Lutherans Informed about Lodges (LIL)
Loyal Order of Moose
The Moose lodge was founded in 1888 and by 1893 it had grown to fifteen Watering Places and 1000 Moose. But in a few years membership had slumped to fewer than 250.
The initiation of James J. Davis charged the history of the LOM. Davis was initiated at a national Moose convention in 1906 at which only seven delegates were accredited. He was invited to address the gathering and the enthusiasm of his words prompted the remnant of Moose to appoint him Supreme Organizer on the spot.
During the next two decades Davis stumped the United States setting up lodges and enrolling members. In 1911 alone he traveled 75,000 miles and spent 300 nights on Pullmans and coaches. By 1928 Davis had brought in 650,000 members in 1709 lodges along with another 59,000 members of the women's auxiliary.
Open to all “male persons of the Caucasian or White race, who are of good moral character, physically and mentally normal, who shall profess a belief in a Supreme Being,” the Loyal Order of Moose now reports slightly more than 1,000,000 members in 3500 lodges. It enrolls members in all fifty states, Guam, Canada, Bermuda, and England. Female relatives may join the Women of the Moose.
Beyond initiation, members may go on to the second degree, the Mooseheart Legion of the World. There are two higher degrees, the Fellowship and Pilgrim degrees.
Although there has been some abbreviation of the Moose ceremonies and the word “enrollment” has been adopted to describe the initiation ceremony, these changes can in no way be interpreted to mean that the Order has abandoned its lodge character. The moose no longer consider themselves a secret order, although the candidate for enrollment pledges to retain as confidential all matters revealed to him in the lodge.
The purpose of the LOM can be seen in part by looking at “Mooseheart.” “The heart of the Moose is Mooseheart.” These words express the loyalty and devotion that members of the Moose Lodge have for their famed “child city” near Chicago, Illinois; where a home and school are provided for children of Moose, who have lost one or both parents. A project perhaps unrivalled by any other fraternal organization, Mooseheart, together with Moosehaven, a home for elderly Moose in Florida, is considered the top drawing card for Moose membership.
The additional appeal of the lodge sponsoring more family activities has stimulated its growth. Participation in civic affairs, as well as the providing of bars in dry or partially dry areas, also contributes to the lodge’s appeal.
But these social and benevolent projects do not by any means state the purpose of the Moose fully. The Mooseheart Legion of the World has as a part of its stated purpose to “advance throughout the world the principles of Faith, Hope, and Charity as based upon the broad platform of the common brotherhood of all mankind.”
The “broad platform of the common brotherhood of all mankind” already tells us what kind of philosophy the Moose upholds. It is religious in the deistic sense. The same things which make other lodges deistic are at work in the Moose.
“God is in the Loyal Order of Moose…” The ritual teems with God’s thought from the Bible. The Bible holds the high place of honor on the altar in the center of the lodge. Worship of God swathes the ceremonies of the initiation of every Moose. Under the most impressive conditions he takes his obligation upon the great religious book of Jew and Gentile, of Protestant and Catholic.
This god of the Moose is to be worshipped. But notice the guideline for worship in the first commandment of the Moose read by the junior governor:
“Thou shalt believe in God, and worship Him as thy conscience dictates.”
God is not in control of such worship. The likelihood of its being “God-pleasing” worship is doubtful, considering the lack of God’s guidance.
The ill-defined god of the Moose is to be invoked by the candidate for membership, even though the Moose now call this an “obligation” rather than an oath.
Prayers abound in the enrollment service, and especially in the Memorial and graveside services. When these special services are used they must be used as outlined. No exceptions are made for the conscience of a concerned Christian. Religious songs used in the ceremonies are carefully (re)worded to avoid distinctly Christian references.
Like all lodges which insist on using the Bible, the Moose misuse it. It is a piece of furniture on the altar to give an air of religiosity. The Bible is also misinterpreted. In the Moose 9 o’clock ceremony.
Assembled Moose join in repeating “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. God bless Mooseheart. Amen.” The context and song following indicate that the “me” refers to Mooseheart. When it was pointed out that the promise “of such is the Kingdom of heaven” is made to those who come to “Me—Jesus Christ,” it was declared that this is not a saying of Jesus, but an old proverb originally, part of the heritage of language, not to be restricted to Jesus. One non-Christian Moose official declared that if the Ceremony was using words restricted to what Jesus meant, he could not be a member of the Lodge.
