The revision of the English version of the General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that began in February 2020 is now 75% complete. The latest round of updates was published today, March 31, 2021. It includes four rewritten chapters and seven other chapters with added or revised sections.
The text is available to the public in English online (it is expected to be published in the Gospel Library app by the end of the day). Versions in other languages will follow in coming months. Translated portions of previous updates to the handbook were published in October and November 2020 and in January 2021. The entire handbook is expected to be updated in English by the end of this year.
This handbook revision is being done under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The text guides leaders around the world to better serve with Christlike care. It also helps them implement and adapt the Church’s programs, policies and procedures to their circumstances.
The rewritten chapters align with the handbook’s organizing framework of the work of salvation and exaltation. This work includes (1) living the gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) caring for those in need, (3) inviting all to receive the gospel, and (4) uniting families for eternity. The content has also been simplified, reduced and made more adaptable for congregations of all sizes worldwide. The newly rewritten chapters are listed below.
- • Chapter 6: “The Bishopric.” This chapter was previously called “Ward Leadership.” The name is changed to better reflect the content. It summarizes the bishop’s responsibilities for the work of salvation and exaltation. It also explains differences between bishops and branch presidents. It includes information about the ward executive secretary.
- • Chapter 23: “Sharing the Gospel and Strengthening New and Returning Members.” This chapter focuses on loving others and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It emphasizes the responsibilities of elders quorum presidencies, Relief Society presidencies, and others for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. It also includes updated information about the callings of ward mission leader and ward missionary.
- • Chapter 24: “Missionary Recommendations and Service.” This chapter includes updated guidelines on preparing and qualifying for missionary service. It also clarifies the different types of missionary service, updates policies on maximum age limits for young sister missionaries, and updates policies on setting apart senior service missionaries.
- • Chapter 29: “Meetings in the Church.” This chapter includes brief overviews about each kind of meeting the Church holds. It also explains that bishops and stake presidents may authorize the streaming of meetings and holding virtual meetings when appropriate.
Other New and Updated Content
A new entry on vaccinations (38.7.13) reemphasizes direction the First Presidency has consistently given since at least 1978. “Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life,” the handbook says. “Members of the Church are encouraged to safeguard themselves, their children, and their communities through vaccination.” (Also see this article from January 2021 about Church leaders receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.)
A new section about affinity fraud (38.8.2) has been added. It says the practice of using friendship or a position of trust to take financial advantage of someone else is “a shameful betrayal of trust and confidence. Its perpetrators may be subject to criminal prosecution. Church members who commit affinity fraud may also face membership restrictions or withdrawal. … Members may not state or imply that their business dealings are sponsored by, endorsed by, or represent the Church or its leaders.”
An added policy on extreme preparation or survivalism (38.8.16) counsels Latter-day Saints to be wise in the pursuit of self-reliance and emergency preparedness. The Church counsels “against extreme or excessive preparation for possible catastrophic events. … Efforts to prepare should be motivated by faith, not fear. Church leaders have counseled members not to go into debt to establish food storage. Instead, members should establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve over time.”
A new section has been added on respecting local restrictions for sharing the gospel (38.8.37). It explains that the Church’s missionaries “serve only in countries where they are officially recognized and welcomed by local governments. The Church and its members respect all laws and requirements with regard to missionary efforts. For example, in some parts of the world, missionaries are sent only to serve humanitarian or other specialized missions. Those missionaries do not proselytize. The Church does not send missionaries to some countries.”
Callings that can be held by members in young single adult and single adult units have been expanded (see 37.2.2, 37.3.2, and 37.5.2). Elder Quentin L. Cook explained:
“In recent months, our minds have been drawn with particular focus to Latter-day Saints who are single adults. We want you to know that you are loved—and so very needed in building the kingdom of God. For this reason, we felt to search carefully for policies and misperceptions that might limit the Church service of single members. What we found was that Church policy already allows for broad service by single adults—and it could be even broader. We feel today’s policy adjustments can make a big difference. We hope your leaders know to put you to work—including as counselors in bishoprics, on high councils, and as organization presidents and counselors.”
Information about members with disabilities has been modified throughout the handbook. These updates include:
- • Information about performing temple work for deceased persons who had intellectual disabilities (28.3.5).
- • Information for members who are deaf or hard of hearing (33.6.11, 188.8.131.52).
- • Guidelines for organizing special classes, programs, or units (184.108.40.206).
- • Information about the calling of stake or ward disability specialist (220.127.116.11).
Index of New and Revised Sections and Chapters of the General Handbook, published on March 31, 2021 (rewritten chapters and new sections are in bold)
Chapter 5: Stake Leadership
- • 5.3. Differences between the Authority of District Presidents and That of Stake Presidents
- • 5.6.1. Calling, Sustaining, and Ordaining a Stake Patriarch
Chapter 6: The Bishopric (rewritten chapter)
Chapter 14: Single Members
- • 14.0. Introduction
- • 18.104.22.168. Bishopric
- • 22.214.171.124. Young Single Adult Advisers
- • 14.3.4. Ward Young Single Adult Committee
Chapter 23: Sharing the Gospel and Strengthening New and Returning Members (rewritten chapter)
Chapter 24: Missionary Recommendations and Service (rewritten chapter)
Chapter 27: Temple Ordinances for the Living
- •126.96.36.199. Who Performs a Temple Marriage or Sealing
Chapter 28: Temple Ordinances for Ancestors
- • 28.3.5. Deceased Persons Who Had Intellectual Disabilities
Chapter 29: Meetings in the Church (rewritten chapter)
Chapter 33: Records and Reports
- • 33.6.2. Members of Record
- • 33.6.10. Records of Members Who Have Intellectual Disabilities
- • 33.6.11. Records of Members Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- • 33.6.25. Out-of-Unit Member Records
- • 33.10. Stake and Ward Technology Specialists
Chapter 37: Specialized Stakes, Wards, and Branches
- • 37.2.2. Leadership in a Young Single Adult Ward or Branch in a Conventional Stake
- • 37.3.2. Leadership in a Young Single Adult Stake and Its Wards or Branches
- • 37.5.2. Leadership in a Single Adult Ward
Chapter 38: Church Policies and Guidelines
- • 38.7.13. Vaccinations (new section)
- • 38.8.1. Adoption and Foster Care
- • 38.8.2. Affinity Fraud (new section)
- • 38.8.4. Autographs and Photographs of General Authorities, General Officers, and Area Seventies
- • 38.8.9. Church Name, Wordmark, and Symbol
- • 38.8.11. Copyrighted Materials
- • 38.8.14. Directories
- • 38.8.16. Extreme Preparation or Survivalism (new section)
- • 38.8.20. Guest Speakers or Instructors
- • 38.8.22. Internet
- • 188.8.131.52. Giving Assistance
- • 184.108.40.206. Providing Opportunities to Serve and Participate
- • 220.127.116.11. Organizing Special Classes, Programs, or Units
- • 18.104.22.168. Interpreters for Members Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- • 22.214.171.124. Privacy
- • 126.96.36.199. Disability Specialist
- • 38.8.33. Privately Published Writings
- • 38.8.35. Referring to the Church and Its Members
- • 38.8.36. Research in the Church
- • 38.8.37. Respecting Local Restrictions for Sharing the Gospel (new section)
- • 38.8.41. Seminars and Similar Gatherings