Today we have a joint post between jmb275 and Hawkgrrrl.
Now that the CHI (Church Handbook of Instruction v. 2) is published on lds.org, those members who have not previously read a copy of it may be surprised at a few of the instructions. jmb275: Previously, with only a select few having access to the whole manual, much of this was not common knowledge. The only time you found out that the church even cared about it was if you actually went to the bishop and asked (and like we’ve said before, who would do that?). But now it will become common knowledge that the church has an official position on a whole myriad of normal life minutia. I wonder if some of these things may become a kind of righteousness measuring stick. Hawkgrrrl: I know there are a few things in there that when I first heard about them years ago, I thought, “Oh, there’s no way the handbook would be so specific. After all, we’re not supposed to be commanded in all things.” Then again, maybe we are. Oopsie!
Here are a few things that might be a surprise (or maybe not), along with our discussion:
- Adoption and Foster Care – “Members who are seeking to adopt children or provide foster care should strictly observe all legal requirements of the countries that are involved. They are encouraged to work through licensed, authorized agencies.“ jmb275: Ummm, what? What spiritual value is there in this? Was someone wondering whether or not they should obey the law and asked the church if it was okay to NOT obey the laws of the land? Hawkgrrrl: I have to guess the church made this stand because someone somewhere did something goofy in the name of the church. Since the church runs a huge adoption agency, I guarantee you that’s what happened. The church doesn’t want to be seen as buying & selling human flesh in disadvantaged countries.
- Autographs and Photographs of General Authorities and Area Seventies – “Church members should not seek the autographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies…Doing so detracts from their sacred callings…” jmb275: The fact that this is a problem just kind of weirds me out. They’re like rock stars! Hawkgrrrl: What I don’t like about this one is the reason given, that it detracts from their callings. How about the fact that if you do that, you’re kind of a nutjob, worshiping men instead of God or something like that. Or maybe a simple “Get a life, people!”
- Bible – “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.” jmb275: IOW, we’re not interested in what the Bible REALLY said, we’re interested (like most religions, really) in whatever version supports what we’ve already concluded. Because the entire field of biblical textual criticism is completely discounted in this one statement, literalists may feel justified in making pretty wild claims about how to interpret scripture that are universally contradicted by people who actually know what they are talking about. Hawkgrrrl: It also seems a contradiction because BYU does use alternate texts in Bible courses. But I will say, unless you are at least a novice Bible scholar, you probably don’t get much more “accuracy” from comparing texts, just different inaccuracies. This statement implies that we study the scriptures to determine accuracy rather than to apply relevant principles, and the advised method of ascertaining translation accuracy is destined to fail (since known translation errors in the KJV are found in the BOM).
- Gambling and Lotteries – “The Church opposes gambling in any form, including government-sponsored lotteries.” jmb275: I must confess, I’m still a little perplexed why on earth we care so much about gambling. I admit it’s stupid to do, but seriously, are we 5 years old? Hawkgrrrl: Acting on faith could be considered a form of gambling. jmb275: Insurance is definitely a form of gambling. Hawkgrrrl: So is investing in the stock market. Getting married, having kids, also gambling. Some days, getting out of bed is a gamble. So, we don’t really oppose gambling in “any” form. Additionally, this one will be news to the stake presidents in Las Vegas who own casinos! Or can you own an establishment, just not use it?
- Income taxes – “Church members who refuse to file a tax return, pay required income taxes, or comply with a final judgment in a tax case are in direct conflict with the law and with the teachings of the Church. Such members may be ineligible for a temple recommend and should not be called to positions of principal responsibility in the Church. Members who are convicted of willfully violating tax laws are subject to Church discipline to the extent warranted by the circumstances.” jmb275: Why does the church feel the need to speak out on this? I fail to see how the church and my taxes are linked together. Hawkgrrrl: Did someone do tax evasion on the basis of paying tithing? Maybe we posthumously baptized Al Capone? Is this to weed out really staunch libertarians?
- Internet – “When carefully used, the Internet can help coordinate the work of the Church, strengthen faith, and minister to the needs of others. However, where feasible, members should ensure that electronic communication does not replace opportunities for in-person contact.” jmb275: Ummm, okay. Thanks for the tip! Hawkgrrrl: This to me is another one of those grandpa moments, shaking one’s cane at new technology. In my day, you had to walk over to talk to a friend, not pick up some newfangled telephone gadget!
- Members Use of Internet in Church Callings – “Individual members may create Web sites or blogs or make use of other appropriate Internet resources in their Church callings, provided they include a disclaimer such as “This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Members should also comply with the following guidelines:”…”2. The name and contact information of the member who is responsible for the Web site should be included.” jmb275: Wait, I have to list my name and contact information if I create a website that I use in my calling? Weird. No thanks. Hawkgrrrl: Are they getting flooded because Bro. Joe Blow’s cub scout troop 345 website has no contact info? This one seems like another one of the Cider House Rules (see #19).
