The Masonic Lodge: What Goes On Behind Closed Doors? – Program 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Jack Harris; ©1986
A former Worshipful Master explains many of the things you will find in every lodge in the United States, including the G, the chairs, and the officers. Portions of the ceremony are reenacted by former members.

The Primary Symbols of the Masonic Lodge


Tonight, John Ankerberg presents, What Goes on Behind the Closed Doors of the Masonic Lodge? In our prior program, a 32nd Degree Mason met with a Christian scholar to find out whether or not Christianity and the Masonic Lodge were compatible. In that program, our Masonic guest said the Ritual was the authoritative source for all Masons. But what is the Ritual for the first three degrees of Masonry? What does it teach? Tonight, you will find out. Mr. Jack Harris, a former Worshipful Master from the state of Maryland, will reenact small parts of the ritual from the first three degrees and explain what he taught in the Lodge.

In Program 1, you will be introduced to the primary symbols in all Masonic Lodges and watch how a Candidate is received upon his being initiated into the Entered Apprentice Degree of Masonry.

In Program 2, the former Worshipful Master will explain to us the meaning of the Three Great Lights and Three Lesser Lights of Masonry.

In Program 3, what is the significance of the working tools of Masonry? What is the meaning of the white apron, and the Rough Ashlar, and the Perfect Ashlar?

In Program 4, how binding is the obligation taken by any Candidate initiated into the first three degrees of Masonry?

In Program 5, you will see the actual ceremony used at a Masonic funeral.

In Program 6, both sides will comment whether Masonry is a religion, whether or not it promises eternal life in the Celestial Lodge Above, what a Mason must do in this life, and whether Masonry holds the Bible’s teachings to be authoritative.

In preparation for this program, letters were sent to the Grand Lodges in all 50 states, asking them which Masonic authors and books they would recommend as the most authoritative commentaries concerning the teachings of Masonry. We will report to you what they said. Then we will compare the commentary of their recommended authors with some of the teachings of biblical Christianity to answer the question, Is Christianity compatible with the teachings of the Masonic Lodge? Please stay tuned.

Program 1

John Ankerberg: Welcome. Tonight we begin a follow-up program to a previous series that we did entitled “Christianity and the Masonic Lodge: Are They Compatible?” We received quite a bit of response from that program, and tonight we want to continue. As our custom is, we allow the other side to present their own position. So tonight, and in the weeks to come, you will hear excerpts from our previous program with our guest, Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason. You’ll hear additional information from a former Worshipful Master of the Lodge. But to set the stage tonight, let’s go back to the previous series where I asked two questions of Mr. Bill Mankin concerning the Masonic Lodge. First, “Is Masonry a religion?” Please listen to what he said.

(Excerpt from former series)

Ankerberg: There are many good things with the Lodge in terms of what Walter [Martin] just mentioned: the hospitals and so on, the different functions, the charities. And I think that there’s no argument on that. We never argue with people on things that are right. But the discussion comes around, let me see if I can frame it for you, and that is, “It [Freemasonry] is not a religion.”
Bill Mankin: More than that. It’s not a religion; it offers no system of salvation. I’m going to have to read from this certain point because this is very, very important and something that you should realize, because we have none of the marks of a religion.
Ankerberg: Okay. Let her go.
Mankin: We have no creed; no confession of faith in a doctrinal statement; we have no theology; we have no ritual of worship. We have no symbols that are religious in the sense of symbols found in a church or a synagogue. Our symbols are related to the development of character of the relationship of man to men. They are working tools to be used in the building of life. These working tools have been used from time immemorial to build buildings.” And all we are saying is that if you as an individual adopt the principles represented – and we’ll get into some of that symbolism later on – that you will be a better person: not that you’re going to go to heaven.

Ankerberg: The second question: “If anyone is going to investigate the teachings of the Masonic Lodge, who or what is the authority that we should listen to?” Again, please listen to what Bill Mankin said.

(Excerpt from former series)

Mankin: The authoritative source for Masonry is the Ritual. The Ritual: what happens in the Lodge; what goes on.
Walter Martin: Alright. So there are some basic things then, that are universal to Masonry, and that you would agree with, and that all Masons would agree with?
Mankin: Yes.

Martin: Okay. Now we have established that there is a basic foundation upon which all Masonry rests, alright?

Mankin: Yes.

