Appendix B: My Personal Experience with Freemasonry

I grew up in Southern California. During my senior year of high school (1991), I befriended a recent convert at church. He was a cheery, affable chubby guy, very unassuming and good-natured. We got along great. He invited me to a Saturday morning breakfast held at the local Masonic lodge. He explained to me that, along with the LDS church, he had recently joined a Masonic youth group called DeMolay. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about Freemasonry, except that I once heard that Joseph Smith was a Freemason. I decided to attend this breakfast. It was a very pleasant event – a beautiful crisp Southern California morning, eating bacon, eggs, and pancakes with a bunch of people my age whom I'd not yet met, hanging out in the parking lot of this local masonic lodge that I had no clue even existed in my home town. Everyone was very affable and friendly. I was shown around inside the ornately decorated lodge – very impressive. I was very surprised to see a framed print of a painting of George Washington in full masonic dress hanging in one office. “Wow, Washington was a Mason, too?”

I quickly became friends with several of these young Masons. At the time I had already been accepted to start attending BYU Provo the following Fall semester, so I anticipated leaving California shortly. Over the course of about 4 months, I frequently attended their activities and get-togethers. I learned a bit about their organizations for youth under 21: DeMolay for the young men, and Job's Daughters and Rainbows for the young women. There was an overtone of religiosity, formality, and Biblical references, as well as consistent references to God – and it was explained to me that one could be a Mason and believe in any other religion they wished – so I allowed myself to feel at home. (However, I did remain puzzled as to why, despite there being so many Biblical references, I witnessed absolutely no references to Jesus Christ. I chalked it up to the “any religion can be a Mason” thing, as to accommodate non-Christians.)

During those four months I wanted to become closer friends to these young people, but I pretty much ended up being something of an observing outsider looking in. They were all a very close-knit bunch – which really impressed me at first. With the exception of me, my friend from Church, and maybe one other guy, each of them were raised in Masonic families and they had all (as far as I'm aware) grown up with the organization since birth. Growing up in Southern California where I did, I unfortunately did not have the greatest relationships with most of my fellow LDS youth in the stake I attended, which was horrendously cliquish – and I was very much accustomed to being treated as an outsider most of the time (which was why most of my friends growing up were non-LDS). As for these Masonic youth, they were all very nice to me, except for one extremely effeminate guy who completely ignored me. While there was a definite “outsider” treatment towards me, yet I felt a willingness to befriend me closer over time. Because they seemed so willing to befriend me, I immediately felt very affable to them and attended several activities. I detected several instances where they would not discuss certain things when I was around. They became especially quiet when bringing up previous parties that they alluded to having “gotten out of control.” In hindsight, I think some were uncomfortable with my being a devout Mormon, because I didn't fully “participate” in the activities I attended. Many of their activities were, to put it nicely, quite unbecoming compared to how formal and dignified they were expected to carry themselves in public and at the Masonic temple.

Here are some observations:

