LDS Church Handbook of Instructions available via WikiLeaks

This will be old news for Bloggernaccle Mormons, but a relatively recent edition (1999) of the influential but much obscured Church Handbook of Instructions is available online via wikileaks. I can only say to this, “Hooray Internets!”

I have to post the link on principle, if nothing else. Transparency and open communication are two of my core values, and one of the areas that gave Jana and I the most grief in our struggles with the both the Church institution and its culture. There is a certain amount of power that comes from restricting information to leaders and limiting the access that rank and file members have to it–especially when that information can profoundly affect the happiness of those members and reaches into the most private aspects of their lives.

This culture of secrecy and selective sharing of information pervades the Church, from its slick PR operations, to its approach to its own controversial history (which, I am happy to say, seems to be opening up in the past couple of decades as academic interest grows), to its missionary program (milk before the meat, elder!), to its masonry-inspired temple ceremonies, to its leaders interaction with its members (including annotated records of disciplinary action and fringe group involvement that follow some members around and which can inform their leader’s opinions of them).

Because the LDS Church has an untrained, lay clergy, the Handbook serves as an important guide for Mormon Bishops and other pastoral and administrative leaders. It not only serves as a reference for Church policy, but also contains advice on how to counsel members in a variety of situations (such as asking adolescents about their personal sexual habits) and how to direct members to professional resources if necessary. Its guidance ranges from the mundane (the delineation of responsibilities for the various Church offices) to the extraordinary (e.g., policies towards elective sterilization, transsexuals, euthanasia and hypnosis).

I believe that airing these things out can only improve the situation of my sisters and brothers in the Church by bringing to light problematic policies and practices that should be phased out. Here’s one example from page 72, regarding the sealing (i.e. eternal marriage) of a husband and wife:

Sealing of a Husband and Wife

Living Women

A living woman may be sealed to only one husband. If she is sealed to a husband and later
divorced, she must receive a cancellation of that sealing from the First Presidency before she
may be sealed to another man in her lifetime (see “Applying for a Cancellation of Sealing or a
Sealing Clearance” on this page).

Living Men

If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may have another woman
sealed to him if she is not already sealed.

You catch that? The LDS Church still advocates polygyny. I’ve seen this policy impact relationships between Mormon men and women negatively in this world. Here’s a bit more:

Applying for a Cancellation of Sealing or a Sealing Clearance

When a woman has been sealed and divorced, she may apply for a cancellation of the previous
sealing. The bishop and stake president submit an Application to the First Presidency form to
seek this cancellation.

When a man has been divorced from a woman who was sealed to him and is worthy and
prepared to have another woman sealed to him, he may apply for a sealing clearance. The
bishop and stake president submit an Application to the First Presidency form to seek this
clearance.

Translated: men remain married (in the eternal, “sealed” sense) to the women they divorced. Women essentially have to apply for a spiritual divorce on top of the legal one. This can mean a period of ecclesiastical red tape and humiliating interviews that can cause stress in her relationship with her prospective eternal husband.

I doubt I’ll spend much more time reading this, but if any of you have a chance to read it (especially those of you who are looking at Mormonism from the outside), I’m very interested in your opinions.

78 Comments

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  1. Well spoken

    Well spoken Soft Chairs. I had never noticed that before.
    John this book is not a secret it is public we can all get our hands on a copy. Probably for free, it was once taught in my sunday school class. Again i say it. IT IS NOT A SECRET, you can get one from your bishop.

  2. WhatILOVEaboutLIFE

    I completely agree with softchair. I know from experience that the mormon church has the best intentions for everyone in mind. If you have been hurt turn to Christ. And remeber that his church is run by people. We will never say that we dont make mistakes. We all do. Christ is Perfect. Not his people, that is what we are striving for. Women as well as Men are Gods Children. Do visit. And remember you get out what you put in, someone made the comment that their chilren werent having great experiences or what not at youngmen/youngwomen. Keep trying and striving,.. and again YOUR GET OUT what you PUT IN. live life with integrity and ethics. and you’ll be happy. Thats what everyone is serching for… right?

  3. Kari

    I will defend the right of Catholics to believe what they want, but I will also reveal its secrets so that people know the truth of what they “believe”—and I will fight to keep its tenets from becoming law in my country.

    What country is being created that is going to force a religion on it’s citizens?

  4. Claire

    Hello dear friends!

    I have been trying to find “Mormon Church Handbook of Instructions” and could not find the original text anywhere… does anyone have a copy by any chance?

    if you do or know when i can get one please email me at parisdaylight@gmail.com

    thanks a lot in advance!

