Supporting the Brethren on the issues of refugees and immigration

As most readers know, M* supports the Church and its leaders. This means that most readers and commenters are what we will call (for lack of a better term) “conservative Mormons.”

On many issues like same-sex marriage or abortion, this does not create much stress for conservative Mormons because the Church seems to support our views.

But what about the issue of the Syrian refugees? And what about immigration?

The Church issued a letter two weeks ago asking members to assist the refugees. How did you respond to that letter? Did you contribute other offerings? Did you participate in local relief projects?

Here is what the Church said:

It is with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships,” states the letter.

The letter explains the Church is assisting migrants and refugees in several countries “thanks to the generous help of our members.”

Mormons have been providing aid to refugees in the Middle East for more than a decade, providing hundreds of thousands of blankets, clothes, emergency medical supplies, food and other resources to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.

In response to the recent crisis in Europe, the Church made an additional commitment in September of $5 million to help displaced families.

The letter continues, “Members may contribute to the Church Humanitarian Fund using the Tithing and Other Offerings donation slip. We also invite Church units, families, and individuals to participate in local relief projects, where practical.”

“May the Lord bless you as you render Christlike service to those in need,” the letter concludes.

Let me state quickly that this is not a post intended to scold anybody. I want us to “reason together.” I don’t have all the answers, and I think people of good will can disagree. But if we support the Brethren, shouldn’t we support humanitarian efforts to help the refugees?

How about on immigration?

Here is what the Church said in 2011:

As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.

What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.

The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.

As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.

The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.

In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family, and its commitment to law.

Here is my opinion of the Church’s position on immigration: the Church seems to be clearly against mass deportation. The Church seems to be in favor of some kind of immigration reform that allows people to stay in the U.S. and work. But the Church also is in favor of the rule of law. In this statement, the Church makes it clear that nations have a right to secure their borders.

I will make a personal comment. I favor some kind of immigration reform, and I have been pro-immigrant since the 1980s. So, the Church’s position on this issue causes me no concerns. But here is something to consider: most of the immigrants coming to the U.S. right now are compatible with U.S. culture. Yes, many of them speak Spanish or Portuguese, but their children very quickly assimilate into U.S. culture, and they generally accept the values of the U.S. Constitution and our republican system.

Do we feel this way about Syrian refugees? Would they assimilate into U.S. culture as quickly as people from Mexico or El Salvador? Is it completely outrageous to have some security concerns regarding Middle Eastern refugees? I have seen claims that Middle Eastern refugees are not security threats, but what about these guys? And what about the Boston Marathon bombers, who were Muslim refugees?

So, there you have it. The Church is urging compassion, not hatred, for refugees. The Church is urging compassion, not hatred, for immigrants. My sincere question is: how do my conservative Mormon friends square this with their personal philosophies?

NOTE: Comments that attack other commenters in personal ways or use over-the-top language will be deleted. This is an emotional subject, but I want commenters to be honest and to try to reason through this issue without fear that somebody is going to attack them. If you want to comment here, keep your comments on topic and be kind to other commenters and to the author of the OP. Thanks.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

72 thoughts on “Supporting the Brethren on the issues of refugees and immigration

  1. To answer the question: when the church took a stance on immigration a few years ago, my views were somewhere further to the right. So I thought it through and changed my views to match the church’s.

  2. During our family’s Sunday night chatzy session we discussed Paris and the fact that neighborhoods that here are predominantly filled with Black or Hispanic individuals are, in France, filled with Muslim individuals. At least, thus said my brother who served a mission in France. I forget the details, but I believe at least one city that had to close to missionary work due to tensions between the French Muslims and the LDS missionaries.

    On the other hand, we had a lady in our ward who was investigating the Church. She had fled Iraq, brutalized by Sadaam Hussein’s regime. Then she arrived in the DC suburbs and was brutalized by Americans because she was “one of them.” After she was attacked, she broke off contact with the Church, possibly seeing the Church as part of the larger culture that had attacked her.

    All are children of God. God wishes all His children to return to Him, someday, and be part of Zion, where they are of one heart and one mind and dwell in righteousness and there are no poor among them.

    We have participated in blanket drives for refugees in Syria, organized by the local Church units. We are also part of our local Christian service organization, which offers aid to all in need, regardless of ethnicity, etc. We have provided gifts during the holidays and Thanksgiving dinners to whichever families were assigned to us. I have co-workers and neighbors and friends in PTA and elsewhere who are of a broad range of nationalities and ethnicities.

    While there are the few, like Timothy McVeigh (not Muslim, by the way), who commit reprehensible acts of violence, the majority of God’s children are good.

  3. It is good that the church takes positions which defy neat classification into one of the two major political parties. It is very good that conservative and liberal members alike must be stretched and challenged to put the values of the Kingdom of God above the values of party.

    Personally, I agree with Geoff B that the Church’s position on both of these topics allows for a wide range of acceptable policies. However, the extreme xenophobia of Donald Trump is inconsistent with the values of Jesus Christ and his Church, and cannot be reconciled. Likewise, it is clear that any plan that involves the disruption and breaking up of families is contrary to Gospel principles.

    With the Syrian refugees, we can of course be cautious to ensure that we can handle them and that they are able to integrate. We are not commanded to run faster than we can walk. But the toxis rhetoric that I’ve been hearing from the right today is certainly inconsistent with the demeanor of a disciple of Jesus Christ. In some ways, attitude matters as much as the final number of refugees allowed in.

  4. My issue with the Syrian migrants is that I don’t feel our government is vetting them enough, because the current government has shown that it does not care about who comes in our country. I do believe that there are many who do need help, but I also think there are probably those who wish to do harm, intermixed with the people who have been legitimately persecuted. How do we protect our people here? I don’t think that is an unreasonable question. Then once all of the people from the middle east get here, do they melt in? Do they form little enclaves? What and how much social services do they get? Then what will they be required to give back to this country? No one is asking these questions, so I am very hesitant at this point. I don’t know how to balance being cautious and being Christlike. I like how Glenn Beck’s “Nazarene Fund” is going about this (if you like him or not, is irrelevant here). They are actually vetting the people they are getting out, resettling them, helping with education and employment and helping these families melt in to their new countries. They are setting these people up to succeed.

    I will admit too, I still wrestle with obeying the law and people staying here who came illegally. My views, however, have been shaped by many, many friends who came to the US legally, and who had to pay lots of money, spend lots of time and work for their citizenship. I’m not sure it’s fair to them, to give people a pass. If they do come up with some sort of “amnesty” program, it needs to be as hard, if not harder than the system in place for legal immigration.

    I would also like to see our immigration laws enforced, and a better situation on the southern border. Again, there is a lot of talk here, but not much action, and I don’t see any action forthcoming.

  5. I am very disappointed that our government seems to be excluding Christians from the immigrants from the Middle East that are welcomed in our country. I donated to the Nazarene fund because I believe that Christians in the Middle East are the most needy. I completely support the efforts of the Church in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees no matter what their origin or culture. The recent change in civic government in Dearborn, Michigan where sharia law is now being instituted, should be a warning that we should be cautious about bringing large numbers of Muslim refugees into our country where they can form powerful enclaves such is happening in Michigan. I may be unfamiliar with every nitty-gritty aspect of our own Mormon history, but as I recall there has not been the same level of interference with the cultures of all around and among us as happens under sharia. We have not had a history of taxing minority Christians in our communities, subjecting them to civic punishment for violating Mormon tenets such as the Word of Wisdom. In fact lately it has been non-Mormons who have quit smoking who have been most zealous proceeding against smokers. The one exception is, ironically, polygamy which, post-manifesto, has been prosecuted as a crime. The recent furor when our leaders stated a policy of letting children of same-sex marriage couples wait until they are adults before they affiliate with the Church stands in stark contrast to the silence of the media on the treatment of converts away from Islam or for that matter the treatment of homosexuals under Sharia law. In the city like Dearborn, Michigan, where the majority Muslim government has adopted sharia law, what will be the fate of those gay couples who have obtained marriage licenses where they leave no doubt that they are violating the local law?

  6. It is true that Sharia law has not been adopted in Dearborn, although that is a common misconception. That Mayor O’Reilly sounds awfully suspicious, however. He is obviously one of those very common Irish Muslims. I heard he changed his name from “al-Reilei” to “O’Reilly” to fit in. (JOKE). I can joke about Dearborn because I was born near there and lived there when I was a kid.

    Now speaking more seriously, there have been several cases of Christian preachers being harassed in Dearborn for attempting to give out Bibles and protest the lack of free speech there. In one case, the ACLU actually got involved on the side of the preachers.

    You can read more about it here:

    And here:,_Michigan

  7. Jason, I will be addressing that in a future post. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the Church’s position on environmental stewardship.

  8. Daniel, I have been searching for some indications that Dearborn and nearby areas of Michigan that are heavily populated with Muslims are at all different than other immigrant enclaves over the years, and I haven’t found much. I think the city leaders were intolerant to the Christian preachers. As we Mormons know, the best thing to do with Christian preachers is ignore them or be nice to them, and this didn’t happen in Dearborn. But besides that, Dearborn sounds like your typical American immigrant community. And that is encouraging.

  9. I think the main difference is that conservatives can agree with the Apostles. We should be supporting refugees. We should be taking care of the environment. There is not an argument about those positions. However, the problem with the liberals is that they are not nuanced when an Apostle goes against their political positions. Conservatives will do what they can going so far as their political and moral beliefs will take them in following the generalized statements. Liberals end up rejecting it wholesale and blasting the Apostles for even saying such things.

    Take the refugee situation that is the main focus of the OP above. If these were legitimate refugees and not trojan horses of war, as too much evidence exists to prove, then no amount of disagreement would exist. The problem is that almost every single one of them are Muslim men of fighting age who it would be better to help migrate to Africa or another Muslim country than Europe or the United States. This isn’t a matter of unwillingness to help any refugees, but a matter of lacking trust that it is wisdom to do so in the manner that is currently done.

  10. The broad conception that conservatives don’t favor immigration is pretty much a false caricature. Sure, some folks aligned with the GOP want to “close the borders” and “ship the illegals out”, but if you do your homework, you’ll find (as Peggy Noonan reported in the Wall Street Journal) that a lot of people who are Trump supporters are . . . wait for it . . . immigrants that are here legally and have established businesses.

    This is a nuanced issue. You can support the Church’s counsel on immigration and still not call for open borders. You can support the Church’s stand and still believe that security is important to our communities. It’s not a false dichotomy between open borders and compassion and sealing the borders with a huge wall and hating immigrants.

    And finally, the Church’s stand itself calls for support of *legal* immigration. That’s hardly a full-throated endorsement of a Ron Paul-style open border policy.

    The problem with this issue is that caricatures and misapprehensions abound. It’s unfortunate, because it makes it that much more difficult to have grown-up conversations about it.

  11. So, I am not very wealthy (I’m a graduate student), but I do have some extra space in my home. I have searched on the internet a bit and have found many organizations willing to accept money. But I have not found anything for someone like me, willing to house some refugees. Anybody here have any advice?

  12. “Anybody here have any advice?’

    Do more research on exactly who you will admit into your home. Start there. I think the priority should be on Christians who are far more in danger than the Muslims. Second, you probably would need to contact your local government and the State Department since they are the ones who are in charge of such a thing (or so they say).

  13. The history of our country’s treatment of immigrant populations over time (Irish, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Mexican) would suggest we should seriously question any suspicions we feel or sensational rumours we hear. Americans always come up with some reason to hate and fear newcomers. And every time we tell ourselves this situation is different. But then within a few decades we realize we were wrong and whoever it was we were afraid of has integrated just fine and only enriched our culture. We call them terrorists (not just Muslims), we insinuate that their culture or religion (think of Catholics…) is incompatible, and we are always wrong.

