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Councils, callings and leadership among topics in latest General Handbook update


Councils, general and area leadership, and callings are among the key topics addressed in the latest English update to the online General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Being published Wednesday, Aug. 4, the updates include one new chapter, two rewritten chapters and an expanded chapter as well as many updated administrative policies and smaller revisions in other chapters and sections.

Available on the ChurchofJesusChrist.org and on the Gospel Library app, the new and amended material will be translated into other languages in coming months. Besides the four aforementioned chapters, nearly 60 sections in 14 additional chapters now have revised content.

The first handbook updates were published in February 2020, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Additional updates in English were released in March 2020, July 2020, December 2020, January 2021 and March 2021, with updates in additional languages published in subsequent months. The entire handbook is expected to be updated in English by the end of the year, with other languages to follow.

The General Handbook helps Latter-day Saint leaders and members implement and adapt the Church’s programs, policies and procedures to circumstances worldwide, with the content having been reduced, simplified and customized for congregations of all sizes and locations.

Key changes include:

  • Chapter 4 — “Leadership and Councils in the Church of Jesus Christ”: The amended chapter title now includes “and Councils,” with the chapter expanded to include general information about councils, some of which was previously in chapter 7.
  • Chapter 5 — “General and Area Leadership”: The new chapter describes the work and responsibilities of general and area Church leaders and councils, and it explains the responsibility of the new calling of area organization advisers.
  • Chapter 20 – “Activities”: The rewritten chapter includes an option to organize ward activities committees in large wards, clarifies instructions about single adult units holding activities on Monday night, updates instructions about multistake and area activities, and updates polices about For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences.
  • Chapter 30 — “Callings in the Church”: Also rewritten, this chapter includes instructions that, when possible, members should serve in callings long enough to establish strong relationships with those they serve. Also included is an explanation on who can call and set apart stake and ward clerks.

With the addition of a new chapter 5, previous chapters 5 and 6 — “Stake Leadership” and “The Bishopric” — are now 6 and 7, respectively. Content from the previous chapter 7 — “Councils in the Church” — is now in chapters 4 and 29.

Other new and updated content, as reported by Newsroom, includes:

  • Bishoprics and stake presidencies can now have up to two assistant executive secretaries (see sections 6.4.1 and 7.3).
  • A new entry on refugees (38.8.35) says Latter-day Saints, “as part of their responsibility to care for those in need, … offer their time, talents and friendship to welcome refugees as members of their communities.” The entry directs readers to ChurchofJesusChrist.org/refugees, and a separate revised section titled “Immigration” (38.8.20) encourages showing the same welcoming attitude to immigrants.
  • The update to “Political and Civic Activity” (38.8.30) says that even when the Church takes a position on a political matter, the Church “does not ask elected officials to vote a certain way or to take a certain position. Members who are elected officials make their own decisions. These officials might not agree with one another or with a publicly stated Church position. They do not speak for the Church.”
  • The section also now says that “political choices and affiliations should not be the subject of any teachings or advocating in Church settings. Leaders ensure that Church meetings and activities focus on the Savior and His gospel. Members should not judge one another in political matters. Faithful Latter-day Saints can belong to a variety of political parties and vote for a variety of candidates. All should feel welcome in Church settings.”
  • The expanded “Privacy of Members” (38.8.31) says leaders are instructed not to “store or share confidential Church information outside of Church-provided applications, systems or internet services.” Such information includes a person’s Church membership status, temporal needs and any other personal information that is not publicly available.
  • The section on “Businesses” (38.8.7) says “Church meetinghouses and other facilities, Church meetings and classes, and Church websites and social media channels may not be used to promote any business or non-Church entity.”
  • The policies about marriages in the temple for time only (27.3.3) and civil marriages (38.3.1) have been updated to reflect recent First Presidency announcements.

New and revised General Handbook sections and chapters

Below is a complete list of new and revised content, as published Aug. 4, 2021. New and rewritten chapters and new sections are highlighted in bold.

Chapter 0: Introductory Overview

  • 0.5 Terminology

Chapter 2: Supporting Individuals and Families in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation

  • 2.1 The Role of the Family in God’s Plan

Chapter 4: Leadership and Councils in the Church of Jesus Christ (revised chapter)

  • This expanded chapter now includes content on councils, with some of the content previously found in chapter 7, Councils in the Church.

