Mormon Church Under Pressure on Immigration

Mormon Church Under Pressure on Immigration

Story tools

Comments

A A AResize

Print

Share and Email

 
The scandal over a blacklist of undocumented immigrants has shaken Utah's political establishment and shocked the state's Latino community.

It has also focused attention on a complicated question: What exactly is the attitude toward immigration within Utah’s dominant institution—the Mormon Church?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Church prefers to be known (LDS Church is the accepted shorthand), counts two-thirds of Utah’s residents as members.

No one is blaming the LDS Church for the blacklist (the identity—and religious affiliation—of the state employees under investigation for compiling the list is still unknown). But some are now asking whether the LDS Church should take a more active role in shaping Utah’s and the nation’s immigration debate.

Other socially conservative denominations, including the Southern Baptists and Catholics, have come out in favor of granting undocumented immigrants a path to legal status as part of a new federal immigration policy. These churches have cast immigration reform as an urgent moral and humanitarian issue, and in some cases have been active at the state level lobbying against hard-line laws.

But the Mormon leadership has remained neutral, issuing an official statement on immigration today urging “civil discourse,” “goodwill of all across the political spectrum,” and “careful reflection,” but stopping short of signaling a church position on the issue.

After the blacklist controversy erupted last week, Peggy Wilson, a Mexican-American and a Catholic, was among the mostly Latino political activists who convened a Salt Lake City press conference Friday to denounce the list.

The activists wore shirts reading “I Could be Illegal” and said the blacklist—which contained Social Security numbers, phone numbers, even the due dates of pregnant women—had terrified the Hispanic community.

Wilson, who described the list as “Gestapo-esque,” said in a phone interview after the press conference that the LDS Church should take a stronger stand in favor of immigration reform, and against anti-immigrant bigotry.

The current LDS Church position is evasive, Wilson said, especially compared to the vocal support the LDS Church gave to a different political cause—Proposition 8 in California, which sought to restrict gay marriage.

“The Mormon Church can come out and support Proposition 8 so virulently and just become very quiet when it comes to immigration reform,” Wilson said. “The silence speaks volumes.”

But other observers said the church already is moving—albeit gradually—to educate itself on the immigration debate and toward more explicit support of ethnic and immigrant communities.

“I get the sense that there are wheels in motion,” said Isabel Rojas, program director at the Utah immigrant advocacy group Comunidades Unidas and a member of the LDS Church. The Colombia-born Rojas said she routinely works with the Church on Hispanic outreach issues and urges its public relations department to be more proactive in defining a message on immigration.

“We are trying, we are working with them,” said Rojas, who added that the message she brings to the LDS Church is simple: “If you don’t define this for yourselves other people will continue to define it for you.”

Another LDS Church member and prominent Salt Lake City Latino activist, Tony Yapias, has written a letter to Church leaders that also asks them to take a position.

LDS Church leaders have, in fact, spoken out publicly in favor of immigrants.

In 2008, as Utah was considering a state law to clamp down on illegal immigration, LDS Church Elder Marlin Jensen asked lawmakers to “take a step back” and act “with a spirit of compassion.”

“Immigration questions are questions dealing with God’s children,” Jensen was quoted as saying in the Church-owned Deseret News.

Jensen, who holds office in a key LDS Church body called First Quorum of the Seventy, went on to say: “I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach is warranted, and urge those responsible for enactment of Utah's immigration policy to measure twice before they cut.”

Jensen’s intervention may indeed have helped moderate the policy. The law that passed was a watered-down version of the original legislation.

The LDS Church leadership is in an unenviable position on immigration. It must reconcile the worldviews of its often conservative old-line multigenerational adherents with increasingly multiethnic newer membership in the United States and globally.

Latin American converts, who often find the family-centered culture of Mormonism an attractive option, are an important part of LDS Church growth. The church has 1.2 million members in Mexico and a similar number in Brazil. Church members make up 3 percent of Chile’s population.

The LDS Church declined to comment for this article.

But the emergence of an immigrant blacklist in the Mormon heartland has prompted soul-searching among Mormons in Utah and beyond.

A young Mormon blogger aired worries over a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment he saw running through LDS Church circles.

“When news broke earlier this week that a group of vigilantes in Utah had assembled a list of 1,300 supposed illegal immigrants and sent it to government agencies as well as the press, I should have been shocked,” wrote McKay Coppins in his column at the Mormon Times. “I wasn't.”

Coppins, who studies journalism at the Church-founded Brigham Young University in Utah, added that some LDS Church members espouse knee-jerk opinions on the issue: “ . . . on the question of immigration, I've encountered far too many misinformed, self-righteous people who misuse LDS teachings to justify their hateful rhetoric and defend their narrow worldview.”

There is a split among Mormons on immigration, said Joanna Brooks, a California-based member of the LDS Church and a religion scholar who covers Mormonism for religiondispatches.org.

“While Mormons don't generally like to talk about political divisions within the Church membership, the immigration debate has revealed some fault-lines,” Brooks wrote in an email.

True to this wider division, politically prominent Mormons have championed policies on opposing sides of the immigration debate.

Russell Pearce, an Arizona state senator and LDS Church member, was the main backer of SB 1070, which is being challenged in court by the U.S. Justice Department. The law authorizes Arizona police to investigate the immigration status of suspects when there is “reasonable suspicion” they may be here illegally.

Other Mormons in politics— Nevada’s U.S. Senator Harry Reid for one— have taken a different tack, and have pushed for federal immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Even before the blacklist controversy erupted, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had organized a summit on immigration to be held at his offices today, and invited politicians, community groups, and religious leaders, including LDS Church officials.

It’s unclear whether the Church will send a representative, but the summit will be closely watched for any signals that the LDS Church leadership is recalibrating its stance on immigration.

Last month, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, also a church member, made waves when he said the LDS leadership should come out against Arizona’s law to dispel any notions SB 1070 has tacit Church support.

“I think that would help stop an Arizona style law here, if they would definitely come out against the Arizona style law,” Shurtleff said on Salt Lake City’s ABC 4.

In its official statement on immigration, the LDS Church has been careful to leave the decision-making to politicians, but without expressing clear guidelines for policy. “Elected individuals have the primary responsibility to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions.”

Despite its high-profile role supporting Proposition 8, LDS Church generally refrains from outright political advocacy, except on issues linked to family and gender roles, said Brooks, the religion scholar.

(The Church teaches marriage between man and woman is “sacred, ordained of God from before the foundation of the world,” and often warns against “gender confusion.”)

On immigration, the LDS Church may find its “above-it-all” stance hard to maintain over time, as the battle-lines in the debate become more pronounced.

Anti-immigration activists often accuse the LDS Church of providing “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants who participate in congregations called wards and stakes, some of which are wholly Latino.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, a Republican Utah legislator who did missionary work for the LDS Church in Venezuela, says on his website he is moving “full steam ahead” to write a Utah version of Arizona’s immigration law and will introduce it in time for the next legislative session in January 2011. Sandstrom criticized the blacklist, but said it did not affect his intentions.

Sandstrom did not answer e-mail and phone messages asking for comment. But he has said publicly he expects the LDS Church to remain neutral and refrain from interfering with his bill.

Meanwhile, the immigration debate in Utah and the Southwest is at a dangerous “fever pitch,” said Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel for the ACLU of Utah. “I would hope that there could be a stronger statement” on immigration from the LDS Church, she said. “I think that would be helpful.”

Reid Baer, a Tennessee-based LDS Church member, conservative activist, and video-blogger, said the presence of undocumented immigrants in the Church makes him “uncomfortable.” In his view, the LDS Church could “come out a little stronger” against illegal immigration.

“Because I am a loyal Mormon I do not criticize my leadership,” Baer said. “(But) … is there a part of me that thinks the Church should come out and say something? Yes. But I also think—what would they say? They’re playing the middle ground.”
 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2010

The Mormon leadership should get out of their comfort zone. A lot of Mormons in the U.S. are Latino immigrants. They are the most important source of newly converted Mormons worldwide.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 21 2010

The Church tries to be a source of unity and not contention, unless it feels it has no other choice. It cannot get involved in every hot social issue. Nevertheless, the Church does not have an official policy of keeping illegal immigrants out of its temples, even though one of the questions it asks its members to reflect upon before they go is whether they are following the laws. I think that this much more subtle approach is quite humane and speaks volumes. To say nothing of the fact that many congregations in the US are more diverse than just about any organization around them (coming from someone who attended a supposedly diverse northeastern lawschool).