Such allegorical interpretation is bound to lead to a confusing religion. Look at the following section of the “Moose Credo” and consider how confusing their religion is:
“I believe in the Gospel of work (sic), in the divinity of Good Health (sic), in the exercise of persistence, patience, economy, and good cheer. I believe in co-operation, mutuality, reciprocity… I believe in the Loyal Order of Moose. Amen and amen!” (From the Moose Credo)
Other indications of a “Gospel” of work (righteousness) are woven throughout rituals of the Moose. From the enrollment ceremony with its story of the Moose, the candidate is to learn “those precepts which will lead you to the heights.” A circle of Moose lodge brothers is to be found worthy “because of the love that builded it (the circle).” “This shows us that the virtuous life of the Moose member is counted on as the reason for his hope of heaven. When in good time our scroll is written and the record of our achievements made up, let us, ‘Meet death with a level gaze.’ Upon the faces of the great and good there shines a light reflected from the golden hills of heaven, which death cannot efface or dim, and for such for all eternity there waits a peer’s place upon the Seats of the Mighty.”
In a sentence the author has expressed the religious philosophy which pervades the Moose ritual, and about which the sincere Christian must express concern. The humanitarian accomplishments of the Order are to be commended and the social opportunities are frequently very constructive, but the tenets of the Order to which the Christian must subscribe in order to become a member are incompatible with the clear Word of God, in spite of the ritual’s assurance of no conflict. The principles of moral living taught in the ritual are noble, but when the ritual speaks of man’s relationship to God and the way of eternal life in the manner in which it does, it has trespassed upon the area in which only the Bible speaks the truth. The ritual presents God only in terms of Moosedom, “the Supreme Governor of the Universe”, not as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which concept alone can God truly be known. A quotation from Scripture is made to appear as God’s endorsement of Mooseheart, while its context in Scripture assigns to the Kingdom of Heaven only to those who come to Jesus Christ. Prayers and ritual references call upon God for blessing, without the least acknowledgement that man has separated himself from God and that this relationship can be restored only in Jesus Christ.
To further strengthen the concept of universal salvation, the word “Christian” is deleted from a familiar Christian hymn. Especially does the teaching universal salvation appear in the Funeral Service which promises that the Moose Circle will be restored in eternity. Cited in support of this are God’s love and mercy. Death is not to be feared, for God gave us life, and He will surely gather into His presence all to whom He gave this gift. In evidence of this, attention is drawn to the annual resurgence of Spring. The “great and good” shall be granted “a peer’s place upon the Seats of the Mighty.” The divinity of Jesus Christ and the blood-atonement are considered sectarian and must not be referred to in the promise of a resurrection from the dead. While it must be charitably assumed that there are members of the Order who do not in their hearts subscribe to this philosophy, nevertheless the Christian who participates in the required ritual will find himself with his lips denying the unique grace of God in Jesus Christ alone, thereby blunting his otherwise effective witness to the Son of God. It is hoped that the future will one day see this organization which does not purport to be religious, abandon its position of religious pronouncement.
From: WELS Conference Paper on the Lodges
From the LCMS Council on Organizations (COO):
LOYAL ORDER OF MOOSE
Caring for their own from cradle to the grave might best describe the focus of the charitable work of the Loyal Order of Moose. Mooseheart, “The Child City,” is the famous home and school for the care and education of dependents of deceased Moose. It is located about forty miles west of Chicago, Illinois. Moosehaven, the “City of Contentment,” is a senior citizen's home located south of Jacksonville, Florida. Its facilities offer a pleasant living environment for Moose members and their wives in their declining years. These two communities—Mooseheart and Moosehaven—along with sick and death benefits provided to members demonstrate the loyalty the Loyal Order of Moose shows to its own. Such loyalty and care is a prime attraction to draw new members. An additional appeal of the lodge in recent years, which has stimulated its growth, has been the sponsoring of family activities. Participation in civic affairs, as well as the providing of bars in dry or partially-dry areas, also contributes to the lodge’s appeal.
