Handbooks and Callings
General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions

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General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions,” General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions (2020).

General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions,” General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions.

General Handbook Frequently Asked Questions

General Handbook Purpose

What is the purpose of the new handbook, and how is it being achieved?

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:

  • Facilitating global adaptability.

  • Using a ministerial voice.

  • Providing learner support, such as graphics and tables.

  • Giving enhanced accessibility.

  • Supporting a revelatory mindset.

Why did the Church decide to publish a new handbook?

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.

The first version of the General Handbook was released in 2020.

How does the General Handbook better meet the needs of a global 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 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).

General Handbook Usage

Are all members who are not serving in leadership positions expected to read the General Handbook?

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.

In the past, Handbook 1 was available only to stake presidencies, bishoprics, and a few other priesthood leaders. Most members did not have access. How does this new handbook help them?

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 now determined that all members may benefit from having access to this information.

Why is this handbook available not just to all members but also to the public?

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.

General Handbook Structure

Why do we now have one handbook instead of two?

  • 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.

Is the new handbook organized around any central principle or concept?

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.”

Is any substantial content from Handbook 1 unavailable in the General Handbook?

No. It is available to all readers.

General Handbook Revised Chapters

Which chapters are new?

Why are only some of the chapters updated?

Church leaders feel that updated chapters should be published now rather than wait until all the other chapters are 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.

Have updates been made to other chapters?

Some obsolete information has been removed. 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.

When will the other chapters be revised and made available?

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.

General Handbook Features

We know this handbook will be primarily digital and will be updated regularly. Why?

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.

What does it mean for the new handbook to be written with more ministerial language?

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 General Handbook seeks to be Christ-centered and principle-focused rather than just process-focused.

How will the General Handbook differentiate between required and optional programs and resources?

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.

How can I get a PDF version of the General Handbook for viewing or printing?

A PDF version of the handbook is available in the Gospel Library on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Is the handbook available in any other formats?

Members can listen to the handbook in the Gospel Library app through a text-to-speech audio feature.

General Handbook Clarifications

Chapter 1 is new. Why is it important?

Chapter 1: “God’s Plan and Your Role in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation” 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 contains clarifications about priesthood authority. Why is this important to understand?

Chapter 3: “Priesthood Principles” 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.

What is new in chapter 32?

Chapter 32: “Repentance and Church Membership Councils” is a significant revision of the “Church Discipline” chapter from Handbook 1. Seven objectives guided this work:

  1. 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.

  2. Give more emphasis to protecting others when a person poses a physical or spiritual threat.

  3. Improve structure so the chapter and its procedures can be followed by leaders in a more sequential way.

  4. Simplify procedures where possible. For example, the high council no longer participates in stake membership councils except in limited situations.

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

  7. Increase consistency, particularly among the most difficult matters faced by stake presidents.

There is some clarifying content on moral issues, including a section on transgender individuals. What is the content in the transgender section?

The 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.

Is the Church done making updates to key policies in the handbook?

No. Updates will continue to be made as necessary.

General Handbook Implementation

How long will it take for non-English versions of the General Handbook to be released?

Approximately one-third of the General Handbook has been digitally published in a majority of the 35 assigned languages, and translation of additional chapters is in progress. Publishing is occurring progressively—as groups of chapters are completed, they are published.

It is currently projected that a complete General Handbook will be available digitally in assigned languages in July 2021. Once the complete handbook is published, updates are anticipated approximately three times a year. A key objective of current planning is to reduce the time between English updates and availability of those same updates in other languages.

How will readers be advised about significant new changes in the General Handbook?

New changes will be communicated in two primary ways:

  • Official notices will be sent to leaders.

  • A summary of recent updates is published with the handbook, which identifies and links to significant changes.

How do I access the General Handbook if I don’t have the Gospel Library app?

The General Handbook is available in the Gospel Library on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Are there features that make finding content in the General Handbook easier?

Yes. The following video demonstrates search capabilities in the Gospel Library app.

When will Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 be retired from the Gospel Library? When should we discard hard copies?

These handbooks will remain archived in the Gospel Library until the General Handbook is available in all 36 languages. Leaders should discard hard copies of Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 as soon as the General Handbook is available in their language.

How do I quickly learn about how to do my calling?

Information about how to do your calling is available in both the General Handbook and under Ward and Branch Callings in the Gospel Library.