Friday, May 29, 2009

He Said: Disseminating the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions

Recently I have been thinking about controversial LDS issues. The LDS Church has a handbook or guidebook to give leaders guidance on just about every issue from abortion to hysterectomies to cremation. The Handbook of Instruction is verboten for anyone that isn't in a church-level, stake or ward leadership calling. General members are not given a copy. In addition there are handbooks for Temple Presidents and Mission Presidents and even for missionaries. I am sure there is a handbook for just about every position in the church.

I spend a great deal of time studying missionary work and recently asked an apostle, Elder Ballard, who I came in to contact with last week for permission to get a Mission Presidents' Handbook so I could answer questions that come up from time to time. My daughter left a missionary handbook she got from her bishop at BYU-Idaho. From time to time mission presidents slip something out there on their personal blogs. I did a post on my missionary blog a couple of weeks ago about who should a missionary call on Mother's Day when the parents are divorced. I also wrote a post entitled LDS Church Strongly Discourages Parents from Picking Up Their Missionary (Form Letter). I was hoping that by getting a handbook I could make people more aware of things that the Church wants mission presidents to disseminate to parents. I found out in a letter from my daughter's mission president that travel to pick up a missionary is strongly discouraged. I am sure there are other gems in the Mission Presidents' Handbook that other readers would like to know about.

I think LDS bishops do a poor job disseminating information from the handbook. I once had a conversation with a friend who had been a counselor in a bishopric in one of my ward who had a vasectomy in which he had no clue what the church's position was. The man considered himself an ultraconservative Mormon. It came up when he jokingly told me when I mentioned my wife and I were having my sixth child that he wouldn't be worrying about that with his wife ever again since he now shot blanks. I looked at him and said you know that the LDS Church discourages that and it is in the Handbook of Instruction. He said he didn't have a copy and never read it even when he was in the bishopric.

About a year ago my wife and I discovered that Wikileaks got in to trouble for putting up a link to the Handbook of Instruction. The Church's lawyers told them to cease and desist. I think the LDS Church should mount up all their handbooks no matter what the topic including if they have one for general authorities on LDS.Org. It is kind of weird I had to find out a few things on a non-Mormon site. I found out a few interesting things when my wife put up a post last year entitledChurch Handbook of Instructions, Disciplinary Councils, and Prop 8.

Here were a few new factoids I didn't know and I have been a member 35 years:

Members Whose Close Relatives Belong to Apostate Groups

Bishops and their counselors must take exceptional care when issuing recommends to members whose parents or other close relatives belong to or sympathize with apostate groups. Such members must demonstrate clearly that they repudiate these apostate religious teachings before they may be issued a recommend.

Persons Who Are Considering or Have Undergone a Transsexual Operation

Persons who are considering an elective transsexual operation should not be baptized. Persons who have already undergone an elective transsexual operation may be baptized if they are otherwise found worthy in an interview with the mission president or a priesthood leader he assigns. Such persons may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend.

Surrogate Motherhood

Surrogate motherhood is strongly discouraged.

Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)

The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It 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.

Sperm Donation

The donation of sperm is strongly discouraged.


The use of hypnosis under competent, professional medical supervision for the treatment of diseases or mental disorders is a medical question to be determined by competent medical authorities. Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment.

Name Removal and Church Discipline

If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president has evidence of transgression that warrants convening a disciplinary council, he should not act on the request until Church discipline has been imposed or he has concluded that no disciplinary council will be held. Name removal should not be used as a substitute for or alternative to Church discipline. If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president suspects transgression but lacks sufficient evidence to convene a disciplinary council, the request for name removal may be approved. Any evidence of unresolved transgressions should be noted on the Report of Administrative Action form so priesthood leaders may resolve such matters if the individual applies for readmission into the Church.

