Learn more about the temple-related updates in the latest General Handbook release

The inclusion of specific covenants Latter-day Saints make during the temple endowment is one of many temple-related updates found in the December 2020 release of the “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Three of the six newly rewritten chapters in the digital-only handbook are specific to temple work. 

“The temple — the house of the Lord — is a place of security unlike any other,” President Russell M. Nelson said during the October 2020 general conference. “Even this year, when access to our temples has been seriously limited, your endowment has given you constant access to God’s power as you have honored your covenants with Him.”

The purpose of these updates is to help Church members understand the importance of the temple and guide parents and leaders in helping individuals prepare to attend, said Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy serving as executive director of the Temple Department.

“The temple is the house of the Lord and points us to Jesus Christ,” he said in a video accompanying the December 2020 updates. “And as we receive certain sacred acts that we call ordinances, it binds us and our families to Heavenly Father.”

The ongoing handbook revision is being done under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The rewritten temple chapters align with the handbook’s organizing framework of the work of salvation and exaltation, and the content has been simplified, reduced and made more adaptable for congregations of all sizes worldwide.

The endowment

“Some of the specific changes in the handbook describe the endowment, which is really a gift from our Heavenly Father,” Elder Duncan said. 

During the endowment, Latter-day Saints make sacred covenants with God. Church members promise not to discuss the symbols or the information associated with those covenants outside of the temple, Elder Duncan noted.

However, the basic purposes and doctrine of temple covenants and ordinances may be discussed. 

An ordinance room in the Fortaleza Brazil Temple.
An ordinance room in the Fortaleza Brazil Temple. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

According to section 27.2, members are invited to make the following sacred covenants during the endowment: living the law of obedience and striving to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments, obeying the law of sacrifice, obeying the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ, keeping the law of chastity, and helping the Lord in His work.

“In return, Heavenly Father promises that those who remain faithful to their temple covenants will be endowed ‘with power from on high’ (Doctrine and Covenants 38:32, 38; see also Luke 24:49; Doctrine and Covenants 43:16),” the handbook states.

Elder Duncan said, “The primary responsibility falls upon the parents to help their children understand these covenants before they go to the temple.”

Another addition to the handbook is a section titled “Deciding When to Receive the Endowment” (see 27.2.2). 

“Local leaders should not use specific criteria such as reaching a certain age or leaving home to serve in the military or for a job when they’re trying to decide when to go to the temple,” Elder Duncan said. “It’s really an individual choice.”

Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy, talks about the latest updates to the General Handbook in a video released Dec. 18, 2020.
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy, talks about the latest updates to the General Handbook in a video released Dec. 18, 2020. Credit: Screenshot YouTube

The handbook states that members may choose to receive their own endowment when they meet all of the following conditions:

  • “They are at least 18 years old.”
  • “They have completed or are no longer attending high school, secondary school or the equivalent.”
  • “One full year has passed since their confirmation.”
  • “They feel a desire to receive and honor sacred temple covenants throughout their lives.”

The bishop and stake president should feel that the individual is prepared to understand and keep sacred temple covenants before issuing a temple recommend to receive the endowment. 

Other temple-related updates

Elder Duncan said other temple-related updates to the handbook include discussing how local leaders — specifically elders quorum presidencies and Relief Society presidencies — lead temple and family history work in the ward.

Read more: General Handbook includes 6 newly rewritten chapters, new policy on prejudice and other updates

Chapter 25 “Temple and Family History Work in the Ward and Stake” includes updated information on organizing temple and family history work in the ward and stake; family history resources; and calling temple workers. 

“Our local leaders can help individual members learn how to discover the individual names of their ancestors and go to the temple and receive temple blessings on behalf of the ancestors. Those ancestors may then choose to accept the ordinances or not,” Elder Duncan said. 

Attendees wait for the session during the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.
Attendees wait for the session during the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Updated information on issuing temple recommends can be found in Chapter 26 “Temple Recommends.”

Nearly 60% of the handbook has been reworked since the first release in February 2020. The General Handbook replaces Handbook 1 (for stake presidents and bishops) and Handbook 2 (for all leaders). The remainder of the handbook will be revised in 2021.

A summary of recent updates can be found at the front of the General Handbook on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and the Gospel Library app.