The Missionary’s Hand Book (1946) Chapters 1 & 2

July_2006_mgIn 1935, fresh off his own mission, the 25 year old Gordon B. Hinckley accepted an assignment to run the newly created Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee of the Church. By 1937 this new department had released the first edition of The Missionary’s Hand Book. This book drew on several publications in circulation at the time and was published with the copyright of Heber J. Grant. Nine years later, the second edition was released, retaining the Grant copyright. In this post, the first of a series, I will review the first two Chapters of the 1946 edition, those dealing with general mission rules.

Chapter 1, The Council of Authority, is a letter from George F. Richards on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve, which new missionaries received in the mission home. After a brief introduction, it relates 42 numerated rules. Chapter 2, Mission Regulations, is a series of rules and council in paragraph form that cover several topics. While the bulk of the material is consistent with modern perceptions of Missionary service, there is some that is interesting, odd, fun or otherwise entertaining:

Traveling to the Mission Field

2. While in cars, ships, hotels, or other public places, never indulge in loud speaking, heated discussions, inappropriate singing, games of chance, vulgar stories or in any conduct whatsoever that is rowdy or boisterous and not becoming a gentleman.

4. If you have the privilege of “sight seeing” within the larger cities, you should refrain from visiting the “districts” of bad reputation. If you cannot assist in correcting evil, avoid it entirely.

In the Mission Field

11. Portray the excellencies of the gospel but never ridicule the religious beliefs of others. Impute sincerity of mind and purpose to other men as you claim it for yourself.

14. Bless, but do not curse.

18. Observe the Word of Wisdom in all strictness, refraining from the use of tea, coffee, tobacco, and intoxicants of every kind.

19. Care well for your health, remembering always that you life is precious. All excesses are wrong and bring ill results. You should not walk too much, fast too much, eat or drink too much, nor attempt to do without needful things.

24. Do not let your ambition to bring new members into the Church lead you to baptize those who are unworthy…

26. Never say in public or private that you do not know the gospel is true.

Returning Home

40. Be charitable in your judgments of others.


The previous chapter consisted of what might be called “fatherly advice” from the general authorities of the Church. The great majority who have followed it have proved the value of these instructions. Experience has taught that there are yet other necessary regulations not listed in this letter of counsel, which have been adopted as established mission practices. pg. 22

Your Health

Wear rubbers in stormy weather and keep your feet dry.
Do not sleep in stuffy rooms; open the windows and let in fresh air. pg. 23

Venereal diseases are universally present, and can be innocently contracted by careless use of towels, clothing, etc., that have been used by infected persons. Extreme caution should be exercised against such. pg. 23-24

If you should be seized with pains in the abdomen which will not disappear in a few hours do not take a laxative. Take an enema. If relief does not come at once, consult a good physician… pg. 24

Fasting and Prayer

Concerning fasting and prayer President Joseph F. Smith once said:

“A man may fast and pray until he kills himself, and there isn’t any necessity for it nor wisdom in it. I say to my brethren when they are fasting and praying for the sick, and for those that need faith and prayer, do not go beyond what is wise and prudent in fasting and prayer. The Lord can hear a simple prayer, offered in faith, in half a dozen words, and he will recognize fasting that may not continue for more that forty-eight hours, just as readily and effectually as he will answer a prayer of a thousand words and fasting for a month.” pg. 24

“They Had Better Keep Away”

In advising missionaries the late President Joseph F. Smith said, “It is not a good thing, neither is it at all wise, for our elders to go out on excursion on dangerous lakes, or streams, or bodies of water, just for fun. They had better keep away. The Lord will protect them in the discharge of their duty.” Mixed swimming should be avoided. pg. 26-27


The successful missionary cultivates friends wherever he goes. If they are not members of the Church, he earnestly seeks to get them to investigate the tenets of Mormonism. He visits them often, but is extremely careful to avoid staying too long lest he become unwelcome. pg. 27-28


  1. It’s surprisingly very similar to the white handbook, if a bit more florid.

  2. Julie M. Smith says:

    “consult a god physician”

    Those are getting harder to find. :)

    Thanks for a great post. I love this: “Impute sincerity of mind and purpose to other men as you claim it for yourself.”

  3. rleonard says:

    What does it say about sleeping in the same room but not the same bed???? Like the current white handbook says?

