Is the Church Always Watching?
The Church Handbook of Instruction has long been the subject of bloggernacle discussion and suspicion. Recently posted on the web, the church received praise for it’s transparent policy.
Still, having the CHI availalbe to the average member is not without cost. In a recent discussion with a friend, I learned that some wards are asking church leadership, including auxiliary presidencies, to read the handbook from cover to cover. While I hope this practice is not wide-spread, it’s possibility that members are beginning to feel like the CHI is a new set of rules for them to obey.
For example, imagine a woman who is having her last child soon via C-section and has decided with her husband and with the help of her healthcare provider to have her tubes tied after the birth. This or other types of permanent birth control seem to be common for couples who are done having children, and she feels good about this choice. Now imagine she is asked to read the CHI as an assignment from her ward and she reads,
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.
Now, instead of doing what she felt is best for her family, she feels obligated to obey “the higher law” of church teachings (if you can call the CHI teachings) and choose something less ideal for birth control in the future.
Frankly, this scenario is extremely upsetting to me. First, the woman feels that she must be obedient to the rules in the CHI even though she didn’t ask for guidance on this issue. She is attempting to be righteous and feels obligated to be obedient on an issue the church “strongly discourages.” I’m sympathetic towards her choice to obey the CHI, because it’s something I might have decided a few years ago.
And yet, I am stunned that the church handbook seems to assert control over this sensitive area of a woman’s life in a way that is so discreet and manipulative. There would be rioting in Salt Lake City if the one of the General Authorities read these paragraphs during general conference. Birth control is an issue the church has long ceased to publicly opine on.
Church members should not be required to read the CHI, and if they do, they should be told why they are reading it and given counsel to help them find balance between their own personal decisions and the policy set therein.
Help me understand why you think church members have been encouraged to read the CHI. Have you heard of this happening?
Does knowing how the church stands on surgical sterilization (as CHI policy) affect your birth control decisions? Why or why not?
*I’m aghast that even in the case of someone mentally incompetent, that surgical sterilization should only be done in consultation with the Bishop and after prayer and revelation.