Editors Note: We stand by the apology that was printed yesterday concerning the article indicated. The following is a response that includes as its intended audience the author of the article as well as those who responded to the article. 

One of the fascinating and sometimes disheartening things we do on Meridian is look at readers’ comments. It is fascinating because as Latter-day Saints we come from such diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, inclinations and outlooks. It is disheartening because occasionally we see people criticize and carp at other Church members saying things like, “I don’t see how so-and-so can call himself a member if… (fill in the blank).”

The “fill in the blank” differs wildly. I’ve seen people say they don’t see how so-and-so can call themselves a good Church member if they belong to a particular political party. I don’t see how they can call themselves a good Church member if they wrote a particular book. I don’t see how they can call themselves a good Church member if their child went astray, if their marriage fell apart, if they are arrogant or self-righteous, if they support Obamacare, if they don’t support Obamacare. The list is endless.

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We’ve had indignant people write that they would never read Meridian again because of the 27,000 articles we’ve published, they didn’t like one of them. One reader said I was a “liar and a member of the lunatic fringe.” Another reader asked how we could call ourselves good members of the Church by publishing this or that statement. 

It is easy to throw darts at each other in this Internet age where we can say whatever we’d like about someone from the safety of our computer in our bedroom, something we would never say to their face in the foyer at Church.

We moderate our comments on Meridian–as a newspaper would choose which letters to the editor to print–for some reasons we think are important. We don’t want to use our magazine as a forum for anti-Mormon comments or those who would deride our doctrine or the prophet. We don’t let pornographic comments be made. We also don’t let people malign our authors-whose views are their own. People, of course, are free to discuss a different point of view within a gospel context, but name calling and deriding criticism such as “this is drivel” we moderate out of the discussion. We don’t think our writers should have to be personally beat up for expressing a viewpoint, though we have no problem with calm and rational expression of difference.

Currently, the senior editorial staff at Meridian are out of the country working on a book project. Apparently in our absence an article was published on our magazine that threw the blogsophere for a loop called “Are You a Liberal Mormon?” by Joni Hilton. I am out of the country and have not seen the brouhaha that surrounded this article, but Joni wrote to say that she didn’t mean politically liberal. She was using the term liberal more to mean casual Mormon, someone who didn’t take their commitment seriously. Apparently, most readers saw this as meaning “politically liberal” and were offended. We are sorry for this and acknowledge that the content and tone should have been more carefully edited or revised. Sometimes as writers we don’t understand all of the implications that others will take from our words. We appreciate all the good and insightful articles Joni has added to Meridian over many years.

When my husband, Scot, was young in a very small branch in Ankara, Turkey, a woman came to church who had clearly just smoked a cigarette only moments before. She still smelled strongly of the smoke and people noticed–though they tried not to react. It was testimony meeting that day and she got up and said something he never forgot. “I know you all smelled the smoke on me when I came into church today, but you know if every sin had an odor, the church would be a pretty stinky place.” 

We are all always struggling to overcome our weaknesses and become more devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

So this is a plea. Can we refrain from judging each other as to whether we are good members or not? Can we give each other the benefit of the doubt? Can we act with charity in our comments? Can our hearts expand to include people whose ideas and inclinations may not match our own?

The Adversary would have us scattered and divided. He would love us to make camps and forge little wars against each other. Let’s not play his game or fall for his tactics.

This is a favorite scripture of mine which seems to suit the situation. “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. (D&C 38:27)