The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that they would release a new handbook for leadership in the church, replacing both Handbook 1 and Handbook 2.
Titled General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it will replace both Handbook 1 (for stake presidents and bishops) and Handbook 2 (for all other leaders).
The new handbook will be released in a digital-only format in February and will be fully available to the public. The handbooks outline policies and procedures for leadership positions in the church.
Previously, Handbook 1 was only available to leadership serving as stake president and bishop.
The church said in a statement that 80% of the content will be transferred from the current handbooks and reordered in a new organized structure.
Nine chapters have already been updated to this point and the remaining 29 chapters will be updated in 2020 and 2021.
Because the book will be released in digital form, church leadership says that the contents will be updated regularly, “giving it the 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.”
The handbook will contain 38 chapters and will be accessible in English on Feb. 19, and will be translated into 51 languages.
“This new handbook is a part of the ongoing Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that began 200 years ago,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who helped introduce the new handbook to Church leaders. “This Restoration has been and will continue to be a process of learning how to minister as Jesus would to a richly diverse world. We pray this new handbook will help Church leaders use their God-given gifts to continue to bless lives in their ministry. We know there is room in this Church for everyone.”
With the handbook being changed and updated online and available to the public instantly, transparency on church policy changes will be readily available to members as well as those who are not members of the church and to the media.
The infamous November 2015 Handbook 1 page addition referring to not blessing infants and baptizing children of same-sex marriages made the news in the New York Times, in many cases prior to local leaders learning of it. In April of 2019, that same-sex policy on children was reversed in the handbook.
Prior to January of 1999 when the current Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 were announced, there were 30 church handbooks and publications for priesthood and auxiliary leaders, according to church information.
The consolidation at the time was meant to be more concise and in a useful form. The Church Handbook of Instructions includes:
Statements of doctrines, scriptures and principles upon which directions are based.
Eliminates inconsistencies among former handbooks and has 33 percent fewer total words than the obsolete publications.
Minimizes duplication of information and provides uniform organization, content and tone in each section.
Enables leaders of each organization to see their place in the total Church structure while maintaining their organization’s identity.
Minimizes revisions and eliminates confusion about whether an individual handbook is the current version.