Freemasonry is a fraternity, not a religion
As a fraternal association dedicated to making good men better, Freemasonry respects the religions beliefs of all its members. Freemasonry has no theology and does not teach any method of salvation. In particular it does not claim that good works gain or guarantee salvation.
Freemasonry is an open, not secretive, society
Masonic meetings are announced publicly, Masonic buildings are marked clearly and are listed in phone directories and Masons proudly wear jewelry identifying their membership. Freemasonry inherited a tradition of trade secrets from the cathedral-building guilds of medieval Europe. The only “secrets” still belonging to modern Masonry are traditional passwords, signs of recognition, and dramatic presentations of moral lessons.
Freemasonry is open to all men of good character who believe in God
Freemasonry does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or social class
The Masonic family of organizations is open to all
Freemasonry admits only men, but many Masonic-related organizations, such as the Eastern Star, Amaranth, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow for Girls and DeMolay for Boys, offer ample opportunities for women and youth.
Freemasonry does not require improper oaths
The solemn promises taken in Freemasonry are no different than the oaths taken in court or on entering the armed services. The much-discussed “penalties”, judicial remnants from an earlier age, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.
Freemasonry teaches individual improvement through study
Freemasonry encourages study, including literature by the great writers of ancient times. Freemasonry does not sanction the views of these authors but offers them for each individual’s reflection and evaluation
Freemasonry teaches in steps
Masons learn through a series of lessons. These “degrees” of insight move from basic to more complex concepts. This no more hides the nature of Freemasonry from novice members than does having a student understand fractions before calculus.
Freemasonry has no single spokesperson
Freemasonry is made up of many individuals in numerous organizations, all subordinate to the Grand Lodge within their jurisdiction (i.e. state). None of these members or organizations can speak for Freemasonry; that is the responsibility of each Grand Lodge within its jurisdiction. No Masonic body nor author, however respected, can usurp the authority of a Grand Lodge
Modern Freemasonry is descended from the ancient guild system of European stonemasons and construction workers. Some aspects of Freemasonry’s modern ritual can be traced back nearly 1000 years. The Freemasons kept their trade secrets secret (primarily mathematic and construction knowledge), as did most guilds such as ironmongers, bakers, and weavers to name a few. This secrecy protected the quality of the guild’s work and ensured job security for its members.
The Freemasons influence peaked during the Renaissance, but declined in tandem with the decline of monumental church architecture in the 16th and 17th centuries. Between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment learned Freemasons (operative members) began accepting non-masons (speculative members) into their ranks as patrons of their art. These “speculative” patrons tended to be men of letters and wise influential statesmen.
The guild of Freemasons transformed into a social and fraternal institution in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time they used the tools and legends of their trade as metaphors to emphasize internal enlightenment and personal growth among the fraternity’s members. The men within its ranks influenced the development of modern concepts of democracy and personal liberty—ideals that aided the transformation and creation of many western democracies—particularly the United States.
Freemasonry was reputedly established in North Carolina at Masonborough in the mid-1730s. However, the first documented evidence of Masonic activity in the state can be dated to Wilmington and New Bern during the early 1750s. In 1771 the Duke of Beaufort commissioned Joseph Montfort Provincial Grand Master of North Carolina, a post he ably held until his death in 1776. Between Montfort’s death and the end of the American Revolution, the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Carolina essentially ceased to exist, though individual lodges continued to operate. In 1787 several delegates from several lodges across the state met at Tarborough to establish a new Grand Lodge and elected Samuel Johnston as their new Grand Master. The first Masonic lodge established in Raleigh, Democratic Lodge No. 21, occurred in 1792–the same year the city was incorporated and established as the new capital of North Carolina.