Nevada’s Freemasons are opening up their doors to the public on Saturday.
If you have every wondered what goes on in those buildings marked with the square and compass, here’s your chance to go inside.
"What we’re trying to do is tell folks we’re not a secret society," said Grand Master Carl L. "Bud" Banks, who lives in Las Vegas and is the current head of the Nevada Grand Lodge. "The purpose is just to let the community dispel the myths that may be in their minds."
Freemasonry has gotten a lot of exposure recently because of Dan Brown’s novel, "The Lost Symbol," and the "National Treasure" movies starring Nicolas Cage.
Those have helped popularize the fraternal organization but have helped perpetuate some myths and misconceptions, Banks said. For instance, the group isn’t affiliated with any religion, although its members must believe in a supreme being, he said.
The exposure also has drawn some new members to the organization, he said. The fraternal order claims 1.4 million members in North America and 4,000 in Nevada.
"If a person is interested, he goes to the Internet. Our supposed secrets are all there — the salutations, the handshake, everything." Banks said. "But the community doesn’t realize what we do."
Many people know about the Freemasons because of the nonprofit Shriners Hospitals for Children.
"They see the Shriners. They see the children who have been be burned," he said.
Some might know that the PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas later this month — the one featuring Justin Timberlake — helps raise money for the hospitals. Others might have bought fireworks from one of the lodge’s stands before the Fourth of July.
Banks pointed at the local organization’s charitable and community work, including college scholarships, the Bikes for Books program for children in the first through fifth grades and the child ID program, which has registered more than 70,000 children in state.
He suggested the open house to celebrate the Nevada Grand Lodge’s 145th anniversary.
Until statehood, Nevada’s eight Masonic lodges had been a part of the California region. The Nevada Grand Lodge was approved on Oct. 10, 1865.
"We have so much history that people don’t know," Banks said.
It’s often noted that 14 U.S. presidents were Freemasons, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Washington dedicated the cornerstone of the White House.
Banks noted that the Masons have dedicated 418 cornerstones in Nevada. "This is a very important. It’s traditional," he said.
The most famous Nevada Mason? Banks said that would be Gov. Tasker Oddie, who christened the battleship USS Nevada and served as grand master of the Nevada Grand Lodge.OPENING THEIR DOORS
All of the 40 Masonic Lodges in the state will be holding open houses from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The 13 lodges in Clark County are holding open houses at eight locations:
• Vegas Lodge, 632 E. Charleston Blvd.
• Oasis Lodge, Daylite Lodge and Nellis Lodge, 2200 W. Mesquite Ave.
• Mount Moriah Lodge, Silver Cord Lodge and Dhahran Daylite Lodge, 480 Greenway Road, Henderson
• Acacia Lodge and Logia Hispana de Nevada, 2929 Van Der Meer St., North Las Vegas
• Boulder City Lodge, 901 Arizona St.
• Indian Springs Lodge, 720 Sky Road
• Laughlin Lodge, Riverside Hotel, 1650 Casino Drive
• Sandy Valley Lodge, 808 Saratoga Ave.
For more information, go to nvmasons.org
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL