Well, this will keep bloggers busy for a good long time.
There’s a lot to comment on here:
(1) The mere fact that the handbook is online.
(2) Specific policies that have changed. (In a cursory glance, I noticed changes in virtually every paragraph.)
(3) The “doctrinal introduction.” I don’t even know where to start with this one, but it is huge, in both form and content.
(4) How on-the-ground life in the Church will change, now that members have access to these policies.
(5) How people outside the Church will use this information.
(6) To what extent Church members will change their thoughts and behaviors based on it.
Also note that many items from “Book One” are also online (see link above.)
In this post, I want to mention just one specific item since it has been quite the hot topic in the Bloggernacle before:
Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)
The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.
Note that this is the first time this counsel has been directly available to Church members. (The Church “strongly discourages surgical sterilization” in the older version, but members did not have access to it.) I believe that the idea of consulting with the bishop beforehand is new to this edition, but I don’t have the old one available to compare. I am very curious to see how this plays out: Will men stop getting vasectomies? Will having “the chat” with your bishop become something of a regular rite-of-passage for LDS men? Will bishops dole out approval like bubble gum, or will they resist? Will this become another instance where “location is everything”? [Idea: Short story with LDS family house hunting and ward shopping based on bishop's perceived vasectomy leniency.] Will people just ignore this counsel?