The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains many sub-organizations, verticals, teams, etc. All of this is in support of the Church’s mission to bring people unto Christ. Nevertheless, the work can be complicated, and for many years, Church members have had access to two manuals aimed at answering important questions: Handbook 1, reserved for certain leaders, and Handbook 2, available to all the Church. In our era of simplifying things, however, the Church has announced that a new Handbook that replaces the separate ones.
This is not entirely surprise news. But a few weeks ago, I happened to be in a stake leadership meeting with Elder Peter M. Johnson of the Seventy. In the meeting, Elder Johnson casually said that there would be a new, combined Handbook at some point int he future. Being the good soul that I am, I sent out a tweet about it. Or wait, like Ted Cruz before me, my staffers sent out a tweet while I abided by house rules. Yes, that’s it.
— This Week in Mormons (@TheRealTWiM) January 11, 2020
Now we know that “Q1” actually means February 19 of this year, and the new handbook will be titled General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The new handbook will be digital only, which is probably smart since 1) the Church announced it was no longer going to print physical copies of the Handbook last year and encouraged leaders to stop using the paper copy; 2) the Come, Follow Me racism debacle for which Church leadership has apologized. If this new Handbook still decries hypnotism as of the devil, you will know it was intentional and not a printing error.
Obviously, being digital only also gives the Church more flexibility in pushing updates. Also, trees shall live.
“This new handbook is a part of the ongoing Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that began 200 years ago,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “This Restoration has been and will continue to be a process of learning how to minister as Jesus would to a richly diverse world. We pray this new handbook will help Church leaders use their God-given gifts to continue to bless lives in their ministry. We know there is room in this Church for everyone.”
Truly, this is an interesting development. Handbook 1 has long been seen as mysterious, as access was restricted to a select number of local leaders and general leaders in the Church. It contains counsel about the aforementioned hypnotism issue, but also covers much more serious areas, like Church discipline, how to handle abusive situations, finances, and others. With the new Handbook being available to the public, the Church will likely be cautious with how much of a peek behind the curtain, if you will, remains available.
General Handbook (also now known as the Handbook) will contain 38 chapters, but while the English version will be available in February at ChurchofJesusChrist.org and the Gospel Library app, translations into 51 other languages have only begun. While translation is a herculean effort and we honor those who assist with it, it’s also worth noting that this sort of means that the Church will be operating from different playbooks until the Handbook is rolled out in every necessary language.
Also, only nine chapters have been updated so far to reflect the new Handbook’s tone and approach. The remaining 29 chapters will be updated in 2020 and 2021. According to the Church, 80% of the content from the current handbooks will be incorporated into the new Handbook, but reordered in a new organizing structure.
The Church’s Newsroom will host additional information about the Handbook on the live date, February 19. Mark. Thy. Calendars.