You will recall a quotation from our ritual stating that "Freemasonry has endured the moral test of ages." This is a great credit to our Craft which few organizations can claim. But, Freemasonry has done more -- much, much more -- than having endured during those ages. One thing it has done is spread around the world. Almost everywhere that freedom exists, and even in some areas where it does not, Freemasonry may be found.
In a world of changing values, in a world wracked with tensions, wars and threats of wars, in a world where spiritual values and ethics are declining, there has been for several hundred years a bright and shining constant -- Freemasonry.
Oh, maybe our membership figures are not shining as brightly as they once did; but our philosophy is ... our purpose is ... our goal is ... our very reason for existing is still shining and has not diminished one iota. The basic precepts of the Fraternity today are as they were in 1717 when we had our structural origin.
Perhaps it would behoove us to examine more fully those precepts which have led to our longevity and our worldwide distribution. Why do we continue to survive when so many organizations have failed?
It is my feeling that the primary factor affecting our success is inherent in the very foundation of our admission process. That single requirement of a belief of God and not in any specific theology has been primary. This character provides a means of promoting a form of brotherhood that no single theology could ever hope to promote. It is the reason for the universality of our Fraternity. There are those who have a problem with this philosophical precept and condemn us for it, but it is a universal foundation stone of our Craft.
There is no doubt that differences exist in Freemasonry around the world. There are differences existing in Freemasonry even within this country; but it is the similarities, not the differences, which make Freemasonry what it is. The universal feeling of brotherhood from grand lodges around the world is impressive.
I had the great privilege of sitting recently in a subordinate lodge in Mali, Africa, where almost all of the members present were of the Muslim faith and where a Tuareg was being made a Mason. The feeling of total brotherhood which permeated that hall was as universal as any I have experienced anywhere else in the world. This, my Brothers, is Freemasonry.
Our Craft seems to have retained this character of brotherhood in some areas more than in others, but perhaps the need is greater there. The principles upon which it was founded do not vary, however. They are as old as civilization, itself: unchanged and unchanging.
We are part of the fortunate few, the relatively small percentage, who have had the opportunity and privilege to be Freemasons. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale expressed his membership this way: "Outside of my relationship to the church of Almighty God, this is the most valued fellowship of my entire experience."
My Brothers, I continue to encourage you to become more cognizant of this great experience, more aware of the influence and significance of the Craft and more thankful that this is a privilege that has been afforded you. Then, and only then, will you truly appreciate it.