Mormon Church releases handbook online to public, touching on topics like transgender, excommunication

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, released its new handbook publicly online, addressing transgender issues for the first time.

The “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” was released Wednesday to “simplify instruction for leading and serving in the Church.”

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The 800-page handbook has 38 chapters that deal with moral policies, including abortion, abuse, artificial insemination, birth control, child pornography, same-sex marriages, sex education, single expectant parents and suicide.

It also has a new entry on transgender individuals.

Elder Anthony D. Perkins serves as the executive director of the Correlation Department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Anthony D. Perkins serves as the executive director of the Correlation Department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The reason that policy has been added is we’ve had an increase in questions coming from bishops and stake presidents saying, ‘What can a transgender person do? What are the guidelines?’” Elder Anthony D. Perkins, executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department, said.

“The transgender policy states that everyone is welcome to attend our meetings and that we should create a warm, welcoming environment for all — including persons who identify as transgender,” Perkins added. “At the same time, the policy clarifies that some things in the church are gender-specific.”

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The handbook states: “Gender is an essential characteristic of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. The intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation is biological sex at birth.”

A new handbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been released online.

A new handbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been released online. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

And while men and women can “exercise delegated priesthood authority when they are given formal service opportunities in their congregations,” the handbook notes, “only men and male youths, however, can be ordained to priesthood offices.”

What was previously called “excommunication or disfellowship,” is now called “membership restrictions or withdrawal,” according to the handbook, which is “sometimes necessary to help a person repent and experience a change of heart. They also give a person time to prepare spiritually to renew and keep his or her covenants again.”

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The “four aspects of God’s work” are detailed as “living the gospel of Jesus Christ; caring for those in need; inviting all to receive the gospel; and uniting families for eternity,” as Latter-day Saints believe they will live with their families in heaven.

But some things may evolve.

“Overall, the idea is a living, breathing document that can change as revelation comes,” Perkins explained, “Or, we’re not going to say we’re going to get every wording right. If there’s some confusion or something’s misunderstood, it’s easy for us to update that to make sure the meaning is clear.”

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What was previously only available to “stake presidencies, bishoprics and a few other priesthood leaders,” is now open to the public on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, consolidating two previously published handbooks.

“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,” a section titled “Frequently Asked Questions” states.