“General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions,” General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions (2020).
“General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions,” General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions.
The General Handbook is a support resource for those who serve as volunteer leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its primary purpose is to simplify instruction for leading and serving in the Church to further help all of God’s children come unto Christ and receive His promised blessings.
The guiding principles of the General Handbook are (1) facilitating global adaptability; (2) using a ministerial voice; (3) providing learner support, such as graphics and tables; (4) giving enhanced accessibility; and (5) supporting a revelatory mindset.
The idea to develop a new General Handbook came several years ago. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles felt that Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 could be improved to better serve the Church’s continued worldwide growth.
In 2016, the First Presidency approved the development of a “simplified handbook” for small units.
In 2017, the First Presidency directed that global research be conducted on how an updated handbook could better meet the needs of the worldwide Church.
In 2018, the First Presidency gave direction to unify and simplify the handbooks into one volume that would serve the entire Church.
Many Church units around the world lack the resources to operate some Church programs that are found in larger Church units. Previous handbooks were written with larger units as a primary audience, often causing challenges for leaders of units with fewer resources.
The new General Handbook reverses that approach. It focuses on the essential programs for every unit in the Church. It then provides adaptation options based on local needs and available resources. This approach helps leaders worldwide adapt Church programs as needed.
Another example of global adaptability is making the General Handbook more principle based. As we connect leaders to the Savior and to true principles, they will be able to serve in the best way to meet local needs.
As recently emphasized by President Henry B. Eyring, the Church seeks “to be simple enough to serve our people at the level of their need. That is the simplicity toward which we strive” (quoting Spencer W. Kimball, “Living the Gospel in the Home,” Ensign, May 1978, 101).
No. Although members and others are welcome to read the General Handbook, there is no expectation that they do. As in the past, this handbook is primarily intended as a resource for those who are serving in leadership callings.
Handbook 1 contained detailed administrative instructions that were specialized to stake presidencies and bishoprics. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have recently determined that all members may benefit from having access to this information.
Church leaders feel there is value in allowing those who are not members to be able to see how the Church of Jesus Christ operates in the latter days.
It reduces duplication of content.
It allows everyone to access the same content.
It allows the chapters to be organized around a single framework—the work of salvation and exaltation.
It makes information easier to find because it is in a single volume.
It unifies the work of the Church into one set of instructions.
It is organized around the work of salvation and exaltation, which is explained in chapter 1: “God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation.”
No. It is available to all readers.
Chapter 3: “Priesthood Principles”
Chapter 4: “Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ”
Chapter 15: “Seminaries and Institutes of Religion”
Chapter 18: “Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings”
Chapter 36: “Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units”
Chapter 37: “Specialized Stakes, Wards, and Branches”
When several important chapters of the new General Handbook were completed last year, Church leaders felt that they should be published now rather than wait until all the other chapters were complete. The Church follows this same “progressive publishing” pattern with newly translated scriptures. Portions of the scriptures are released as they are translated rather than waiting until the work is complete.
All new chapters have improved readability. Word count has also been reduced, where possible. All of the new chapters also contain important changes in content. The most substantial changes are in the following chapters:
Chapter 1: “God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation” is new. It explains the relationship between (1) God’s plan of happiness for His children, (2) our opportunity to participate in His work of salvation and exaltation, and (3) the purposes of the Church. Past handbooks have referred to the “threefold mission of the Church” and “divinely appointed responsibilities.” This chapter builds on those principles to outline the four aspects of God’s work with more clarity and detail:
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ
Caring for those in need
Inviting all to receive the gospel
Uniting families for eternity
These four aspects of God’s work provide the organizational structure of the handbook. Where applicable, individual chapters are organized according to this structure.
Chapter 3: “Priesthood Principles” teaches fundamental truths about the priesthood and incorporates recent teachings from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about how both women and men can exercise delegated priesthood authority in their callings and assignments.
