors deeply analyze the application of statutes and legislation. While jurors cannot “veto” a law in the context of a trial, they certainly become better educated about the law and to that extent play a key role in the process. Finally, juries check the executive branch by questioning the prosecution’s case, which in effect is a check on the executive since prosecutors are appointed by the executive branch. However, the best example of how the jury system operates as a check, in my opinion, comes from the process of education and the demands it places on common people. The jury system is a hands-on education for citizens about self-government. In this sense, it is the definition of liberty and without it, liberty would be “...but a name.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

North Polk West Elementary PTA Fundraiser



The PTA of North Polk’s West Elementary is selling a “Comet Card” for $15. The card includes discounts on food and services in the area including:
$2 off Casey’s Large Pizza, all locations
10% off Taco John’s, all locations
$5 off Chilis Restaurant ($25 or more purchase) Ankeny and Clive
10% off IHOP, Ankeny
$3 off SportClips, all locations

Other merchants include Ankeny Fazolis, Palmer’s deli in Ankeny, Nelson Automotive in Polk City ($5 off oil change), Polk City Subway, TCI dining, MC Sports, Culver’s, Plaza Florist, and Texas Roadhouse.

Cost of the card is $15 (cash or check payable to West Elementary PTA) and the card expires October 2012. If you would like to purchase a card, please email me at PolkCityFisherman@gmail.com. The fundraiser ends October 13.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grand Lodge of Iowa Officers for 2011 - 2012

Officers of the Grand Lodge of Iowa for 2011 - 2012

photo courtesy of Jay at Bailey's Buddy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lodge Night September 2011



Monday, September 12 Operative Lodge #308 held its Stated Meeting for the month of September. Eighteen brothers were present, including a visitor from Missouri, Bill Cox, a member of Forsyth Lodge in Forsyth MO. Brother Bill is originally from Iowa and was in the area camping at Saylorville Lake. It was interesting to discuss differences in Iowa and Missouri’s ritual with our visiting brother.

Among other Lodge business, Worshipful Brother Darrell G. Fremont, Senior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, gave a short educational talk on symbolism in the three degrees. The date for the fall pizza sale was set for October 22. Members also approved action to establish a Lodge Facebook group; Brothers Chris Millholin and Scott Nemmers are in charge of this effort.

I uploaded a few pictures from the evening into a Picasa album below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Master Mason at Logic Lodge #636 Ankeny, Iowa


Logic Lodge #636 in Ankeny, Iowa raised Scott Lilly to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason Tuesday night. Over twenty brothers assisted in the effort with visitors from many Lodges including Arcadia, East Gate, Daylight, Waveland Park, Operative, and others.

The Third Degree is an exciting ceremony to watch and in which to participate, at least in part due to the significance it has in a man’s life. But it’s not just the candidate who experiences this significance. Every time I have been at a Third Degree I’m reminded of my own raising at Operative Lodge in Polk City. I remember the feeling of being the candidate, talking with the Tyler, Terry Burke, just outside the Lodge room, and especially the sound of the bagpipes! Other Freemasons experience the degree in their own way. Scott’s dad, Don Lilly, is the Treasurer of Logic Lodge and he participated in the ceremony last night; I’m sure the degree had a great deal of meaning for him. Worshipful Brother Darrell G. Fremont, Senior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of Iowa A.F. & A.M. presided over the second section of the degree. He commented that this was his last opportunity to represent the Grand Lodge since his term as Senior Grand Steward is ending in just a few days; he certainly experienced the degree in a unique way.