  14. Yet the “Sharia accusations” are not stupid: they reflect settled American legal practice in our country.

    In short, many family law and small claims courts will go out of their way to respect binding religious contracts between people of faith. This obviously includes Muslims. This obviously includes what Muslims refer to as “sharia”. While much of the “Sharia accusations” are overboard and xenophobic, there are, in fact, issues when Muslim cultural practices conflict with American legal traditions.

    Professor Volokh’s paper is here:

    The conclusion to his paper is:

    “Generally, our legal system has long reached sensible results when it
    comes to accommodating religious believers. It has generally accepted
    modest claims to exemptions. It has generally accepted most manifestations
    of freedom of contract and freedom to dispose property by will. It has
    generally left people at the local level free to engage in democratic self-government,
    including in places where religious minorities have political power. At the same time, it has generally rejected excessive claims, or claims that unduly interfere with others or with the interests of society as a whole.

    Our legal system’s recent interactions with Muslim claimants have
    largely followed the same pattern. Our traditional legal rules can function
    just as well in the coming years, whether as to Muslims or as to others, so
    long as the legal system subjects Muslims to the same rules under which
    Christians, Jews, and others live. ”

    It’s not outrageous for folks to be concerned about “creeping sharia”. Sharia has already been in the US for many decades, and it continues to be afforded the same legal respect that courts will give Orthodox Jewish customs and contracts or other religiously informed private agreements. It would be outrageous to suggest that sharia “doesn’t exist” or that it’s “stupid” to bring it up. Clearly, it isn’t.

  15. Owen, be nice. I had to cut out a few of your mean-spirited comments.

    Michael Towns, actually Ron Paul is NOT in favor of open borders. He was opposed to a wall along the Texas border but did not favor immigration reform because he felt that immigration is incompatible with a welfare state. There is actually a significant split in the libertarian community on the issue of immigration, with many libertarians being in favor of open borders and others seeing it as a property rights issue and a welfare state issue and therefore favoring immigration restrictions. Just FYI.

  16. Yes I noticed a recent piece by Lew Rockwell that maintained a position that open borders would be an assault on personal property rights. He’s taking a lot of heat for his position, but I’m glad to see a prominent libertarian with Lew’s credentials at least bringing up the downsides to an open border policy.

    The conversation is absolutely worth having. Like anything else in this world, a policy prescription is really just a choice to adopt certain trade-offs. We need to be fully aware of what we’re likely giving up when we rush to embrace any kind of social policy.

    And for the record (if anyone actually cares), I’ve never advocated for a wall on the southern border, nor for rounding up “undocumented” folks. I’m all about practical policies and ideas that can actually be implemented while still being true to our ideals as a land of liberty.

    I support the Church’s position on immigration policy because it’s articulated by actual prophets, seers, and revelators, it’s imminently practical, it reflects the “facts on the ground,” it’s humane, and it keeps families together. What’s not to like about it?

  17. My instinct for reconciling the Church’s compassion for refugees with the security needs of our nation is to say, “Families and children running from danger? Sure, c’mon in. Healthy, fit, single young adults? Go back and fight for the peace you want.” More nuance is needed in reality, of course, but those broad categories are a useful start.

  18. In my post about environmental policy and the Church I will point out that many people read things into the policy that is not actually there. I think it is fair to say that with the Church policy on refugees and immigration that some people are guilty of doing the same thing. The policy does NOT say that you must favor open borders, for example. The Church policy DOES encourage people to follow laws and DOES say that nations have the right to enforce their borders. The other problem with this issue is that many people who generally favor immigration use it as a hammer to hit people who disagree with them in ways that exaggerate the position of their political opponents. Not everybody who is concerned about immigration favors the Donald Trump approach of mass deportation and a “beautiful wall,” for example. Assuming the worst about other people is always a bad way to have a dialogue.

  19. The thing about past inflows of immigrants (especially in the early 20th century) is that, at some point, the US *did* slam the door shut, and the existing immigrant populations generally assimilated into American life and tended to drop the practices/attitudes that the nativists deemed most objectionable.

    In the present day, no one wants to close the door; and pundits both here and in Europe speak glowingly of the cultural/political changes that these newcomers will bring about through sheer force of numbers. Whereas modern nativists generally act out of a desire to keep America culturally, linguisitically, and politically “American” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).

    In this regard, the Church’s position is interesting to me. I don’t think the “keeping families together” is a particularly powerful motivator in this discussion–our legal system breaks up families all the time through imprisonment (even of low-risk offenders/drug cases), divorce, child welfare removals, etc; and the Church isn’t suggesting that those institutions be reformed. I think the real situation is much more grim: The Church has decided that, after over a century of trying to make its members into “good Americans”, modern American culture has no unique quality that is particularly worth preserving. The day of the Gentiles, it would appear, is past; and the Church is willing to see what remains of America’s cultural cohesion gradually whittled away if it means an influx of immigrants who are more receptive to the “Zion culture” that we are under scriptural mandate to establish.

    That, to me, is both scary and exciting. I hope and trust that the brethren know what they’re doing.

  20. I really look forward to Geoff B’s elucidation of the Church’s environmental policy. While that policy resonates with my soul, you’ll find that the church’s theistic explanation for appreciating the environment does not necessarily resonate with radical environmentalists, who will be uncomfortable with both the concept of a God-designed creation and human-centered purpose for that creation.

  21. Writing about military matters I’ve encountered many people that seem to selectively listen to the prophets based on how much they support just war, interventionism, or isolationism respectively. It was actually a discussion with a conservative on immigration where I noticed how people can selectively weigh the counsel of prophets based on their political positions. Sadly, I haven’t seen many opinions change even in the face of pretty clear church policy that says otherwise. I wrote about it several times before, so needless to say I think you’re right in noticing the trend.

    To answer your question, I changed my position several years ago after I read the church’s policy on immigration. I now think there should be some sort of reform involving border security, a guest worker program, and a pathway to legalization. As far as the Syrian refugees, we can be compassionate without allowing potentially dozens of terrorists in our country. If just one percent of the 10,000 are terrorists, that is 100 people, or about 7 versions of the squad that struck Paris. I choose to have compassion on the future innocent victims of those terrorists. If they really want to settle here we should disallow young males into the country, I’m sure there are plenty of women, elderly, and children that need a home. Or we can help settle entire families somewhere else. Thanks.

  22. I don’t think the environmental stewardship promoted by the Church is very compatible with the environmental stewardship promoted by, say, PETA, which holds that the life of a boy is no more sacred than the life of a pig. Superficial similarities should not be allowed to mask deep philosophical divides.

    I have always had mixed feelings about immigration, being generally in favor of it but worrying about uncontrolled immigration and its potential for bringing in criminals and, well, to be blunt, freeloaders. We have become too much of a welfare state. I had more or less settled on the position we need to get control of immigration, then we can talk about amnesty and about being generous in whom is allowed to come in; amnesty before the border is under control is a powerful future incentive for more illegal immigration. But the Church has pretty much taken the view that amnesty must be part of the package from the start, so I’ve had to reconsider my position.

  23. It’s very interesting and encouraging to see how many commenters have studied the Church’s position and have tried to follow the Brethren on this issue. That is a nice model for how we should always act (imho).

  24. “Families and children running from danger?”

    Except virtually no family making it into the heart of Europe is running from danger. They left danger a thousand miles or so ago.

    First of all, we can not presume this is simply an immigration crisis. It’s the result of the war. If the war is not contained, the problem will grow. Europe is not capable of taking in 30% of the middle east*.

    The approach that Europe (and to a lesser extent the US) needs to take is relatively straightforward:
    1. Automatic citizenship and family refugee status for any military aged male who will enlist in a European Foreign Legion style military and return to Syria/Libya to fight for their home country.
    2. Completely conquer colonize this region with European leadership, military support, and local generated enlistees.
    3. Instill western style government with respect for human rights afterwards (if the people don’t want it, why are they coming to Eurpoe again?)
    4. Pay Turkey or other neighboring countries large sums of money to setup refugee camps for those unwilling to fight and are truly injured victims of the war.

    It would be an effective plan that will take a generation of hard work, rather than require our nations to endure 2-3 generations of “random” acts of increasingly catastrophic violence at home before we finally decide to nuke the place.

    For every negative thing that was said about Bush, these kinds of things were not happening while we were fighting them there. After 9/11 It was pretty commonly understood that if we don’t take the fight to them, they will bring it to us. And somehow we’re shocked when our post-manhood President pulls back our forces and the terrorists start bringing the fight to us.

    *incidentally, I have a friend who is an elected member of a political party in Germany. He really does think it’s simply logical to allow “refugees” to come into Europe simply based on their demographic situation alone. His exact words were, “Germans like to **** but we don’t like to make babies. We need them to come and work and make babies to keep our economy going.”

    As a Latter-day Saint, I only point out his crude quote to illustrate how important families are to a society. Europe is committing cultural and demographic suicide, because they have lost touch (by and large) of the importance of the family with their rejection of religion.

  25. One way to see this whole situation is as one or two verses of Jacob 5. In the case of Europe this is been expressed as the root dying. Therefore a wild and rigorous branch is being transplanted in hopes of reviving the dying root which is good.

    It remains to be seen what fruit will arise from this conjunction of an under populating Europe combined with a vigorous and fertile influx for Syria.

  26. The aspect of Syrian migration to Europe that many people apparently have not considered is that it potentially opens the migrants to the missionaries. The Gospel was introduced to Korea through Koreans who were converted in the U.S. The Gospel cannot be preached in Syria, but Syrians could be converted in Europe and bring it home that way and perhaps that could begin the process of change in Syria.

  27. It is hard for me to accept the Church’s position on immigration, but I am going to do it because I advocate following the prophet. Thanks for helping with the shift.

  28. Couple points regarding missionary work:
    – I highly doubt any Syrian in Europe with family connections back home will be allowed to be baptized (death to the convert, and if he/she aren’t available the next best thing is to kill/rape/imprison/torture any family member back home
    – The more Syrians come en masse to Europe the harder it will be to convert them because of the above dynamic in their own new communities in Europe.

    The converts that get baptized from Muslim nations are almost always isolated in the broader European or American culture. When they bring their own culture with them, we will not be able to convert them for the above two reasons and the obvious fact that they’ll be more entrenched in their faith support groups (to take a positive spin compared to the two negative ones above).

    I say this as someone who was part of several muslim conversions and was later told to “stay away, don’t call, don’t visit, can’t come to church” any time a single muslim “friend” from back home was visiting. Not because they didn’t care anymore, but because they were worried about the impact. Eventually, with that kind of “support group” they all stopped coming. If the “friends” were there to begin with, what are the chances of them getting baptized in the first place?

  29. I don’t agree with illogical statements about not separating families… If I understand previous comments by m* permas, one is obligated to follow doctrinal teachings that are repeatedly taught by the collective 15. Not necessarily policy emitted by unsigned PR departments. While those PR departments may be authorized to disseminate current beliefs of some un named church leader, they are not presented as revelation nor doctrine. Therefore, I feel fine in challenging the intelligence of some of the reasonings given. If they would like to claim it as a revelation, then I could possibly approach it differently. But currently it is not being couched in terms of revelation.

  30. I stand corrected my allegation that Dearborn, Michigan is turning to sharia law. I have known Muslims since my childhood when my mother introduced a charming Egyptian scholar to our family. Through the years I’ve been friends with Muslims from Africa, Pakistan, Egypt, and Arabia. One was my son-in-law for a while.

