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The Destiny of The Mother Church

Bliss Knapp, the son of Ira O. and Flavia S. Knapp, students of Mary Baker Eddy, was a Christian Science lecturer and teacher who became infatuated with his father's conviction that Eddy represented a personal fulfillment of biblical prophecy such as the woman in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation. Eddy herself testified in court record and elsewhere that the apocalyptic woman represented a generic, universal type of the world's persecution of spiritual truth rather than a specific personality, though she did not hesitate to identify with the experience the woman represented. Knapp incorporated his teachings into an early book draft, The Destiny of The Mother Church, subsequent to which the Christian Science Board of Directors wrote him a six-page letter in February 1948 politely rebuking numerous points they regarded as at variance from Eddy's teaching. Knapp then withdrew the book, but instead of revising it as they proposed, he expanded it for private issue instead and left it in trust with approximately $100 million in 1990s dollars, acquired by way of marriage to Eloise Mabury, to revert to the Church of Christ, Scientist if it ever published his work as "authorized literature". The church, pressed for funds by the 1990s media ventures of the Christian Science Publishing Society, which had historically rejected such a course, now acquiesced, to the surprise of its membership, arguing that the book did not have to bear the burden of theological correctness members argued the "No Incorrect Literature" bylaw in the Manual of the Mother Church required. The church proceeded to issue the book without annotation as required, ostensibly as part of a series of biographies of the church's founder. Advised in fall 1991 before the book's publication by a letter from church Archivist Lee Johnson of the book's unusual history, a large number of Christian Science branch churches voted not to carry the book or simply declined to order it, though precise figures are difficult to establish. The financial disbursement was contested by alternate beneficiaries Stanford University and the Los Angeles County Art Museum, ultimating in an approximately 50-25-25 settlement split. The book's publication attracted a fair deal of then-unwelcome media attention and continued to be held by many members, in spite of the church's defense, to violate the church's basic teachings and its equivalent of constitutional law.