LDS Inc. unwilling to tell members to obey the law?
You’ve probably all seen the news coverage recently noting that there is an increasing debate in Utah about illegal immigration. Mormons seem to be leading the charge in Arizona and Utah (not necessarily as Mormons, but these politicians happen to be Mormons) to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants. But the Mormon Church won’t reign them in and won’t take an official position on illegal immigration. Those cracking down on illegal immigration cite Mormon scripture and an Article of Faith about following the law. LDS Inc. just says be “compassionate” toward illegals. My question: Is LDS Inc. wavering because illegals make up their primary pool for potential converts? Or is there some other reason for the wavering?
The Church is more transnational than it was, so its stances are bound to be less nationalist. I don’t know that “illegals” make up the primary pool of converts, but there are over 700 Spanish-speaking LDS congregations in the US, and a lot of these congregations have undocumented individuals. I think variation on the topic is great, since American communities are still pretty segregated. A Spanish-speaking congregation, for example, to me means that almost everyone there is Latino, which means that another congregation is almost entirely white. So, the way I see it is not so much a wavering, but more that there is no single stance that the Church can take other than vague “compassion” without angering a bunch of people.
The church in America has a decades-old policy of “immigration status is irrelevant to a person’s standing in the church.” I joined the church in 1982, and I remember not long afterward a letter to that effect was read over the pulpit by the bishop. (This was in Southern California, where the issue sometimes came up even back then.)
Between then and now, the church has at times actively worked to protect its illegal-immigrant members (including missionaries) from deportation, and successfully lobbied Congress to exempt volunteers from (employee/employer) requirements for proof of the right to work legally. So this “compassionate” attitude is nothing new. (And that’s to the church’s credit, imo.)
But why doesn’t the church speak up clearly and unambiguously and openly avow what has been its de facto policy for decades on the issue? I don’t know, but my guess would be that it’s because there’s quite a bit of conflict between compassion and concern for Latino members and potential converts on one side, and the very strong opinions of its core membership of well-to-do white conservatives on the other. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there is some division among the apostles or general authorities either.
A division of opinion between the leaders of the one true church?!?
That’s the funny thing about using “obey the law” as part of your PR campaign to prove they don’t take oaths of treason against the US anymore – did the articles of faith come out after the temple oaths changed?
The articles of faith were written in the 1840s. The principle of sustaining the law found in Article12 is a direct response by Joseph Smith to those who portray the early Mormons as being law-breakers.
Nate Oman’s got a new post up over at Times & Seasons: Thoughts on the Deseret News, Immigration, and a Mormon Voice It’s a good read and this bit from Oman’s first graf matches my own view: ” … the rule of law is undermined by both widespread flouting of the laws and attempts to relentlessly enforce laws that are unfair. Both points are well taken in my opinion and in my mind they point toward a policy of better enforcement of considerably more liberal immigration laws …”
It’d be great to see the LDS church step up and publicly declare support for comprehensive immigration reform with a serious, coherent, detailed statement. As far as why they don’t, Kuri’s guess makes sense to me.