The Best Kept Secret in the Church

We have all heard the idiom “hiding in plain sight.” A few things that I have observed over the past few weeks have convinced me that there are “secrets” in the LDS Church that are indeed, hiding in plain sight.

What I am about to say will be new to some of you. To others it will be a big fat “Duh!” moment. Here goes:

The Church has a Handbook of Instructions that details the doctrines, policies, programs and procedures of the Church, and it is online and easy to access – and it has been since 2010. More specifically, “Handbook 2: Administering in the Church.” (The red one.)

This is not news to any of you who have been in a leadership calling, and some of you have dived in and learned a lot. (Although I do know that there are some leaders who don’t seem realize that there even is a handbook.)

Just recently I have been in several church-related discussions where the answers were hiding in plain sight in Handbook 2. It is amazing how many questions that we wrestle with have already been answered and are waiting to be found. A lot of the bickering and disagreeing in the Church could be swept away if we members just took the time to learn about our very own Church – and get on the same page.

And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart, and one mind; and dwelt in righteousness…” (Moses 7:18)

Those who do not know about the vast troves of knowledge found in Handbook 2 seem to fall into four groups.

  1. Those who are new to the Church.
  2. Those who have never had a calling that required diving into the Handbook.
  3. Members who have never really thought about it, or were unaware that they had access.
  4. Those who are willfully ignorant and don’t want to know more about the policies and procedures.

You don’t know what you don’t know – but there is a remedy for that.

More about the two different Handbooks: The first is more detailed leadership discussion and training for bishops, stake presidents and others.  This is not for public consumption. The second is for all of us. Anyone who wants to read it, member, non-member, church supporter, church antagonist, old, young, leader, follower, parent, child, etc.

So what’s in it?

Handbook 2 begins with some excellent summaries of the doctrines of the Gospel – from the Plan of Happiness to Christ’s role as Savior and more. This is important stuff – stuff we should be very familiar with and agree on. The first three chapters are essentially the doctrinal framework that needs to be understood in order for the rest of the Church to fit together,

— At this moment, some will be thinking, “I have a testimony of the Gospel, but not the Church.” Yeah…about that…The problem is that these are not two things that can be separated. For more on this concept, I would refer you to an earlier post. “A Package Deal.”

While some the second (public) Handbook teaches doctrine, much of it is geared towards policies, procedures and programs – both of which are necessary to run a world-wide organization of 15,000,000 people. Yes, for there must needs be a bureaucracy.

President Thomas S. Monson has declared that without the handbooks, “it would be nearly impossible to maintain the integrity of the policies, procedures, and programs of the Church.” (link)

There are also entire sections that address (In detail) the purpose and objectives of all the Church auxiliaries: Young Women, Aaronic Priesthood, Primary, Relief Society, Primary, etc. It is an interesting exercise to study what our auxiliaries are supposed to be doing, vs what they actually do. Being reminded what the purpose of our calling is supposed to be about can result in good things happening.  Good things happen when we listen to our leaders, and know what we are doing..

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “While the handbooks do not have the same standing as the scriptures, they do represent the most current interpretations and procedural directions of the Church’s highest authorities.” (link)

Over the past few years I have not had a calling that demands much digging in the Handbook, and I have shortchanged myself. I am not as familiar with things that might have been changed in the 2010 update. I am still familiar with most of it, but I definitely need a refresher.

There are tons of things that are addressed. some might surprise you, but you’ll have to look them up yourselves.

• Can I show a clip from a Disney Movie in my Sunday School class?  (21.1.12)

• Is playing the Lottery okay? (21.1.9)

• How am I supposed to take care of my garments? (21.1.42)

• What are the basic Church Welfare principles? (link)

• Are there policies regarding immigration? (21.1.16)

• Can I call or write to a General Authority to get some questions answered? (21.1.24)

• What kid of oil can you use to bless the sick? (link)

• Can I hold a sacrament meeting in the mountains at our family reunion? (18.2.2)

• Can I use the Ward Directory to help my business? (21.1.15)

This is just a sampling of things mentioned in Handbook 2. There are a zillion other topics covered as well – some of them pretty serious. For example:

  • Assisted Suicide
  • Organ donation
  • Cremation
  • Sterilization
  • Income taxes
  • etc.

Here is a great article from the Ensign that explains the importance of the Handbooks and how to take advantage of them. “The Written Order of Things,” Elder Per G. Malm

The article closes with this quote from President Monson:

“Whether you’ve been a lifelong member of the Church or are a relatively new member, consult the handbook when you are uncertain about a policy or procedure. You may think you know how to handle the situation when, in fact, you may be on the wrong track. There is safety in the handbooks.”

And here is the link to Handbook 2. You can also find it on the LDS Gospel app under the “Leadership” heading.

If all of us made it a point to read Handbook 2 and learn what the Church’s actual doctrines, policies, procedures and programs are, it would benefit the entire Church membership. There would be less bickering, complaining and less offense taken. Conjecture and opinion would be replaced by legitimate direction,. That evasive concept of being of “one heart and mind” might be easier to achieve. We would also present a more united front to the world that loves to exploit the discrepancies in the opinions of our members.

You’ve got the links – have at it!

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  1. I’m disappointed in myself for not knowing the availability of this important document! I have perused a lot of the online app and have enjoyed telling others about what is on the app that they might not know about, for example the essays on gospel topics, which are invaluable, especially to help answer “investigators” questions.

  2. I remember in one of the first Handbook 2 training sessions having President Monson tell of hearing of a branch/ward having candles on the Sacrament Table. Having Handbook 2 available for all would avoid situations like that he remarked with his trademark dry wit. We were also instructed as leaders to encourage others to use the first three chapters specifically for Family Home Evening.

  3. I walked into the clerks office when I became EQ President and asked if he had Handbook 2. He asked me how many I wanted, as no one else wanted one,Since just about everyone uses “smart phones'”

  4. Mine is marked up almost as much as my scriptures. It’s been a while since I’ve perished it’s pages though. Thanks for the reminder. Also I’m sharing this post of yours!

  5. A very wise RS president I worked with would start each presidency meeting by reviewing a paragraph of the Handbook and then having a short discussion on how we were/were not implementing that principle. It kept us and our activities focused and built familiarity with guidelines.

  6. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Did I say Excellent? So much church-slamming happens with knee-jerk reactions.

  7. Thanks. I was aware that it was available online. And I’m one who used it when I had a particular calling and hadn’t looked at it since. Guess what I’m going to be doing when I get home?

  8. Thank you so much!! I had NO idea the handbook was online and available to read!!! Gonna download the app right now. Wahoo!!! ?

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