Uniformity and Adaptation
Members of the Church live in a wide variety of political, social, and economic conditions. Wards and branches also vary in size and leadership resources. These conditions may require local leaders to adapt some Church programs. Such adaptations typically affect the auxiliaries, leadership meetings, and activity programs. The guidelines in this chapter are intended to help priesthood leaders determine which adaptations may be appropriate and which are not.
All wards and branches, regardless of their size or circumstances, can experience the same abundance of the Spirit of the Lord. The Savior taught, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
17.1 Where Uniformity Is Required
To know which adaptations might be appropriate, leaders must first understand the doctrines, ordinances, and practices that are established by the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets and apostles. These are to be uniform throughout the Church.
Stake presidents, bishops, and other local leaders have a sacred obligation to maintain the uniformity and purity of the Church in all of the categories outlined below. This need for uniformity is based on the scriptural principle of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5; see also Mosiah 18:21).
The standard works of the Church are the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In many languages, the Church has approved one edition of the Bible to be used in Church meetings and classes. Likewise, the latest authorized edition of the other three books of Latter-day Saint scriptures should be used. No other works are to be promoted or used in the Church as scripture.
Commandments and Standards
The commandments of the Lord and the worthiness standards of the Church are given in the scriptures and in official communications from the First Presidency. Local leaders should not alter these commandments and standards. Nor should local leaders teach their own rules or interpretations regarding the commandments.
The worthiness standards for temple attendance are detailed in the interview questions found in the temple recommend book. Local leaders should not alter these.
Purity of Doctrine
The doctrines of the Church are found in the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets and apostles. The Lord instructed, “The elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (D&C 42:12; see also D&C 52:9, 36).
All leaders should ensure that true doctrine is taught in the Church. If a person teaches false or speculative doctrine, leaders should correct it promptly and sensitively. Errors can usually be corrected in private, but major or repeated errors may require public correction.
If local leaders are unsure what doctrines or teachings are correct on a given subject, they may seek guidance from their immediate presiding authority.
Sacrament Meetings and the Sunday Meeting Schedule
Holding sacrament meetings is a scriptural mandate (see D&C 59:9). Instructions for sacrament meetings are provided in 18.2.2. The Sunday meeting schedule is set forth on page 153. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have established this schedule. Local leaders should not alter it.
In extreme situations, local leaders may cancel Sunday meetings. However, doing so should be a rare occurrence. Examples of situations that may justify canceling meetings include emergency security concerns and severe weather. If possible, a bishop should confer with the stake president before canceling meetings.
Sometimes an unusual local situation may make it necessary to alter the Sunday schedule for a longer period. For example, a change may be necessary if a meetinghouse has been damaged by fire, flooding, or storm. In such a circumstance, the stake president seeks guidance from the Area Presidency or the Area Seventy who presides in his coordinating council.
Leaders of very small branches may adapt the Sunday schedule as directed by their leaders, using the Basic Unit Program Guidebook.
Each stake holds two stake conferences during the year as scheduled by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve (see 18.3.1).
The stake presidency schedules, organizes, and presides at one ward or branch conference annually for each ward or branch in the stake (see 18.2.5). The district president does the same for each branch in a district.
The sacred work of temples is under the direct authority of the President of the Church. All matters pertaining to temple work should be handled according to the instructions in Handbook 1, chapter 3. Examples of such matters include temple recommends, sealings, sealing clearances, and cancellations of sealing. If a stake president encounters a question he cannot resolve, he directs it to the Office of the First Presidency.
Local leaders make sure that temple phraseology and the sacred ordinances and covenants of the temple are not discussed in specific terms in Church meetings.
Instructions for disciplinary councils are provided in Handbook 1, chapter 6. Leaders should not deviate from these instructions, including the requirements for submitting reports. If a stake president encounters a question he cannot resolve, he directs it to the Office of the First Presidency.
Records and Reports
Keeping Church records is a scriptural mandate (see D&C 20:81–83). The required records and reports are outlined in Handbook 1, chapter 13. The First Presidency may amend these from time to time.
Church records and reports are prepared using Church computer systems or in written form, depending on the area. Leaders ensure that records and reports are accurate and submitted on time.
Instructions for performing priesthood ordinances are outlined in chapter 20. These instructions should not be altered. The minimum ages for receiving ordinances such as baptism and ordination to Aaronic Priesthood offices may not be altered for any reason.
Church-approved curriculum materials are to be used in classes that are held during the Sunday meeting schedule. These materials include Church-produced manuals, magazines, and supplementary teaching resources. New manuals and courses should not be developed at the local level.
Bishops and branch presidents may occasionally teach or authorize a special priesthood or auxiliary lesson when they feel there is a need.