  31. My concern about Islam in particular is based on several experiences. In 1992 I spent some time in Crete where the Ottoman Empire dominated from the mid-17th century until the end of the 19th century. Somehow being at the site of massacres and taking a road over a Christian church hidden below the pavement where one would ordinarily expect to find the bulwark holding the road against the hillside made more impact than the many books that I had read about the long conflict between Islam and Christianity in Europe.
    I painted a picture of the Mosque of the Janissaries in Candia and studied the origin of the now gutted structure. Janissaries were young Christian boys taken as slaves in service to the Ottoman Sultan. Deprived of their families and faith, their loyalty became solely to the Sultan and Allah. They were the most zealous of the Sultan’s elite soldiers and body guards. Eventually many of them gained great prestige within the palace and the government. While Christian families continued to resist this harvest of their little sons, making Christian child slaves into Muslim zealots was practiced for more than 400 years, ending in 1826.
    I am fairly certain that the average Muslim is like most people, just wanting to make a living, have a family, live in peace. But there are some cultures, and I live in one of them, where martyrdom is an option. Abinadi, Stephen, the Apostles, Joseph, and Hyrum, all serve as examples to our youth. Take a great leap sideways into another way of giving your life for the sake of your religion and you end up with the horror of the suicide bomber and their ilk.

  32. Hi Jerry,

    I get what you say about the hostility of Muslim support groups today. But surely there is some way in the future to make salvation possible for all mankind.

    I don’t know how that will be accomplished. But I have faith in my God that it will be accomplished. In the meantime, these refugees are children of God, no matter what their ideology may remain during the period of their mortal lives.

    ( As an aside, much of what you say about Muslims support groups could have been said of denizens of Missouri and the descendants of Joseph Smith in past times.)

  33. Laserguy, I think your understanding of the role of the PR department and the newsroom is flawed. Every press release of story placed on the newsroom is vetted by members of the highest church councils. We can rely on articles posted on there as expressing the perspective of the brethren.

  34. One additional thought, I believe that we can learn a lot about the striking the proper balance from watching what the Church does on these topics. While our position does not have to align perfectly with what the church has done or said on every issue, it can be very illustrative.

    So, for instance, with immigration we can consider the fact that the Church has endorsed the Utah Compact and look at the principles and policies contained therein. With the environment, we can see how the Church is implementing green design of chapels and encouraging stewardship without taking radical positions on the topic. Etc.

    Actions often speak louder and more clearly than words.

  35. Daniel O.
    When something is signed, then I know it has the authority of the person whose name is written. Otterson made it clear that his organization is not Rogue, and that there is some oversight. What is not clear, and what has never been said, is if it has been approved by all 15 persons. Several M*commenters have made clear that apostasy is only understood by them as continual public disagreement with consistent teachings of the current unified 15. I am in favor of this. As a note, such a definition would include the recent handbook policies, but not necessarily include PR press releases. The other idea, expressed by Daniel O, is that some in named committee, some unnamed apostle, is being given authority which Lds scripture doesn’t allow for. Self consistency matters.

  36. I have a really hard time squaring the idea that every Newsroom release is carefully vetted by the entire Q12+3, with Newsroom’s (to put it charitably) confusing press releases regarding the Church’s continuing involvement with the BSA in July and August of this year. Whoever was responsible for the late-July release clearly hadn’t talked to whoever was responsible for the early-July release; and there was a lot of crow to be eaten by the time the late-August release was sent out.

    It doesn’t seem to be the style of the GAs to publicly repudiate/condemn the actions of their bureaucratic underlings. If Otterson or anyone else in the Newsroom/PR Dept ever did go rogue; I think they’d have to do so in spectacular fashion before we ordinary church members ever got solid confirmation of the fact.

  37. Thanks for this, Geoff B. Many of the more politically conservative members appear quick to criticize other members who support gay marriage for not fully supporting the brethren. Yet many of these conservatives support harsh policies against undocumented immigrants, a closed-door policy for Syrian migrants to take refuge in the US, and completely ignore the fact that significant damage is being caused to the environment. It seems that a double standard is a play.

  38. Brad L,

    Will you admit that more politically liberal members seem to play a double standard? If so, I might be better able to understand accept what you wrote about more politically conservative members.

  39. Let me rewrite Brad L’s comment:

    “Many of the more politically liberal members appear quick to criticize other members who support harsh policies against undocumented immigrants, a closed-door policy for Syrian migrants to take refuge in the US [etc.] for not supporting the brethren. Yet many of these liberals support gay marriage. It seems that a double standard is a play.”

  40. “If Otterson or anyone else in the Newsroom/PR Dept ever did go rogue; I think they’d have to do so in spectacular fashion before we ordinary church members ever got solid confirmation of the fact.”

    I completely disagree. Otterson himself has stated quite clearly that nothing gets released without explicit approval from a member (usually senior) of the Q12 or 1P. The Brethren really do run the show; I just don’t understand why people fail to grasp this. The Brethren really do “get” the importance of public affairs. And insofar as there are any clumsy or confusing press releases, that reflects a couple of realities: 1. The particular issues necessitating a press release are themselves quite fluid and confusing; 2. The Brethren are . . . *horrified intake of breath* . . . . not infallible!

  41. Michael, like I said in agreement to Laserguy, what I somewhat doubt is that every release is vetted by the entire Q12/FP. Did the united voice of the FP/Q12 really swing from tacit approval of the proposed new BSA policy in early July, to horrified outrage in late July, to grudging acceptance in late August? Or was that just the Newsroom folks, greenlit by one or two apostles whose voices (as it turned out) didn’t necessarily represent the entire quorum?

    As Laserguy says, when it comes to defining apostasy . . . for some of us, these questions make a difference. However well-intentioned he is, Michael Otterson + 1 Apostle ≠ 14 Other Apostles.

  42. laserguy wrote:

    If I understand previous comments by m* permas, one is obligated to follow doctrinal teachings that are repeatedly taught by the collective 15. Not necessarily policy emitted by unsigned PR departments. While those PR departments may be authorized to disseminate current beliefs of some un named church leader, they are not presented as revelation nor doctrine. Therefore, I feel fine in challenging the intelligence of some of the reasonings given. If they would like to claim it as a revelation, then I could possibly approach it differently. But currently it is not being couched in terms of revelation.

    Several M*commenters have made clear that apostasy is only understood by them as continual public disagreement with consistent teachings of the current unified 15.

    This is a mischaracterization of the arguments that I and other M* bloggers have made.

    While statements made in unanimity by the 15 prophets and apostles certainly carry more weight, that does not mean that anything that is not issued with the signatures of all 15 can be cavalierly dismissed or publicly opposed. All official communications from the church, whether in a letter signed by members of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve, or released through the Public Affairs department should be taken seriously.

    You are trying to draw a line that will let you justify publicly criticizing the prophets and apostles based on some kind of technicality. But it doesn’t work that way. It is about confidence in the prophets and apostles and appropriate deference to the Lord’s selection of them to lead the church. It’s about humility, and being careful not to undermine their authority out of respect for the Lord and the principles that govern His church.

    As President Eyring has said, revelation happens even in what we might consider business settings, making policy decisions, in committee meetings that are for all appearances banal business meetings.

    So while statements from public affairs do not carry as much weight as formal announcements made in unanimity by the 15, that doesn’t mean that it is perfectly acceptable to publicly denounce them and clamor against them.

    Those who believe that this is God’s church and that He guides it through living prophets and apostles are appropriately hesitant to undermine them publicly, even if they disagree or don’t understand. They don’t look for technicalities that they can use to justify limited mutiny.

  43. “when it comes to defining apostasy . . . for some of us, these questions make a difference. However well-intentioned he is, Michael Otterson + 1 Apostle ≠ 14 Other Apostles.”

    You sound like you want a legalistic definition of what apostasy is. You also clearly want to continue the narrative of a hapless Bro. Otterson — the tail wagging the dog of 1P + Q12.

    With all due respect, your narrative does not convince me.

  44. Jmax, I will admit that my paraphrase was not your statement, in fact it was bookslingers, but I don’t remember any of the rest of you correcting him then. In fact, I don’t recall if you were present for that post, but everyone else was patting him on the back and attaboying him for coming up with a legalistic argument that some of you use against people who fitted his definition of apostasy.

    I’m not suggesting one shouldn’t pay attention to church statements. I am saying one shouldn’t turn their brain off and switch sides solely because of an unsigned document that doesn’t have full unanimity of the 15. I have seen examples of people doing that on this blog post. No where in the standard works, or the handbook is that required. You want people to play attention to what they say, I agree. You want them to prayerfully consider, me too. But it sounds like you go further by declaring people de facto apostates when they don’t agree with unsigned statements. Mormons are inherently legalistic. We have a church discipline code that defines apostasy, and elder Cannons statement isn’t in it. Bookslingers came up with a legalistic definition that this blog collectivrly tried to enforce on others. I now point out that in order to be consistent, you can’t require more than those already in evidence, otherwise you are moving the goalposts. I feel comfortable pushing back against individual statements, as they are in a different category than united pronouncements.

  45. You sound like you want a legalistic definition of what apostasy is.

    No, not really; and I apologize if I come off that way. I do agree that generally speaking we should presume the leadership’s statements accurate until faced with irrefutable evidence that they are inaccurate (whereas a vocal minority of Church members seems to take precisely the opposite tack and are out to establish just how much LDS teaching they can “get away with” ignoring).

    What I do want, though, is some sort of meaningful paradigm that allows me to give the leadership the sort of deference they’ve historically asked of us (and assured us that we can safely give), while allowing me to discard statements and events that the church has disavowed. Am I in apostasy for disapproving of some of the more “out there” statements made by Brigham Young, or Orson Pratt? I find that the notion of collective-inerrency-but-individual-fallibility, while perhaps imperfect, generally seems to keep me out of trouble.

    You also clearly want to continue the narrative of a hapless Bro. Otterson — the tail wagging the dog of 1P + Q12.

    *Shrug* Newsroom’s late-summer series of press releases left a lot of people with the wrong impression and smacked of dithering. I admit, I’d rather attribute all of that to Brother Otterson than to the Q12 or to any one of its members. Otterson himself has acknowledged this phenomenon and says he is “honored to take those ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.'” (

    But, Bother Otterson does seem to want to have it both ways. In the same talk where he essentially says “hey, I’m happy to take the fall on the Brethren’s behalf for whatever missteps Newsroom takes”, he then adds (paraphrasing) “But, just so you know–these are really their decisions, not mine!!!” I confess, it didn’t impress me.

  46. laserguy,

    You say “You want people to play attention to what they say, I agree. You want them to prayerfully consider, me too. But it sounds like you go further by declaring people de facto apostates when they don’t agree with unsigned statements.”

    I still think you are mischaracterizing. The concern is over publicly challenging the official church. People don’t become apostates simply because they disagree. They become apostates when they lose confidence in the prophets and apostles. One can disagree and still have confidence in the Brethren and that the Lord is leading his church and that if necessary he will act to correct mistakes.

    There is a crucial difference between that and feeling that you have to take matters into your own hands and make a public outcry in order to get things corrected. Public dissent and opposition is inherently a vote of no confidence.

    It doesn’t instantly make you an apostate. It puts you clearly on the road to apostasy. It is a manifestation of the spirit of apostasy whether or not one has become apostate.

    In the 11 years I have been involved in with LDS blogging I have seen it many times. Public criticism of the church and its authorized leaders is a clear warning sign.

    Admittedly we have had a cultural shift regarding privacy. People don’t often don’t think twice about what they say publicly. That certainly complicates things. But that doesn’t make it okay. Those who believe that the prophets are authentic are very careful not to undermine them.

    One last thought along the same lines that Michael had argued. The First Presidency and the Twelve are well aware of what is said by Public Affairs. If something was published that was so out of harmony with what they would say that it required correction, they would correct it and likely change the PA staff. The fact that they have not done so is not as strong as adding their signatures to the press release, but it is tacit approval of what has been said.

  47. I have yet to find the button that allows me to turn my brain off.

    When it comes to the BSA, I don’t see it so much is the PR department voicing the will of God for all eternity. I suppose I see it as part of the parry and feint that happens when there is a decision of import. I think that the indecisiveness, if you will, of the LDS position conveyed the fact that we were highly conflicted about the situation.

    In a way that conflict can be seen to have resolved itself in the updated policy.

  48. Historically, I’ve been one of the very few commenters on this blog that has consistently argued against illegal immigration and the unbelievably powerful movement to whitewash it’s negative socioeconomic effects. I stand by those arguments against amnesty as strongly today as I did before everybody decided that the Brethren think it’s awesome.

    As I understand it, the church’s position isn’t that amnesty is awesome, but that illegal immigration isn’t as big a deal in the grand scheme of things as I tend to think it is.

    This understanding has caused me to be very prayerful about my own views, to try to find some way to square them with the church’s. The only personal revelation I have received on the matter are these two points:

    a) The disconnect between my own views on this issue and what I perceive to be the Brethrens’ views is not considerable enough to worry about. I’m vocal about my opposition to amnesty, but I go to sleep every night confident that I am in good standing with the church.

    b) That Brethren are not in error on this matter, and the reason for their tacit support for amnesty is exactly how JimD expressed it above:

    “The Church has decided that, after over a century of trying to make its members into “good Americans”, modern American culture has no unique quality that is particularly worth preserving. The day of the Gentiles, it would appear, is past; and the Church is willing to see what remains of America’s cultural cohesion gradually whittled away if it means an influx of immigrants who are more receptive to the “Zion culture” that we are under scriptural mandate to establish.”

    That paragraph expresses exactly what I have felt. Some may call that exciting. I’m too busy lamenting the devolution of America’s cultural character and cohesion to be excited. We’ve failed; onto another promised people. Something to really feel awesome about.

    I have expressed my views on this to my bishop, a staunch Democrat originally from the east coast. He surprised me when he admitted that while his disdain for amnesty isn’t near as ardent as mine, he does not issue temple recommends to illegal immigrants due issues of “obeying laws of the land.” That blew my mind. But if that position is good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

  49. “The day of the Gentiles, it would appear, is past; and the Church is willing to see what remains of America’s cultural cohesion gradually whittled away if it means an influx of immigrants who are more receptive to the “Zion culture” that we are under scriptural mandate to establish.””

    I agree with this insight. There is tremendous scriptural support for it as well.

  50. Tossman,

    Your bishop might be in error for refusing temple recommends to undocumented persons. From the LDS Newsroom:

    The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.

  51. Given what the BoM says the Lamanites are going to do to the gentiles (non-Lamanites) of the land (tread down and tear through like young lions), maybe we should start sucking up to them now.

  52. I served as a Spanish-speaking missionary in inner-city LA. I would estimate that something like 90% of the baptisms I performed with the Church’s full support were undocumented immigrants. I don’t know; it may have been more.

  53. “I served as a Spanish-speaking missionary in inner-city LA. I would estimate that something like 90% of the baptisms I performed with the Church’s full support were undocumented immigrants. I don’t know; it may have been more.”

    Yeah, well . . . that’s just like, your opinion, man . . .

  54. ji, that was my first thought as well. This was a really interesting conversation, especially given his background. He’s had to shed a lot of long-held liberal Mormon “beliefs”. I put that in quotes because these are more cultural leanings than actual doctrinal beliefs. He had always been way cool with gay marriage and was even a proponent of it before it became cool. He said he also had heretofore had a very lax attitude (guidelines as opposed to hard rules) toward the law of chastity. I get the impression that these views are pretty common in east coast LDS communities.

    Then he got a job in southern Utah a few years later finds himself called as bishop in a Salt Lake suburb. I’ve never seen somebody so orthodox on traditional marriage and chastity. On the illegal issue, he said he can’t technically deny a recommend based on the member’s legal status. He simply feels uncomfortable certifying somebody as temple worthy who is actively benefiting from having broken laws and willingly continuing to break them in order to retain those benefits. He described it as being a total prisoner of the sin in the sense that fully repenting of it would mean totally giving up their life as they know it. I hadn’t thought about it in that regard before. He did assure me that he considers each on a case-by-case basis rather than making a blanket pronouncement.

    I didn’t ask him if it was just a border law thing or if some of the government welfare issues (which illegal immigration apologists vehemently deny exists, but that any thinking person must acknowledge) play into his opinion. I also didn’t ask him if he’s received any blowback from the stake presidency. I imagine he would, but I’ve been surprised before.

  55. Bookslinger.. Perhaps if they can provide a genealogy proving they are of Lancashire descent, one could make an argument for that. Currently there is no such thing as Lamanite DNA to compare it to, so that route is out. And the church is backing off the idea that all native Americans, North or South, were lamanite. Further, I’ve not heard anyone claim that Syrians are lamanires, so it doesn’t really help anyone or of the current conundrum.

    Meg, I’m glad you don’t turn your brain off, instead you provide mostly well thought out troughts And perspectives.

    With trying to be offensive, I was more alarmed that people were changing their perspectives on an issue… Not because they were convinced by good arguments, not because of good logic, not because the spirit told them they were wrong, not for any valid reason other than they disagreed with a single PR report, unsigned, which could represent at best 1 member of the q12, and at worst, some bleeding heart liberal at the PR department.

    I’ve seen several commenters claim some sort of scriptural explanation. Could be plausible, but if the church believes that to be the case, make it official. Call it a revelation, sign a name or two to it, and fall on that sword. But the plausible deniability involved in unnamed apocrypha is just silly, and I expect better from us.

    If Michael Wilson Townes is correct. And single in united members of the q12, each of whom has day in the PR department, are fallible, then one can listen to what they have to say without just having to change ones mind. If one has to remain silent, then the church, not m* editors, needs to be the ones to relay that message. Because if members of the q12 aren’t infallible, certainly m* editors aren’t either…

    I think the churchs official belief, that the united brethren arent going to lead us astray, is a good understanding. Bookslinger had a safer definition. Just recognize, if we are bound to the united statements of 15-signed documents, then by definition we are free to disagree, publicly or otherwise with statements which do not have that imprature.

