LDS Church releases new handbook including detailed comments on transgender issues

LDS Church
Salt Lake Temple. Photo courtesy: Intellectual Reserve

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Feb. 19, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced the completion of the new Church handbook, which includes detailed comments regarding transgender issues.

The new handbook for leaders and members of the LDS Church, first announced in January, is now available in English online and in the Gospel Library app, said a news release released by the Church Wednesday morning. Nine of the 38 chapters have been completely rewritten and one section of another chapter has been updated.

Titled “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” this book replaces both Handbook 1, for stake presidents and bishops, and Handbook 2, for all other leaders. The new book, which is mostly digital, is accessible to anyone and will be updated regularly, the news release said.

The section on transgender issues is separated into two parts, “understanding” and “supporting.”

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

The handbook goes on to say: “Church leaders counsel against elective medical or surgical intervention for the purpose of attempting to transition to the opposite gender of a person’s birth sex (“sex reassignment”). Leaders advise that taking these actions will be cause for Church membership restrictions.

“Leaders also counsel against social transitioning. A social transition includes changing dress or grooming, or changing a name or pronouns, to present oneself as other than his or her birth sex. Leaders advise that those who socially transition will experience some Church membership restrictions for the duration of this transition.”

Restrictions include receiving or exercising the priesthood, receiving or using a temple recommend, and receiving some Church callings, the handbook adds. Although some privileges of Church membership are restricted, other Church participation is welcomed, the handbook says.

“The transgender individuals who do not pursue medical, surgical, or social transition to the opposite gender and are worthy may receive Church callings, temple recommends, and temple ordinances,” the handbook says.

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“The Church does not take a position on the causes of people identifying themselves as transgender,” it adds.

Wednesday’s news release also includes the following quote from Elder Anthony D. Perkins, executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department, which oversees the creation of the handbook.

“There are a number of moral policies that we’ve now put on paper of where the First Presidency and the (Quorum of the) Twelve stand,” Perkins said. “One of those moral policies that is new is around persons who identify as transgender. 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?’ 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. At the same time, the policy clarifies that some of things in the church are gender-specific.”

Another noteworthy change is that content from the Mormon and Gay website has moved to a new portion of ChurchofJesusChrist.org with a new URL, the news release said. A new section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org for transgender individuals is also available.

The book is being translated into 51 languages as soon as possible, the news release said. Church leaders in non English-speaking congregations are to use the old handbook until the new version is available in their language.

“Our original plan was to completely rewrite the handbook and then translate that,” Perkins said. “That gave us a delivery date of probably 2022. But as those first chapters came out, the First Presidency and [Quorum of the] Twelve felt that the updates were important enough to release as soon as possible.”

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