  4. After a brief introduction, it relates 42 numerated rules written by…

    by whom?

    Very interesting stuff, thanks.

  5. Thanks Julie, fixed the typo. Ben, the list of rules where part of the letter to missionaries written by George F. Richards on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve.

  6. Venereal diseases are universally present, and can be innocently contracted by careless use of towels, clothing, etc., that have been used by infected persons. Extreme caution should be exercised against such. pg. 23-24

    Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode with the ‘Tractor Story’.

  7. The one I find strange is

    26. Never say in public or private that you do not know the gospel is true.

    Seriously, why would they put that rule be in there?

  8. Well ed, one would think that missionaries would have a certain conviction before leaving. Perhaps there where epistimiological debates among some of the missionaries at the time?

  9. Nice post, J. I am curious: is there anything in the rules about proper grooming or dress?

  10. Interesing question, Justin. Surprisingly (to me at least) there is only one small note:

    20. Be cleanly in your person, clothing and habits. Be of genteel deportment and pattern after the best manners…

  11. Mark Butler says:

    I don’t know what the exact rule is now; but I hold that no one should leave on a mission before he or she has acquired a burning, nigh unto unshakeable testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

  12. J., perhaps your idea about epistimological debates is right. The rule seems a rather perfunctory way of dealing with missionaries who have honestly lost their faith.

  13. Rubbers are effective against universally present danger even when the weather is not stormy.

  14. Mark Butler says:

    The real question is why doesn’t a missionary who has honestly lost the faith, and does not believe he will soon recover it, go home? And why should mission presidents ever be eager to keep them there? It seems rather pointless to me.

    I think any missionary who has no evidence of any zeal for missionary work should be invited to become a service missionary (something like the Peace Corps) for the rest of his term, so he does not obstruct the work of everyone else.

  15. Oh, I just love the language. So much fun.

  16. Mark Hanzel says:

    From an apostate’s perspective, Rule 26 seems to be about isolating doubt. Imagine that you’re an individual missionary who is questioning the belief system you’ve been sent to propogate. If nobody is allowed to acknowledge doubts and misgivings, you may wonder if you’re the only missionary who feels the way you do. The people who wrote the handbook want to make sure that when you ask yourself if you’re crazy to have doubts, you lean in the direction of “yes.”

  17. Elouise says:

    #14–(Mark Butler) Mark, I found Levi Peterson’s account of his mission and of his struggle to stay in the field despite consuming doubts a forthright and deeply moving exploration of this matter. His entire book, A Rascal By Nature, A Christian By Yearning (of which the missionary narrative is only one part) strikes me as extraordinary, a once-in-a-generation publication.

  18. I am afraid that gentlemen are an especially boisterous segment of humanity. Traditionally, gentlemen bet on cards, horses, and anything else. Gentlemen would even frequent prostitutes and appreciate a good raucous.

    After all, gentleman had the money to afford these things and their families’ repute obliged them to demonstrate their virility.

    The difference between gentlemen and ordinary mortals was that gentlemen had to engage into vice according to a carefully specified code.

    Gentlemen are about honor and honor is the commitment to self-destructive behavior, such as going to war for one’s king, in return for social status.

    If you don’t believe me, check “gentleman” out at Wikipedia or watch Cyrano de Bergerac once more.

  19. Mixed swimming should be avoided.

    When and why did swimming become an activity that should avoided altogether?

  20. Jilopa,
    Haven’t you heard… It’s because the devil controls the waters!!!

  21. :) I’m not sure when the current prohibition finally hit full swing. I would imagine that it was instated to 1) limit liability and 2) keep hormonal 19 year olds away from scantily clad members of the opposite sex.

  22. No Devil???!!! Denied :(

  23. In comparing the 1946 handbook’s list of rules with an earlier list, “Notes to be Referred to Daily by Missionaries,” I noticed that the earlier version of rule 26 (“Never say in public or in private that you do not know the Gospel is true”)was a bit longer. It stated: “Start right, by avoiding all evil habits; never say in public or in private that you do not know the Gospel is true” (Ben E. Rich, “Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, Vol. 1,” p. 10).

  24. I see rule 26 as a practical matter. Many of us doubt, but while you are a missionary the job requires a certain measure of discretion. Wait until your homecoming address as I did.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    Lyle Stamps?? Can it be???

%d bloggers like this: