After the Church posted the text of the 2nd volume of its administrative handbook (formerly known as the Church Handbook of Instructions—CHI) last fall, a few bloggers looked at the handbook, including our own Dave Banack.
But in the ensuing months, the handbook hasn’t drawn much attention. Given the handbook’s influence in Mormon life (and because it is something I should read for my current calling), I thought it might be useful to post questions about and reactions to handbook 2. I hope to make this examination in a series of posts (posted on Saturdays), at least one for each of the 21 chapters of the handbook. Dave Banack has agreed to alternate posts with me.
As I’ve read through the handbook so far, I’ve discovered that there is really quite a lot of material to discuss in each section. While the last chapter, covering “Selected Church Policies” may be what draws most attention, in fact many Church policies and procedures are scattered throughout the chapters of the handbook, and I’ve learned something on almost every page I’ve read.
For example, even in the handbook’s Introduction (not one of the 21 chapters), a few questions arise that are worth mentioning and perhaps discussing:
- The introduction mentions that there are two handbooks, the first for bishops and stake presidents, and the second for all other leaders. I remember that the handbook was first divided in two in 1998 in a significant reorganization that unified all the Church’s manuals. I believe I’ve been told that the handbook has existed since the early part of the 20th century. The history of the handbook (already the subject of one Journal of Mormon History article) would, I think, be an interesting way to look at how the administration of the Church has changed over time.
- The handbook is updated from time to time—the introduction says that this happens “through letters, notices, and other communication” from the Church, and suggests that these changes should be noted in physical copies of the handbook. So, is the online version of the handbook being updated? I have heard that Bishops and Stake Presidents have access to the “letters, notices and other communication” online, but it doesn’t look like anything that affects handbook 2 is being reflected in the online version. Is that correct?
- “Questions about Instructions” are directed to the leader’s “immediate presiding authority,” which repeats the instruction that has even been made in General Conference to talk with your Bishop about questions instead of writing the General Authorities.
- However, the handbook does suggest at times that leaders should contact “Church Headquarters or the Assigned Administrative Office” under certain circumstances. This is the first I’ve ever heard of the “Assigned Administrative Office,” which “applies to priesthood leaders and clerks outside the United States and Canada.” I assume this is often either the Area or Mission office for the area in question, but I don’t know. It does make sense that the Church decentralize in this way, at least because of language and time zone considerations, and also likely because better advice comes from those who know something about the local culture.
- The last couple of paragraphs of the introduction talk about security of the handbook, and almost make no sense for handbook 2 given that the handbook is available to anyone online. This begs the question of why this statement is still here. Was making handbook 2 available online a late decision? Is the introduction the same in both volumes?
I look forward to your comments on these issues or anything else you find in the Introduction. And I hope that looking at handbook 2 in this way will be of interest.