Chapter 5: General and Area Leadership (new chapter)

  • This chapter describes the work of general and area leaders and councils in the Church.

Chapter 6: Stake Leadership (formerly chapter 5)

  • 6.2.1.5 Callings and Releases
  • 6.2.1.6 Stake Organizations and Programs
  • 6.4.1 Stake Executive Secretary and Assistant Stake Executive Secretaries
  • 6.4.2 Stake Clerk and Assistant Stake Clerks

Chapter 7: The Bishopric (formerly chapter 6)

  • 7.3 Ward Executive Secretary and Assistant Ward Executive Secretaries
  • 7.4 Ward Clerk and Assistant Ward Clerks

Chapter 12: Primary

  • 12.1.4 Singing Time
  • 12.1.5 Nursery
  • 12.2.1.1 Roles of Parents and Leaders
  • 12.2.1.2 Gospel Learning
  • 12.3.1 Bishopric
  • 12.3.2 Primary Presidency
  • 12.3.5 Teachers and Nursery Leaders
  • 12.3.6 Activity Leaders

Chapter 18: Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings

  • 18.3 Participation in an Ordinance or Blessing

Chapter 20: Activities (rewritten chapter)

  • The chapter has been rewritten, and the content has also been simplified and oriented around the needs of smaller units.

Chapter 25: Temple and Family History Work in the Ward and Stake

  • 25.5.2 Requirements for Temple Ordinance Workers

Chapter 26: Temple Recommends

  • 26.1 Types of Temple Recommends
  • 26.3.1 Temple Recommend Interviews for Members in Wards and Branches

Chapter 27: Temple Ordinances for the Living

  • 27.1.1 Preparing to Receive Temple Ordinances
  • 27.3.2.5 Who Performs a Temple Marriage or Sealing
  • 27.3.3 Marriage in a Temple for Time Only

Chapter 29: Meetings in the Church

  • 29.2.1.5 Sacrament Services in Unusual Situations
  • 29.2.5 Ward Council Meeting (some of this content was previously in chapter 7, “Councils in the Church”)
  • 29.4 Coordinating Council Meetings

Chapter 30: Callings in the Church (rewritten chapter)

  • This chapter has been rewritten, with the content also simplified and oriented around the needs of smaller units.

Chapter 32: Repentance and Church Membership Councils

  • 32.4.5 Reporting to Government Authorities

Chapter 33: Records and Reports

  • 33.3.2 Stake Clerk

Chapter 34: Finances and Audits

  • 34.6.2 Verifying Tithing and Other Offerings

Chapter 38: Church Policies and Guidelines

  • Changes in this chapter include one new section on refugees (38.8.3.5) and revisions to nearly 30 other sections:
  • 38.2.5.1 Melchizedek Priesthood Offices
  • 38.3.1 Who May Perform a Civil Marriage
  • 38.3.2 Civil Marriage for Members from Other Units
  • 38.3.3 Civil Marriage for Nonmembers
  • 38.4.1.6 Sealing after Temple Marriage for Time Only
  • 38.8.3 Audiovisual Materials
  • 38.8.7 Businesses
  • 38.8.8 Church Employees
  • 38.8.11 Computers
  • 38.8.13 Curriculum Materials
  • 38.8.18 Gambling and Lotteries
  • 38.8.20 Immigration
  • 38.8.22 Internet, Satellite, and Video Equipment
  • 38.8.24 Legal Counsel for Church Matters
  • 38.8.24.1 Involvement or Documents in Legal Proceedings
  • 38.8.24.2 Testimony in Legal Proceedings
  • 38.8.25 Mailbox Use
  • 38.8.26 Members’ Communication with Church Headquarters
  • 38.8.27 Members’ Employment
  • 38.8.29 Other Faiths
  • 38.8.30 Political and Civic Activity
  • 38.8.31 Privacy of Members
  • 38.8.33 Recording, Transcribing, or Streaming Messages by General Authorities, General Officers, and Area Seventies
  • 38.8.35 Refugees (new section)
  • 38.8.36 Requests for Church Financial Assistance
  • 38.8.39 Safety in Church Welfare and Self-Reliance Operations
  • 38.8.42 Support to Members in Prisons, Hospitals, and Other Institutions
  • 38.8.44 Taxes
  • 38.9.3 Pre–Military Service Church Orientation

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