In spite of the image of being a family organization that it seeks to create, the Loyal Order of Moose is still essentially a male lodge, with membership granted only to men above 21 years of age. Candidates must be “of good moral character, physically and mentally normal, who shall profess a belief in a Supreme Being.” (Constitution and General Laws, p. 58). The Order permits no “social memberships” in the sense of permitting uninitiated members to be admitted into social clubs sponsored by the lodge. (Ibid., pp. 71-72). The Order also maintains an official auxiliary, the Women of the Moose. Although, over the years, there has been some reduction in the religious aspects of the Moose ceremonies and the word “enrollment” has been adopted to describe the initiation ceremony, these changes can in no way be interpreted to mean that the Order has abandoned its religious character. The Moose no longer consider themselves a secret order, although the candidate for enrollment pledges that any official business he may hear, see or experience in the lodge meetings will be shared only with a brother Moose in good standing.
The Enrollment Ceremonies and Special Services
When the Governor of the lodge has been assured that the candidates have met all membership requirements, the preliminary obligation is administered. Each candidate is assured that the obligation he is about to take is one which “will not conflict with any religious, political or social affiliations you may now have, and which will not conflict with your duty to your family, your country, or your God.” (Ritual, Loyal Order of Moose, Revised 1989, pp. 26-27). The candidate is then asked about and confirms his belief in a Supreme Being. As part of his obligation the candidate solemnly promises confidentiality regarding lodge affairs and concludes the promise with the words: “This obligation will bind me for all time.” (Ibid., p. 27). When a class of candidates is to be received into membership, an individual from the class is chosen to represent the others and to approach the Altar. However, each candidate is instructed that “each of you will consider this ceremony is conferred upon you personally.” (Ibid.).
Instruction is given to the candidates regarding dues, procedures, and decorum during the invocation, meeting, and closing prayer. The Nine O’clock Ceremony, which is performed whenever Moose are gathered at that hour, is now demonstrated for the candidates. In this ceremony, members turn toward Mooseheart, with arms folded and heads bowed, to join the children at Mooseheart in silent prayer. The ceremony ends with all present repeating after the Governor: “Let the little children come to me. Do not keep them away, for they are like the Kingdom of Heaven. God bless Mooseheart. Amen.” (Ibid., p. 29). The hour of nine o’clock is chosen for this ceremony, “because that is the hour when the little children at Mooseheart are saying their evening prayers.” (Ibid.).
So that the candidate might better understand the purpose and vision of the Order, the “splendid characteristics” of the moose are now described. “—his great size but peaceful nature, his fierceness as a protector, his loyalty as a companion, his generosity as a provider.” From the story of the moose the candidate is to accept the ”challenge that calls us to leave the low meadows and small hills behind and ascend to the heights of life with mighty strides.” (Ibid., p. 30).
Having heard the story of the moose, the candidate is then instructed in the principles of the Order. He is told: “Believe in God and worship Him in your own way and allow others the same freedom.” (Ibid., p. 31). He is instructed to love and serve his country, devote himself to serving his fellowman, be the guardian and protector of his home and family, and always be loyal “to this fraternity.” The final principle the candidate is taught is: “Live a life of truth, in thought, word and deed and always treat others, as you would have them treat you.” (Ibid.).
The candidate is informed by the Junior Governor that he is now within the Order’s defending circle. A lecture follows in praise of Mooseheart “as a living example to the strength of our defending circle.” (Ibid., p. 32). The statement is made that Moose draw their strength from Mooseheart. The lecture on Mooseheart is followed by a lecture in praise of Moosehaven, the Florida retirement community. This care for the elderly is described as “a sacred trust given from one generation to the next.” (Ibid., p. 33).
The candidate is now questioned as to his belief in the purposes of the Order and his desire to join in its work. He is asked whether he is prepared to accept his obligation in oath to the lodge officials. Then, with left hand over his heart and right hand raised (the representative of the class places his right hand on the open Bible), he “in the presence of God” pledges to obey the laws of the order, live his life in accordance with its principles, extend the hand of brotherhood to all loyal Moose, and support Moosehaven and Mooseheart. The obligation concludes: “May God keep me true to this my solemn pledge.” (Ibid., pp. 34-35). The Prelate leads in prayer and the new members are welcomed concluding the enrollment ceremony. The prayer reads:
“Almighty Father, who knows the hearts of all men, help us be true to the obligations we have made. Bind us together as brothers in this great Order of Moose. Fill our hearts with love, our hands with service, and our lives with sacrifice for others. May the bond of our fellowship never be broken, and may our work ever be guided by your hand.” (Ibid.,p. 35).
