SALT LAKE CITY -- The Free Masons are often perceived as an ancient, secretive sect, and popular movies and books speculate on the reach of their power and influence.
Masons with the Grand Lodge of Utah opened their temples Saturday to the public to help dispel some misconceptions.
“What I can tell you Free Masonry is and isn't,” said Past Grand Master John Liley. “Free masonry is not a religion, although it has a group of religious men who are members of it. It's not a secret society, but it's a private society. It's not a charitable organization, but it does sponsor charity, and more importantly it’s not necessarily a volunteer organization: It's an organization where its members voluntarily bind themselves together to make themselves and the community around them a better place.”
Built in the 1920s, the Salt Lake Masonic Temple has Egyptian themes, which reflect the popular architecture of the time.
“We still have a lot of the original stenciling, most of the original wood work," Liley said. "Everything is in place. It could be the original 1927, other than the fixtures of those squirrelly light bulbs to save some energy."
The Masons said people tend to form opinions about their fraternity based on Dan Brown books, what they find on the Internet, and what Nicholas Cage’s character had to say in “National Treasure."
The Masons offer weekly tours and hold these open houses each year.
It's something they started doing about ten years ago to connect with the community, but the Masons expect the centuries old organization will always be somewhat shrouded in mystery.