As promised, the new “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the official name of the newly combined church handbooks of instruction, is now online and available to the public, as well as church leaders and its members.
It is currently available in English only in the Gospel Library app. Nine of the 38 chapters have been completely rewritten, and one section of another chapter has been updated, according to church information.
The new online handbook replaces Handbook 1, for the organization’s stake presidents and bishops, and Handbook 2 for all other church leaders. The former handbooks, now considered obsolete, and the new handbook, offer instruction, guidelines and information on policies and procedures for ecclesiastical leaders in congregations globally. It also gives LDS Church positions on certain issues such as surrogate motherhood, same-sex attraction, incest, drug abuse and more.
Nearly 80% of the content has been transferred from the old handbooks and reordered in a new organizing structure, according to a press release.
“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 in a press release. “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.”
Perkins adds, “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.”
Many members of the LDS Church were not familiar with information in Handbook 1, but, according to the church, each of the updated chapters are principle-based and has broad application for church members.
“It is so important for members to understand — both men and women — that God is giving us His power so we can go and do the things that He has asked us to do,” said Sister Reyna I. Aburto of the Relief Society general presidency in the church statement. Aburto was closely involved in the creation of the new handbook.
The nine updated chapters — all 38 will be reworked by 2021 — reflect a new approach that has been under consideration for several years, according to the church. Topics from priesthood responsibilities to suicide and music to transgender persons have been either updated or added.
“If you look at the evolution of the handbook over the last hundred years, it’s been evolving from administrative procedures to a more ministerial voice,” Perkins said. “What we mean by that is previous handbooks had been sort of designed for large units — let’s say Alpine, Utah — and we need a handbook that can be applied even in the smallest units.”
The book is being translated into 51 languages. Church leaders in non-English-speaking congregations are to use the old handbook until the new version is available in their language, according to the church. The digital handbook is also being presented as accommodating different learning styles.
“Some people learn by reading, others by watching,” Elder Perkins said. “And so the handbook will have embedded videos showing how to do something.”