    Claire

  5. mormonzealot

    It seems to most of fail to realize a few things that are obvious… let’s seee.. just something you need observe is that the your railing and disrespecting others beliefs when you don’t understand them, the way your doing now, without the book. What makes you think you’d be any kinder when you had the book . You poke fun and call names on subjects you don’t believe in nor understand now so why would anyone give you more information on things you don’t like? Just so you can belittle them further? Now wouldn’t that be rather idiotic?

  6. BIONERD

    I am not a Mormon, and I would consider myself Agnostic if not Atheist…but the Mormons view of polygamy seems to be pretty close to what “God” intended when she created humans. From a purely biological standpoint (a very simplified version), Men can make lots and lots and lots of babies…while women can make very few in comparison. One man can make an infinite amount of babies with an infinite amount of women. That’s how they were created. It almost seems that we were made to practice polygamy in some way. Anyhow…I just wanted to give another opinion.

    • wenna

      Hi bionerd
      First: there is no religion called mormon, though u didn’t claim there is did you?
      Second: that’s a cool way to explain it but oversimplistic but:
      Third: well, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Jeremiah said)
      So your oversimplistic idea may be good enough! : )
      Afterall, a Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi even said he glories ( not ‘glad’ ‘delight’ but ‘glories’) in plainness so…

  7. BIONERD: actually, if you look at human mating plugs, you might conclude that polyandry is closer to what humans evolved to practice.

  8. […] LDS Church Handbook of Instructions available via WikiLeaks | Mind … May 28, 2008 … The bishop and stake president submit an Application to the First Presidency form to seek this cancellation. …. lds church handbook available on the internet (mormonism) […] … […]

  9. WakeUp

    Take a real look at your organization. You guys are still spewing out the same crap I had to hear over and over again in those classes I was forced into going to. Have you ever really taken a look- no a real look- at yourselves? “We believe in …..” “We also believe….” Seriously this is a great way to brainwash yourselves. You FEEL this is true-yeh so did that 3 yr old girl FEEL that Bieber loved her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCm8tdHkfI he didnt even know her until her videos! You think Jesus is watching your videos I get it. Your replies to logical questions are all rehearsed as much as your testimony to your beliefs. I love the “You didnt pray enough if you dont feel it is true, read the BOM again and pray harder.” “keep praying until you feel it is” “you didnt ask with a pure heart of wanting to know, ask again” this kind of group think right there proves to me you are all in a brainwashing cult. “But our church gives to the poor” Yeh? Take a good look at temple square you have a hotel that costs insane amounts of money to stay in, you have buildings decked out to hell, I dont see the poor there I see a tourist trap with wealthy dogs their noses in the air thinking theyre getting to heaven- your men of god ride around in expensive automobiles with expensive suits-Zions bank is the most greedy rip-off bank I ever knew of, your church buys up stocks making tons of $ but notice the streets of salt lake city are still littered with bums and people out of work. How many widows and orphans do you see going into church who are being taken care of by THEE Church- How many buildings are set up with facilities for the poor vs buildings set up for the rich. I knew more families who were turned away from your church- that had no money for food and rent that I had to personally help-yeh i paid for their food and rent- than families that this CHURCH OF GOD helped. You put 10% in some envelope and think its all taken care of. You wanna know where your tithing goes maybe you should ask for a audit of all the $ just like the fed that church is a business and there are poor starving homeless people.. go ahead and show us all the widows orphans and homeless that are being cared for. I’m not against some idea of a nice caring GOD or JESUS but damned if I’ll be spoon fed how incredible your church is- I know it, and I know just like every other major organized religion. Your temple ceremonies that are supposed to be sacred and kept the same since ancient times unlike the Mason ceremonies they were copied from keep getting updated- how is it a perfect god has to update anything if he is so intelligent to make a world and a people dont you think he’d know how to make some ceremonies that would be universal and beyond time

    • wenna

      Oh I feel for you ma friend!
      And I feel sorry you don’t have a lot of money to pay expensive hotels around the temple square. Maybe you were not praying enough with a sincere heart! Lol
      Kidding man!

  10. (none)

    @ WAKEUP:

    You seem to be really upset about this. This religion hasnt done anything sorts of damage to you in any way. Ive got a buddy that is a memeber and his parents almost lost their home but the mormon church had offered to pay their rent until they could get back on their feet not to mention gave them free food weekly to make sure that they werent goin hungry and mind you he is one of 12 children. Ive heard of many stories about that and ive seen it happen, the 10% the church recieves from members is used for those types of dilemmas and to help each other out. And if your bothered about where money in a religion goes stick your nose in the catholic religion where popes have solid gold thrones and cathlics have the largest poverty levels of their own memebers that recieve no help at all from their church, where as the LDS faith hasnt turned anyone down yet. So maybe you should shut your mouth and notice something good rather than bash it!

