229th Spring 2017 Reunion
Keynote Address of Hon. Brother Robert M. Wolfarth, 32° KCCH
M.W. Grand Master, Free and Accepted Masons of Utah
The Course from Here
Good evening, brethren and friends! Thank you for that kind introduction.
There are many distinguished brethren and guests in this room tonight, and I’m honored to sit among you. But for the next several minutes, I am not directing my comments to the rest of you in this room, either on the left or the right side of this middle table. I’m talking to you, the Masters of the Royal Secret from the 229th Reunion Class.
Don’t take offense, my esteemed brethren and friends who have also come to celebrate this banquet, but the reason we are here tonight is to laud this column of fine men, and to them I address my remarks.
Brethren, eleven years ago, I sat right where you are sitting. At that very table. Looking up at the banquet speaker as he addressed the class. And though I don’t recall specifics of what was said, I do remember very well what was happening between my ears.
It was a whirlwind. More than the usual whirlwind between my ears! I was tired but elated. Trying to make sense of all the interconnected threads of logic and wisdom I had beheld over the last few days, and struggling, somehow, to remember the greatest amount of it possible; to imprint upon my psyche as much of this treasure as I could before vital elements of this precious Scottish Rite experience drifted from my RAM to my hard drive to my archives, ultimately to be subconsciously deleted in my brain’s constant reallocation of storage space.
I vowed that night to come to Scottish Rite meetings, and especially to this Reunion. It was not enough to go through the Reunion experience only to call myself by some impressive new title, wear a gold ring and a black hat. I made a covenant with myself to return.
And I did. I came back in the fall. Then again in the spring. Again and again. I got involved in degree production. First in a non-speaking role. Over time, I joined the cast of nine degrees and directed four. I became involved in the early leadership of the Scots Guard. And in the stated meetings, I now complete the officer line of all four Scottish Rite bodies.
I should mention one group I’ve also become involved with at the national level: the Scottish Rite Research Society, only because I have invited the venerated Board of Directors, luminaries of Scottish Rite Masonry, to visit Salt Lake City next year for our annual board meeting. That’s not yet firm, but should it come to pass, watch for forthcoming information on this, and come meet them.
As vice president of my Reunion class, I was asked to arise with a few words to describe the experience. I groped for something to say, but I finally settled on, “It was like an entire college course in philosophy condensed into two and a half days.”
I thought that was a pretty cool way to phrase it. But what I didn’t realize until later is that my Reunion experience was only the beginning. To savor the event—to really learn what the degrees of the Scottish Rite present to me—I discovered that I must not view this night as a terminus. Or an apex. It must continue. I must continue.
I must stay involved. I need to attend stated meetings as often as I can, like I do in lodge. But most importantly to me, I must participate in the Reunion—which has become among the happiest moments of my Masonic activities. And I must financially assist the Rite Care of Utah—not once, but regularly, to whatever extent I’m able.
Why? Why can one not simply attend the degrees of the Scottish Rite once and then leave the wiser for it, as one does with that college course in philosophy?
There are many answers to this question. One answer is that a major element of the learning is in the follow-up discussions, the contemplation, and especially: the portrayal of the degrees to the next class.
When you received your Master Mason degree, did you walk away that night fully knowledgeable in its moral lessons? If you did, you’re a smarter man than I am. I would bet that you came back and assisted with someone else’s MM degree later, and saw things you didn’t see before. Heard things you didn’t hear before. And of vital importance: thought things you hadn’t thought before.
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach at the graduate university level, and I can tell you that in teaching, we learn. [Are there any teachers in the room tonight? Do you agree?] In presenting degrees, we begin to understand the degrees.
In short, brethren, I propose that education is not a one-time event. And the wisdom of Masonry is not a sound bite. A text. Or a tweet. It is not available in bullet points in a PowerPoint slide deck. It is continual. A long-term absorption of knowledge, based in no small part upon your contemplation of what has been presented to you. You cannot go home tonight believing that you understand what has been presented. No. You have just scratched the surface.
Second, and more so than your blue lodge experience, the Scottish Rite offers you an opportunity to broaden your knowledge base—not just in studying the philosophy itself, but by virtue of interacting with a range of learned Masons. Standing upon the foundation of your Master Mason degree, the world of Masonic education has just bloomed open for you.
Here in this room are brethren from all over Utah—and elsewhere. Wise men. Seasoned men. Men who have given the deeper aspects of the degrees much thought. You have a golden opportunity, brethren, to spend an evening in every month speaking with them. Learning from them.
Look around the room at all the brothers who are not part of your Reunion class. These are some of the guys who have stuck around. Why? Go ask them. They will tell you why the Scottish Rite is important to them.
But if you ask them to explain the deeper meanings of Scottish Rite philosophy, do you know what they’re going to say? Of course. They will tell you that you need to discover that for yourself. An brethren, now is your big chance to do so. At the conclusion of your Reunion experience tonight the unfolding of Scottish Rite wisdom is not behind you. It is in front of you.
So, I have discussed reasons why I and perhaps others continue to stay active in Scottish Rite, and why you should do the same, but I have left one more component of this to conclude with, because it is near and dear to my heart. Rite Care of Utah. The charity. The noblest, the grandest of all Masonic principles.
I became a member of the 365 Club as soon as I heard about its existence. One dollar a day to charity. And when the One Child Club was conceived, I became a personal member of that club, and I have been ever since. Not everyone can do this. I understand that. But everyone can do something.
Brethren, it is incumbent upon us to support such a noble cause. I am inspired especially by the number of Masons of little means who support our charities. And tonight I urge you to consider setting up a recurring financial support of some sort. Any sort. The smallest amount makes a difference. And Rite Care makes it easy to do this.
If you, each of you, donate only $5 a month as an automatic transfer to Rite Care, set up the same way your utility bills are paid—just five dollars—it is likely that you will never notice the difference in your bank account. But Rite Care will. These children will. And if each of you do this, a child will learn to speak. A child who doesn’t otherwise have that opportunity.
Rite Care sees about 300 kids per month in Utah. Charitably. The need is so great. And we, my brethren, are so very fortunate. The poorest among us is, in many ways, better off than countless others in our society who need our help, including children, who are not able to speak.
These are only a few aspects of the Scottish Rite experience you have just gone through. There is so much more for you to discover. More wisdom. More fraternalism. More fun. Please do not let this experience drift into the cobwebs of your memory. Keep it alive. Stay involved. The Scottish Rite is not a title. It is not a gold ring. Or a hat. These are but emblems, not to be confused with that which they represent. It is, instead, wisdom. Science. Knowledge. Philosophy. Charity.
This week, you have stepped into another world. A world of goodness. Of virtue. Do not step back out. Stay here with us. Let us do good things for the world. For each other. And for the children. Together, one small step at a time.