Church updates to general handbook include sections on medical marijuana, suicide

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced updates to 15 chapters of its general handbook as well as significant changes to five of the chapters on July 31.

The Church had previously announced updates to “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in February and March of this year.

“To date, 16 of the book’s 38 chapters have been completely reworked, and minor changes have been made to several other chapters as part of an ongoing revision under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” according to a press release from the Church.

The changes include significant word count reduction revisions to the “Sunday School” and “Teaching the Gospel” chapters as well as the “Elders Quorum” and “Relief Society” chapters, which are now organized around the work of salvation and exaltation.

The Church also made adjustments to the policies in Chapter 38, “Church Policies and Guidelines,” including updates to the entries on birth control, donating or selling sperm or eggs, fertility treatments, the occult, sex education, suicide and surrogate motherhood, and an additional entry on medical marijuana.

“Several of these updates now include doctrinal explanations to help people understand why the Church takes the position it does on these issues,” the press release said.

For example, the section on birth control now includes information about surgical sterilization, but otherwise remains unchanged — the Church “continues to discourage surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control.”

The new section about medical marijuana restates the Church’s opposition to the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes and also advises on its appropriate medical uses, such as when it is prescribed by a medical provider and not smoked or vaped.

The section on suicide “encourages greater sensitivity in ministering to those who are considering suicide,” according to the press release and states that while it is not right for a person to take his or her own life, “only God is able to judge the person’s thoughts, actions and level of accountability.”

“Any who have thought about suicide are seeking relief from physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. They need love, help, and support from family, Church leaders and qualified professionals,” states the press release. “Bishops are counseled to provide ecclesiastical support and to help members obtain immediate professional help as needed.”

The changes also include updates to Chapter 17, “Teaching the Gospel.” A new section, titled “Home-Centered Gospel Learning and Teaching” provides additional guidelines to the Church’s emphasis on gospel study at home.

The updated handbook is available in English online and on the Gospel Library app. It is being translated into other languages.

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