Attendance at the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 3-4, 2020 around the world.

Courtesy: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Latter-day Saint handbook update adds section about prejudice, among other changes

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Posted - Dec. 18, 2020 at 12:22 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — In a new section added to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' general handbook on Friday, leaders discuss prejudice and call on all "to abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice toward any group or individual."

The update comes just two months after church President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the church's First Presidency, denounced racism at the church's 190th Semiannual General Conference.

"As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism," President Oaks said during a talk at the conference.

"I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice," added President Nelson during the October conference. "Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God's children."

These messages are now cemented in the church's handbook, which calls prejudice "not consistent with the revealed word of God" and condemns it based on "race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religious belief or nonbelief, and sexual orientation."

The section on prejudice is one of six rewritten chapters of the handbook and 11 other sections that have been either added or revised to the church's previous handbooks.

The 38-chapter book is designed to guide leaders around the world and help them "serve with Christlike care when implementing and adapting the church's programs, policies and procedures to their circumstances," according to church officials.

In another new section titled "Seeking Information from Reliable Sources," the church targets the spread of misinformation and encourages members to "be wise as they seek truth" and to share "only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information," the handbook reads. It adds that members should avoid sources that are "speculative or founded on rumor."

Friday's changes also updated a recently added section on medical marijuana. The section clarifies that individuals should follow guidance from a doctor, while noting that vaping marijuana is not approved by the church unless authorized by a physician and is "based on medical necessity." The section was first added in July and said the church opposes the recreational use of the drug.

Relatedly, the handbook includes a renamed section addressing the Word of Wisdom, a doctrine that encourages members of the church to honor their body with various health considerations that will have a "physical and spiritual benefit." The updated section, now called "Word of Wisdom and Healthy Practices," details the doctrine that instructs faithful members to not consume tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee.

However, in a new line added Friday, church leaders said there are other harmful substances members should abstain from that are not explicitly named. The handbook encourages its members to "use wisdom and prayerful judgement in making choices to promote their physical, spiritual, and emotional health."

The church also addressed modesty in a new section titled "Dress and Appearance," which counsels members to show respect for their body in their "choices about appropriate dress and appearance." It notes, however, that what's "appropriate varies across cultures and for different occasions."

"Members and leaders should not judge others based on dress and appearance," the handbook says. "They should love all people, as the Savior commanded. All should be welcomed at church meetings and activities."

Friday's updates are part of ongoing changes to the church's general handbook in an effort to simplify and adapt its content to make it more adaptable to the church's 16 million members worldwide. The handbook can be found on the church's Gospel Library app and on the church's website.

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Lauren Bennett

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