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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Iowa Masonic Leadership Symposium

Here are a few highlights of the Iowa Leadership Symposium held today at the Des Moines Scottish Rite. For additional information, see my blog entry on the Des Moines Consistory website.

Robert G. Davis
-Gone are the days when only two generations of men run Lodge.
-The true purpose of Freemasonry- awakening consciousness in men. No other organization in the world exists to do this work. We exist to communicate moral integrity and social honor to a younger generation of men.
-Our goal is to make good men better (NOT to discuss how to make old, leaking Lodge roofs better)

Chris Hodapp
-The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown) is a 509 page love letter to the fraternity and we better be ready for a masonic boom of potential members when the movie comes out.
-I was jabbed with an officer’s pike soon after I was raised in 1999: 2 years later I was Master of the Lodge.
-New members won’t tolerate arguing about whether or not to fix the roof or raise dues by $2 a year.
-Freemasonry isn’t just about ritual because face it: who would join a memorization club?

S. Brent Morris
-Freemasons in their thirties and forties started most of the invitational groups that today have high status.
-90% of Lodges in the state of New York were lost as a result of the Morgan affair.
- what’s the next evolution of Freemasonry? It might be up to those younger than us.

Thomas Wilkerson
-I graduated from Top Gun when Tom Cruise was in the 3rd grade.
-Nine of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence died from combat wounds; 5 were POWs.
-all of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during WW2 were Freemasons

Pictures can be viewed at Bailey's Buddy

Friday, June 29, 2012

Symbolism of the Ashlars: Borglum's View

My first attempt at Masonic research was an analysis of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars, two common symbols found in many Iowa Masonic Lodges. My purpose in writing the paper was to describe different interpretations of these Masonic symbols in part to encourage a broader interpretation. In my research, I found references to the three branches of the federal government, social capital, and even comasonry. Rather than focus on a persuasive thesis as to which interpretation is best, I hoped to merely describe unique ways to view these symbols. As a new Freemason, I can't say that I succeeded in that attempt, but I did add to my own understanding.

 Many of the ten interpretations I wrote about have been published here on my blog, but I left out the one posted below: Brother Gutzon Borglum's interpretation. My travels this month to Utah inspired me to dig out some of my old photos from previous trips and I discovered several from a visit to Mount Rushmore years ago, and so I was reminded of this great man and what he had to say about the symbolism of the Ashlars:

Over three million people visited Mount Rushmore in 2009, a number greater than the total population of the state of Iowa. (National Park Service) This popular, iconic American landmark is itself memorialized on everything from T-shirts to shot glasses. Gutzon Borglum began work on the massive presidential memorial in 1927. His son, Lincoln Borglum, assumed primary responsibility for the project after his father died in 1941. As many members of the Craft know, both father and son were Freemasons. Gutzon Borglum was Worshipful Master of Howard Lodge No. 35 in New York City. Lincoln Borglum, named after his father’s favorite President Abraham Lincoln, was a member of Battle River Lodge No. 92 of Hermosa, South Dakota.  (Leazer, n.p.)

The Borglum view of the symbolism of the rough and perfect ashlar stems from the artist’s insight into his art. Masonic author Carl Claudy writes about this in Introduction to Freemasonry:

"The famous sculptor and ardent Freemason, Gutzon Borglum, asked how he carved stone into beautiful statues, once said, "It is very simple. I merely knock away with hammer and chisel the stone I do not need and the statue is there - it was there all the time."  In the Great Light we read: "The kingdom of heaven is within you." We are also there taught that man is made in the image of God. As Brother Borglum has so beautifully said, images are made by a process of taking away. The perfection is already within. All that is required is to remove the roughness, the excrescences, "divesting our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life" to show forth the perfect man and Mason within."  (Pietre-Stones: Review of Freemasonry)

This view of the rough and perfect ashlars compliments other interpretations. Borglum’s analysis of the human condition highlights our capacity for communion with God, and indeed, focuses on the purpose of our life here: to draw closer to Him. Through the practice and principles of Freemasonry, we build on that qualitative human characteristic and apply the work to ourselves for the improvement of all.

New Blog: IowaMason

IowaMason is a new Masonic blog by Matthew Risberg. Brother Matt is a member of Acanthus Lodge #632 in Beaverdale. 

Check out his blog at this link.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Iowa Masonic Leadership Symposium

The  Iowa Masonic Leadership Symposium is Saturday, June 30 at the Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple. Speakers include Robert Davis, Christopher Hodapp,  S. Brent Morris, and Thomas Wilkerson.

See the Grand Lodge of Iowa's web page for more info.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ensign Peak

Ensign Peak is a mountain on the north edge of Salt Lake City, just behind the State Capitol building. The Mormon pioneers climbed the peak shortly after arriving to plan the city's layout. The trail to the top is easy, but I found it steeper than the descriptions implied. It's about 1 mile round-trip and the views of the city and the Great Salt Lake are incredible.

We leave SLC today for home. We plan to stay overnight in Cheyenne and I hope to post some pics of Cheyenne Lodge #1.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A diversion about Advanced Placement high school exams


Advanced Placement tests are a way for high school students to earn college credit while still in high school. The tests are developed by the College Board and given each May. For the high school class I teach (Government and Politics: US) the student answers 60 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and 4 essays. They have 45 minutes for the MCQs and 100 minutes for the essays.

