SALT LAKE CITY -- — The new handbook for leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (first announced in January) is now available in English online and in the Gospel Library app.
Nine of the 38 chapters have been completely rewritten, and one section of another chapter has been updated.
According to a Church news release, The General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replaces both Handbook 1 (for stake presidents and bishops) and Handbook 2 (for all other leaders).
The new book (digital only, with a few exceptions for some areas) is accessible to anyone and will be updated regularly to give it requisite flexibility to help thousands of leaders around the world adapt the Church’s various programs, policies and procedures to their circumstances with loving, pastoral care.
Here is a summary of nine rewritten chapters:
1: God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation
This chapter is new and helps Latter-day Saints understand God’s plan of happiness, the work of salvation and exaltation (the organizing framework for the General Handbook) and the purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2: Supporting Individuals and Families in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation
Saints are taught the role of the family in God’s plan, the central role of the home in the work of salvation and exaltation, and the relationship between the home and the Church.
3: Priesthood Principles
Leaders and members learn about what priesthood is, where it comes from and how it works and blesses lives. This includes the truth that all Latter-day Saints, regardless of their gender or Church assignment, exercise delegated priesthood authority when they are given formal service opportunities in their congregations. “All Church members who keep their covenants — women, men and children — are blessed with God’s priesthood power in their homes to strengthen themselves and their families,” the chapter’s conclusion says.
4: Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ
Members are taught principles of Christlike leadership, including how to prepare spiritually, counsel together and build unity with others in one’s congregation and the importance of delegation.
15: Seminaries and Institutes of Religion
This chapter outlines the Church’s Seminary program (religious education for teenagers) and Institute program (religious instruction for Latter-day Saints ages 18–30). The text also points readers to CES.ChurchofJesusChrist.org for more information about Church primary and secondary schools, BYU–Pathway Worldwide and institutions of higher education.
18: Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings
This chapter includes resource links and instructional videos that show how to carry out many of the Church’s various priesthood rites. More videos will be added over time.
32: Repentance and Church Membership Councils
This chapter (formerly known as “Church Discipline”) has significant revisions. It guides leaders in a more sequential way through key decisions and actions necessary to help people repent of a serious sin. The chapter also focuses on how to help protect others from those who pose a physical or spiritual threat.
Some key terminology has changed. Disciplinary councils are now called “membership councils.” As before, these councils are an expression of love, hope and concern, designed to help Latter-day Saints through their repentance process. Also, instead of being “disfellowshipped,” members are given “formal membership restrictions.” And excommunication is now labeled a “withdrawal of membership.”
“The idea behind these terminology changes is to ensure that we understand that when we make a mistake in our life the Lord is always extending His arms of mercy,” said Sister Aburto.
36: Creating, Changing and Naming New Units
This chapter provides guidelines on the creation and adjustment of stakes, wards and branches.
37: Specialized Stakes, Wards and Branches
Here, leaders and members learn the parameters for creating stakes, wards and branches catered to specific groups. These include those who speak a specific language, are students, are single, live in a care facility or are in some other unique circumstance.
38.6: Church Policies and Guidelines
The Church’s policies and procedures on a variety of moral issues are outlined here. Some policies are new, some have been updated, and some may be updated in the future. These moral policies include abortion, abuse, artificial insemination, birth control, child pornography, incest, in vitro fertilization, same-sex marriages, sex education, sexual abuse, single expectant parents, sperm donation, suicide, surgical sterilization, surrogate motherhood, and a new entry on transgender individuals. In connection with this, content from the Mormon and Gay website has moved to a new portion of ChurchofJesusChrist.org, with a new URL. A new section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org for transgender individuals is also available.
“There are a number of moral policies that we've now put on paper of where the First Presidency and the [Quorum of the] Twelve stand,” Elder Perkins said. “One of those moral policies that is new is around persons who identify as transgender. The reason that policy has been added is we've had an increase in questions coming from bishops and stake presidents saying, ‘What can a transgender person do? What are the guidelines?’ The transgender policy states that everyone is welcome to attend our meetings and that we should create a warm, welcoming environment for all — including persons who identify as transgender. At the same time, the policy clarifies that some of things in the church are gender-specific.”
Church leaders will continue to revisit and update handbook policies and guidelines as needed.