Burial and Memorial Services are optional with the family of the deceased and the local lodge respectively. If the ceremonies are presented, however, the outlined procedures must be followed. The Burial Service begins with the Prelate’s prayer for comfort of the survivors ending with “Help us assure them of Thy all-seeing wisdom and Thy loving kindness, that they may say with us: Thy will be done. Amen.” (Burial and Memorial Services, p. 5). The Governor, speaking about the Defending Circle, addresses the assembly:
“But yesterday we let out thoughts lovingly linger on that Circle, and our hearts swell with pride and exultation, —but today the Circle is broken and we stand powerless in the presence of Death. Today we realize how transitory is all that is mortal. And we can but pray that He who watcheth over us will forgive our mistakes and transgressions, and that He will, because of the love that builded it, find our Circle worthy.” (Ibid., p. 6).
Again the Governor speaks:
Death is not to be feared. Our Heavenly Father who gave us life, with its sunshine and its shadows, also gives us the peaceful sleep we call Death. It is our Father’s greatest mercy, a peaceful rest from the struggles of life. Let our brother rest; nor ever wish to wake him from his sleep.
‘There is no death; what seems so is transition, —
This life of mortal breath,
Is but the suburb of that life Elysian
Whose portal we call death.
It is but a parting; a journey to an unknown shore; a journey which we, too, shall take — and at its end our Circle form again.’ (Ibid.)
The Prelate now prays, ending his prayer with the words,
‘Grant us strength to bear the burden Thy wisdom has imposed upon us, and make us strong to battle with the temptations and evils of this life, so, that when our call is sounded, we may be gathered to Thy presence. This we ask in Thy name. Amen.
Now, O Heavenly Father, with these flowers, emblematic of immortality, we commit our brother to Thy tender care. Let us conform our lives to the precepts of our Order, O Heavenly Father, that we may exemplify Thy good works and glorify Thy name. Amen.’” (Ibid., p. 7).
The Special Grave Services are similar in structure, though more brief. The Governor’s address draws examples from the four seasons and concludes:
“So, my brother, when the bright dawn of the world’s resurrection shall light the heavens, may this, thy body, now laid low by death, come forth in immortal glory, and in the realms above may thou join in making our broken Circle again complete. Until then, my brother, farewell.” (Ibid., p. 9).
The Ritual suggests that Memorial Services be held on the first Sunday after Easter. The Altar is draped in black and the Bible lies closed upon it. The Prelate prays, and, following the singing of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the Governor speaks:
“We do not stand this day in sad contemplation before an open grave, but we have gathered in loving memory of those whose graves are decked with the green that comes to them each springtime, Nature’s beautiful symbol of the resurrection and the life eternal.” (Ibid., p. 11).
A quartette sings “Lead Kindly Light,” after which the Governor calls attention to examples from Nature, concluding,
“So life of man drifts into death — the recessional
— the peaceful valley — but the morn will appear
— the soul quickens from the valley — the new life ascends the heights.” (Ibid., p. 12).
The virtues of the departed brother are extolled and the Governor says,
“There is, indeed, victory and triumph in surrender to the inevitable -- in a brave and peaceful welcome to the hour of the soul’s passing. To the coward the life beyond is dread and dark; to the brave it is cheering and luminous; it is not sacrifice, it is reward; not a halting and stillness, but progress and thrilling clairvoyance. There is solemnity — yea, sadness — in all earthly parting, but not despair. When in good time our scroll is written and the record of our achievement made up, let us, ‘Meet death with a level gaze.’ Upon the faces of the great and good there shines a light reflected from the golden hills of heaven, which death cannot efface or dim, and for such for all eternity there waits a peer’s place upon the Seats of the Mighty.” (Ibid., p. 14).
An oration and prayer conclude the service.
