Zelophehad’s Daughters

Things to Like in the CHI

Posted by Ziff

A few years ago, I wrote a post asking why the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI) wasn’t available to rank-and-file members. And now, bowing to the strength of my arguments ;), the Church has gone ahead and published the newest revision of the CHI (well, Handbook 2, at least) on its new website.

To celebrate this momentous event, I read through the Handbook and pulled out a few parts that I found most encouraging. Yes, I know this is probably surprising coming from me, given I’m typically a complainer. I’m sure I’ll find things to complain about soon enough. For now, just the good stuff.

All the quotes below come from Section 21 of Handbook 2. (Note that in most cases, I have quoted only excepts rather than entire sections. The links will take you to the full sections if you want to see the excerpts in their original context.)

21.1.23:

Members should obey, honor, and sustain the laws in any country where they reside or travel . . . . This includes laws that prohibit proselyting.

This probably sounds like a minor thing, but when I served a mission (in the U.S.), the standard response to rules or laws limiting or restricting tracting I was taught was to ignore them. It always rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, I suspect this section was probably in the Handbook even when I was a missionary (it wasn’t that long ago!), but now that the Handbook is online, maybe this idea will get more exposure.

21.1.27:

Much that is inspiring, noble, and worthy of the highest respect is found in many other faiths. Missionaries and other members must be sensitive and respectful toward the beliefs of others and avoid giving offense.

Wow! I love this, particularly in light of our sometimes uneasy relationships with other churches. Also, it might provide a good response to anyone still dragging around Bruce R. McConkie’s anti-Catholic rhetoric (although I guess anyone who’s really dedicated could just point out that it says “many” other faiths, and suggest that this is a subtle swipe at Catholics).

21.3.7:

The donation of organs and tissues is a selfless act that often results in great benefit to individuals with medical conditions. The decision to will or donate one’s own body organs or tissue for medical purposes, or the decision to authorize the transplant of organs or tissue from a deceased family member, is made by the individual or the deceased member’s family.

This sounds a lot more positive than I expected given the attitude reflected by the Handbook’s continuing ambivalence about cremation. I think organ and tissue donation is an unalloyed good, and it seems like only the most literalistic thinking about the resurrection would lead people to reject it. I hope that eventually a section like this would be unnecessary for the same reason that a section on whether Church members should fly on airplanes is currently unnecessary. It won’t even be a question.

21.3.8:

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. These judgments are best made by family members after receiving wise and competent medical advice and seeking divine guidance through fasting and prayer.

This seems like a nice counterbalance to the more hard line stance the Handbook takes on euthanasia (“violates the commandments of God”). It’s good to see the distinction made between killing a person and letting a person die.

24.4.4:

The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

Thumbs up! I’m glad to see this point getting published here so it can get greater air time.

21.4.12 (on unwed parents):

Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses both the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity.

. . . Birth parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of a sense of obligation to care for one’s own.

I really like this second line. It’s good to see the idea that children can function as some kind of punishment for unmarried parents so clearly contradicted. Guilting people into raising children they aren’t prepared for, and are in many cases too young to care for, particularly when there are so many infertile couples anxious to adopt, seems likely to hurt both the parents and the children.

Finally, beyond any of the specific content, I find the fact that the Church put the Handbook up online hugely encouraging. It seems to me to be a clear triumph of good reasons over inertia. It even gives me a little bit of hope that the Church will eventually move to make other changes that just make sense, and appear to be opposed primarily for reasons of inertia.

9 Responses to “Things to Like in the CHI”

  1. 1.

    When I saw your “just makes sense” link, I got really excited, because I was sure you were going to link to this post of mine. I was disappointed to learn that such was not to be…

    (I agree with you that there is some good stuff in there.)

  2. 2.

    ;) Kevin.

  3. 3.

    OK, Ziff, you know how I worship you, but two things;
    1. None of this stuff is new, and
    2. No statistics?

  4. 4.

    Oh, sure, I realize it’s not new, E. But I think it’s a big deal that it’s out there on the Church’s very own website, where even wholly orthodox members will look at it. (And I’ll try to work some statistics into something shortly.)

    LOL, Kevin! I hold out hope that several items on your list are yet to be revealed.

  5. 5.

    Thanks for this. I agree that these are quite positive bits, and it is good that the word is “spread”.

  6. 6.

    I was at a presidency meeting a couple of days ago which was also attended by a bishopric member and the teachers in the organization, so perhaps a good cross section of active, non-Bloggernacle-reading church members, and out of three women and one man with a handbook, section 2, none of them had read more than brief selections. One or two of them knew that the handbook was online.

    The section on organ donation is of course nothing new, as was said. About twenty years ago my mother was a Relief Society president and one of the families in the ward had a child who needed an organ donation, and another woman piped up right there in Relief Society, right in front of the mother, that the church was opposed to organ donation. My mother stopped the discussion immediately and found out the Church’s position, which was in favor of organ donation, and presented the correct information the next week in the Relief Society meeting.

    And of course, I am personally in favor of organ donation since my son has received a tissue graft to rebuild his aorta, and may at some point need to go on the heart transplant waiting list. And we do like having him around.

    Finally, I don’t know what the problem is with cremation. Until we stop considering the Book of Mormon as scripture, I don’t know how anyone can claim that having your body burned is an impediment to resurrection or salvation. See Alma 14: 8, 11.

    Thanks for the interesting post, and sorry for the looong comment. : )

  7. 7.

    Long comments are always welcome, Researcher!

    Good for your mother to get the right info on organ donation, and I’m glad to hear it’s been so helpful for your son.

  8. 8.

    Ziff,
    Love this post (and Kevin’s funny CHI post, too!)

    It turns out that shortly after the new CHI came out, my husband (EQP) asked the bishop in the middle of PEC, “Why does the handbook assume the President of Sunday School is male and the President of the Primary is female?”

    The bishop politely asked him to table that, but I was proud of his feminist thinking!

  9. 9.

    Jessawhy – It assumes that because it is required. Though I imagine your question might be why it is required, to which I have only conjectures.

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