Mormonism and undocumented immigrants

April 5, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 8:51 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

There was an interesting article over at USA Today this week about how The Church currently deals with undocumented immigrants in our congregations and in our missionary efforts.



  1. It is absolutely wonderful to see some Republicans’ views on an issue running against the church’s official position.

    Comment by Christopher — April 5, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  2. Christopher, you mean the official position of no position?

    Comment by Rusty — April 6, 2009 @ 5:23 am

  3. Considering our national immigration laws are broken, poorly designed, flawed, and stupid, and btw are not enforced consistently, I’m not surprised that the Church looks the other way.

    The Church’s responsibility is to save souls, not police the world to ensure no one is spitting on sidewalks.

    That said, I don’t think anything of substance will be done concerning the immigration policies, because our Congress is broken. They are unable to truly fix anything. Rather, they throw more money at the broken system, but nothing really gets fixed. Pres Bush claimed to fix education with “No Child Left Behind”, yet our kids still trail the civilized world in math and science. Pres Obama set aside 600B+ for fixing health care, yet there is no mention of actually fixing Medicare, which is currently on life support.

    We need fewer lawyers in Congress, and more engineers that understand how to create a working base line system.

    Comment by Rameumptom — April 6, 2009 @ 5:57 am

  4. It fascinates me how the article treats it like it’s a numbers game, not a teach who will listen situation.

    I lose confidence in all other articles I read when I see how wrong they seem to be getting us. It can’t just be us they misunderstand and misrepresent.

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 7:13 am

  5. Rusty,

    Yes. As the linked article and other similar issues in Utah that have arisen in the past reveal, some Republicans can’t accept this, and use the 12th article of faith to justify their actions. Using declarations of faith and doctrine to justify actions church leaders have not sanctioned seems to qualify as going against the church’s position to me.

    And yes, I’m as guilty as these Republicans in doing the exact same thing on a number of other issues. It’s just nice to see Republicans struggling to justify their own actions for once.

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 7:26 am

  6. Riley, what did they get wrong? How did they misunderstand and misrepresent?

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 7:26 am

  7. “I lose confidence in all other articles I read when I see how wrong they seem to be getting us.”

    Riley, you should have been at this past week’s Mormonism in the Public Mind conference. You can read notes on it at the JI.

    Comment by Jared T. — April 6, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  8. This article was in the Arizona Republic a week ago.

    That the church has taken no official position on any proposed legislative fixes for the immigration mess (other than its call to the Utah legislature to remember the humanity of the immigrants) suggests that all of us should be careful not to suggest either that our own position is the one that the church (or God Himself) would take, or that somehow any other position is contrary to the gospel. But, taking whatever position you will is not contrary to church policy.

    That being said, anyone who takes a position on immigration that is different from mine is simply an unthinking fool.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  9. Last I heard, the Church has yet to repeal the Twelfth Article of Faith. Nor has it issued a statement saying that members have no obligation to follow the law.

    The Church does implicitly maintain the position that violations of immigration laws are not substantial enough to affect one’s standing in the Church. That is an unfortunate expediency, but it is hardly the same thing as endorsing those violations.

    I don’t suppose that the Church’s comparable position on other matters implies that it endorses such offenses as not shoveling the snow off of your sidewalk, paying your taxes late, lying a little, cheating a little, taking advantage of one’s neighbor, and so on.

    If the Church endorsed the violation of any law, no matter how trivial, it would put its status in most countries in serious jeopardy. All the people who suppose that supporters of the Twelfth Article of Faith are placed in some sort of deep and inextricable moral conflict by virtue of that position are engaged in wishful thinking.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 6, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  10. Mark B:, you have it wrong: anyone who takes a position on immigration that is different from mine is simply an unthinking, racist fool.

    Comment by Norbert — April 6, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  11. So be it, Mark D. I’ll continue to smile while watching conservatives squirm at church leaders’ statements on the issue.

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 10:14 am

  12. Ok, I admittedly join Christopher in grinning a little when church policy is not in lock step with politically conservative talking points…

    And I also am wondering what Riley has a beef with in this article.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  13. Maybe I came across the wrong way. It seemed to me that they imply that we tactfully go after hispanics as if it was just numbers. It wasn’t that I find the article so wrong, it just seems to me that they painted us in a numbers sort light, not peace and happiness. Does that make more sense?

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  14. you guys are right, maybe I am being a little picky, but these are the parts that just seemed to make us look caculating to Latinos vs. everybody:

    “The Mormons are not alone. Many denominations, from Baptists to Methodists, are vigorously trying to reach Latinos. But perhaps none has done so as methodically as the Mormon Church.”

    “To appeal to Latinos, the missionaries emphasize the faith’s focus on family and community.”

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  15. I am politically conservative, but this doesn’t make me squirm at all. Not sure why it would. My reasons for thinking our immigration policies are screwed up are not religious. I agree with the guy in the article who says the church is not in the business of enforcing immigration laws and in a system as chaotic as the one we have today, it seems unreasonable for the church to take some kind of hard-line policy where we deny illegal immigrants membership.

    Also, I might add that my politics don’t feel like they are in lock step with the church’s policies at all, so I am a bit perplexed by Christopher’s and Geoff’s comments. Glad you’re both enjoying whatever it is you are enjoying, though.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 6, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  16. I am politically conservative, but this doesn’t make me squirm at all.

    Yeah but you’re one of those intelligent conservatives in the church…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  17. Jacob, I also share your political persuasion and am also unaffected. Maybe it’s because I served a mission to Mexico…

    Comment by Kent (MC) — April 6, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  18. Jacob, I qualified my comments #1 and #5 by noting that some Republicans squirm because the church doesn’t take the hard-line stance on immigration that they might prefer. I unfortunately left out such an important qualification in my comment #11.

    That you don’t feel like you own politics “are in lock step with the church’s policies” is an admirable trait. Senator Pearce’s comments in the article, however, reveal that he thinks his own views on immigration are exactly what the church teaches on the subject. Other Latter-day Saints are likewise reluctant to admit that their own approach to immigration is not in lock step with the church’s policies. Check out the comments on this DN article following Elder Jensen’s call for Utah’s lawmakers to be more compassionate in crafting legislation on immigration.

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  19. Riley, are you bothered by the suggestion that the church is intentionally targeting Latinos as potential converts, then? If so, I’m not sure I understand why.

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  20. Geoff, I’m flattered.

    Christopher, I guess I can see your point then, it is annoying when people assume the church shares all of their political views, so I can see why it would be fun to watch such a person squirm.

    Kent, did your mission in Mexico shape your view on immigration? If so, how? (just curious)

    Comment by Jacob J — April 6, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  21. It did shape my view on immigration considerably, especially since I served a lot of time in border towns on the Arizona border. I also work in Baja California a lot (I’ll be gone for 10 days this week and next) and work with children who have been abandoned by parents who crossed the border, or abandoned them after not being able to cross the border.

    The biggest issue I see is that we actually encourage illegal immigration as a country. We send mixed messages and basically create an underclass that lives in the shadows. The easiest way to eliminate this problem would be to create a SSN verification site for businesses and then fine the daylights out of businesses that hire illegally. I couldn’t work in Mexico and not have documentation because other Mexicans would turn me in. Americans (and legal guest workers) would do the same if that behavior was rewarded.

    If Mexicans realized that they wouldn’t be rewarded or supported for coming, they wouldn’t come. Now, I fully support guest worker programs, but they currently don’t work and quotas are politically driven to the point where businesses have to jump through huge hoops to get workers. The bridge is pretty much broken and if you speak to anyone in the construction or agricultural business they will tell you how horrible the bureaucracy is.

    So, I am mainly indifferent to the issue since the US government is also indifferent to enforcing the laws. When a government rewards illegal behavior, is it not just telling you that the law isn’t that important?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — April 6, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  22. Christopher,

    Yes. And it’s demonstrated by your word “target”, which, like the articles assumptions, makes the church sound calculating, selective and exclusive when the gospel is anything but.

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  23. So if the church sends more missionaries to an area where it knows it can be successful because they view key aspects of the culture there as harmonious with the gospel, and fewer missionaries to an area that is generally resistant to the missionaries’ message, that offends you?

    Comment by Christopher — April 6, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  24. Riley,

    I actually don’t think there is anything at all wrong with agreeing that missionaries do “target” the groups of people that are most receptive to their message. Heck, that is exactly what Alma did as well:

    6 And now when Alma heard this, he turned him about, his face immediately towards him, and he beheld with great joy; for he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word.
    7 Therefore he did say no more to the other multitude; (Alma 32 italics mine)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  25. Chris,

    No, put in that way, I don’t. In fact, I wish it was you who wrote the article in the first place so it would have been put as articulate as you just did.
    Then the phrases I quoted wouldn’t make me question some of the underlining intent of the reporting.


    All I see in that scripture is people not listening so he goes to those who will listen. It doesnt imply that he targets a certain ethnic/cultural group and “methodical(ly)” tries “to appeal” to those particular groups. He just preaches to those who will listen like we do now. To me it just seems that they make particular attention to that part.

    And according to your scripture application, we shouldn’t be wasting time with those with money, those who haven’t had a death in the family, or those who haven’t had some other event thats humbled them – just the really poor….and latino ; )

    Like I said, Im probably just being to picky. I just have some friends who accuse us of numbers for power and money. And thats the same tactics they use time and time again.

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  26. Well Riley I suppose I can’t stop you from getting offended by the article even if I don’t find it remotely offensive.

    For what it is worth, I happen to think marketing is a celestial art.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

  27. Well on account that Im in Advertising (and therefore doing my darndest to lead you youth astray) Ill happily agree with you that marketing isn’t such an evil tool in and of itself. Heck, its a good thing we’re only now just starting to “methodically” utilize the new marketing tactic of emphasizing the family or how else are we to start “appeal(ing)” to these family oriented Catholic Latinos!? ; )

    I can only imagine the in-depth strategic planning God is able to do with his present omniscience… Talk about lead generation and campaign targeting!

    Comment by Riley — April 6, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  28. I lean with Riley on this. The nuance of the the word ‘target’ makes it an unseemly word to use when talking about spreading the gospel. I dislike it in the church when we talk about baptisms as if we are selling widgets. I would prefer it if the number of baptisms a mission, ward, or stake have was never mentioned. But I know I’m in the small minority on this one.

    Comment by Hal — April 7, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  29. I agree with the position of not subjecting members to any form of Church discipline for violating immigration laws. However, it is worth noting the Church has long held a position on the immigration (legal and otherwise) of church members to the U.S. – namely, it is against it.

    The Church does have an implicit position on the government not treating illegal immigrants too harshly. Other than that it doesn’t really have a position on the political issues.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 7, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

  30. Mark, the Church is against it in writing where? Obviously, the Church has stopped asking converts to emigrate to the US en masse, but I think it’s hard to say the Church is against “individual member emigration” – especially given how many members come to the BYUs and never return home.

    I get the feeling church leaders would love to have people get a good education here and return home to improve the lives of their native country, but can you find proactive statements that discourage foreign students from remaining in the US? (I’m not saying they don’t exist; that’s a sincere question.)

    Comment by Ray — April 7, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  31. it is worth noting the Church has long held a position on the immigration (legal and otherwise) of church members to the U.S. – namely, it is against it.

    Hehe. No, it really isn’t worth mentioning that Mark. Mostly because that particular policy has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Especially since we are largely talking about immigrants who aren’t even Mormon when they arrive here.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 7, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  32. Ray, From the footnotes to a recent BJMS article on the subject by David M. Morris:

    “The First Presidency and the Twelve see great wisdom in the multiple Zions, many gathering places where the Saints [should gather] within their own culture and nation.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Edward L. Kimball ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 440).

    ”The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Area Conference Report, Mexico City, 1972, 45).

    Also Gordon B Hinckley, UK Area Satellite Stake Conference Broadcast, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3 June 2007.

    The reason for this policy should be clear, i.e. to strengthen the stakes of Zion where they are.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 7, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  33. Geoff, I agree the relevance is largely limited to Church members in foreign countries who may be inclined to immigrate here illegally. In other words, the Church can hardly be accused of promoting illegal immigration, when it doesn’t promote immigration at all, and indeed mildly discourages it, among the only people likely to give it a hearing on the subject, its own members.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 7, 2009 @ 9:04 pm