Evaluation of the Religious Content of the Ritual
In a publicity pamphlet prepared by the Dean of Mooseheart prior to the building of the “House of God” on the Mooseheart grounds, the author described the various religious services offered at Mooseheart, and concluded:
“Thus the Loyal Order of Moose through Mooseheart is by its present religious culture of childhood and its preparation for the coming House of God moving the whole Order toward that ‘House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’ where shall be gathered all the various shades and grades of religious beliefs, hopes, worships and practice.“ (J. A. Ronthaler, Mooseheart, center page).
In a sentence the author has expressed the religious philosophy which pervades the Moose ritual, and about which the sincere Christian must express concern. The humanitarian accomplishments of the Order are to be commended and the social opportunities are frequently very constructive, but the tenets of the Order to which the Christian must subscribe in order to become a member are incompatible with the clear Word of God, in spite of the ritual's assurance of no conflict. The principles of moral living taught in the ritual are noble, but when the ritual speaks of man's relationship to God and the way of eternal life in the manner in which it does, it has trespassed upon the area in which only the Bible speaks the truth. The ritual presents God only in terms of Moosedom, “the Supreme Governor of the Universe,” not as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which concept alone can God truly be known. A quotation from Scripture about “little children” (which lodge officials state is not original with Jesus) is made to appear as God’s endorsement of Mooseheart, while its context in Scripture assigns to the Kingdom of Heaven only those who come to Jesus Christ. Prayers and ritual references call upon God for blessing, without the least acknowledgment that man has separated himself from God and that this relationship can be restored only in Jesus Christ. The teaching of universal salvation appears especially in the Funeral Service which promises that the Moose Circle will be restored in eternity. Cited in support of this are God’s love and mercy. Death is not to be feared, for God gave us life, and He will surely gather into His presence all to whom He gave this gift. In evidence of this, attention is drawn to the annual resurgence of Spring. The “great and good” shall be granted “a peer’s place upon the Seats of the Mighty.” The divinity of Jesus Christ and the blood-atonement are considered sectarian and must not be referred to in the promise of a resurrection from the dead. While it must be charitably assumed that there are members of the Order who do not in their hearts subscribe to this philosophy, nevertheless the Christian who participates in the required ritual will find himself with his lips denying the unique grace of God in Jesus Christ alone, thereby blunting his otherwise effective witness to the Son of God. It is hoped that the future will one day see this organization which does not purport to be religious abandon its position of religious pronouncements.
Women of the Moose
The Women of the Moose organization constitutes the official auxiliary of the Loyal Order of Moose. It is controlled by the Moose Lodge. Article I of the Constitution of the Moose is repeated in the General Laws of the women of the Moose.
The Supreme Constitution, the Supreme Statutes, and the Rituals shall be the Supreme Law of the Loyal Order of Moose; the statutes enacted by the Supreme Lodge for the operation of member lodges and for the management and operation of all other units of the Order within the structure of the Supreme Lodge and subject to the Supreme Law, shall be the law of the member lodges and of all chapters, auxiliaries and units that may be established from time to time. (General Laws Women of the Moose, p. 2).
Among the objects listed for the women of the Moose are:
“To emulate and advance throughout the world the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity as based upon the broad principle of the common brotherhood of man… To teach and advance morality, virtue, gentleness, kindness and unselfishness, and to oppose and assist in eradicating any rudeness, harshness, vulgarity, or any deportment that is not in harmony with the conduct of right thinking and living… General, to foster, aid, and promote the alms and purposes of the Loyal Order of Moose.” (Ibid., p. 13).
Membership is limited to wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of Moose having reached 21 years of age, physically and mentally normal, of good moral character, and believers in a Supreme Being. The organization is ritual-bound and no enrollment is possible except in the manner and form prescribed by the ritual. The close bond between the male and female organizations should make it evident that the same religious objections and concerns apply to both.
Structure of the Moose
The Order is composed of chartered local lodges under the control of the Supreme Lodge. State and provincial associations may be formed under the supervision of the Supreme Lodge. Membership in the Moose Lodge has leveled off in recent years. The Encyclopedia of Associations (22nd edition, 1988) reported a membership of 1,775,227. In the 25th edition of 1991 membership was reported as 1,804,000 in 43 state associations and 4,181 local lodges. The Supreme Lodge of the World, the headquarters, is located at Mooseheart, Illinois.
Prepared from the theological perspective of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in response to inquiries from members of the Synod.