Jim Mendoza – Q&A
Roger: Good evening Right Worshipful Brother Jim Mendoza. Well, I’m sure that this is one of many questions you’ve pondered many times over the course of your masonic career, Right Worshipful… Why did you become a Mason?
Jim: Well for me it was a matter of looking at my life and saying to myself, “There’s something missing more than anything”. I came to the DeMolay experience and enjoyed that immensely, enjoyed a lot of the teachings that were there. I met Masons, and got to know Masons through the DeMolay experience and quite frankly grew to dislike Masons through the DeMolay experience. Many years went by and I noticed that certain pieces of my life are missing. One of those was that degree to friendship and paternalism that existed in the DeMolay experience and, as fate would have it, the right lodge opened up for me. The right opportunity opened up for me, I petitioned lodge, and here we are today. That’s kind of how that worked.
Roger: Why do you remain activity in the fraternity?
Jim: I guess we can take it from two different levels. From the lodge experience, I remained active in the fraternity because of the people I was surrounded by. I was surrounded by people that I grew up with, and as a result, people who I knew at more than a superficial level. As new brothers came in to the fraternity again, I was able to know them on more than a superficial level and so at its core that’s the big reason. If you look at it from where I stand now, it’s because I’ve been given the opportunity to do some good work, to make a difference in the fraternity. You combine those two things, that’s why I remain.
Roger: What would you describe is the purpose of our fine craft?
Jim: It’s interesting we hear the phrase that, “Freemasonry makes the good men better” and I kind of find that phrase to be somewhat trite. I tend to look at it this way, that Freemasonry provides a platform for good men to improve themselves in whatever form or fashion they choose to improve themselves, whether it be by taking advantage of the incredible opportunities we have, taking advantage of the internal improvement that we have through the ritualism of our work, or being able to improve themselves intellectually by some of the discussions that can be had by going through the higher degrees – for me primarily Scottish Rite, but also the lessons that are available in York Rite as well.
Roger: Towards that end of establishing a platform, what could Freemasonry do differently to better accomplish that purpose?
Jim: I think the biggest thing that we can do with the craft – more than anything – is to stop being so dogmatic about the way we do things. We have to understand that when we talk about providing a platform for good men, we don’t further define the term good men. We don’t define a specific religion, we don’t define specific politics, we don’t define the specific way that they live their lives privately. I think what ends up happening is, when you start being dogmatic in the way you do things, all of a sudden that turns off a lot of people. It really narrows the focus of who comes through our doors, much to our detriment.
Roger: Right Worshipful, do you think the mission of freemasonry is different today than the mission of when it began? Do you see that mission evolving into the future?
Jim: I think it needs to evolve into the future, quite frankly. It’s interesting, we started off as… I don’t know when the magic time happened, but we started off as basically a craftsman’s lodge, operative Masons keeping their secrets. A lot of it was because of the fact they were able to do things that only aristocrats could do and that was basically read and do mathematics. That skill attracted intellectuals and it attracted futuristic – and I know the term is not considered, it’s almost considered derisive by some people – progressive thinkers. We don’t seem to be attracting that as much as we used to.
Roger: Final question, and it’s no longer a cliché (it really is the stereotypical situation today), where perspective Mason will say, “Well you know, I think my grandfather was one or my uncle was one.” How does Right Worshipful Jim Mendoza convince his prospect that his relationship to Freemasonry is just as relevant today as it was to his ancestors 100 or 200 years ago?
Jim: I try not to focus so much on the people that have come before. While I’ll talk about the people who have come before, I like to talk about the people who are here now and really focusing on people who are active members of the craft. There was a brother who joined my lodge who also came through the DeMolay experience. I came to learn that I was the selling point for him coming in. It was, “Do you remember Jim Mendoza?” “Yes I remember Jim Mendoza.” “He is a member of this lodge. Do you remember the good things that he did when he was coming up?”
I think we can do similar things. We like to talk in glowing terms about the people from our somewhat distant past when we have as many people who are doing great things in more recent history that we can focus on. I think that’s where he saw the connection. That said, there are perspective members who want what their grandfather had. They want that sense of connecting with people from various walks of life and tapping into the knowledge that each of these individuals has. Everyone is looking for a path towards self-improvement, and I think people know that part of that path to self-improvement is talking to people who have gone before, but also talking to people who are closer to their contemporaries as well and connecting with them.
I look at people like Al Jorgenson, who was a colonel in the Air Force and yet he’s not afraid to pop on an apron and bus a table. That resonates with the younger person, when the younger person can see something like that. There are so many other stories like that. Zane McKuen liked to talk about when he and Valerie brought their daughter into the world and he wanted to join the Masons because of the fact that neither one of them had their father still in their life, and wouldn’t it be great if their daughter could have an older individual to talk to provide perspective? I think there are great opportunities for that.
Like I said, yeah, it’s nice to talk about the people in our past with great romanticism but I think we also need to talk more about the people who are more in our recent past and also our contemporaries. I think that’s where you show your connection and your relevance.
Roger: Wonderful. Thank you so much Jim.
Jim: Thank you Roger. I appreciate your efforts.