- Statements Attributed to Church Leaders – “From time to time, statements are circulated that are inaccurately attributed to leaders of the Church. Many such statements distort current Church teachings and are based on rumors and innuendos. They are never transmitted officially, but by word of mouth, e-mail, or other informal means. Church members should not teach or pass on such statements without verifying that they are from approved Church sources, such as official statements, communications, and publications.” jmb275: That one is just funny! I’m sure you heard plenty of quotes on you mission that were totally made up. In my mission it was the one about all the spirits in heaven bowing down to those of us who lived when Pres. Hinckley was prophet. This does need to be stamped out. Hawkgrrrl: Good luck, though, with stemming the tide of glurge, especially since the ones who can’t do a simple google search to see what’s what are unlikely to read the CHI.
- Temple Clothing and Garments – “The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect at all times. Garments should be kept off the floor.” jmb275: I had heard this before by rumor, but I thought it was just a cultural thing. Low and behold, we are commanded in where NOT to put our underwear! Hawkgrrrl: Actually, IMO, garments or not, your underwear does not belong on the floor, mister! Pick it up. Take it to the hamper. Put it in.
- Cremation – “The Church does not normally encourage cremation. The family of the deceased must decide whether the body should be cremated, taking into account any laws governing burial or cremation. In some countries, the law requires cremation. Where possible, the body of a deceased member who has been endowed should be dressed in temple clothing when it is cremated. A funeral service may be held“ jmb275: This is old news, but every time I read it I’m surprised that anyone even cares. And I’m not going to be dressed in my temple clothing whether I’m buried or cremated. I’m gonna go for jeans and a t-shirt. Hawkgrrrl: This is a clarification from the old manual to include that some places require it by law. When my mom first told me about it (because I said at one time that I wanted to be cremated), I specifically pointed out that it was a dumb rule because it’s against the law to bury in places where the waterline is too high. She acknowledged that, but basically didn’t know what you would do if that was the case – ship the person’s body somewhere else? Personally, I think this is all squeamishness. Lots of people have died in fires and presumably will suffer no ill effects in the resurrection. Dust vs. ashes – what’s the difference? I think there’s also a belief that it’s disrespectful of the body, which isn’t how it’s viewed in cultures that do it. Once you die, it’s all nasty business anyway. Isn’t it disrespectful to let worms eat you?
- Hypnosis – “Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment.” jmb275: It’s probably good advice, but again, are we 5 years old? Hawkgrrrl: I gotta think this is because people might reveal temple secrets, show the garment or feel up their neighbor’s hot wife while “hypnotized.”
- Prolonging life – “When severe illness strikes, members should exercise faith in the Lord and seek competent medical assistance. However, when dying becomes inevitable, it should be seen as a blessing and a purposeful part of eternal existence. Members should not feel obligated to extend mortal life by means that are unreasonable. “ jmb275: I just think the language here is weird. When dying is inevitable, I should view it as a blessing? Has anyone at Church HQ actually had a loved one die? My understanding is that few are prepared to view it as a blessing! Hawkgrrrl: Although I think there’s benefit in detachment, I do think this might sound tone-deaf to someone in the moment, depending on their frame of mind. Surely, grieving is not a sin, adding insult to injury? And don’t call me Shirley.
- Artificial Insemination – “The Church strongly discourages artificial insemination using semen from anyone but the husband. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife. Responsibility for the decision rests solely upon them. Artificial insemination of single sisters is not approved. Single sisters who deliberately refuse to follow the counsel of Church leaders in this matter are subject to Church discipline.” jmb275: If it’s really up to the judgment of the husband and wife, why bother saying anything? And I guess I just don’t understand the single sister clause unless it’s because the church supports a traditional family. I mean do they discourage single sisters from adopting? I don’t think so. So why discourage this? Not sure I follow, and church discipline is inevitable. Pretty stiff consequence without a clear explanation. Hawkgrrrl: Actually, the church definitely discourages intentional single motherhood. There are several admonishments in the CHI to specifically prohibit single sisters from choosing to become single parents. This is the first.
- In Vitro Fertilization – “The Church strongly discourages in vitro fertilization using semen from anyone but the husband or an egg from anyone but the wife. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife. Responsibility for the decision rests solely upon them.” jmb275: Ditto #13. Hawkgrrrl: Clearly this is alright if done via the Holy Ghost rather than just a doctor. I actually believe this is a softening of prior policy.