  56. I will love refugees with the Word of God. It seems likely that any who make it here won’t need food shelter or clothing but if so that too.

    I will also work to make it unnecessary for refugees to flee ttheir countries. I support the annihilation of their tormentors even those among them

  57. LG, as I assume you know, most Mexicans (who technically are North Americans), central americans, and south americans are actually mestizo, a mix of native americans and spanish ancestors. Pure native americans are a minority. Pure europeans in Latin America are an even smaller minority (though more common in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay.) Then Brazil has various mixes of native, portuguese, and African.

    My point being that one doesnt have to have pure or even “identifiable” Lehite dna to qualify as a Lamanite.

    Since most members, and converts, of the church are identified as Josephite (Manasses or Ephraim) by their patriarch, I am led to believe that even just one progenitor among thousands can used by the Lord to identify/assign a tribe to someone. (The patriarchal declaration of tribe may also be an indication of _adoption_ as opposed to literal descent. Some p-blessings give clues, or even state outright, whether the tribal declaration is literal descent or adoption, but most don’t, is my understanding.)

    The predominance of Asian dna among native americans does not negate the possibility that a majority could still include Lehi as one of their 2 to the X power of ancestors, X generations ago.

    I’ve given much thought to the dna thing about “bottle necking”, and how dna is lost in father-to-daughter and mother-to-son lines of transmission/genealogy when people marry outside of their group, when a couple’s surviving/reproducing children are all girls or all boys and then if a subsequent generation person of the opposite sex marries outside of the group.

    If a modern person’s lineage back to Lehi crosses gender lines a few times, and some of those marriages involve out-groups (any non-lehites in the 1000 year BoM period) , then all traces of Lehi’s Y chromosome and Sariah’s mitochondrial DNA can get lost in many if not most of the lines.

    Yet going back only 8 generations, one has up to 512 ancestors at that level. (Less if x-th cousins marry.) It has now been approximately, at least, 100 generations since Lehi, 2500+ years.

    *** Only one of those 2^100 (theoretical, much less in reality) ancestors needs to be Lehi to qualify as Lamanite. ***

    So, the bottom line is:
    a) one qualifies as Lamanite if Lehi appears anywhere on their family tree, male line, female line, and regardless of how many times the line crosses back and forth from male/female progenitors (i dont know the shortcut word to describe that) even if the predominance of their ancestors are non-Lehite.

    And b) at 100 generations removed from Lehi, or 64 generations removed from Moroni, the possibility of finding Lehite DNA is negligible whether the Asian admixture occured in Nephi’s day (among a population that Nephi/Mormon were silent on) or whether the Asian admixture ocurred after Moroni closed the record.

    LG: What thread was my comment on that you’re refering to? i remember it vaguely, but I can’t seem to find it. I can’t remember enough key words to find it in a search.

  58. Bookslinger, start at “updated” work your way back in time for there ( checked forward, didn’t find it).

    Something along the line of, only true with a very important caveat of what the brethren are unitedly, currently preaching.

    I am reminded about what I learned about the church correlation committee at college. Professors were consulted by general authorities, who authorized publications in church magazines, which the correlation committee then rejected, which then had to recant and accept without changes because they were already accepted by a different church authority. The professor warned me about the issues of a large committee trying to please so many people with widely divergent viewpoints. I don’t envy then the job, and in fact that’s why I chose a harder science. Correlation and PR have the same pitfalls, various viewpoints, multiple bosses, stated doctrinal non belief in infallibility, with widespread apocryphal belief in infallibility, unsigned, unaccountable essays and decisions… I don’t envy it, but I can only be charitable if I’m allowed to place logical limits on the power of this type of organization, up and until canonized Lds doctrine outsources revelatory statutes to said anonymous committees. But to be clear that hasn’t happened yet.

  59. LG, yeah it gets tricky. The antis like to beat us up for things that apostles and prophets said in Journal of Discourses, some (most? all?) of which have not been officially recanted.

    Many things have died on the vine. From my lifetime, Pres Kimball’s exhortation to plant gardens has died off. Wards used to rent large plots and divvy them up so members could obey that prophetic injunction.

    In McConkie’s famous “forget everything that was said” talk, which I love as an example and explanation of how continuing revelation works, he did not _recant_ anything. He did not say “we were wrong.” He did not say the ban “was wrong”. He just said to “forget it” and to move on with the new/additional light.

    That was genius. That actually lets all “sides” think what they want.

    Since I didn’t understand all your points throughout this thread, I’m not sure if I agree with all you’ve said. But your “unsigned essays” remark rang a bell. i used to subscribe to the Church News weekly newspaper. I did not renew it because the writing was very insipid. And the most insipid articles had no by-line.

    When rewording the Brethren’s teachings into our own words, we have to be careful. I think it analogous to how Meg has carefully separated historical evidence versus interpretation of what that evidence means.

  60. “Binding” is the word I was looking for. There is very little doctrine thst is “binding upon” members. “Binding doctrine” is another way to phrase it.

    So the off-the-wall stuff that antis pull out of Journal of Discourses, even though Brigham Young or Orson Pratt or whoever said it at General Conference back then, if no GA has taught it recently, and it hasn’t reappeared in correlated publications, then it is no longer “binding upon” members. It may still be true, or it may be a good idea, but it is no longer something that a temple recommend or membership hangs upon.

    Or more recently, Joseph Fielding Smith’s three volume “Doctrines of Salvation”. It is also a source used by both orthodox members in a well-intentioned way, and by detractors in a mocking way. There are things in there that have not been repeated publicly by any GA since then. Those “dropped” items are not binding on members, but they have not been recanted/disavowed by the Brethren either. I suppose it is up to the individual to seek personal revelation as to the accuracy of any particular items if they really want to know.

Comments are closed.