Introductory Message

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


We are grateful to President Henry B. Eyring for those inspired teachings. In behalf of the First Presidency he has defined the purpose of a handbook and how we should use it.

Our objective in this broadcast is to reaffirm the content of our November broadcast by repetition and by further illustrations. Now all who are receiving this broadcast have had nearly three months to study and apply the new handbook’s principles and directions. We have also had the benefit of your questions and other reactions to our November broadcast. As a result, this broadcast—like a second visit to any important subject—will yield new understanding and renewed commitment.

At the outset, we repeat the Church’s new statement of purpose as expressed in section 2.2 of the new handbook:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by God to assist in His work to bring to pass the salvation and exaltation of His children. …

“In fulfilling its purpose to help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities. These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances” (Handbook 2, 2.2).

Please note that book 2 reaffirms the “Leadership Training Emphasis” by including its text at section 3.4.

We begin by stressing the unique responsibilities of those who hold the priesthood keys—the stake and mission presidents and the bishops and branch presidents. You brethren and your counselors are the only ones who have received book 1. We remind you that it is not to be copied or shared beyond those authorized to receive it. We will not be saying much about book 1 in this broadcast. That will be discussed in your coordinating councils and in priesthood leadership councils.

Here we will focus on book 2, which has been given to all members of the ward council and to their counselors in the quorums and auxiliaries. Its content is meant to be generally available. That is an important change in the current revision. As a result, after our November broadcast, book 2 has been made available online on LDS.org. Look for it under Serving in the Church. Leaders and teachers who need to refer to portions can do so there.

We encourage all who receive a copy of book 2 to be familiar with its general principles. We should also use its carefully indexed provisions as a reference work to guide our efforts in the Church. All should understand that this new handbook supersedes the policy directions in prior handbooks. In the November broadcast President Thomas S. Monson challenged us to read, understand, and follow the handbook to maintain the integrity of the policies, procedures, and programs of the Church. As we do so, we will receive the benefits of his inspired declaration that these new handbooks will be a treasure and a blessing to each of us. As President Monson and President Eyring have now taught us, and as stated in the handbook introductions, they “can facilitate revelation if they are used to provide an understanding of principles, policies, and procedures to apply while seeking the guidance of the Spirit” (Handbook 2, page v).

Handbook 2, which is the book most of you will use, is focused on the salvation of the children of God and the strengthening of their families. It is doctrinal, and it is shorter than the prior handbook because on many subjects it refrains from stating rules or giving directions. Instead, it gives principles that inspired leaders can apply to administer Church programs according to their local circumstances. This is needed in a Church whose members live in many different nations and cultures. For an example of principle-based instructions, see the extensively revised section 18.6, “Funerals and Other Services at a Time of Death.” Book 2 also seeks simplification by reducing the complexity of Church programs and by reducing the number of required meetings.

The First Presidency directed that this new handbook should “facilitate the desired balance between uniformity on doctrine and principles and flexibility to allow limited adaptation where required on some subjects.” Consequently, as Elder Bruce Porter will explain in his presentation, it allows a limited number of programs to be modified by local authorities where needed by local conditions, such as in newer units, smaller units—like the one President Eyring described—or geographically large units of the Church. At the same time, the handbook does not sacrifice the uniformity of policies, procedures, and programs that is necessary in our worldwide Church. Stake presidents and bishops, who hold the keys, should understand these purposes and administer their book 2 responsibilities accordingly. Truly, as President Monson said in the November broadcast, “There is safety in the handbooks.”

A major theme in Handbooks 1 and 2 is to reduce the workload of the bishop. Partly this is done by enhancing the role of the ward council and its members. As you heard in the November broadcast, and as we hope you have experienced since then, members of the ward council are not to act just as representatives of their quorums and auxiliaries, but, with their counselors and organizations, they should receive delegation to assist the bishop on matters of importance to the entire ward. Bishops, you now have the opportunity to lighten your load. Delegate to ward members and especially to those in your ward council. For example, the new handbook significantly enhances the roles of elders quorum and high priests group leaders to help their members, both spiritually and temporally. In order to accomplish these increased responsibilities, elders quorums may need to reduce some temporal service demands, such as helping members move.

In November we stressed that everyone receiving that broadcast should carefully read the three new chapters at the beginning of Handbook 2. They are doctrinal, based on the scriptures, and they are extremely important.

You will have noted that the first chapter in Handbook 2 is “Families and the Church in God’s Plan.” Family is first. As President Boyd K. Packer stressed in the November broadcast, we must be careful that our members are not kept so busy with Church programs, procedures, buildings, and budgets that they have little time for the spiritual things stressed in this chapter on families and in the succeeding two chapters, “Priesthood Principles” and “Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ.” Strengthening the family is the object of the Church. We strengthen the Church to perform its divine mission by strengthening its members and their families.

My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to you of the truth of the things that have been taught and will be taught in this important broadcast and of the divine inspiration that went into these handbooks. And I pray that we will be guided by the Spirit as we seek it and carry out our responsibilities in the Church. I testify that this is His work and that we are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.