Your (not) Monday poll #20



  1. Poll seems to be wonky. In the meantime, here’s why I would vote no.

    1. Any fight to keep something confidential that is already on the internet will only draw attention and traffic, thus making it less confidential. (Wikileaks would like to thank the church for all the hits.)

    2. It makes the church look fishy, secretive, and Xenu-esque.

    3. Because of #2, the church might start to take a hit (it already is) from online babbleshops. I laugh when Digg cheers on Anonymous; I cringe at the prospect of the church being similarly attacked.

    4. The CHI is dull to the bone and not worth fighting over. Here’s the juiciest part folks: the church does not approve of the severing of your vas deferens. Move along now.

  2. Fact is, anyone who really cares about the contents of the CHI can probably just ask their bishop if they can come over and read it. It’s not some secret document, really. The fight over it is silly.

  3. I’d vote no too, if it would let me.

    It’s not like they have maiming rituals outlined in there. I’ve browsed. Pretty boring. “This is discouraged. That is prohibited. Here’s a phone number in case things get complicated.” That sort of thing.

    If it is forbidden we will seek it out, fallen creatures that we are.

  4. Poll fixed.

  5. You have heard the old saying, “Every member a mission president?” With the CHI out there for everyone to see it would be “every member a Bishop.” I can see it now, I am walking down the hall after sacrament meeting:

    “Bishop, aren’t you supposed to conduct the meeting this way?” “Bishop, according to the handbook, this member should be excommunicated. Why isn’t he?”

    Granted, much of this happens already, but it would just fuel the fire.

  6. Ranbato says:

    I don’t think they are trying to keep it confidental, they are trying to enforce copyright. Without the copyright, you are left with the 166 pages scenario where anyone can publish a “Church Handbook of Instruction” that they have altered that claims to be from us. It isn’t about confidentiality it is about control and source guarantees.
    (I voted No)

    Look at it this way — if it is legal for them to post this, it is legal to post Harry Potter, FableHaven, or Twilight the movie.

  7. Ranbato’s got the right idea as to what the Church is thinking here. But lumping the CHI in with HP and Fablehaven isn’t helping!!

  8. Ranbato,
    I understand the copyright objection (but your 116 pages scenario is a bit far-fetched). Some copyrights, however, are not worth the hassle, especially not a boring, kostenlos manual like the CHI.

  9. #6 Isn’t that the same argument for withholding the book of Lehi?


  10. Ronan,
    True, way too much collateral damage here. We need to suck it up and move on.

  11. The copyright angle is a red herring. It’s perfectly feasible to make a document public, and retain copyright on that document. (Ensign, anyone?)

    The current fight over copyright would be mooted completely if the church simply made the CHI available (as it does the Ensign) — which would remove the incentive for other sources (who don’t own the intellectual property) to publish it.

  12. nate w. says:

    Re: 6

    The big difference is that there’s no pecuniary interest on the Church’s part–they make no money by controlling the distribution of the CHI. Regardless, I think the proper solution is to host the pdf version on and offer wikilinks a gratuitous license if it wants to host the CHI as well. That makes the Church look both gracious and transparent without losing copyright protection.

  13. #5, If members knowing how a bishop is supposed to run the ward is the best reason for not having the CHI on the Internet, this should be a short discussion.

  14. Sarcasm says:

    I’m with Ranbato. I had a similar experience in my personal life. I’m the president of my condo association in my building. A while back, one of the condo owners asked me for a copy of the deed restrictions and bylaws because he was curious. I said, “no, I’m sorry. that information is only available to the association president and board.” He said, “But I own one of these condos and I’m a member of the association. I’m bound by the bylaws. i have a right to know what they are. how can I keep them if I don’t know what they are?” I said, “Son, if you need to know about it, I’ll tell you. I’ll let you know once you’ve broken one of the rules.” he said, “But I’d rather know what the rules are ahead of time, so I don’t break them.” I said, “you’re just not getting it, buddy. If you’re not on the board, you don’t get the bylaws.” He wasn’t happy at all, but he just didn’t understand that I have to control the information. I don’t want him handing out copies to his friends or posting it on the internet or making subtle changes in it and passing it off as genuine. I don’t want the condo building next door to know that we don’t allow Elm trees or loud music after 10:00 PM.

  15. My husband suggested that the church launch a big campaign to keep the Book of Mormon off of the web. If we want people to read it then that might be more effective than having missionaries pass it out.

  16. StillConfused says:

    #14. Actually, you are required to share the bylaws and deed restrictions to all homeowners in that community.

  17. StillConfused says:

    Generally, what is in the CHI?

  18. BTW. re: #5. I voted no. I don’t think it is worth the fight, despite the consequences. Let them tell me what to do. They do already.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Good idea, Starfoxy; that might actually work.

    I get a daily compilation of daily news stories involving the Church. Lots of stories about this, and the dominant theme was comparing us to the Scientologists. Not good PR!

  20. Steve Evans says:

    StillConfused, the CHI is your garden-variety handbook of instructions, that tells people the day-to-day policies of the Church on all kinds of topics. Want to know who qualifies for baptism? CHI. What kinds of music are OK in Sacrament? CHI. That kind of thing. There’s nothing secret or scandalous in it at all. If you ask your bishop I’m pretty sure he’ll open it up and let you read it.

  21. Also, the C.H.I. should be distinguished from the Chi.

  22. No! no no no no no no no no — for all the reasons mentioned above.

  23. Latter-day Guy says:

    You can’t imagine my disappointment the first time I read that book. I had been secretly hoping that it contained detailed instructions for the application of Blood Atonement, and for the calling of especially valiant members to the Quorum of the Danites. Yes, my testimony suffered a severe blow that day.