Chapter 18: “Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings” includes helpful links and instructional videos that show how to perform ordinances and blessings. More videos will be added soon.
Chapter 32: “Repentance and Church Membership Councils” is a significant revision of the “Church Discipline” chapter from Handbook 1. Seven objectives guided this work:
Use a more ministerial approach and voice. For example, “disciplinary councils” are now “membership councils.” “Disfellowshipment” is now “formal membership restrictions.” “Excommunication” is now “withdrawal of membership.” Instructions are given to bishops and stake presidents about how to compassionately help members as they repent of serious sins.
Give more emphasis to protecting others when a person poses a physical or spiritual threat.
Improve structure so the chapter and its procedures can be followed by leaders in a more sequential way.
Simplify procedures where possible. For example, the high council no longer participates in stake membership councils except in limited situations.
Provide more guidance about when membership councils would be required, when they may be necessary, and when personal counseling with the bishop or stake president is sufficient.
Provide more clear and specific definitions of serious sins. Most of these definitions have been moved to the “Policies on Moral Issues” section (38.6).
Increase consistency, particularly among the most difficult matters faced by stake presidents.
Some obsolete information has been removed, such as instructions about Boy Scouts and Personal Progress. Terminology that was inconsistent with the updated chapters, such as “Church discipline,” was revised. Some chapters were restructured as part of the process of combining content from two volumes into one.
The remaining chapters of the General Handbook will be published every few months as they become available. It is expected that the entire handbook will be updated by the end of 2021 in English.
A handbook that is primarily digital has the following advantages:
It allows general Church leaders to make updates more easily and at lower cost.
It uses links to provide easy access to other Church resources.
It allows the inclusion of embedded instructional videos.
It makes searching for content easier.
Eventually, it will allow customization and adaptation of content by calling and geographic area.
Printed copies will be available in the future where digital access is limited.
The handbook is for leaders and members who are doing God’s work and serving His children. A ministerial voice reinforces the sacred nature of this work and the care that leaders have for those they serve. It also reinforces that this work is primarily spiritual in nature, not administrative. The new handbook seeks to be Christ-centered and principle-focused rather than just process-focused.
This differentiation is written into the handbook chapters. Additionally, the handbook will use an “optional resource” icon to denote Church programs and resources that may be very helpful for specific circumstances but are not required for every unit.
A PDF version of the handbook will be made available in the Gospel Library section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The new transgender section emphasizes that people who identify themselves as transgender should be treated with sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and Christlike love. It explains that most Church participation and some priesthood ordinances are gender neutral. However, priesthood ordination and temple ordinances are received according to birth sex. It provides guidelines for when members who identify as transgender may or may not receive these ordinances. It encourages Church participation for those who identify as transgender.
Chapter 3 emphasizes that although men have the priesthood conferred on them and are ordained to priesthood offices, both men and women who are set apart or assigned to serve in the Church exercise delegated authority as they accomplish God’s work. It is important for Church members to understand that regardless of gender or calling, those who are set apart or assigned are given divine authority and responsibility to act in their callings and assignments.
No. Updates will continue to be made as necessary.
Translation planning is in progress. It is estimated that half of the 51 languages, which include languages with the greatest concentration of Church members, should publish the first version of the new handbook in approximately nine months. More-accurate timetables will be available as planning progresses.
New changes will be communicated in two primary ways:
Official notices will be sent to leaders.
A summary of recent updates will be published with the handbook, which will identify and link to significant changes.
The General Handbook is in the Gospel Library section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Yes. The following video shows new search capabilities in the Gospel Library app.
These handbooks will remain archived in the Gospel Library until the General Handbook is available in all 51 languages. They will be removed after that, and any personal annotations of the obsolete Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 will be lost. Leaders should discard hard copies of Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 as soon as the General Handbook is available in their language.
Information about how to do your calling is available in both the General Handbook and under Ward and Branch Callings in the Gospel Library.