Poll: Reading the Church Handbook of Instruction

In  the current issue of Exponent II Magazine, I authored an article called, Making a Family with Donor Sperm. (Shameless Plug: While you’re over there checking out the article, don’t forget to subscribe so we can keep the Exponent alive.) The article describes, among other things, my first experience reading the Church Handbook of Instruction (CHI).

I was naughty because I read the Handbook before it was publicly available online.  My husband had a copy left over from a previous calling and I preferred to get information on church policy straight from the source, rather than ask my bishop.  Reading the Handbook was faster than talking to the bishop, more private, and prevented confusion about the real policy versus the bishop’s personal opinion.

However, when I opened the Handbook, I subjected myself to extra and completely unexpected information. (See the magazine article.) The Handbook offers official opinions about all kinds of sensitive and personal issues that Church leaders usually do not opine about. In Jessawhy’s post, Birth Control and the CHI, she provided another example of a surprising directive found in the Handbook and described some valid reasons to avoid studying the Handbook.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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8 Responses

  1. April,

    Thanks for the link to your Exponent II article. I’m so glad you shared your experience. And I love your bishop who didn’t want to hear about your and your husband’s decision to use artificial insemination.

  2. spunky says:

    Love the plug!!

    I actually have a copy of the CHI, though I honestly don’t recall where I obtained it– I think it is from 1998, so well before the church put it online. I personally thought it was more of a corporate book for rules and regulations to protect church and leader liability, as well as a collection of church suggestions, i.e. the term “should” seemed to be used often. I could be wrong though; it seems to me that the handbook helped me in structuring personal responsibility in a calling that I was unsure about, but when it comes to personal direction (as in anything with reproduction), it was offensive, masculine-biased and short-sighted.

  3. Risa says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, April.

  4. Bones says:

    The CHI volume one was available online for a few hours when it was first released and before lawsuits were threatened. Some of us downloaded it while it was available.

  5. Rachel says:

    A couple weeks ago at our stake baptism I had been asked to give the closing prayer, and I wasn’t sure if that meant for my ward, or for the stake before we divided by wards. For whatever reason the closing prayer was left blank as to who was going to offer it.
    I was sitting next to one of the bishop’s counselors in the audience. Apparently he had a deacon run up a note to the pulpit to say he’d offer the closing prayer since it hadn’t been assigned, but I didn’t know that until afterwards. After they started dismissing by wards, I leaned over and told him who had called and asked me to give the prayer. He laughed, wanted to know why I hadn’t said something and I told him I thought maybe b/c the policy was to do closing prayer by ward. He said something like, “I guess I could run out to my car and get my ipad and look it up,” so I handed him my phone, and clicked to the CHI so we could know what “should” have been done. I ended up doing the closing prayer after the confirmations for our ward.
    I was thinking about this experience, this polling question, and the recent Pew study. As Mormons we run Republican/Libertarian. But we sure like a strong Church/Federal government.

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