Do you declare that, unbiased by friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries of masonry; that you are prompted to solicit this privilege by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be useful to your fellow creatures?
That first time you are in lodge and waiting in the preparation room is such a crazy experience. You really don't know what is going on (hopefully), sitting with men you don't really know, and are asked to arrange yourself in the manner required for the initiation. All of the sudden two dudes with staffs enter the room and start asking you questions which you answer without really pondering what is being asked because on the surface they are easy questions to answer. Those questions however are the single most important questions you will ever be asked, and in my opinion, the one above is crucial to the future of the fraternity in the United States of America because it is what separates us from all of the other fraternal or civic organizations out there.
The first part stems from our need that men come of their own free will and accord. Solicitation and recruitment produce members, not masons. You offer yourself to the mysteries of masonry not to the organization of Freemasonry. Ours is a fraternity for making men withdraw into themselves and seek, with the help of the divine spark that is within us all, the truth that underlies all things.
The next part reminds us that it is a privilege and not a right to be a mason. A privilege is something that needs to be maintained not something that is guaranteed. When you receive your drivers license after fulfilling the requirements of the state you live in you must obey the laws of the road or you may loose the privilege that was granted to you. If you violate the laws of the road too many times you can loose that privilege for life. Think about that. I have recently been reading the minutes of my lodge from back in the 1800's and found that it was much harder to maintain the privilege of being a mason back then. Trials and suspensions for unmasonic conduct happened often and I think if we demanded our brothers now to live up to the standards of the past many would fail and loose the privilege of being a Freemason.
The next part, is my favorite part, and is something that is as much a part of my being as breathing, a desire for knowledge. I have never known a time in my life when I did not have the unquenchable thirst of curiosity. I am not just curious about finding out what things are but also why and how. In the beginning of our history as a craft, knowledge was not easily attainable. Be it by the church or monarchy, knowledge was a thing to be controlled and be distributed as little as possible in an attempt to keep the people down. Back then a desire for knowledge was a desire for enlightenment, and freedom that was not the norm at the time. We live now in a time when knowledge is as easy to gain as a mouse click yet the majority of the populace, of this country at least, would rather use their time to be mindlessly (and usually tastelessly) entertained for a couple of minutes. A serious desire for knowledge is something that needs to be resurrected and inculcated in as many people as possible.
The last part becomes the result of living up to the others. After offering ourselves to the mysteries of masonry, maintaining the privilege of being one, and quenching our desire for knowledge we may be useful to our fellow creatures. Notice the word creatures and not man. If we live up to the promise and possibility that our order can produce in a man we live as the Great Architect of The Universe meant us to be, and we can be useful to all of its creation.