New church handbook aims to simplify procedures, clarify policies

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A new digital handbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addresses moral issues by clarifying doctrine, changing some wording and adding new official policies.

The handbook, titled “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” was made publicly available in English on Wednesday, Feb. 19. It replaces the old two handbooks from the Church — Handbook 1 and Handbook 2.

An official statement of the Church was released to announce the changes and to address frequently asked questions.

The Church said the purposes of the new handbook include facilitating global adaptability, using a ministerial voice, providing learner support with graphics and tables, giving enhanced accessibility and supporting a revelatory mindset.

The Church believes in ongoing revelation — personal revelation to individuals and worldwide revelation to prophets and apostles.

“Having a handbook that is largely digitally delivered allows us to update it as new revelation is received as the Church goes in new directions as part of its worldwide growth,” Elder Anthony D. Perkins, executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department, said in the press release.

A few of the major changes in the handbook include clarification that priesthood authority is not dependent on gender, changes in Church discipline terminology and added information relating to transgender individuals.

Chapter 3, titled “Priesthood Principles,” says although men are ordained to priesthood offices, both men and women are given priesthood authority for their Church leadership positions. The handbook states it is important for people to understand that individuals are given divine authority to act in their assignments regardless of gender.

Chapter 32, titled “Repentance and Church Membership Councils,” changed several terms previously used in the “Church Discipline” chapter of Handbook 1. In an attempt to use ministerial language, “disciplinary councils” are now called “membership councils,” “disfellowshipment” is now “formal membership restrictions” and “ex-communication” is now “withdrawal of membership.”

Chapter 38.6, titled “Church Policies and Guidelines,” provides a new entry for transgender individuals. It says most Church participation and some priesthood ordinances are gender-neutral, but priesthood ordination and temple ordinances are received according to birth sex. It explains that sex reassignment and social transition may result in membership restrictions but that name changes and preferred pronouns can be recorded in membership records.

Translation of the handbook into other languages is in progress, and the Church estimates that within this year, the first version of the new handbook will be published in half of the 51 languages the Church plans to translate it into. Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 will remain archived in Gospel Library until the new general handbook is available in all 51 languages.

Official notices will be sent as the rest of the handbook is written and published as well as a summary of the recent updates.

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