The original form of the “Rule of Conduct” By-Law appeared in the 5th edition of the Manual of The Mother Church, issued in the latter half of 1896. In August of that year, someone reported to Mary Baker Eddy that a picture (whose description is unknown) had been hung in the Publisher’s office.1 Her response was a By-Law:

No pictures coming from outsiders shall be exhibited in the room where the Christian Scientist text book is published. No idle gossip, no slander, no mischief-making, no evil speaking, shall be allowed in this room or any other in the publishing house.2

Evidence in the record points to a connection with Ebenezer J. Foster Eddy, who was Eddy’s adopted son and the publisher of her works.3 At the end of August 1896 she appointed Joseph Armstrong as her publisher, and sent Foster Eddy to practice and to teach in Philadelphia.

It was not until the 10th edition of the Manual in 1899 that the word “sold” was added to the By-Law: “No objectionable pictures shall be exhibited in the room where the Christian Science text-book is published or sold.” The word “room” in the By-Law was pluralized in 1902. William B. Johnson, Clerk of The Mother Church, wrote to Eddy, explaining this proposed change. “The only change that has been made in it is in the word room which now reads rooms, the reason for this being, that the text-book is published and sold in more than one room.”4

Johnson also added, “Futhermore may I ask if it would not be well to prohibit the sale of novels in the Reading Rooms of our denomination where the Christian Science text-book is sold. If you approve of an addition of this kind to the By-Law it will cover our Reading Rooms all over the world.” The previous day, Eddy had requested that a By-Law be added to the Manual that would prohibit The Christian Science Publishing Society from selling or advertising novels.5

In his letter of September 26, 1902, Johnson then proposed adding the prohibition of selling or advertising novels to the “Rule of Conduct” By-Law, so that the By-Law would read:

No objectionable picture shall be exhibited in the rooms where the Christian Science text-book is published or sold. No idle gossip, no slander, no mischief-making, no evil speaking shall be allowed. Novels shall neither be advertised nor sold by the Christian Science Publishing Society.6

Eddy agreed with Johnson, and the amended By-Law first appeared in the 27th edition of the Manual.7 The sentence about novels was removed the following year when the By-Law as it appears today was first published in the 29th edition.

The “Rule of Conduct” By-Law is also referenced in a footnote that is attached to the By-Law governing the Librarian of The Mother Church Reading Rooms (Article XXI, Section 2). This By-Law was added to the Manual in August of 1900, after The Christian Science Board of Directors installed Joseph Armstrong’s son as Boston’s Reading Room Librarian. Joseph Armstrong was a Director, as well as Manager of the Publishing Society and Publisher of Eddy’s writings. Eddy felt that Armstrong’s son was unprepared for the task and that a new By-Law was necessary to better define the qualifications for Librarian (this By-Law initially stated that the Librarians were to be elected by the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society, but it was changed to an election by the Board of Directors in 1909, when the Trustees asked to be relieved of their responsibility for the Reading Rooms of The Mother Church). In the 73rd edition of the Manual, published in 1908, a footnote was added connecting the “Librarian” By-Law (Article XXI, Section 2) to the “Rule of Conduct” By-Law (Article XXV, Section 7).

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  1. Mary Baker Eddy to the Christian Science Board of Directors, 7 August 1896, L00155.
  2. Eddy, 7 August 1896, L00691.
  3. Ebenezer J. Foster Eddy to Mary Baker Eddy, 12 August 1896, IC 205b.
  4. William B. Johnson to Eddy, 26 September 1902, Clerk’s Letterpress Book.
  5. Eddy to Johnson, 25 September 1902, L00316.
  6. Johnson to Eddy, 26 September 1902, Clerk’s Letterpress Book.
  7. Eddy, 26 September 1902, L00818.