I remember vividly a visit to our stake by Boyd Packer who, in a moment of remarkable candor, told us that there would be times when we would go against what the handbook said, because it would the right thing to do for the situation.


Image result for picture of handbookIn my experience, from those times I have had where we had general authorities visiting stakes I was in, there is a continuous teaching by those in authority, including people like Elder Packer (from whom most would never expect it) that the handbook is not always right.

The second part of that is that while we should be familiar with the handbook(s) we should be more familiar with the Spirit so that we will not find ourselves a slave to it when the Spirit would guide us otherwise.

Often the message I got was that we should be aware that the exceptions may well swallow the rule from time to time.  That was a surprise to me then.

Image result for picture of handbook

I’m sure you can think of times when you had a handbook or guidebook that turned out to be better ignored in a specific situation than followed.

At the same time, I’m sure everyone has heard the analogy of a handbook = a skeleton; that without the framework, it becomes impossible to do things in a reliable or a recognizable fashion and that reinventing the wheel every time we need to do something is incredibly time consuming.

At work, where I do a lot of writing, I have found that to be true.  My audiences will not recognize what I have to say if I don’t follow a format that they recognize.  If I don’t have structure, the writing ceases to have meaning.  If I decide to be creative with fonts or spacing, I interject a layer of confusion between myself and my audience.  I’ve come to appreciate handbooks.

I’ve also come to appreciate the weaknesses of handbooks — the need for constant reminders and glosses and explanations of what the guidance in a handbook should mean and why.

E.g., from the most recent general conference:

“Today’s “common judge[s]” [or bishops] (D&C 107:74) should avoid any … impulse to condemn. … A righteous judge would respond to confessions with compassion and understanding. … Otherwise, the bishop may unwittingly drive the lost sheep further into the wilderness (see Luke 15:4). …””

(From the official summary of Elder Lynn G. Robbins’ talk).


  1. Can you share a time that a handbook was wrong?
  2. Can you share a time when a handbook was right?
  3. How do we teach the lesson that handbooks are useful while not teaching people to ignore the Spirit (or to just not seek the Spirit)?
  4. What glosses or explanations of how the handbook be applied, understood or used have you found to be the most useful or pertinent?

I’d love our readers thoughts and comments.