Freemasonry is a brotherhood which draws us closer together and builds community. We each experience this in different ways, even when we are engaged in a common goal. The Third Degree is one way to extend the meaning of this brotherhood simply by participating together as a community of men in a common work for an uncommon purpose. And for Scott, last night was definitely uncommon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Chief of the Tabernacle



I’m a little late with this post, but I wanted to add my thoughts about the Des Moines Scottish Rite’s one day summer reunion last week. The reunion was held in honor of Ivan L. Johnson 32° KCCH and Richard J. Noyce, 32° KCCH and conferred eight degrees: 4th, 6th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 23rd, 30th, and 32nd. Asa Moeckly, a brother from my Lodge, was one of the candidates and I was pleased that he served as the exemplar for the degree I help perform: Chief of the Tabernacle (23rd degree). This is only the second time the Des Moines Valley has performed the degree, ever, and from what I understand, we are the only Valley in the State that has attempted it.

As a new Scottish Rite Mason, it’s exciting for me to be a part of a degree team and I’m looking forward to our Fall Reunion; we’ll perform the 23rd and also the 24th degree- Prince of the Tabernacle.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

...loitering by the wayside...


I finished part one of the Master Craftsman II (MC2) course after months of delay. I answered the multiple-choice questions the same day the test arrived in the mail, but I have been delaying the essay. The MC2 course requires both multiple-choice questions and an essay for each degree and the essays are 500-1000 words, each.

My motivation for completing part one, finally, was something I heard in the Des Moines Scottish Rite's One Day Summer Reunion held August 27. The Reunion was held in honor of Ivan L. Johnson 32° KCCH and Richard J. Noyce, 32° KCCH and conferred eight degrees: 4th, 6th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 23rd, 30th, and 32nd. As I was listening to the degrees on Saturday morning, one phrase stuck in my mind: loitering by the wayside. Well, I am loitering no more. Part one of MC2 will be in the mail early Monday morning and I am already anticipating the questions for part two.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Presentation at Specialis Procer #678 Festive Board


Specialis Procer #678 held their festive board Friday night at the Scottish Rite Temple in Des Moines. The menu featured Beef Wellington and it was delicious! This was only the second SP 678 festive board I've attended and I hope to attend more in the future. My first festive board was back in early 2010 before I had been raised to the Third degree. A brother of the lodge made a presentation on Freemasonry in Turkey. I was impressed both with the presentation and with the concept of gathering with brothers to eat, enjoy each others company, and talk about Masonry. Too often it seems like our meetings focus on the business details of the Lodge, but festive boards highlight the social aspects of our fraternity- and good food!

Last night at SP 678 I made the presentation. I have been working on a paper about symbolism and the Perfect Ashlar. I started work on the project over a year ago, in part to fulfill the requirements for the Ashlar Award. The Ashlar Award is a program from the Grand Lodge of Iowa in which a first year Mason accumulates points for active participation in Freemasonry. Points are earned by learning speaking parts in degrees, being a mentor, attending a Lodge of Instruction, and for writing a paper.

Parts of my presentation have been posted on this blog and can be found by clicking on the "Ashlar" topic on the right side of the screen. I enjoyed researching my "innocent little catalog" of different ways to interpret the Ashlar and hope to continue to learn more about Masonic symbolism with additional research in the future.

Jay Simser has some pictures of the festive board at his blog Bailey's Buddy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

George Washington's Tomb

I have spent the past week living and studying at Mount Vernon with Dr. Gordon Wood, the preeminent scholar of Washington and the Revolutionary era. Twenty teachers were selected to participate in this seminar and I feel fortunate to have been one of them. Dr. Wood is an incredible teacher and has answered every question, no matter how naive, although no one asked him about the bar scene in Good Will Hunting in which his name comes up!

Today was our last day at Mount Vernon. Dr. Wood started us off with another incredible session. We also had tours of the gardens and the Mansion. Just before dinner, we participated in laying the wreath at Washington's tomb. If you can't see the pictures below, click on this link to go to the pics at Picasa.

The tour of the Mansion was incredible, by the way. We spent over an hour in the building including a trip up to the cupola!

Anyway, enjoy the pics!

Mount Vernon Gardens Tour

Here are a few pictures from our garden tour this morning. Use this link if you can't see the slide show.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Washington's Mill and Distillery

Today we toured George Washington's Mill and Distillery just down the road from Mount Vernon. Not only was Washington a Freemason, but he was also the owner of the largest distillery at that time in colonial America. In 1799, the year of his death, his distillery produced almost 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey. There are no records of any other distillery of that size in 1799.