➢ All of their parents appeared to be very financially well off and dignified. I had no way of confirming this, of course – yet each and every one of them certainly did not seem the least bit financially strapped.
➢ There was a great deal of religiosity and Biblical references within the Masonic lodge and the couple of meetings I attended, and even a large Bible on the altar in the temple – yet there was never any mention of “Jesus” or “Christ.” Ever. I never once observed any Bible reading, or quoting thereof, or a demonstration of any knowledge of its contents, either in DeMolay or the two associated female youth organizations, Rainbow and Job's Daughters. Additionally, the only prayers I ever heard were formalized ritual prayers which addressed a Father in Heaven, but closed with Amen without using the name of Jesus Christ.
➢ Every single youth event I attended (that was not actually at a lodge) involved very open alcohol consumption – and I never once saw any parents or chaperones anywhere at any time. (Keep in mind, every single attendee was between the ages of 14 to 20.) Most were only buzzed, some were tipsy, a few got slammed. I never drank – just observed and conversed with the coherent ones (and sometimes amused myself watching the tipsy / slammed ones). I never saw, nor even met, any parents or adults monitoring these teens… ever.
➢ Each and every one of them had an inexplicable obsession with the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” And I mean every single one. The songs from this film was the soundtrack of their lives. In nearly every conversation, there were references to either the songs or parts of the movie itself. (More about this in detail below.)
➢ I attended a couple of their youth dances at the activities area of the temple. Most of the time, the DJ would play the popular 80's songs of the time, but then everyone would get hyper-excited when the DJ played anything from Rocky Horror. What I found most disturbing was that, during a couple parts of the most popular song, everyone would chant “Group sex! Group sex!” while thrusting their hips. Again, I never saw one single person at or over the age of 21 at these dances (except maybe the DJ).
➢ On a few occasions I attempted to talk to the extremely effeminate guy I mentioned earlier. Each time I did so, he either didn't speak to me at all and walked away, or he responded to me with semi-hidden disdain and ended the conversation immediately. Later, with genuine curiosity, I asked one of the girls I had befriended about him. To my surprise, she immediately became extremely defensive about him. She went on a tirade about how everyone makes fun of gays, and that he's the nicest guy in the world, and she's so sick of people being so judgmental and closed minded, and on and on and on – the whole time strongly inferring that I was an insensitive, homophobic bastard for even asking about him. (And this was 1991.)
➢ After getting an unexpected earful from that girl, it became more obvious to me that every single person in both DeMolay, but more especially the Rainbows and Job's Daughters, went out of their way to emotionally cater to this homosexual teen – praising him, flattering him, building up his ego, vilifying anyone and everyone who couldn't “accept him” – and he soaked it all up like an insatiable sponge. It felt as though they treated him as if he was helplessly handicapped, or born with down syndrome, and most came off as hyper-defensive about him.

Before meeting these people, I had only vaguely heard of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite being a huge movie buff all my young life. For anyone unfamiliar with this 1975 film, let me summarize: imagine a campy musical with a soundtrack similar in style to “Grease,” except the story is about a young naïve couple who end up stuck in a mansion owned by a cross-dressing mad scientist named “Dr. Frankenfurter,” and surrounded by a bunch of bizarre characters from “transsexual Transylvania.” Despite it being an R-rated film (not X-rated), from beginning to end it's a shameless celebration of degenerate lasciviousness. Since its release it has generated a tremendous cult following, which at first was underground but now has become part of today's popular culture. It's arguable that this movie has been highly influential, both in its lascivious attitude and excessive flamboyance, in the promotion of bisexuality, homosexuality, gay pride spectacles, and the like.

One interesting thing of note is that the attractive young bodybuilder who played the title character “Rocky Horror” (the mad scientist's creation) later became a Christian and has completely disavowed any connection to the film. To his tremendous credit, he is deeply ashamed of having ever been a part of it.

Within a few weeks of befriending these Masonic youth, I quickly became uncomfortably familiar with all the songs from the film. There was no way I could escape it being around them. Some small local theater played it on weekends at midnight every weekend – and I quickly learned that these youth attended showings very regularly. They described to me how many people in the audience dressed up as characters from the film, and as the movie played, people from the audience would go to the front of the theater and act out and sing along with the film – and all the audience would hoot and holler, sing along, etc. I was also told that people who watched the movie for the first time were called “Rocky Horror virgins” – and all such virgins were “required” to go up on stage and act out and sing with everyone else – which was an extremely unappealing thought to me, as I was too nice to reveal to them how much I found the songs revolting and asinine. (I can barely stand watching or listening to “Grease” – fat chance I'd ever warm up to this stuff.) I was invited many times to go with them, but I politely declined every time.