  24. Word, LdG. I heard of this secret “book of knowledge” on my mission and when I finally got my hands on a copy I read incessantly.

    And disappointedly.

  25. They should fight to keep it off Wikileaks, but publish it at

  26. nice, mmiles. Then again, if they put it up at, they won’t even have to fight Wiki, since it will no longer be a leak. How long would a WikiLeak of general conference last?

  27. Julie M. Smith says:

    Question for lawyers: can I legally link to something if that something is a copyright violation? Does the link itself constitute a copyright violation?

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Julie, it depends. Some people take the view that it absolutely is a violation, whereas others view it as akin to a bibliographical citation. Knowingly and intentionally directing people to a site that violates copyright can be sometimes seen as a contributory infringement (interestingly, it was a case vs. the Tanners involving the CHI that solidified this notion).

  29. Julie M. Smith says:

    Thanks, Steve.

  30. Steve Evans, I’m surprised you’re on the wrong side on this one. Ironic that Mormons, who wouldn’t even exist without the Protestant Reformation, would oppose the free flow of imformation to the masses. I guess Mormons who don’t care to be treated like cattle and children have already voted with their feet?

  31. Mark D. says:

    I don’t see that Steve has taken a strong position either way.

  32. Ugly Mahana says:

    The problem that I see with publishing the C.H.I. is two-fold. First, it gets revised with some regularity. Publishing the handbook makes it easier for those who are inclined to doubt the good-faith nature of such revisions to attack them. Second, the handbook is not a replacement for the calling-based stewardship of those who use the handbook. As was noted above, wide-spread dissemination of the handbook would encourage those without such stewardship, without access to all pertinent information, and, most importantly, without the right to revelation in a given situation, more opportunity to second-guess even inspired deviations from the letter of the handbook.

    That said, a wider dissemination of the handbook may reduce its being cited as scripture by both those who have zeal without knowledge and the faithless.

  33. mapinguari says:

    I think this a situation in which “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” That is, if the CHI is disappointingly devoid of juicy, inside information about the church, making the document freely available to the masses should silence persistent speculation by those who do not currently have access to it.

  34. Lester Dent says:

    if tithing money is used to fight it, that’s a waste of widow’s mites.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Er, anon (#30), care to tell me what my position is? Mark D.’s right.

  36. As someone who works it the music industry I am completely for the rights of a company, person, or church to control is copyrights. In this day of “free music” and “everything can be found on the web” we’re losing any value for our intellectual property.

    It doesn’t matter what the material contains, the owner should have to right to control how, when, and where it’s distributed.

    I don’t care if ignorant people say “look, the crazy Mormon’s are hiding their crazy cult book”. It’s not about us, or them, or Scientology, or anything other than a copyright violation that should be enforced.

  37. #36, How’s that music industry battle working out for you?

  38. What do you (referring to anyone reading this) suppose is/are the church’s reason(s) for trying to keep handbooks only in the hands of those whose positions require them to use it? And for having the handbooks destroyed when a new one comes out? The only one I’ve heard postulated here is the “every member a bishop” idea, which I think is probably part of it, but I have to think that there is more to it. While priesthood leaders are welcome to teach and share from it, the church has always been careful about who possesses it. Are the reasons similar to why a corporation’s management handbook is not available to the staff? If so, what are those reasons?

  39. Ronan’s first comment gives four reasons for the church to not pursue enforcement of the copyrights. If there is already a fairly big stink in the news about it, does it make the first three PR-related reasons a moot point? Or do you think it could get worse?

  40. #37 – I’m a recording engineer . . it’s hard.

  41. mondo cool says:

    Somebody help me here, please. To obtain a copyright, don’t you have to submit a copy to some government agency or something which determines that you are truly the originator of the work? If I’m correct, then all this crapola about the CHI being “secret” is just a bunch of huff-n-puff by those who want to make a stink. I’ve read the CHI Book 1 when I was in a Bishopric, and I don’t recall anything that I haven’t read elsewhere in Church publications.
    I think one of the things the Church objected to in the Tanner case was that they were making money off of using material copyrighted by the Church to attack the Church. To me, that’s akin to thinking it’s okay for someone to teach your kids to hate you because they hate you.
    What, should the Church only copyright the stuff that everybody else says it’s okay for us to copyright?

  42. mondo cool, you’re not quite right about how to obtain a copyright. No registration with the government is required for copyright to attach to materials, although you can register (and there are certain benefits to registration).

    But you are generally correct that the CHI doesn’t really have anything of remark in it.

  43. Steve (#2) – I’ve had leaders who wouldn’t let anyone “not authorized” to read the CHI. They would look up the information and quote it, but would never actually let the person handle the book. The majority of leaders, however, would as you state, allow a member to read it, if only in the Bishop’s office.

    JT (#38) – One of the reasons, in my very humble (and probably wrong) opinion, the church doesn’t disseminate the CHI is that if members don’t know what’s in it, then “the unwritten order of things” can be promulgated. I live in a ward, no joke, that doesn’t allow women to open sacrament meeting with prayer, only allows the young men to bless/pass the sacrament if they are in white shirts, and doesn’t allow any fund-raising activities for camp. All of which the CHI would indicate, implicitly or explicitly, are not the order of things. Maybe that’s just my pessimistic way of agreeing that if the CHI was widely disseminated then “every member a bishop.”

    Now, on the other hand, maybe the information should be more widely disseminated. I have a friend who didn’t know, as Ronan mentioned, that the CHI contains a statement against vasectomies. My friend, who found out about the statement only after he had his, was quite remorseful and told me he wouldn’t have had it had he known what the CHI said.

  44. California Condor says:

    I think the church should just put the CHI on From the illicit Internet copy I scanned, it seems pretty mundane.

    Starfoxy (15)

    Your husband’s suggestion is hysterical.