A few pictures of our tour are below in a slide show, or click here to go to the album at Picasa.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dr. Gordon Wood, Brown University



Dr. Wood is a professor at Brown University and a Pulitzer prize winning author of a book on the American Revolution. He is the featured lecturer this week for our seminar at Mount Vernon. Stephen Bullock, author of Revolutionary Brotherhood, was his student.

Mount Vernon: tomb, gardens, and sheep on the loose


Here are pictures from this morning's stroll around the estate. I visited both tombs, the gardens, and even saw some sheep enjoying breakfast on the back lawn of the Mansion.

Click HERE to go to the pictures.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mount Vernon at sunrise before the crowds arrive



Here are a few pictures from my walk around the estate this morning.

If you can't see the pictures in the embedded slide show, click here to go to the pics.

Sunrise from the back porch of the mansion at Mount Vernon

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Picture Slideshow from George Washington National Masonic Memorial visit 24 July 2011



If you can't see the slide show, click here to go to the pics on Picasa.

My room at Mount Vernon for this week

I'd sit on the left!

THE Chair...

From the observation deck

GW Masonic Memorial

Fourth floor at the Memorial

At the George Washington Masonic Memorial

Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA



Masonic dues may not have increased much over time, but the price of breakfast sure has!

This is a picture of Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA. George Washington often ate here and today Gadsby's still serves breakfast lunch and dinner...if you can afford it. I settled for a picture of the sign and my bike; I'll save my money for the gift shop at the Masonic Memorial.

George Washington National Masonic Memorial



Pictures are definitely worth a thousand words in this case. Even if he had 200 minutes, Lincoln couldn't do justice to describing how Freemasons must feel when they first see this memorial.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gettysburg National Cemetery



This is the site of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address. I was fortunate enough to spend some time today at the Battleground's Park and the Cemetery. This was my first visit to Gettysburg and I was surprised at the size of the Park. The suggested automobile tour takes over 3 hours. I planned to ride my bike, but given the weather there this afternoon I stayed in the car. The National Cemetery, however, is accessible only by foot.

I was reminded of something about Lincoln's famous speech that I had forgotten: he spoke for just about 2 minutes. Two minutes! We should learn many things from President Lincoln and one of them should be that simple fact!

I wonder if we should introduce a "Lincoln Rule" in our Stated Meetings: no one can speak for more than two minutes, total, during a meeting. That is, unless they can do a better job than Lincoln did at Gettysburg.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seminar at Mount Vernon


I'm off to D.C. this morning for a Gilder Lehrman seminar at Mount Vernon. The seminar is held at Washington's estate and focuses on Washington and the political/social events of his time. Twenty teachers will participate and we'll actually stay at the Estate.

I'm driving so that I'll have flexibility to see some sights. On the way, I plan to stop at Gettysburg. Other Masonic sightseeing plans include the George Washington Masonic Memorial, The House of the Temple, and a museum in Alexandria with a special exhibit on Washington including the bible on which he took his Presidential oath.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

3rd Annual BBQ at Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa


Polk City's Operative Lodge #308 hosted their Third Annual BBQ on Saturday, July 16. Honored guests included Past Grandmaster Jack Butler and Stacy Layton. Even though temperatures approached 95 degrees, a good time was had by all. Operative Lodge Senior Deacon Keith Gordon prepared the ribs and Worshipful Master Lane Shaver cooked the pork chops. After supper, the central Iowa band Monkey Monkey Monkey entertained the crowd.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Za-Ga-Zig Shriners at Gowrie Fourth of July Parade

Haywood- Studies in Blue Lodge Symbolism

Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library distributed this link to a May 1919 article by Harry Haywood in The Builder. Click on the title of this post to go to their site and read Haywood's short article.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Haywood marker in Cedar Rapids Cedar Memorial Cemetery

Harry Haywood's grave site in Cedar Rapids

Let There Be Light- Harry Haywood


I'm in Cedar Rapids this weekend for my nephew's wedding and I had some free time so I thought I would write a quick note about Harry Haywood. Haywood Is the author of one of my favorite Masonic books, The Great Teachings of Masonry. He has written many books including several on the Iowa Masonic Library's list of recommended books for new Masons. His writing style is easy to follow and understand, something not always true of Masonic scholars!