Anonymous

Posted Jul 21 2010

REALMENTE ES UNA VERDADERA VERGUENZA EL HECHO QUE LA IGLESIA NO APOYE A SUS MIEMBROS QUE SON FIELES EN SUS LLAMAMIENTOS, EN SUS PAGOS DE DIEZMOS Y QUE POR COSAS DEL DESTINO HAN VENIDO A ESTE PAIS EN CALIDAD DE INDOCUMENTADOS, ELLOS HABLAN DE OBEDECER LA LEY PERO....CUANDO ESTA SEA JUSTA !!! LES FALTA CARACTER Y MORAL, COMO PUEDEN EXHORTAR A AMAR AL PROJIMO SI ELLOS MISMOS ESTAN CALLADOS ANTE LEYES QUE A TODA LUZ DANAN LA INTEHRIDAD MORAL, FISICA, FAMILIAR Y ESPIRITUAL DE UNA FAMILIA; DONDE ESTA EL SENTIDO DE FE Y CARIDAD? PORQUE SE OPONEN ABIERTAMENTE AL MATRIMONIO ENTRE HOMOSEXUALES Y CALLAN CUANDO HAY LEYES QUE AFECTAN A SUS MIEMBROS? POR QUE NO RECUERDAN LA HISTORIA DE LA IGLESIA CUANDO BRIGHAM YOUNG SE OPUSO ABIERTAMENTE Y HASTA CON GRUPOS ARMADOS AL GOBIERNO FEDERAL QUE QUERIA APLICAR LA LEY EN CUANTO A DELIMITAR SU TERRITORIO Y EVITAR EL MATRIMONIO PLURAL....POR QUE NO HACEN AHORA LO MISMO? Y AY DE ESOS HIPOCRITAS LEGISLADORES REPUBLICANOS COMO STEPHEN SANDSTROM QUE TANTAS VECES A DEBER DICHO EN SU MISION A LOS HISPANOS, LES AMO...!!! PERO SON SEPULCROS BLANQUEADOS PORQUE SIGUEN SIENDO UNA IGLESIA RACISTA, QUE BOTA MILLONES DE DOLARES EN CAMPANAS QUE LE FAVORECEN Y APOYAN LEYES INJUSTAS Y CUANDO VIAJAN A AMERICA LATINA SONRIEN Y LES ENCANTA QUE LES LLAMEN HOMBRES DE FE, HOMBRES DE AMOR, HOMBRES JUSTOS, LA CARIDAD COMIENZA EN CASA, Y NO EL PECADO POR TOMAR UNA TAZA DE CAFE, SEAN EJEMPLO DE SUS CREYENTES DE SEGUIR ASI QUEDARAN SOLOS COMO COMENZARON Y SERAN PERSEGUIDOS Y ECHADOS DE NUESTROS PAISES COMO OCURRIO EN LOS INICIOS, QUE LOS ECHABAN DE DONDE SEA, NO POR BUENAS PERSONAS, SINO POR JODIDOS, RECAPACITEN Y SEAN UNA IGLESIA DE ORDEN Y AMOR, JESUS MISMO NUNCA TOMO UNA POSTURA DE SILENCIO AL VER QUE LAS LEYES DE HOMBRES ERAN PARA CASTIGAR A SU PUEBLO, RECAPACITEN

Anonymous

Posted Jul 21 2010

The Mormon Church THINK THAT OWNS ONE OF BELIEF AND THAT AMBIGUITY WHILE SPEAKING HISPANICS IN COUNTRIES OF PURE LOVE OF CHRIST IN USA WHAT IT DOES HAVE A POSITION IS RACIAL, hypocritical and anti-immigrant, must be fair, must be faithful, have the courage THAT YOU NEED A DEFENDER AND FEEL THAT HAS BEEN A MEMBER, CLOWNS STOP BEING RELIGIOUS AND SAY SOMETHING THAT IS REALLY REAL

Anonymous

Posted Jul 30 2010

“Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also ALL THOSE WHO SHOULD BE LED OUT OF OTHER COUNTRIES BY THE HAND OF THE LORD”. (2 Nefi 2:5)

“Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, THAT THERE SHALL NONE COME INTO THIS LAND SAVE THEY SHALL BE BROUGHT BY THE HAND OF THE LORD”. (2 Nefi 2:6)
“Wherefore, THIS LAND IS CONSECRATED UNTO HIM WHOM HE SHALL BRING.. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall the land of their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever”. (2 Nefi 2:7)

America’s Destiny, by President Marion G. Romney
You can learn about the position of the LDS Church
http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=314761cb2b86b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

Anonymous

Posted Jul 30 2010

I have never known a more hipocric society than the LDS members in the USA, being myselth an LDS that have lived in Canada and Mexico, i am trilled and surprised how hatefull some members are in the name of the "law". Looks like they just want to focus on the 12 article of faith to justify their racism and forget about the primary commanmends of God. Bad think is that we all have to share the blame of the wrong doings of some pride ignorant members.
Looks like some mormoms are replaicing the teachings of Jesus for the teachings of mormom radio talk show Glenn Beck.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 22 2010

Boycott UT until the start following federal law & send illegals back to their home country. They are putting Americans at risk for disease & crime by encouraging them to enter the US illegally & the churches are NOT above the law.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 5 2010

now the consequences
visa has beenig denied fo missionaries in latine america

Anonymous

Posted Dec 18 2010

The Lord has said that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20–21.)
“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (D&C 58:21).
It would seem from this declaration that there is no permanent progress made in any field or in any place except it be through obedience to the governing law. We know this is true in the heavens, because the Lord has said:
“… that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
“That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin [sin being the breaking of the law], and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. “For … judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. “And … he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; “And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.” (D&C 88:34–35, 40, 42–43).
“The law of Christ” is all-inclusive. It concerns not only rules that shall govern beyond the grave, but also the law of nature here and now—local, national, and international. Latter-day Saints should strictly obey the laws of the government in which they live. By our own declaration of faith we are committed to do so, for we declare to the world that “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (A of F 1:12.) This we do in harmony with the Lord’s command: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. “Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:21–22.) “Civil authority is of divine origin. It may be more or less adapted to the needs of man; more or less just and benevolent, but, even at its worst, it is better than anarchy. Revolutionary movements that aim at the abolition of government itself are contrary to the law of God. …” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary [Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 339.)
The Rule of Law By President Marion G. Romney

Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Marion G. Romney, "The Rule of Law", Ensign, Feb. 1973, 2

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
03028_000_002

Anonymous

Posted Dec 18 2010

The Lord has said that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20–21.)
“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (D&C 58:21).
It would seem from this declaration that there is no permanent progress made in any field or in any place except it be through obedience to the governing law. We know this is true in the heavens, because the Lord has said:
“… that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
“That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin [sin being the breaking of the law], and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. “For … judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. “And … he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; “And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.” (D&C 88:34–35, 40, 42–43).
“The law of Christ” is all-inclusive. It concerns not only rules that shall govern beyond the grave, but also the law of nature here and now—local, national, and international. Latter-day Saints should strictly obey the laws of the government in which they live. By our own declaration of faith we are committed to do so, for we declare to the world that “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (A of F 1:12.) This we do in harmony with the Lord’s command: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. “Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:21–22.) “Civil authority is of divine origin. It may be more or less adapted to the needs of man; more or less just and benevolent, but, even at its worst, it is better than anarchy. Revolutionary movements that aim at the abolition of government itself are contrary to the law of God. …” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary [Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 339.)
The Rule of Law By President Marion G. Romney

Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Marion G. Romney, "The Rule of Law", Ensign, Feb. 1973, 2