Ankerberg: Tonight I thought that you might like to see what goes on behind closed doors in a Masonic Lodge room. We’re actually going to recreate for you some of the ceremony, the ritual, in the Blue Lodge, the first three degrees of Masonry. Why? Well, you just heard Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, explain to you that he thought that Masonry cannot be considered a religion. Why? Because “It has no creed, it has no theology, it has no plan of salvation.” But he did say, the way that you find out, the way you measure that, is by looking at the Ritual. And tonight, if that’s the authoritative source, I thought that I would like to show you the ritual and let you decide for yourself.
We needed somebody that was knowledgeable, somebody that would be considered knowledgeable by Masons across the country. Who could be more knowledgeable than a Worshipful Master of the Lodge? And tonight we actually have a former Worshipful Master, a man who led over 600 men in his Lodge in Maryland; who initiated many of those men into the Lodge. He is going to explain what is in the typical Blue Lodge Hall and we are then going to ask him to give us certain parts of the ritual. It will be exactly word-for-word those parts that we duplicate.
But we’re not going to give you all of the ritual; that would take about five hours. But the parts that we give to you, you will find, are word-for-word what is in most of the Lodges across the country. Our guest tonight is Mr. Jack Harris. Jack, I would like for you to explain to us what we see here. What is the big “G” above this chair, and what is that chair, and what are these other chairs?
Jack Harris: John, first of all, the chair of the Worshipful Master is situated in the East. It is the place of authority in a Masonic Blue Lodge. Over the top of the chair is the letter “G,” found in every Lodge within the United States.
Ankerberg: Okay, what are these chairs down here?
Harris: On the left we have the chair of the chaplain. Every Lodge must be opened and closed with prayer. And in a great many of your Lodges, throughout the United States, the chaplain is an ordained minister. To the right of the Master is the chair of the Senior Deacon. The Senior Deacon is in charge of conducting all candidates through their initiation of the first three degrees of Freemasonry.
Ankerberg: Alright, what are these candles here, Jack?
Harris: These candles represent the sun, the moon, and the Master of the Lodge. As we come down through the center of the Lodge – and this is significant because this altar is exactly in the center of every Masonic Lodge within the United States – resting on top is the Holy Bible, the square and the compass.
Ankerberg: Alright. You’re going to tell us more about why you have these things there and what they mean in Masonry.
Harris: We’re going to do that on a later ritual, right.
Ankerberg: Alright. Why do we have the color blue here?
Harris: The color blue, according to most Masonic authorities, is used in the Blue Lodge – first, second and third degree – because it is a symbol of fidelity.
Ankerberg: Alright. Jack, tell us, what is the South wall all about in the Masonic Lodge room?
Harris: The South wall is the principal place where the Junior Warden of the Lodge sits.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Harris: To his right and to his left are the chairs of the Junior and Senior Stewards of the Masonic Lodge.
Ankerberg: Alright. You are going to tell us why you call it the South wall, and then you’ve got the West wall over here…
Harris: That’s correct.
Ankerberg: …and a little later as we go along, and the people will see how these chairs are used.
Harris: Yes, that’s correct.
Ankerberg: Alright. What do we have over here on the West wall?
Harris: Okay, the small chair on the left is the chair of the Junior Deacon, who is in charge of admission of all candidates and also the guest of the Lodge.
Ankerberg: Alright. What is this chair?
Harris: The chair in the center is a chair of the Senior Warden of the Lodge who is second in command to the Worshipful Master of the Lodge.
Ankerberg: Okay, Jack, what about this other door on the West wall? What’s this all about?
Harris: This door is for the Candidate to come through. It’s called the “ante-room door.” It’s the door behind which the Candidate is prepared for initiation. Behind this door we have a Candidate which is prepared for initiation in the first degree of Freemasonry. We will explain to you at a later time exactly why he is dressed the way he is.
Ankerberg: Alright. So now what we’re going to do is, we’re going to actually begin the first degree of Masonry and take you through, again, some of the key parts in the actual ritual as it happens in the Blue Lodge.

