On occasion I’m asked how many books I’ve written. “Four,” is my quick and dirty answer, especially if I can quickly walk away from the person who asked. In reality… I’m coming clean here, Brothers… I have written three books. The fourth book, I edited. It was as much work as writing a book but that’s a different story.
That fourth book, The Masonic Memoirs of Frederic L. Billon contained the recollections of a man who was Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. He lived virtually the entire 19th century and chronicled Masonic events during that time. He came to Missouri with his father, a Pennsylvania Mason and through his father’s eyes and his own saw the formation of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. He knew Lewis and Clark, met The Marquis de Lafayette, went to the Baltimore conference and lived through the dark days of the Morgan affair — all the while with his journal in hand, recording those events for posterity.
His journal was lost for 75 years until a determined Brother tracked it down after a seven-year search. Once found it became the passion of the Missouri Lodge of Research to publish it and preserve Brother Billon’s precious first-hand account of our history.
Written in longhand, the journal had to be transcribed and carefully edited. Selected to edit the 275 page memoir, I knew from the start I needed help — and lots of it. Occasionally I’ve made the call for such help only to be met with the deafening sound of silence. So this time I prepared myself to go out and do a major league sales job.
I personally started asking people to participate; but beyond that, once word got out, I was surprised to find people not just asking me to be part of it, but telling me they would be honored to do so. Eventually, 18 Brothers and two Eastern Star Sisters signed up. The group even included the sitting Grand Master. Amazingly, I had to turn a few people down. Twenty volunteers was plenty.
We divided the book into sections and I sent a draft transcript and a copy of the original longhand document to each volunteer. They, in turn, made sure the transcripts were correct, complete and most importantly ensured interpretation of the tricky longhand script was accurate.
The entire process took the bulk of 2016, and the Missouri Lodge of Research gave a hardbound copy of the book to each member.
The point is that, while we are a fraternity of good men striving to become better, we are still human. I'm sure that you, as well as I, have seen Brothers in conflict, sometimes expressing their discontent in un-Brotherly ways, sometimes bickering, sometimes escalating things beyond that. Joe doesn't like something Tom said. There is too much conflict in the committee to get anything done. Frank is trying to ram some project through that's against the by-laws… even though I haven't read them. ; and, dear God, those greedy guys in the Grand Line are trying to raise dues again. It happens in every organization… not just ours.
I don't know exactly what happened to inspire Brothers to embrace this project. If I did I would bottle it. And to be fair, I have seen this kind of thing happen more in our gentle craft than the arguments and bickering. But it's an example of something a group of Brothers and Sisters did that exemplifies what can happen when we apply the cement of brotherly love and affection - that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."
It's a big part of why I… and possibly you… joined this fraternity.