Part of my ward calling is to publish the monthly ward newsletter. (I do the layout, and my wife proofreads.) The ward decided some time ago that a weekly bulletin was a waste of paper, and it would be more interesting to publish something monthly produced by the ward for the ward. There is a message from a bishopric member, a calendar for the next month, profiles of new members, excerpts of letters from missionaries and other articles from members.
Those other articles are usually solicited, and we ask for articles from a variety of ward members: someone describes his experiences at a single adult conference; a Sunday School teacher writes about her feelings about the New Testament; a man who volunteers at a homeless shelter and a YW who studies music tell what they do. It’s been especially good to ask people to write who are too shy to speak in church, thus giving them some outlet for their spiritual expression. I have been genuinely proud of our ward for producing sincere, spiritual material every month.
Then I got a few unsolicited articles. They were quite good. In a beautiful piece, an older woman wrote about her grief when her dog died and how she found peace through prayer. A YSA wrote about what it’s like to wait for a missionary. (I did take this back to her and offered her the chance to make some minor changes; I suggested that she might find the rather intense description of her physical longings embarrassing when being read by the entire ward during Sunday School. She agreed.)
Then I got an article that demanded a real judgment. A woman submitted an article which involved some non-standard, and perhaps even false, doctrine. It would be wrong of me to tell you details of the article, but for the sake of discussion, I have thought of an equivalent topic to give you an idea. The spirits of her dead relatives were visiting her on a regular basis, giving advise and saving her from physical harm. I showed the article to the bishop and he agreed we could not publish it. He talked to her about it (it was submitted through him, although he passed it on without reading it), and she seems OK with the decision not to publish. But of course now I’m nervous about future submissions and decisions to be made.
Where would you draw the line? What topics would be inappropriate for a ward-published newsletter read by everyone from new members to ninety year-old patriarchs? How can the variety of individual spiritual experiences and the general doctrinal needs of the congregation be negotiated?