The College Board hires 600+ teachers and professors to score the essays over a 7 day period.  After a full day of training, we typically start scoring. We are divided into “tables” of 8 readers with an additional person who is our table leader. The table leader is an experienced reader and assists as we come across tricky essays.

We do not score all 4 essays rather we are assigned to 1 of the 4 questions and read it throughout the week. But not always. Sometimes 1 of the essays takes longer to read than others and readers are switched over to help with that essay. For example, this year I am scoring this essay:
The judicial branch is often assumed to be insulated from politics. However, politics affects many aspects of the judiciary.
(a) Describe two political factors that affect presidents’ decisions to appoint members of the federal judiciary.
(b) Identify two political factors that affect the confirmation process of a president’s nominees and explain how
each factor complicates a confirmation.
(c) Explain how one legislative power serves as a check on court decisions.
(d) Explain how one executive power serves as a check on court decisions.

This is a challenging essay for high school students, but the reason why it is hard to score isn’t because of the content but because of the wording. Describe, identify, and explain all mean different things and readers have to slow down and be careful to accurately score each part of the question.

We started with 18 tables assigned to read this question. By the third day of reading, 5 additional tables were added to help us catch up. My pace has been a bit slower than last year. So far, I have averaged 285 essays each day for 4 days with my high being 338 and low being 195. Its typical to have a smaller amount read on the first day (195 for me on Mon) than the 4th day (238 on Thurs.).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A visit to Mt. Moriah Lodge #2 in Salt Lake City

I visited Mt. Moriah Lodge #2 F&AM of Salt Lake City, Utah Monday, June 11 during their monthly stated meeting. Another brother also happened to be visiting yesterday evening and he was in town for the same event as I was: scoring Advanced Placement exams.

After being examined by both Deacons, I met several of the brothers, but it was a busy evening for the Lodge. The Grand Lodge of Utah was visiting: 16 members of the Grand line were in attendance for the annual visitation. During the meeting, the Grand Lecturer made a presentation on Utah’s ritual, the Grand Orator spoke on the importance of living up to the fraternity’s ideals, and the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Frank C. Baker reviewed the Lodge’s activities and programs.

Another fascinating part of the meeting was a visit by the local Job’s Daughters. The girls made a presentation on the significance of their robe and its meaning and connections to Freemasonry.

After the meeting, I had a chance to visit with Mt. Moriah’s Worshipful Master Robert Smith and Brother Bill Dysart. Both were very welcoming and friendly, as were all the Utah Freemasons I met last night.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the road to Salt Lake

I’m traveling to Salt Lake City for my short-term summer job of reading AP exams. I teach a high school course titled Government and Politics: US; students can earn college credit for this class if they score well on a national exam. The exam is written by the College Board, an organization which works closely with colleges to provide challenging curriculum for high school courses. The exam consists of two parts, 60 multiple choice questions and four essay questions. The multiple choice section is scored by computer, but the essays are graded the old fashioned way. College Board hires 700 high school teachers and college professors to read each question. How many kids take the exam? Last year, over 250,000 took it. It takes about a week to read and score the approximately one million essays (250,000 students times 4 questions each) and this year the reading takes place in Salt Lake City.

Last summer, the reading was in Daytona Beach. I had the chance to visit Halifax Lodge #81 while there. This year, I’m looking forward to visiting a Salt Lake City Lodge, Mt. Moriah #2 in Salt Lake.
Check back for more travel reports and my report on Mt. Moriah #2.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

140th Anniversary of Operative Lodge

Operative Lodge #308 passed three men to the Fellowcraft degree Tuesday evening. It was a very unique night for several reasons. First, we don’t often pass that many at the same time; members could not recall the last time it has happened. Second, the Mother’s lecture was given by a visiting brother from Otley Lodge in Perry. This lecture is moving and emotional and as Senior Deacon I had a front row seat to hear it, three times! And finally, last night, June 5, 2012, was the 140th anniversary of Operative Lodge #308 receiving its charter from the Grand Lodge of Iowa! What a great way to celebrate! 

Welcome to our new Fellowcrafts, Joe Heaberlin, Issac Laffey, and James Brown, and congratulations on helping to make the 140th anniversary of Operative Lodge unique.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Knights Templar Grand Conclave

The 148th Conclave of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Iowa is in progress in Ames. Last night featured several events including the Knight Crusader of the Cross degree. Approximately 30 Sir Knights took the degree, including myself. It reminds us of our commitment as Knights Templar and includes lessons on one of my favorite parts of the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount.

Thursday also featured Ritual competition by five commanderies. Temple Commandery number 4 participated, as did Commanderies from Waterloo, Marshaltown, Creston, and Sioux City.

Early Thursday morning the Sir Knights from Temple Commandery met for a dress rehearsal for the opening of the Grand Commandery. I'm participating in a small part and it's been fun learning the ritual and floor work with the swords. The opening is Friday morning so ready or not, we're on.

UPDATE: Temple Commandery  #4 won the competition- congrats Sir Knights!