Recent statements against prejudice by its two most senior leaders are now codified in the General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church announced Friday.

Updates also show that vaping medical marijuana is now permitted when authorized as a medical necessity, according to a broad update to the book of policies and instructions published online Friday by the church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The update also includes a new section counseling church members to seek information from credible, reliable sources. Another section warns against a practice called “energy healing.”

Here’s a brief summary of the biggest changes:

‘Prejudice is not consistent with the revealed word of God’

During the church’s October general conference, President Russell M. Nelson said, “I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. 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.”

Similar language was adopted in a new section added to the handbook Friday.

“The church calls on all people to abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice toward any group or individual. Members of the church should lead out in promoting respect for all of God’s children. Members follow the Savior’s commandment to love others (see Matthew 22:35–39). They strive to be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting prejudice of any kind. This includes prejudice based on race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religious belief or nonbelief, and sexual orientation.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, said during October’s conference that church members should “root out racism.” A few weeks later, he encouraged BYU students to “heed our prophet’s call” to end racism.

Medical marijuana

Church leaders added a medical marijuana section to the handbook for the first time in an update published in July. Friday’s update added new clarifications.

“The church does not approve of vaping marijuana unless the medical provider has authorized it based on medical necessity,” the handbook says. It also states that church members should follow “dosage and mode of administration from the physician or other authorized medical provider.”

The church continues to oppose recreational use of marijuana.

‘Seeking information from reliable sources’

In an era of misinformation, church leaders added a new section to the handbook about reliable information. Here is the full text:

In today’s world, information is easy to access and share. This can be a great blessing for those seeking to be educated and informed. However, many sources of information are unreliable and do not edify. Some sources seek to promote anger, contention, fear or baseless conspiracy theories (see 3 Nephi 11:30; Mosiah 2:32). Therefore, it is important that church members be wise as they seek truth.

Seek out and share only credible, reliable and factual sources of information. Avoid sources that are speculative or founded on rumor. The guidance of the Holy Ghost, along with careful study, can help members discern between truth and error (see Doctrine and Covenants 11:12; 45:57). In matters of doctrine and church policy, the authoritative sources are the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets and the General Handbook.

Medical and health care

An updated section says that the church’s position on healing is that it should be sought through a combination of professional medical help, exercising faith and receiving priesthood blessings from those holding the necessary priesthood office.

“Church members are discouraged from seeking miraculous or supernatural healing from an individual or group that claims to have special methods for accessing healing power outside of prayer and properly performed priesthood blessings,” the update says. “These practices are often referred to as ‘energy healing.’ Other names are also used. Such promises for healing are often given in exchange for money.”

Burial or cremation

The church also updated the section on burial and cremation, noting that “the church does not encourage cremation” but the update notes that some countries require it. Burial also can be impractical or unaffordable for some families.

“Members should be reassured that the power of the Resurrection always applies,” the handbook says.

Word of Wisdom

The handbook section on the Word of Wisdom has been renamed “Word of Wisdom and Healthy Practices.” It now notes that in addition to abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee, church members should note that “there are other harmful substances and practices that are not specified in the Word of Wisdom or by church leaders. Members should use wisdom and prayerful judgment in making choices to promote their physical, spiritual, and emotional health.”

Progress on completing the handbook

The church announced in January that it was combining what had been Handbook 1 and Handbook 2 into a single, streamlined, universally accessible, flexible, online General Handbook with 38 chapters.

Friday was the fourth time an update was released this year.

The first update with nine reworked chapters was released in February. Those chapters reflected the church’s recent emphasis on ministering and home-centered gospel living and teaching. It also defined transgender policies for the first time and changed the name of disciplinary councils to membership councils and updated their procedures

  • A second update in March completed an additional three chapters focused on Aaronic Priesthood quorums and the Young Women and Primary organizations.
  • The third update in July brought updates to policies about medical marijuana, birth control and issues related to fertility treatments and completed four more chapters.
  • Friday’s update included the completion of six more reworked chapters, bringing the total of finished chapters to 22.

Work on the remaining 16 chapters will be completed in 2021.

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