When looking at the LDS.Org site I found the following leadership support material:

There are no handbooks or guidebooks that give specific instructions. How are we supposed to follow instructions we have no clue they exist? Being an uber-Mormon I would be more orthodox if I really knew the position of the church on sensitive issues and reading a current Handbook of Instruction would make me a more conforming member of the Church. It is hard to be judged later in the next life if I had no clue what the policies are. I don't understand why the Church leaders don't want us as general members to know our own policies and practices. I mean now that I have read the old handbook of Instructions I know that the Church feels cremation is wrong because it makes it more difficult in the morning of the First Resurrection to be resurrected. They must have reasons for not wanting certain handbooks disseminated but so far no one has been able to tell me why other than that isn't my department or stewardship so why worry about it. I guess if they were disseminated it would be used against us since they are guidelines not commandments.


  1. I agree-it would be nice to have everything up on It almost feels like they're trying to avoid having it look like a Catechism, but just not releasing it to the general membership also makes it feel secretive.

  2. The line between church policy and doctrine is an important one, and most members have a hard time distinguishing between the two. I'm in favor of NOT publishing the handbook for that very reason.

  3. I once heard a church leader refuse to disseminate information BECAUSE it would lead to rumor and speculation. Huh??? It seems to me that when we have correct information, it eliminates the need to speculate.

  4. Thank you for your post. I found it through a google search.

    About the an open publication of the Church Handbook of instructions, I feel that if God has revealed that it should not be openly read by the general public, he must have some reason behind it, and I will not doubt Him.

    But on the topic I intended to comment on, I would like to mention hypnosis.

    I feel that the general public are extremely uneducated on the topic of hypnosis. As far as I know, the Church has not commented on the topic since the 70's.

    In general I do not feel it wise to willingly subject yourself to a stage hypnotist, knowing nothing about the profession. But neither do I feel that it is wrong. Using for entertainment and recreational purposes I suppose is discouraged against because it is making light and fun of one of God's most marvelous temples and creations. The human mind.

    There has been much discovered in the feild of Hypnotherapy since the 70's. Great is it's potential for good in the lives of those who skillfully practice it, as well as those who are recipients of it.

    I am a member in good standing with the church, and am seeking a profession in the field of hypnotherapy. I am currently certified as a hypnotist, and would be happy to anwer any questions that you may have on the topic.

  5. Jake, very interesting! It is true that the field of hypnosis has changed and developed quite a bit in the past 20 years. I am glad to see that the CHI reflects this and mentions "competent, professional medical supervision for the treatment of diseases or mental disorders."

  6. I question that the handbook actually says cremation would make resurrection more difficult. Sounds ridiculous, God being all powerfull, a miracle being a miracle.

    Also would like to know if pedophiles are still being re-baptized, reinstated in callings, reissued Temple Recs. I think it should be out of the question. They should be banned, and tracked and their photos, identities, current residences made known to all members to protect our children. Their incorrigible nature has been established.

  7. I think they dont post the handbooks because the church really takes an active stance of teaching basics before teaching more advanced stuff. You and I know enough to ask the right questions of the right people to get an appropriate answer. Most of the general public would take a copy of the handbook to their own local minister and ask questions and only end up getting misdirected or led further astray. I think we are supposed to ask the sensitive questions of our leaders, that is part of their role, I think that is encouraged.

    You make the point that its hard to be judged on somthing you don't know, but aren't we taught that we are judged by the things we do know? I can't see God judging the guy you mentioned who was "shooting Blanks" because he was unaware, but perhaps judging him for poor use of resources at his disposal. Most of the minor things that we do wrong without knowing I think can be forgiven simply by saying your prayers and taking the sacrament (touching someone inappropriately and saying you didn't know any better doesn't fall into this category, somethings are just obvious wrongs but I'm sure you understand my point).

  8. Finding a copy of the handbook online is not difficult.

  9. I think that it is so two faced that our church has dual consequences for the same behavior. Say both the man and woman in a marriage engage in adultery, the man is excommunicated and the woman is only disfellowshipped. If a woman comes sobbing to her bishop about an abortion she committed she may walk away free and clear. I would not want my relatives in primary to be anywhere near her let alone have her as a teacher for kids. The men from 18-35 in the church in Utah have a greater chance for suicide because of this and many aaronic priesthood holders start to think seriously about it.

  10. So where can one find a copy of the latest mission presidents manual?

  11. I agree finding a copy of the CHI is ridiculously easy. Wikileaks is mentioned. I just checked it's still there. In the 2006 archive as a direct link a torrent or an e-mule magnet link.