In a world where many are afraid of terrorist attacks from radical Islam and drugs from Mexico, some think the Church is insane to have its current pro-immigration stance. However, there are two important points the Church considers in establishing its stance.
First, immigration has long been the lifeblood of the Church. When Joseph and the Church were struggling in Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo, he did not hunker the members down to weather storm. Instead, he sent out missionaries.
In the middle of the Missouri trials, Joseph sent one of his staunchest supporters, Heber C. Kimball to England. While there, Heber converted hundreds of people, the majority of whom immigrated to join the Saints.
Parley P. Pratt traveled to eastern Canada and converted John Taylor, the future third president of the Church. When Joseph Smith was slain at Carthage, 10 of the 12 apostles were off on missions, mostly in the eastern United States.
Brigham Young would continue the missionary work, sending elders to Europe, Hawaii, and into Asia. All of this, while Johnston’s army and anti-polygamy forces were continually buffeting and threatening the Church.
All of those immigrants that braved the Atlantic crossing, only to then hitch wagon teams or pull handcarts, became the heart and soul of Deseret. Without all of those immigrants, there would not be a Mormon Church today.
So important was this early immigration period that Isaiah prophesied about it:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:1-3)
But what about now and into the future? This is where the second point on immigration comes into play.
The Lord foresaw a point of massive immigration from around the world of a people that would join the Saints and build the city of Zion in the last days:
“And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh. And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. Their enemies shall become a prey unto them, And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows” (DC 133:25-34).
Here we see the lost tribes of Israel, and perhaps others, coming to the Americas from the “north countries”, which were lands north of the country of Israel, to receive a blessing from Ephraim (the LDS Church). This must occur as part and parcel of the establishment of Zion, as the lost tribes are to help build the city and temple.
The very core of the gospel revolves around immigrants. It is a repeated story of the children of God seeking the Promised Land. Enoch built a city for refugees from the violence of Noah’s time Noah escaped the wickedness of the world and the Floods, as a refugee on a boat. Melchizedek built the city of Salem as a refuge from Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham wandered from Ur to find a land promised to him by God. The Jaredites escaped the Tower of Babel and traveled across the sea in barges. Lehi and Nephi were guided from the evils of Jerusalem to a Promised Land in a ship built by Nephi. The Pilgrims were guided by God to the New World, where they could worship God as they saw fit.
The problem with much of today’s immigration is that we allow people to immigrate without having them embrace their new life and culture. When Muslims are not integrated into western society, they retain the best and worst of their previous culture. When we do not let Hispanics enter and join our society fully, they remain on the edges, encouraging the darkest parts of culture to come forward. We see the same occurring with those forced to come to America in the bounds of slavery, often left on the edges of society, where they do not feel like a part of the Promised Land.
The new call for the Relief Society to reach out a hand to refugees and immigrants is not a new call. After World War II, the Relief Society sent train car loads of grain, food, clothing and blankets to the refugees in war-torn Europe. When the immigrants in the Willie and Martin handcart companies were brought in from the storms, the sisters were ready to take them into their homes, often for years,
There is a consistent pattern in how the Church invites refugees and immigrants. They are the children of God. As such, they deserve a chance to be loved and helped.