When I think back to the years 2000-2005, and the initial careful approach of the Church to publishing on the Internet, and then I compare that to what is happening now, I am really impressed. I think that the more the Church of Jesus Christ openly share information about what it does and why, and about its history and beliefs, and the more its positive influence will grow and old bias will disappear.
Today, the First Presidency released the new General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 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. See the summary of the changes below. Also see a list of frequently asked questions.
Titled General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this book 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.
Over time, it will be translated and published in an additional 51 languages. Also see the Handbooks and Callings page to see the handbook, frequently asked questions, and other related resources.
According to the Church Newsroom:
In the version released today, nearly 80% of the content has been transferred from the old handbooks and reordered in a new organizing structure. Why have only nine chapters been rewritten? With changes to several important chapters completed in 2019 (see, for example, here and here), Church leaders decided to expedite the production of a new consolidated handbook instead of updating old resources.
“Our original plan was to completely rewrite the handbook and then translate that. That gave us a delivery date of probably 2022,” said Elder Anthony D. Perkins, executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department, which oversees the creation of the handbook. “But as those first chapters came out, the First Presidency and [Quorum of the] Twelve felt that the updates were important enough to release as soon as possible.” See a letter from the First Presidency about the new handbook.
The Church of Jesus Christ believes in ongoing revelation to prophets and apostles.
“And that means, in a phrase, that the Church is true and living. It can change,” Elder Perkins said. “Having a handbook that is largely digitally delivered allows us to update it as new revelation is received as the Church goes in new directions as part of its worldwide growth.”
The new handbook is available for anyone to read.
The new General Handbook replaces Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops and Handbook 2: Administering the Church with a single volume. Key elements include:
- Continuing an emphasis on helping all come unto Christ.
- Organizing content around Heavenly Father’s work of salvation and exaltation.
- Providing greater flexibility to simplify programs and adapt to local needs.
- Making all content available to everyone.
- Providing instructional videos and helpful links to other Church resources.
Nine chapters of the General Handbook are new or updated.
- Chapter 1: “God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation”
- Chapter 2: “Supporting Individuals and Families in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation”
- Chapter 3: “Priesthood Principles”
- Chapter 4: “Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ”
- Chapter 15: “Seminaries and Institutes of Religion”
- Chapter 18: “Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings”
- Chapter 32: “Repentance and Church Membership Councils” (as well as policies that support this chapter in 38.6, “Policies on Moral Issues”)
- Chapter 36: “Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units”
- Chapter 37: “Specialized Stakes, Wards, and Branches”
Chapter 38, “Church Policies and Guidelines,” include policies and procedures on a variety of moral issues. 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.
Other chapters contain minor revisions from Handbook 1 and Handbook 2. Updated versions of these chapters will be published as they become available. It is expected that the entire handbook will be updated by the end of 2021.
In English, printed copies of Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 are obsolete and should be discarded. In other languages, Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 should continue to be used until the new General Handbook is available. The copies should be discarded at that time. A downloadable and printable PDF of the new General Handbook will be available in about 3 weeks.