    • wenna

      Hi none! Maybe Ms/Mr wake did not received the kind of help you were describing about!
      Lol. I am kidding, you know that Wake up don’t you?
      Speaking of gold throne, there’s a scripture that describes something about an abominable church (‘course I didn’t ssay any specific religion) it said that the desires of that church were: gold, silver, silks, fine linen, all manner of precious clothing and also for the praise of the world!
      Haha! What a match
      (Scripture reference: 1Ne 13:3-9)

  11. Frogguy

    John, no matter what you might think of Cindy, she’s exactly right. There is nothing in the GHI that is not available to any member if they ask. You’ll note that nothing in the book is described as doctrine. It’s as it says, a handbook of instructions for unit leaders so there is conformity across the Church. Why is it not widely distributed? Because sections or pages are updated regularly and the cost and bother of updating everyone is beyond reason, especially when you consider that the information inside isn’t necessary for anyone to see other than the unit leaders. They all get copies. The general membership does not because they only need to see it when something comes up that pertains to them, and their bishop will show them the parts they need to see if they will ask. Mine even photocopied a couple of pages for me once when I needed to know a specific procedure that I won’t detail here. A 1999 copy of the GHI is considerably outdated, by the way.

  12. Frustrated

    The church is filled with imperfect people. Working inside the church to correct problems is an arduous, frustrating but wothwhile task.

    • wenna

      Indeed members of the church r perfectly imperfect! All are! But wait, perhaps the initiator of this leak along with the loyal advocates must be perfect! For what kind of person/s would criticize a church who stay silent unpublished all these years to help people around the world.
      Such perfect myopic perspective of people who can only see their own side of the backyard!
      Ha! Peace out!

  13. Jon

    All these questions will be raised on a much grander level if a Mormon gets the nomination for president. I would say to you Mormons to be prepared for a lot of justifiable questions that will certainly come, about all of these issues, i.e. sexism, racism and the churches past leaders behavior that comes from a well documented historical perspective. People have a right to know about the inner workings of a church. John’s blog here is much appreciated by those of us who don’t agree with the LDS church. I happen to believe that evolution is the best theroy on how we have come into being and become who we are. I personally believe that God created that for us, but it is pointless to change a persons’ mind about religion because we have “evolved” with the impulse to belong to a special group that makes us feel strong, powerful and sane. Mormons need that as much as anyone else and are no different than all the other good people in this world. If you can’t see that then you are just fooling yourself. People will go to war for that very eveolutionary thing and have done so since the point the human race scampered down from the trees. It’s important now at this time in history for us to understand that our next president is dealing with the reality in this world and not illusion.

  14. Jared

    It’s called polygamy get it right man… In my opinion your pour editing weakened your whole argument.

  15. John

    Jared, nice try. “Polygamy” swings both ways: a woman with multiple husbands is practicing polygamy. “Polygyny” is a more precise term, because it defines marriage between one man and more than one woman.

  16. jon

    By the way Jared, in addition to what John just posted, you spelled “poor wrong”, speaking of editing…. So now is his arguement is strengthened?

  17. Hmmm. The last calling I had before leaving the church was Relief Society President. I asked the Bishop if I could see the GHI and he said, <>.

    My best friend at the time had been a secretary to the apostles at the COB. We used to pore over her copy of the GHI. She knew full well she wasnt supposed to show me these things. She knew she would lose her job if I said anything. There are indeed things in the GHI, the half that only leadership sees, that if most members knew, they would be, well, hopefully dismayed as I was.

  18. denis

    Are you crazey or something, I dont want first hand experience in 2nd hand love,a never married bloke is asking for problems marring to a former married woman,as for duplicate marriages[ Wake Up] ,most devorced people seek a partner to whom they can enjoy , si senior,its called– lonelyness –and its very catching,you ,might catch it some day, and its not a poligmony thing either [2 wives living is polly ] get it,DEAD WIVES ARE NOT LIVING, how dumb can you get, so get your facts right, any court in the world can tell you this, [I prefer 1st to a 1st] 2nds is not my thing [AND YOUR NEXT FLUB UP IS?] by the way I havent yet known of any bloke going to a grave yard to select a dead wife ,you, must be a hippie!

  19. wenna

    Is the writer excommunicated? disfellowshipped? Less/in active?
    I’m sorry for asking but I haven’t seen an spiritually active that would criticize the church! Regardless, I am just glad there are more understanding member (I suppose) than I am with better comments that I have.
    I’ve had the same sentiment before and I’m not sure how I managed to keep the faith. I am not perfect either. I would be conceited to claim I am worthy. But I am just sad that people are so bitter they can’t leave the church without poisoning the well. If u need to leave, go! But stop doing hurtful stuff to member but u can’t hurt the church, u can only hurt the human component of it : (
    By the way, if u decide one day to go back to church, no matter what u did, I’m sure the church will take u back. If u won’t, I just hope u find what ur looking for and u can be seriously happy about it! Goodluck!

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