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Church Releases New "General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

The new General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now available on the Gospel Library app. The handbook is located under the Handbooks and Callings section on the app or online at ChurchofJesusChrist.org

According to Church Newsroom, the new handbook will only be available digitally and is accessible by the public. Approximately 80 percent of the content in the new handbook is transferred from existing handbooks. 

The release also includes an article in the Gospel Library, "General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions."

"The General Handbook is a support resource for those who serve as volunteer leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," the FAQ reads. "Its primary purpose is to simplify instruction for leading and serving in the Church to further help all of God's children come unto Christ and receive His promised blessings." 

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Part of the reason for releasing a new handbook is to adapt the handbook to the needs of the global Church. Previous handbooks were written with larger units as the primary audience, according to the FAQ. The new handbook reverses that approach and focuses on the essential programs for every unit in the Church. 

"Although members and others are welcome to read the General Handbook, there is no expectation that they do. As in the past, this handbook is primarily intended as a resource for those who are serving in leadership callings," the FAQ reads. 

Nine of the 38 chapters have been updated. These chapters, which include significant changes according to the FAQ, include: 

  • 1. God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation
    • This chapter is new. "It explains the relationship between (1) God's plan of happiness for His children, (2) our opportunity to participate in His work of salvation and exaltation, and (3) the purposes of the Church."
  • 2. Supporting Individuals and Families in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation
  • 3. Priesthood Principles
    • This chapter includes "teachings from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about how both women and men can exercise delegated priesthood authority in their callings and assignments."
  • 4. Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ
  • 15. Seminaries and Institutes of Religion
  • 18. Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings
    • This chapter "includes helpful links and instructional videos that show how to perform the ordinances and blessings."
  • 32. Repentance and Church Membership Councils (as well as policies that support this chapter in 38.6, "Policies on Moral Issues")
    • This chapter is "a significant revision of the 'Church Discipline' chapter from Handbook 1." The Frequently Asked Questions section explains the seven objectives that guided the revision:
      1. "Use a more ministerial approach and voice. For example, 'disciplinary councils' are now 'membership councils.' 'Disfellowshipment' is now 'formal membership restrictions.' 'Excommunication' is now 'withdrawal of membership.' Instructions are given to bishops and stake presidents about how to compassionately help members as they repent of serious sins."
      2.  "Give more emphasis to protecting others when a person poses a physical or spiritual threat."
      3.  "Improve structure so the chapter and its procedures can be followed by leaders in a more sequential way."
      4. "Simplify procedures where possible. For example, the high council no longer participates in stake membership councils except in limited situations."
      5. "Provide more guidance about when membership councils would be required, when they may be necessary, and when personal counseling with the bishop or stake president is sufficient."
      6. "Provide more clear and specific definitions of serious sins. Most of these definitions have been moved to the 'Policies on Moral Issues” section (38.6)."
      7.  "Increase consistency, particularly among the most difficult matters faced by stake presidents."
  • 36. Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units
  • 37. Specialized Stakes, Wards, and Branches

The handbook will continue to be updated, with the entire book expected to be updated by the end of 2021. New changes will be communicated in notices to Church leaders, and a summary of recent updates will be published with the handbook identifying and linking to significant changes.

The FAQ also includes information about a new section on transgender individuals. "The new transgender section emphasizes that people who identify themselves as transgender should be treated with sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and Christlike love. It explains that most Church participation and some priesthood ordinances are gender neutral. However, priesthood ordination and temple ordinances are received according to birth sex. It provides guidelines for when members who identify as transgender may or may not receive these ordinances. It encourages Church participation for those who identify as transgender."

According to Deseret News, the handbook dates back to 1899 when it was used by stake and ward leaders as a guide to distribute tithing funds. It was first referred to as a “handbook” in 1928. It continued to be added to by leaders until Elder John A. Widstoe rewrote it and published it as the manual "Priesthood and Church Government"  in 1939. In the 1970s, it became “The General Handbook of Instructions” and in 1998 it split into two handbooks, “Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops” and “Handbook 2: Administering in the Church.”

FIND MORE INFORMATION AT Deseret News.

Lead image: ChurchofJesusChrist.org
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Lindsey Williams

Lindsey Williams joined the LDS Living team with a passion to find the stories that matter most. Previous stops in her career include BYU-Pathway Worldwide, the Special Projects Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Utah Valley Magazine. When she's not searching for stories to write, the Colorado Springs native is most likely on a hiking trail or at her piano. 

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