- Occult Affiliation – “Church members should not engage in any form of Satan worship or affiliate in any way with the occult. “Such activities are among the works of darkness spoken of in the scriptures. They are designed to destroy one’s faith in Christ, and will jeopardize the salvation of those who knowingly promote this wickedness. These things should not be pursued as games, be topics in Church meetings, or be delved into in private, personal conversations” jmb275: I think our worrying about satanic influence is a bit comical. I don’t much buy into ghosts, evil spirits, ouji boards, etc. Hawkgrrrl: I don’t suppose it’s a very long distance from fearing Satan to worshiping him. There’s also a lot of Satanic stuff that creeps into conservative Baptist towns. Maybe it’s the other side of the same coin. OTOH, are Satan worshippers likely deterred by this? Are they scouring the CHI to know if Satan worship is OK?
- Single Expectant Parents – “When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely due to age or other circumstances, the unmarried parents should be counseled to work with LDS Family Services to place the child for adoption, providing an opportunity for the baby to be sealed to temple-worthy parents. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses both the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity.” jmb275: I personally don’t see a problem with a more mature single woman keeping a baby. Many single women want children, and between this, and the injunction against artificial insemination, what should a single sister do? Remain non-married AND without children? Ouch!! Hawkgrrrl: Perhaps the thinking is along these lines: 1) welfare drain, 2) do the same things that prevent a woman from marrying make her a less fit mother?
- Sperm Donation – “The Church strongly discourages the donation of sperm.” jmb275: Is it because porn is often used as a stimulus, or that masturbation is inevitable? I’m assuming so (though it would be nice if it were stated). Hawkgrrrl: I think it’s linked to the not knowing actual paternity of offspring (family sealing implications?) and your sperm being used by lesbians (okay, maybe I’m just making that last part up!) Either way, it’s another strike against intentionally single mothers.
- Surrogate Motherhood – “The Church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood.” jmb275: I actually always thought this was a rather noble endeavor. I think for some it could be very emotional, but some are probably capable of separating the issues and the fact that the egg and sperm aren’t their own or their husband’s. Not sure on this. Hawkgrrrl: I think this is because of the legal issues that sometimes arise, and that it’s probably just ill-advised. Either that or some might use it as a justification to “skip the middle man” and save money by just directly impregnating the surrogate. (?)
- Surgical Sterilization (including vasectomy) – “The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.” Hawkgrrrl: Is being done having kids a medical condition? The admonition to consult with your bishop is, IMO, an example of The Cider House Rules. In that movie, there is a list of rules on the inside of the cabin, but none of the workers who bunk there can read. I have to imagine there are very few members who would voluntarily consult with their bishop on whether or not to get a vasectomy. In general, I think we should keep bishops out of our bedrooms. They don’t want to be there anyway.
So, why are there such specific isntructions in there? Some theories:
- Holdover. Some of these instructions are in there because they were in previous versions of the CHI. In some cases, these have been updated; in other cases, they were just retained from the earlier version.
- Global Church. While some of these seem ridiculous in our US-centric view, they have far different implications in other areas of the world where abortion may be the most common form of birth control or where governments intervene in different ways than here. Some of these guidelines only make sense in light of those differing cultures and regulations.
- Somebody Somewhere Did Something Stupid. Even if it’s pretty uncommon, the guidelines in here likely resulted from some action on the part of one or more members. In fact, in a couple of cases, I could imagine very specific scenarios I was personally aware of where a member did something in violation of the guideline which had a detrimental impact to the church or was an example of a member trying to do an end-run around the church or a commandment for personal gain.
Here are some things we noticed weren’t included that (given the level of detail) perhaps could have been:
- Overeating. Surely gluttony is both unseemly and extremely common in the church.
- Pyramid schemes. Somebody save these people and their unwitting dupes from themselves. (It is sort of alluded to in the instruction not to use the ward directory for non-church stuff).
- Forwarding spam emails. This should be added to the temple recommend questions.
- Sharing pseudo-uplifting glurge in sacrament talks. Unfortunately, it’s hard to enforce in some wards where members have a glurge addiction.
- Being judgmental. Wrinkling your nose in disdain when other people don’t obey the WoW, whether Mormon or not. Similarly, if women have bare shoulders, members should not give them the “Slut!” stare of shame. Ditto for men with facial hair. Or women for that matter.
- Taking turns reading from the manual instead of actual lesson prep. ‘Nuff said.
- Attire for Dry Climates: Members in dry climates are encouraged to use sufficient moisturizer. Members in sunny climates should use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and a hat as directed by their bishop.
Were there any instructions in the CHI that you found surprising? Do you think these are necessary? If so, why? If not, why not? Discuss.