Harris: Tonight, we’re going to bring you into an actual Lodge Room and show you the Ritual of the First Degree of Freemasonry. As John has mentioned earlier, we cannot show you all the aspects of the Ritual, but what we will show you will be an actual, live representation of what happens in a Masonic Lodge. Previous to this, there was about 20 minutes of ritual, leading up to this part where I am at the present time.
[Candidate knocks at ante-room door]
[Senior Deacon knocks in response and opens door]
Senior Deacon: Who comes here?
Junior Deacon: John Smith, a poor blind Candidate, who desires to be brought from darkness to light; who wishes to receive a part of the rights and benefits of this right worshipful Lodge erected to God and dedicated to the holy Saints John, as many brothers and fellows have done before him.
Senior Deacon: Is it of his own free will and accord that he makes this request?
Junior Deacon: It is.
Senior Deacon: Is he duly and truly prepared?
Junior Deacon: He is.
Senior Deacon: By what further right does he expect to gain admission?
Junior Deacon: By the right of being a man, free-born, of good report, and well recommended.
Senior Deacon: Being all this, he will wait a time with patience until the Worshipful Master is informed of his request and his answer returned.
Harris: Before we continue with the ritual, I would like to make some comment about the part of the ritual at the door that you have just seen. Albert Mackey, one of the world’s leading authorities in Freemasonry, and respected in his interpretation of the Rituals of Freemasonry has made this comment regarding the scene that you have just set at the door. The book is called The Manual of the Lodge, page 20, and he makes this following statement:
There he stands, without our portals, on the threshold of his new Masonic life, in darkness, helplessness and ignorance. Having been wandering amid the errors and covered over with the pollution of the outer and profane world, he comes inquiringly to our door seeking the new birth and asking a withdrawal of the veil which conceals divine truth from his uninitiated eyes.
As Christians, the Word of God is considered our authority in all matters of truth and conduct. I would like to quote to you what the Word of God says about this part of the Ritual that we have just shown you. In John 8:12, the Word says, “Again therefore Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world; he who followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” Also, in Ephesians 5:14, the Word of God says, “Awake thou that sleepest from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”
I spent many years in the Masonic Lodge as an officer. And in all those years serving as Worshipful Master and other offices, I found Freemasonry to be something that was really meeting a need in my life. But, one night while at home and watching Christian TV, I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time, knelt down there in the living room and accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. My first love became the Word of God. And as I read the Word, the Spirit of God showed me that I was a child of light, and Jesus, my Savior, was the Light of the world. I found that this was in tremendous conflict with the teachings of Freemasonry, especially the part of the Ritual that you saw of the door, saying that as a Christian Candidate, I was “in darkness regarding spiritual matters.” Let me ask you: Can you truthfully say, when you came to the door of Freemasonry for initiation, that as a Christian, you were in spiritual darkness when the Word of God says, as a Christian, you are a child of light?

Ankerberg: Now, why are we investigating the Masonic ritual? Well, in our first series, as we were talking with Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, we found out something very interesting. Please listen.

(Excerpt from former series)

Ankerberg: In order for us to define terms, because the questions I’m going to ask you on the two prayers that we’ve read have to do with… What God are we talking about? Who is the great Architect, the Supreme Architect of the Universe? Now, how do we figure that out? What is your authority? When you have a question on the Masonic Lodge, who do you go to?
Mankin: I go to the Ritual.
Ankerberg: And where does the Ritual come from?
Mankin: The Ritual, the monitor portion of the Ritual is spoken. What deals with the obligation and the doings of Masonry is the portion that is secret, and unfortunately, you’re not privy to that unless you ask to be privy to it.

(End of excerpt)

Ankerberg: Since Masons believe that the ritual is their authority, then please listen as Mr. Jack Harris, a former Worshipful Master of the Lodge, continues to perform and explain the significance of portions of the Entered Apprentice Degree, the First Degree of Masonry.

