With the Dec. 15 publication of its latest set of revisions and updates, General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now complete in English, less than two years after its first partial release.
The revised handbook — which merges, updates and replaces the previous Handbook 1 for stake presidents and bishops and Handbook 2 for all leaders — will be finished in additional languages in 2022.
Revisions and updates published Wednesday, Dec. 15 — both online at ChurchofJesusChrist.org and in the Gospel Library app — include items and issues ranging from single members to culturally diverse music styles and instruments, and from guidelines for leaders who interview and meet with members to Church policies such as personal use of the internet and social media.
The General Handbook has been prepared and revised under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
This is the handbook’s eighth major release of amendments and additions. The first chapters were released in February 2020, with subsequent updates in March 2020, July 2020, December 2020, January 2021, March 2021 and August 2021.
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 reduced, simplified and customized for congregations of all sizes and locations.
The purpose of the handbook revision “is to help every member serve in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a more Christlike way,” said Elder Anthony D. Perkins, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department.
“In a variety of ways, we’ve tried to make this book very accessible to every member of the Church, whether they’re a new member or a longtime member, whether they live in the United States or the most far-flung place on the planet.”
Done over the past 22 months, the handbook updates have structured content around the core doctrinal concepts of God’s work of salvation and exaltation, created content adaptable to congregations of all sizes, explained the scriptural “why” of doing things in the Church, simplified the text, reduced word count by more than 20% and provided guidance on policy issues such as medical marijuana, vaccinations and prejudice.
“We have seen the hand of the Lord in this process,” said Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, who served on the committee of Church general authorities and general officers that has met weekly to review every line of the new handbook. “[God] has actually helped us word by word, line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. And we have just been witnesses of how He takes us by the hand when we look for that revelation.”
With guidance from Church’s executive councils, a team of 20 to 30 general authorities, general officers, staff and editors present their best work on handbook revisions and updates to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, who then give their feedback.
The First Presidency is not shy about making edits, Elder Perkins added. “And for me, that has been very inspiring — to do the very best work we can, … and yet there are things that we miss — very important things that Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency see and are added into the handbook. I can say to members with full confidence that the handbook, as written, reflects the desires and the input and direction from the people we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.”
The General Handbook will continue to be, in Elder Perkins’ words, “a living, breathing digital document” for the global faith.
The advantages of a primarily digital handbook include allowing Church leaders to make updates more easily and at a lower cost, using links to provide easy access to other Church resources and embedded instructional videos, and making searching for content easier.
The Church will release updates three times a year: March, July and November or December. To date, the revisions in other languages have lagged by about six months; future updates will happen simultaneously in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Dec. 15 update highlights
The latest General Handbook update includes seven newly revised chapters and many other revised sections. Revisions in chapters include the following:
Chapter 14 — Single Members — now includes counsel from President M. Russell Ballard’s April 2021 general conference message, “Hope in Christ.” Chapter content is organized according to the work of salvation and exaltation, with an emphasis that single Church members are essential to the work. Also, the responsibility for supporting young single adults in a ward or branch now falls to the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents.
Chapter 19 — Music — addresses using culturally diverse music styles and instruments other than a piano and organ. “Sacred music that is written or sung in culturally diverse musical styles may help congregations,” the updated text reads. “Music coordinators and priesthood leaders may include a variety of appropriate musical styles that appeal to members of various backgrounds.”
Chapter 28 — Temple Ordinances for the Deceased — gives guidelines about names to submit for temple ordinances and names not to submit. The text explains all proxy ordinances, not just baptism for the dead, and includes a policy allowing unendowed Melchizedek Priesthood holders to officiate in confirmations for the dead.
Chapter 31 — Interviews and Other Meetings with Members — includes principles and guidelines for all leaders who have opportunities to meet with members. Interview questions for Melchizedek Priesthood ordination and updated baptism interview questions are included in the new content, as well as guidelines about meeting with members virtually. Also, the word “interview” is now limited to ministering interviews and settings where a priesthood leader is determining a member’s spiritual readiness to participate in an ordinance or receive a calling.
Chapter 33 — Records and Reports — contains instructions on recording attendance for Sunday quorum and organization meetings as well as guidance on data privacy and security.
Chapter 34 — Finances and Audits — no longer has references to unit checking and savings bank accounts, since they are no longer used. The chapter also updates auditing instructions and introduced references to online donations and to new disbursement instruments, such as payment cards and electronic payments.
Chapter 35 — Care and Use of Meetinghouses — outlines the roles of Area Seventies, Church facilities managers and stake and ward technology specialists. Also, the stake “stake building representative” replaces the former “stake physical facilities representative,” and the chapter includes information on the Facility Issue Reporting (FIR) app, which stake and ward council members can use to request building maintenance.
New to ‘Church Policies and Guidelines’
Chapter 38 — Church Policies and Guidelines — contains notable revisions, additions, deletions and renamed sections, while some content previously found in section 38.2 is now found in chapters 18 and 31.
That same 38.2 section now focuses on ordinance policies in special circumstances and includes information about streaming ordinances.
Previous sections for the Bible and Book of Mormon are now merged in a new “Scriptures” section in 38.8.
“The Church identifies editions of the Bible that align well with the Lord’s doctrine in the Book of Mormon and modern revelation,” the section reads, citing examples such as the King James Version in English, the Reina-Valera (2009) in Spanish and the Almeida (2015) in Portuguese. “Other editions of the Bible may be useful for personal or academic study.”
Also included in Chapter 38 is a revised policy on personal use of the internet and social media. Church members are encouraged to “avoid all statements of prejudice toward others” and “be Christlike … at all times, including online, and reflect a sincere respect for all of God’s children,” it reads. “Members should not use threatening, bullying, degrading, violent, or otherwise abusive language or images online. If online threats of illegal acts occur, law enforcement should be contacted immediately.”
In conjunction with this, Chapter 32 — Repentance and Church Membership Councils — now notes that a membership council may be necessary when a Latter-day Saint threatens physical violence in person or online.
A complete list of revised content
An index of new and revised sections and chapters of General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as published on Dec. 15:
Chapter 6: Stake Leadership
- 6.3: Differences between the Authority of District Presidents and That of Stake Presidents
- 6.7.1: Stake Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School Presidencies
- 6.7.2: Stake Young Men Presidency
Chapter 7: The Bishopric
- 7.1: The Bishop and His Counselors
Chapter 8: Elders Quorum
- 220.127.116.11: Responsibilities
Chapter 9: Relief Society
- 18.104.22.168: Responsibilities
Chapter 10: Aaronic Priesthood Quorums
- 10.2.1.3: Service and Activities
- 10.4.2: Responsibilities
- 10.5: Advisers and Specialists
- 10.7: Stake Young Men Leaders
Chapter 11: Young Women
- 22.214.171.124: Service and Activities
- 126.96.36.199: Responsibilities
- 11.3.5: Advisers
- 11.3.6: Specialists
Chapter 12: Primary
- 12.3.2: Primary Presidency
Chapter 13: Sunday School
- 13.6: Stake Sunday School Leaders
Chapter 14: Single Members — revised chapter
Chapter 18: Performing Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings
- The title of this chapter has been slightly revised, and information has been added about approving, authorizing and performing ordinances (previously in section 38.2).
Chapter 19: Music — revised chapter
Chapter 25: Temple and Family History Work in the Ward and Stake
- 25.1: Member and Leader Participation in Temple and Family History Work — updated “limited-use temple recommends” throughout
- 25.3.7: Area Temple and Family History Advisers — revised section
Chapter 26: Temple Recommends
- 26.1: Types of Temple Recommends — updated “limited-use temple recommends” throughout
- 26.4.1: General Guidelines
- 26.4.2: Temple Recommends for Newly Baptized Members
- 26.5.1: Members Receiving Their Own Endowment
Chapter 27: Temple Ordinances for the Living
- 27.4.1: Issuing a Recommend for Sealing Living Children to Parents
- 27.4.4: Who May Attend a Sealing of Living Children to Parents
Chapter 28: Temple Ordinances for the Deceased — revised chapter
Chapter 29: Meetings in the Church
- 29.2.5: Ward Council Meeting
- 29.3.11: Stake Bishops’ Council Meeting
Chapter 30: Callings in the Church
- 30.7: Calling, Ordaining, and Setting Apart Bishops
- 30.8.1: Ward Callings — added ward music coordinator
- 30.8.3: Stake Callings — added stake communication director, assistant directors and specialists
Chapter 31: Interviews and Other Meetings with Members — revised and renamed chapter
- This chapter now provides principles and guidelines for all leaders who have opportunities to meet with members.
Chapter 32: Repentance and Church Membership Councils
- 32.4.5: Reporting to Government Authorities
- 188.8.131.52: Some Other Acts
- 184.108.40.206: Embezzling Church Funds
- 32.7.11: Sins Involving Members Who Live in Different Wards or Stakes — revised section
Chapter 33: Records and Reports — revised chapter
Chapter 34: Finances and Audits — revised chapter
Chapter 35: Care and Use of Meetinghouses — revised and renamed chapter
Chapter 37: Specialized Stakes, Wards, and Branches
- 37.2: Young Single Adult Wards and Branches in a Geographic Stake
Chapter 38: Church Policies and Guidelines
- Section 38.2: Policies for Ordinances and Blessings — revised and renamed section
- Section 38.3: Civil Marriage — revised section
- Section 38.4: Sealing Policies — revised section
- Section 38.8: Administrative Policies — because of additions and deletions, most section numbers in 38.8 have changed. Sections in 38.8 that have been deleted (former section numbers shown here) are: 38.8.5: Bible; 38.8.6: Book of Mormon; 38.8.42: Support to Members in Prisons, Hospitals, and Other Institutions
- Section 38.8.27: Ministering to Members Affected by Crime and Incarceration — new section
- Section 38.8.39: Scriptures — new section
- Section 38.8.42: Support to Members in Hospitals and Care Centers — new section
- Section 220.127.116.11: Personal Internet and Social Media Use — revised section and title
- Section 38.9: Military Relations and Chaplain Services — revised section