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 1,000 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 Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR):