by David L. Keyston
In light of the fact that many well-intentioned Christian Scientists subscribe to The Mailing Fund's periodic mailings, and thus many are potentially misled as to what our Leader's intentions were regarding this vital topic concerning her Church Manual, it is needful to set the record straight. The article by Lee Z. Johnson, former archivist of The Mother Church, titled, "Mrs. Eddy's 'Consent' Still Church Law" is filled with subtle half-truths and historical revisionism at its most adept.
It is our desire that the reader think for themselves -- make up their own mind -- concerning these important issues. Our purpose is merely to provide statements of fact and spiritual insight that have a bearing on the history surrounding Mary Baker Eddy's God-dictated Church Manual and its consent clauses (meaning those clauses in the Manual that require Mrs. Eddy's consent, often referred to as "estoppels"). Where remedial statements of fact are required concerning The Mailing Fund's article, we will share these with the reader.
Mary Baker Eddy had her detractors in her day. She rarely paid any attention to baseless attacks upon her discovery or her character. However, in 1885 she did choose to respond to a particularly unjustified and meritless attack by a prominent clergyman of her day -- the Rev. Joseph Cook. Her answer appears in a pamphlet titled, Defence of Christian Science.
Today we see a far more subtle but even more dangerous attack on our beloved Leader, attempting to suborn her intent and revise the sacred historical provisions she has so wisely established for all time -- at Mind's direction -- for the Cause of Christian Science. The Mailing Fund, claiming allegiance to Christian Science but departing from the spirit and high moral tincture of her teachings and instructions in this article, would subvert the intent of her Manual with intellectual justification, thus falling prey to the most fearful sin that mortals can commit, for, as Mrs. Eddy says in Miscellaneous Writings (p.19:18) "Taking the livery of heaven wherewith to cover iniquity, is the most fearful sin that mortals can commit."
The Mailing Fund is content to structure their recent article along lines of legal compliance as regards the public adjudication of the "consent" clauses resident in the Manual. Mrs. Eddy's point is sadly missed.
It is the moral requirement that begs our consideration, and obedience, if we are to be counted loyal and faithful followers of our Leader, and true Christian Scientists. Let us examine a few points regarding this article and clarify some historical facts along the way.
Mr. Johnson states, "Mrs. Eddy had inserted consent clauses into By-Laws in order to be able during her lifetime to direct the Church and to protect it against internal mischief." (emphasis added) This misleading statement is simply wishful thinking to make a half-truth the whole truth. Historical revisionism, altering our Leader's intent, seems to be a forté of the intellectuals that once occupied positions in our Leader's church. Mrs. Eddy's Church Manual provisions were for all time. Mary Baker Eddy, as any student of history knows, was fastidious in her ever reliance on God's direction in the affairs of her church and the construction and implementation of the By-Laws of her Manual. She did not want to have happen to her great revelation, what happened to Jesus' great life work, sunk in personality. Mr. Johnson is assuming that the By-Law consent clauses in the Church Manual were only applicable during our Leader's lifetime. This is simply untrue. If, as Mr. Johnson asserts, the clauses were applicable only during Mrs. Eddy's lifetime, she could have very easily inserted wording that clarified that, especially when various officers of her church repeatedly came to her requesting her to change these clauses: she, of course, steadfastly refusing to change what God told her to write. Mr. Johnson knows that there is much history surrounding this issue concerning the consent clauses that directly contravenes his position on this point, yet he chooses not to share other vital information with the reader.
Why? And, just what is this history?
Adam H. Dickey, a secretary in Mary Baker Eddy's "Pleasant View" home states:
"[Mrs. Eddy's] sole desire was to get the Divine leading and follow that unhesitatingly. ...It always turned out, however, that her action was right, regardless of the reason assigned, which convinced those who were familiar with her work that her judgment was unerring in every detail and that in following the direction of divine Wisdom, she never made a mistake. Often I heard her say with great impressiveness that in over forty years of church leadership, she had not made a mistake, a record that is most truly remarkable." (Memoirs of Mary Baker Eddy by Adam H. Dickey, CSD, p.113-114)
We know Mary Baker Eddy was guided by God in all she did for the Cause of Christian Science. She proved her faith by her works. Are we so sure about others whose tenure, during the past three decades, has resulted in the greatest decline in our church and healing?
Again, we are reminded of another of our Leader's wise observations in Miscellaneous Writings (p.165):
The truth uttered and lived by Jesus, who passed on and left to mortals the rich legacy of what he said and did, makes his followers the heirs to his example; but they can neither appreciate nor appropriate his treasures of Truth and Love, until lifted to these by their own growth and experiences. His goodness and grace purchased the means of mortals' redemption from sin; but, they never paid the price of sin. This cost, none but the sinner can pay; and accordingly as this account is settled with divine Love, is the sinner ready to avail himself of the rich blessings flowing from the teaching, example, and suffering of our Master.
The same is true of those who would "appropriate [her] treasures of Truth and Love," the treasures our Leader has so faithfully given to us in her writings.
Anyone familiar with our Leader's trials concerning these consent clauses (estoppels) would know that the last thing she thought, was that these clauses were applicable only while she was here. As she said many a time, "God wrote the Manual." She also remarked that, next to Science and Health, she felt God's hand strongest in guiding her in writing the By-Laws of the Church Manual. Numerous times men in positions of importance, officers of her church, would come to her imploring her to revise or remove these estoppels or consent clauses, especially the one contained in Art. 1, Sec. 5., regarding the perpetuation of the Board of Directors. In every instance, when these men would ask her to change or delete these clauses, she resolutely refused, telling them that she had no right to change one word of what God alone had dictated, and that it devolved upon them to obey the Manual, and its true meaning. The directors saw that should they obey these provisions -- that is, obey the moral imperative that Mrs. Eddy was pointedly emphasizing here -- the material organization of the centralized Mother Church would cease upon her passing from the human scene. She knew that if they did obey, there would be blessings innumerable. However, if they did not, as has actually transpired in the decades since, incalculable harm would be done to the Cause.
The Mailing Fund's article reveals the writer's sad lack of spiritual understanding when it is precisely spiritual understanding which is required to understand our Leader's inspired Manual aright. No matter how many years of scholarly bookmanship a writer has, or degrees covering the walls, such "accolades of men" are a poor augury for genuine spiritual growth and the ability to see through inspired vision. Such seems too "mystical" for the intellectual thought. Our Leader had much to deal with in her day regarding this claim of intelligence in matter or the belief of mortal mind, alias intellectuality. Today the dragon's attempts are even more subtle and dangerous; it would even "deceive the very elect" if it were possible.
To put off material organization at Mrs. Eddy's passing, as the Manual required, would have forced Christian Scientists to grow to a much higher standpoint of demonstration -- that of obedience -- to transcend the mortal "swaddling clothes" of material organization and to enter the "structure of Truth and Love," the "holy of holies," the true church.
"The church is that institution which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race" Noah Webster defines "institution" as "the act of establishing." Establishing what? And where? Is it not "the structure of Truth and Love, whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle."? And is not this to be established in the human realm, the second degree? Webster also states "institution" is "establishment; that which is appointed, prescribed or founded by authority, and intended to be permanent." Was not everything our Leader accomplished in connection with her church "appointed, prescribed or founded" by God? What could be more permanent than that, than "the structure of Truth and Love?" Material structures and means are never permanent and were never the measuring rod which our Leader adhered to or trusted. Mrs. Eddy twice dissolved her church, only to acquiesce to the cries of the children to "have a king over them." All that God revealed to her receptive thought was intended for our edification and growth, if we will but obey and learn.
All our Leader established as regards her church and the Cause of Christian Science was contrary to popular trends, the conventional wisdom of the day, orthodox religion or human belief. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness unto God." (I Cor. 3:19) Divine Love was ever showing her precisely the means necessary to thwart mortal mind's attempt to destroy her child, the natural unfoldment and progress of the Cause. Most often her decisions confounded her students and her Directors, but they always proved to be the right course, because Mind was always what revealed the way for her.
Mrs. Eddy's plan for her church was divine, revealed to her receptive thought through, and as, Mind. As such, it devolves upon the higher spiritual ambitions of her true followers to obey the moral imperative expressed in her writings and instructions above any mortal interpretation or legal consideration. The Manual was to forever protect her divine revelation, -- the second coming of the Christ, the "Comforter" Jesus promised -- Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Yet, today, as then, and as in our Master's time, there are those students who feel adherence to the mere legal letter of the law more than suffices for "obedience" and gives them legal justification for perpetuating what Mrs. Eddy would have "put off" long ago. Such students would mire the Cause in the First Degree our Leader warns us of on page 115 of the textbook, through legal justification (Note her use of the words "passions and appetites" and "self-justification"). However, true obedience is found in the Second Degree, the "Moral," where "honesty," "affection" and "faith" are by-words of obedience and true demonstration Spirit-ward.
The dissolution of material organization in accord with her Manual provisions is the most beautifully consistent divine plan for government ever wrought. Our Leader's unerring reliance on the divine impulse to direct her every move resulted in a form of government -- had her Manual been obeyed -- that would have followed precisely her teachings on this most important topicthe materially organized church and its eventual dissolution. It is interesting to see how God's plan was to be implemented. The way the Manual By-Laws and consent clauses (estoppels) are written demands not only obedience to the moral imperative of our Leader's instructions, but true demonstration, spiritual growth, on the part of her followers. How interesting it is that, even through what she has left us, her inspired vision still allowed for the students to learn whatever lessons needed learning, even if it was the hard way. Our Leader often said that the students would learn the right way through suffering or through Science. The mother was ever watchful of her children and never one to deprive them of the needed lesson God's instructing rod would teach them.
Was it any wonder she was so intractable when male ego came to her, imploring, and ultimately demanding, that she remove those estoppel clauses, those clauses that God alone had dictated? Oh, how much her children had to learn. And, how much they have yet to learn. When will they obey? Will it be after the church is bankrupt? When healing has stopped altogether? When scandal erupts in our church?
This is another point of departure from Truth that is hallmarked by The Mailing Fund's article. In talking of a "conspiracy" the article is rife with misinformation and attempted historical revisionism. On page 5 of this article it is cruelly inferred that James Neal is one who stood in the way of the dissolution of the material church. And, others, who played a large part in resisting Mrs. Eddy's divine plan for her church, are ignored or painted in a favorable light. Few Christian Scientists are aware that in the last weeks before Mrs. Eddy left us, there was indeed a conspiracy formed against her to usurp control of her church. Mrs. Eddy knew of this plot. Adam Dickey preserved this alarming insight when he recorded her following prescient, but earnest instruction:
"Mr. Dickey, I want you to promise me something. " I said, "Yes, Mother, I certainly will." "Well," she continued, "if I should ever leave heredo you know what I mean by that?" "Yes, Mother." "If I should ever leave here," she repeated, "will you promise me that you will write a history of what has transpired in your experiences with me, and say that I was mentally murdered?" I answered, "Yes, Mother, I will."
"Now Mr. Dickey, do not let anything interfere with your keeping this promise . Will you swear to me before God that you will not fail to carry out my wish?"
I raised my right hand and said, "Mother, I swear before God that I will do what you request of me, namely, to write a history of what I have seen, and heard from your lips, concerning your life."
"That will do dear. I know that you will not fail me."
Her whole demeanor was one of solemn intensity, and there was an eagerness in her voice and manner such as I seldom saw. (Memoirs of MBE by A. H. Dickey, CSD, p. xv-xvi)
Gilbert C. Carpenter said that Mrs. Eddy exacted similar promises from other members of her household. (Told the author by Helen Wright who heard this from Mr. Carpenter.)
The paragraph supported by footnote 13 in The Mailing Fund's article leads one to believe that William Rathvon and Archibald McClellan had little if nothing to do with the plan to subvert the "consent" clauses, when, in fact, they were central to the conspiracy, along with Clifford P. Smith. The source of this footnote however begins to shed light on this deception -- it is from William Rathvon's own reminiscences! These artists of dis-information continue with their half-truths, saying "a household secretary (Rathvon was a household secretary!) and several workers did explore whether the consent-clause procedure ought to be altered. But none of this group was a Board member. (while McLellan may not have initiated the exploration into this treachery, he was an integral one on the Board that desired to see it carried through) McLellan and the other Directors did not take the initiative, and they disassociated themselves (cowards do not wish to appear unfaithful to their Leader, on the surface) before the household secretary (Mrs. Eddy had several secretaries; Judge Septimus J. Hanna, or, possibly Adam Dickey proved themselves trusted students in this position) had taken the plan to Mrs. Eddy and she had turned it down."
James Neal -- a fine metaphysician and a stalwart worker -- may have been unwise in his acceptance of the position of the first new Director after Mrs. Eddy's passing, but to infer he was part of the conspriacy to usurp Mrs. Eddy's church government, as is done by The Mailing Fund's article, is ludicrous, a disservice to an individual with a sterling character and the highest, most selfless motives.
Such intellectual dishonesty in their article would deceive the very elect. Mrs. Eddy stated that there was a "triumverate" formed against her. "Mr. Knapphas a photostat of a letter Mr. [Calvin] Frye wrote and that Mrs. Eddy signed, where she said a cabal was formed, a triumverate, to get themselves put above the Directors by having a change made in the Manual and thus to nullify the Manual." (See Notes on Association Meetings, Putnam, p.150) Do we wonder why the church, and The Mailing Fund holds such relentless attack on Bliss Knapp? In the last week Mrs. Eddy was with us, she stated "It took a combination of sinners that was fast to harm me" and had her faithful Laura Sargent record this important footnote for posterity.
The Mailing Fund's article goes on to conclude that anyone who believes that the consent clauses (estoppels) mean what they say, implies that Mrs. Eddy was devious in her method of presenting and implementing God's government among men. There were many things our Leader could not come out and directly say, depending upon the time or circumstance involved, but, in following God's loving guidance, she always left a roadmap that would reveal the correct spiritual and moral steps to be taken in obeying the divine mandate. Intellectuality can never understand inspired vision, characterizing it as mysticism, and is almost criminal in its effect to withhold vital information.
Would such intellectual thought characterize Mrs. Eddy's higher teaching in her textbook as "deviousness" since these higher truths can only be seen through spiritual sense? These teachings are not obvious to the uninspired thought. The materially-minded, not understanding the inspired standard our Leader employed, see her, and her place -- as the God-sent messenger to this age -- as "mystical" and the abberation of those that would deify a personality. How tragic that such a lack of spiritual sense commands the attention of so many and occupies such positions of influence, misleading many in their quest for truth. Is it any wonder the church is in the spiritual quagmire it is, when such intellectuality and spiritual dullness has occupied positions of importance in our Leader's church for so long? When will this age recognize that our Leader always employed the highest, most loving standard possible, for her students growth, albeit, that standard constantly required the student to deny material sense in every way, putting off the "old man," and his methods. How else can she pour in to consciousness the balm of scientific being, unless we first empty our mist-conceptions of mortal methods concerning her teaching and instructions? To reiterate a question posed by The Mailing Fund's article: "How seriously do we take our Leader's intent for Church government?" Indeed! Truly, how consecrated are we? How obedient are we to Mary Baker Eddy's divine Manual dictated by God?
Our dear Mother in Israel saw what was to befall her church when visiting the extension for the first time after it was built. She was driven to the front of the extension, but became so convulsed with pain and suffering through her vision of what was to come that she actually never set foot in the extension and was helped back to her carriage, to ponder the meaning on the drive home.
The Mailing Fund's article conveniently dismisses the crucial changes evident in the various deeds of trust (13 in all) regarding the property that the church and associated buildings rest upon. The fact that Mrs. Eddy made a distinction between the four-member board and the five-member board is again intentionally overlooked, as they conveniently dismiss the notion that Mrs. Eddy intended for the material organization to end upon her passing from the human scene. This response obviously cannot address the intricacies of these vital issues concerning Mary Baker Eddy's wise provisions for her church and its government, and it is unnecessary, as Helen Wright has explored these crucial points of interest for all time in two magnificent books: Mary Baker Eddy's Church Manual and Church Universal & Triumphant (Hardcover, 342pp) and If Mary Baker Eddy's Manual Were Obeyed (Paperback 314pp). Please order these wonderful treatises, comprehensively researched. These books can be ordered from Healing Unlimited, (800) 962-1464 or email them at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Mary Baker Eddy tried twice to dissolve her materially organized church. When she saw that the students must learn through suffering, God impelled her to write the Manual, but written in such a way as to permit the students to make the highest demonstration possible. Should they have chosen the better path, one of obedience, we might now be in the millennium of peace and love she foresaw. However, her vision of what was to befall the church has been rendered as a true to life verdict of disobedience, and, as she expressed to Irving Tomlinson and Gilbert Carpenter on a number of occasions, she was ever anxious as to what would happen to the Cause when she was no longer here to guide it wisely. (As related to the author by Helen M. Wright who had been told this personally by Mr. Tomlinson and Gilbert Carpenter.)
One cannot reject the messenger or any part of the message and expect to retain the authority to demonstrate the message, the revelation of Christian Science. Our beloved Master's legacy proved that, as did our Leader's. Failure of healing today is a testimony to the disobedience by those in positions of importance who have violated the sacred trusts contained in these God-dictated documents -- the Church Manual and the Deeds of Trust -- rejecting what God told Mary Baker Eddy.
The way is indeed "straight and narrow." The Truth is always the Truth, and the lie is always a lie, no matter how hard you try to make one into the other. What a comforting thought. Our Leader was fond of saying, "Time tells all stories true." The truth of this matter will be borne out for the sake of history and the furtherance of the Cause of Christian Science.
David L. Keyston - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.