Harris: We will now continue with our Ritual in the First Degree of Freemasonry.
Senior Deacon: Mr. Smith, you are received into Masonry upon the point of a sharp instrument, piercing your naked left breast, which is to teach you, as this is an instrument of torture to your flesh, so may the recollection thereof be to your conscience should you ever reveal any of the secrets of Freemasonry unlawfully.
Worshipful Master: Vouchsafe thine aid, Almighty Father of the Universe, to this our present convention, and grant that this Candidate for Masonry may dedicate and devote his life to thy service. Endue him with the competency of thy divine wisdom, that by the secrets of our art, he may be better enabled to display the beauties of holiness of thy holy name. Amen.
Worshipful Master to Candidate: Mr. Smith, in times of imminent peril and danger, in whom do you place your trust?
Candidate: In God.
Ankerberg: Alright, as a former Worshipful Master, I want to ask you a couple of things. First of all, we saw the segment with Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, talking to Dr. Walter Martin. He said, “Masonry is not a religion and it has no creed, no confession of faith.” Then, we watched as you actually performed the ritual. It seemed to me that you did have a creed; you did have a confession of faith. Tell us what you were doing and talk to both of those areas.
Harris: Okay, the first area dealing with being received as a Freemason into the Lodge, you are received upon the penalty of a sharp instrument piercing your naked left breast.
Ankerberg: Yeah, now that was pretty rugged. What do you think about that threat of punishment from a Christian point of view?
Harris: From a Christian point of view, now, I believe that it’s very hard for me to be a witness for Jesus Christ in the world at the same time knowing that I belong to an organization that is telling me that I must keep their religious secrets secret or I will suffer a penalty of death. I have a hard time with this as a Christian.
Ankerberg: Okay, you’ve got a secret organization versus an open one.
Harris: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Alright, what about the prayer and the little ceremony that you conducted when the man was kneeling? What about that? What did it mean, first of all?
Harris: Okay. What it basically means, John, is that they believe that they will make good men better by the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man Doctrine. That prayer, word for word, is the exact prayer said in every Lodge in the United States of America.
Ankerberg: So any Mason can go to his little ritual book and he can look in there and you’ll find the exact same words that you just said.
Harris: That is correct. Now, the Grand Lodge of the State of Maryland, John, has made a statement regarding that part of the Ritual, that prayer. I’d like to read it to you.
Ankerberg: Alright.
Harris: “Thus, Masonry is a great fellowship of men of all countries and ages who are capable of discovering in the religious teachings of all humanity, some of them crude indeed, the fundamental truth common to them all: that God is the Father of all mankind and all men are brethren, that this principle is worth dying for, and that he who remains steadfast in the service of this ideal may well hope for and expect immortal life.”
Ankerberg: Okay. To all the Christians that are watching and that are a part of the Lodge, okay, this is kind of an authority speaking and giving the interpretation of what that prayer means and telling, “This is our creed.”
Harris: That is correct.
Ankerberg: Okay, how does that square with the Word of God, if you want?
Harris: The Word of God, in Galatians 4:5-6, describes that we, as children of God, being redeemed as we are, through the blood of Christ, then and only then have a right to call God “Abba, Father.” So “Father” delineates a relationship, and the only way to have a relationship with God as your Father is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: So you are saying that actually not all men are part of the sonship of God; that you have to have a relationship with Jesus Christ to become a part of the family of God. God is Creator to all of creation, but He is not necessarily our Father.
Harris: That is correct.
Ankerberg: Now that’s something a lot of people disagree with.
Harris: But that’s what the Bible teaches, John.
Ankerberg: Are there any other verses?
Harris: Well, Romans 8:15 deals with the adoption into the family of God as children of God, which also says we are adopted through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It does not talk about universal teachings as Freemasonry does, which takes the Muslim, the Buddhist and the Hindu teachings and says, “If you obey each one of those, you can attain immortal life,” which the prayer did show when it talked about the Fatherhood of God.
Ankerberg: Okay. And finally, it made a statement that also disagrees with the Bible. I think in the prayer you talked about “by the arts of Masonry.” What are the arts of Masonry, and what did you say “by the arts of Masonry” a man could accomplish?
Harris: Okay, we said in the prayer, “By the secrets of our art, he may be enabled to display the beauties and the holiness of God.” What they mean by that is the teachings of Freemasonry, the mysteries that you will learn, the moral lessons you will learn in the building of your spiritual temple of your soul, you can gain eternal life and will be able to look at God and say, “I have given you glory through the teachings of Freemasonry.”
Ankerberg: Okay. If you were to talk to those that are Christians in the Lodge, what would you challenge them with right now concerning the ritual that we just saw?
Harris: I would say, first of all, in the receiving of the Candidate upon the penalty of death, Jesus said He spoke in the synagogue, He spoke openly to the world. In Matthew 28 He told His disciples, “Proclaim the gospel to all the world.” So all of the Word of God is to be proclaimed without holding back any of the teachings of the Word of God. And the prayer of the pillow, dealing with the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, we know as children of God it’s only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we have a right to call God our Father. So thereby I believe, as a Christian, this violates my right as a child of God to be part of such teachings as we have learned here in this ritual.
Ankerberg: Next week we’re going to look into more of the ritual that actually goes on in the Blue Lodges all across the United States and examine it in light of the Bible. I hope that you’ll be with us.

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