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The Handbook is divided into two volumes. The Church only distributes copies of the handbook to individuals who fill certain leadership positions within the church hierarchy. Handbook 1 is not available for sale to the general public or the general church membership. The text of Handbook 2 is available for free on the church's official website.
Handbook 1 is subtitled Stake Presidents and Bishops. It contains information that is primarily relevant to the functions and duties of stake presidents, bishops, mission presidents, district presidents, branch presidents, and their counselors. Other individuals who receive a copy of Book 1 are temple presidents and their counselors, general authorities, general auxiliary presidencies, area seventies, and church clerks and executive secretaries.
Concerning church policies, Handbook 1 includes instructions on the proper wearing of temple garments; which members may be married in the temple for time and eternity (vs. time only); and who may or may not attend ceremonies in an LDS Church temple. For example, persons who have undergone elective transsexual surgery are not permitted to receive a temple recommend that would allow them to enter the temple.
Leaders are advised to consider referring Church members who are dealing with same-gender attraction to counseling. Individuals with HIV or AIDS are to be treated with dignity and compassion. Unwed parents are to be encouraged to get married, or if this is not feasible, to present the child for adoption to an agency which will place the child in a Latter-day Saint home. The church opposes gambling, including lotteries, and encourages active opposition to the legalization of gambling in any form.
Handbook 2 is subtitled Administering the Church, and it contains information that is primarily relevant to the functions and duties of the leaders of priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations of the church. Every quorum president and auxiliary organization leader at stake, ward, district, and branch levels receive a copy of Handbook 2, as do most of the individuals who receive Handbook 1.
This is relevant today because of the recent availability of the new 2010 version. The 2010 edition of the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI) contains a very different position on gay marriage than the 2006 edition. Here is an example of some edits from the base version from 2006. the edits, with deletions in underlined red and additions in italics:
Same-Gender Marriage: Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. The Church accordingly opposes same-gender marriages and any efforts to legalize such marriages. Church members are encouraged "to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender" (First Presidency letter Feb 1, 1994; see also "Homosexual Behavior" in the previous column).
As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God's the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
The powers of procreation are to be exercised Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.
While opposing same-gender marriage, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. See also "Homosexual Behavior" on page 187.
Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, distorts loving relationships, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
If members have homosexual thoughts or feelings or engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth. Leaders also should help them accept responsibility for their thoughts and actions and apply gospel principles in their lives.
While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out to understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. [This was moved from being the 2nd to 3rd paragraph]In addition to the inspired assistance of Church leaders, members may need professional counseling. When appropriate, bishops should contact LDS Social Services to identify resources to provide such counseling in harmony with gospel principles.
If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances.
Small steps are still steps, I keep reminding myself. And that these changes appear in the Handbook is especially encouraging to all members - those who are or who know someone SGAttracted. It is an official LDSreparative counseling or tell them that things like masturbation causes homosexuality - when we all know it is caused by a pregnant mother listening to Barry Manalow in the second trimester.