The updated English version of the General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went online Wednesday, just in time for this weekend’s Annual General Conference.

As promised last year, the new handbook is not only updated but has additions to it as well.

While the complete handbook update will not be released until the end of the year, 75% of the new guidelines are online.

The latest round of updates includes four rewritten chapters and seven other chapters with added or revised sections, according to church information.

“This handbook revision is being done under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” the church press release said. “The text guides leaders around the world to better serve with Christ-like 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: living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, inviting all to receive the gospel and uniting families for eternity.

Listed below are some of the most interesting subject matter and new entries into the handbook.

Vaccinations

A new entry on vaccinations (38.7.13) re-emphasizes 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,” the handbook said.

Affinity fraud

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.”

Extreme survivalism

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,” the handbook states.

“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,” the handbook adds.

Missionary restrictions

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,” the new handbook entry states.

Of interest

The new handbook has added guidelines for livestreaming individual ward meetings and explains that bishops and stake presidents may authorize the streaming of meetings and holding virtual meetings when appropriate.

Information about members with disabilities has been modified throughout the handbook. These updates include:

n Information about performing temple work for deceased persons who had intellectual disabilities (28.3.5).

n Information for members who are deaf or hard of hearing (33.6.11, 38.8.28.6).

n Guidelines for organizing special classes, programs, or units (38.8.28.5).

n Information about the calling of stake or ward disability specialists (38.8.28.9).

General Handbook content is reduced and simplified. It has been made more adaptable for all sizes of congregations worldwide.

As General Conference approaches, members of the church will be watching for other new policy changes or updates.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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