In all these things, I did not want to come off as “judgmental,” especially when they (except for the openly homosexual one) had all been so polite and welcoming to me. Knowing that I'd be leaving for BYU in only a matter of weeks, I decided to continue associating with the youth as much as I could until I could get a chance to become initiated into the DeMolay order. By this time I was thoroughly impressed with the dignity and formality surrounding the Masonic lodge, and I was desirous to join their youth order. “I mean, hey, both Joseph Smith and George Washington were Freemasons, right? And I love all the old stories about knights and bravery and all that – and this DeMolay was a Knights Templar and everything. It's not as if I'd have to give up being Mormon if I join them – you're required to believe in a Supreme Being, and it's many different religious beliefs under a single, benevolent umbrella of an organization. Yeah, most of their kids are definitely more wacky on the inside than you'd take them for at first, and they enjoyed bizarre things, but at least they're friendly and reach out to others – which is more than I could say for my own LDS youth I attended church with.”

And so, only a few days before departing for BYU, I was initiated at the Masonic lodge into the first degree of DeMolay. I was required to sit alone in the temple area for a time, while the other DeMolay members prepared for the initiation. The place was deathly quiet and dimly lit, and I looked at each of the lighted symbols glowing here and there around the walls. I wondered what all the symbols meant. I had to fight off feelings of creepiness and unease, as if something were wrong and I shouldn't be there. I forced these feelings out of my mind and heart. I don't recall most of what was spoken, but the initiation was very formal and cordial. Aside from me, there were several other guys whom I had already befriended and become familiar with. (Again, there were no other adults anywhere. It was only us in the lodge temple.) This is what I recall from the initiation:

➢ I was dressed in my own suit – a suit I often wore to Church on Sundays.
➢ The others were dressed in formal outfits somewhat like Masonic garb, except they also wore black capes with red trim. I don't recall any aprons or medals or hats or other things typically worn by Masons. Although, if I recall right, the DeMolay leader did wear a chain collar, as they're referred to. And I seem to recall that he and each of the others did wear white gloves.
➢ The DeMolay leader addressed me about becoming a brother and taking upon me critical virtues. Also, he had an ornate prop crown on a fancy pillow.
➢ I was escorted by the leader around several pillars on the temple floor. At each pillar was standing a DeMolay brother. As we stopped at each pillar, the brother would announce a virtue I was hereby taking upon myself, and he'd follow a script, detailing in fancy language, the merits of this virtue. (One inexperienced brother was very nervous and botched the script several times, having to refer to a paper to get it right, and with some gentle help from the leader.) Upon completing his script the brother presented a colored prop jewel which was hooked onto the crown. Each jewel was a different color.
➢ One by one we went to each pillar and collected seven jewels, and I received instruction on each virtue. These were the seven virtues I was expected to uphold: filial love (the love between parents and children), reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness, and patriotism.
➢ I was instructed to “kiss the Bible,” a large Bible on an altar. I certainly had no objection to this, yet I did reflect that there was never any reading of the Bible nor any mention of Christ whatsoever.

I later reflected that I had already taken an oath to follow these and other virtues when I joined the Scouting program: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout law, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” and “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” For an organization that requires belief in a Supreme Being, I noticed the curious absence of such values as faith in God, meekness or humility, prayer, repentance, patience, purity (the “cleanness” virtue mostly emphasized to avoid being “foul-mouthed, obscene… indulging in habits which leave [a young man] weakened in body”), and, most of all, a love for God which is expressed in exercising charity towards all men. Instead, each and every virtue of the DeMolay oath felt as if it merely stemmed from loyalty to fellow oath-taken brothers.

I was encouraged to locate a DeMolay chapter in Utah once I got settled at school. A few days later, I left California. Once at BYU Provo, I was overwhelmed with attending classes and becoming accustomed to university life, and I quickly made a lot of new friends – and for the first time in my life, I did not feel like an “outsider” among the LDS. I lost contact with my DeMolay, Rainbow, and Job's Daughters friends back in California – I never saw them ever again. Oddly enough, however – three years later my mother moved from California to Utah, and within a couple years after that (by this time I was 21 years old), a copy of the Scottish Rite periodical would arrive in the mail at her home, addressed to me.

Since then, I have never had any personal, direct, nor conscious indirect contact with Freemasons or Masonic organizations. All research I have done for this book has been through sources available online, as cited throughout.

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