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
03028_000_002

Anonymous

Posted Dec 18 2010

El señor ha dicho que eso “hay una ley, decretada irrevocablemente en cielo antes de las fundaciones de este mundo, sobre las cuales se afirman todas las bendiciones “Y cuando obtenemos cualquier bendición de dios, está por obediencia a esa ley sobre la cual se afirme.” (D& 130:20 de C - 21.) “No deje a ningún hombre infringir las legislaciones nacionales, para él ese keepeth las leyes del hath de dios ninguna necesidad de infringir las legislaciones nacionales” (D& 58:21 de C). Parecería de esta declaración que no hay progreso permanente hecho en ningún campo o en cualquier lugar excepto él esté con obediencia a la ley de gobierno. Sabemos que esto es verdad en los cielos, porque el señor ha dicho: “… el que es gobernada por la ley también es preservado por la ley y perfeccionado y santificado por iguales. “El que el breaketh una ley, y abideth no por ley, sino seeketh a convertirse en una ley a sí mismo, y willeth a respetar en el pecado [pecado que es la fractura de la ley], y en conjunto el abideth en pecado, no se puede santificar por la ley, ni por misericordia, justicia, ni el juicio. “Para… el goeth del juicio antes de la cara de él que sitteth sobre el trono y el governeth y el executeth todas las cosas. “Y… él hath dado una ley a todas las cosas, por las cuales se mueven en sus épocas y sus estaciones; “Y sus cursos son fijos, incluso los cursos de los cielos y la tierra, que comprenden la tierra y todos los planetas.” (D& 88:34 de C - 35, 40, 42-43). “La ley de Cristo” es inclusiva. Se refiere no sólo a las reglas que gobernarán más allá del sepulcro, pero también a la ley de la naturaleza aquí y a ahora-local, a nacional, y del international. Los santos modernos deben obedecer terminantemente las leyes del gobierno en quien viven. Por nuestra propia declaración de la fe estamos confiados para hacer así pues, porque declaramos al mundo que “creemos en ser conforme a los reyes, presidentes, reglas, y magistrados, en la obediencia, honrar, y el mantenimiento de la ley.” (A del 1:12 de F.) Esto que hacemos en armonía con el comando del señor: “No deje a ningún hombre infringir las legislaciones nacionales, para él ese keepeth las leyes del hath de dios ninguna necesidad de infringir las legislaciones nacionales. El “Wherefore, esté conforme a las energías - que - esté, hasta él reina cuyo derecho sea reinar, y somete a todos los enemigos bajo sus pies.” (D& 58:21 de C - 22.) La “autoridad civil está de origen divino. Puede adaptarse más o menos a las necesidades del hombre; más o menos apenas y benévolo, pero, incluso en su peor, él es mejor que anarquía. Los movimientos revolucionarios que tienen como objetivo la abolición del gobierno sí mismo son contrarios a la ley de dios. …” (Comentario de la doctrina y de los convenios [libro Co., 1954], P. 339 de Deseret.) El Estado de Derecho de presidente Marion G. Romney Segundo consejero en la primera presidencia Marion G. Romney, " La regla de Law" , Bandera, el febrero de 1973, 2 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 03028_000_002

Anonymous

Posted Jan 19 2011

I would like to enviter you to check out an article on LDS Church and uncocumented immigrants. I have done a fair amount of resurch and try to present an accurate represention of their position.

http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleGooldImmigration.html

Steve

Posted Jan 19 2011

I would like to enviter you to check out an article on LDS Church and uncocumented immigrants. I have done a fair amount of resurch and try to present an accurate represention of their position.

http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleGooldImmigration.html

Steve

Posted Jan 19 2011

sorry about the poor spelling. I am on break at work and sometimes do not take as much time as I should at checking things over

Pacxon

Posted Jan 29 2011

I wonder if some of this data might have been duplicated from elsewhere, it's scattered across the web and other peoples websites, unless you're the content's maker?

Anonymous

Posted Feb 6 2011

E

Ross Shafer

Posted Oct 30 2011

Its good as your other blog posts : D, thankyou for putting up. "Slump I ain't in no slump... I just ain't hitting." by Yogi Berra. Thank You, for the insight.

Disclaimer: Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of New America Media. NAM reserves the right to edit or delete comments. Once published, comments are visible to search engines and will remain in their archives. If you do not want your identity connected to comments on this site, please refrain from commenting or use a handle or alias instead of your real name.