Haywood died in 1956 and is buried in the Masonic section of the Cedar Rapids Cedar Memorial Cemetery. Be careful though if you look him up in Wikipedia: he wasn't born in Omaha nor was he a communist!

Sent from my iPad

Friday, June 3, 2011

A visit to Halifax Lodge #81 in Daytona Beach

I visited Halifax Lodge #81 in Daytona Beach, Florida yesterday evening. Worshipful Master John Hamblett gave me a warm welcome, as did all of the brothers of this Lodge. I was impressed with the friendliness of the members there as they made me feel truly at home in their Lodge. 

W. M. Hamblett is an energetic leader and the Lodge is involved in an extensive remodeling program of their beautiful older building. The brethren are refinishing the wood floors and restoring many parts of the lodge room. One part of the lodge room which stood out to me was a small removable section of the floor which is used during the 3rd degree. I just recently played the part of the 2nd C. in my home Lodge and I can say that resting on the brow of a hill near this shallow section of removable floor would certainly add to the impact of the drama! I remarked on this feature of their lodge room in casual conversation after the stated meeting and the brothers were kind enough to show it to me in detail.

I enjoyed my visit to Halifax Lodge #81 and I hope to visit again. My experience was more than just a nice break from my temporary job here. Freemasonry unites brothers from all walks of life and from all areas of the world into an uncommon brotherhood. The brothers of Halifax Lodge #81 exemplify this and I will never forget their expressions of friendship.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pizza Sale at Operative Lodge #308

Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City held its semi-annual Pizza Sale on Saturday, May 7 2011. Proceeds of the sale go towards assisting the North Polk Elementary Band program and the Lodge's College Scholarship fund.

Freemasons from Operative Lodge prepared to make over 300 pizzas by chopping green peppers and onions Friday evening. The basement of the Lodge was turned into a pizza assembly line and covered in plastic. We started making the pizzas at 8 AM Saturday and finished just after noon.

Thanks to everyone who purchased a pizza and helped with the sale, especially the North Polk Elementary Band parents. The next pizza sale will be this fall.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The duty is performed

Pictures from the funeral of Worshipful Master Steve Layton, Operative Lodge #308, Polk City, Iowa.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pictures of Steve Layton at the Des Moines Scottish Rite's Robert Burns Night

Pictures from Jan. 25, 2011 at the Des Moines Scottish Rite. Photos courtesy of Jay Simser.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

RIP Steve Layton



Steve-
-You're the first Mason I recall meeting at my very first visit to a Lodge
-You're the first Santa my son ever sat on...
-as the most inexperienced Junior Steward ever, you're the first Warden who taught me what to do...

Although I knew you just a little over a year, I owe you so much, good friend. You will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fellow Craft degree at Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City


Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa passed Jeremy Whitlatch to the degree of Fellow Craft on Monday evening April 18. We had a light crowd with fourteen brothers witnessing Jeremy’s second degree, however the quality of the ritual and floorwork was excellent. The Middle Chamber lecture is one of my favorite parts of all of the craft degrees and once again, brother Dave Aves from Mount Olive Lodge #79 in Boone did a fantastic job on this challenging lecture.

Jeremy and his mentor used the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s new on-line Mentor’s Assistant tool and both said they found the new internet-based resource useful. The Mentor’s Assistant features separate elements for each of the three degrees which allow the new Mason and his mentor to review each degree interactively. It works in conjunction with Iowa’s Systematic Masonic Enlightenment Course.

Jeremy’s third degree is scheduled for Monday, May 16 at 6:30 PM in Polk City.