Utah Latinos plan letter-writing campaign to President Monson

This story in the Salt Lake Tribune says a Latino activist group is urging President Monson to clarify the Church’s position on illegal immigration.

Here are the key paragraphs of comments by activist Tony Yapias:

Yapias has applauded other faith leaders, including Bishop John C. Wester, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, for speaking out against Arizona’s new law and pressing for comprehensive immigration reform. But the Latino activist wants the state’s predominant religion to take a stand.

“Why is it,” Yapias asks, “that the LDS Church can’t say what many other churches have said already?”

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.

44 thoughts on “Utah Latinos plan letter-writing campaign to President Monson

  1. …Because the LDS Church remains politcally neutral….the end.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention » Utah Latinos plan letter-writing campaign to President Monson The Millennial Star -- Topsy.com

  3. I think the church has already made clear that we need to have compassion for illegal immigrants and treat them like human beings.

    I think the church has also made clear that it could care less about the legal status of its members, leaders, and missionaries; even with the bar raised, the church knowingly sends out missionaries who are illegal immigrants. Actions should speak louder than words.

    I don’t think the church will come out as strongly as some other churches have. I do think that the church will continue to remind its members about compassion when it comes to the immigration debate. It’s pretty clear that not all of us have gotten the message.

  4. So many stupid things get said in this debate. One that is irritating me is legislators like Pearce and this Sandstrom bringing up the 12th Article of Faith. Pointing out that law should be obeyed adds nothing to a debate about what our laws should be. By pretending it adds something, they subtract from the debate by the logical void they leave in their wake.

  5. Btw, even though I favor immigration reform, the legalization of illegal immigrants in the U.S. and more visas for immigrants, I’m not sure that this is an issue where the Church should speak out. Just my personal opinion.

  6. I’ll be honest and say that I’m on the fence on this issue. I served a mission in SA and have a deep love for hispanic culture. However, I also see the adverse effects of unregulated immigration in a country that I also have a deep love for.

    Tim, how has the Church made it clear that it couldn’t (sic) care less about the legal status of its members, leaders, and missionaries? I wasn’t aware that the Church was actively sending out missionaries who reside illegally in a country. And if that really is the case, how is this considered an objective stance by the Church?

    John, is your argument, then, that we should only obey the laws that “should be,” and not the ones that have already been established and ratified by the people?

  7. The Church requires us to obey the laws of the land. I served a mission in south america…but still think that people should be coming here legally.

  8. Jeremy,

    The Church successfully lobbied Congress to insulate religious organizations from prosecution for knowingly permitting undocumented immigrants to be missionaries. It’s widely known that it frequently sends illegal immigrants here in the States on stateside missions, and tries to avoid the flying the missionaries so there’s not as much of a hassle with papers.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Church, without saying it explicitly, couldn’t care less whether a member is illegal or not. Heck, they’ve even come pretty close to saying it explicitly. Marlin K. Jensen, speaking on behalf of the First Presidency, said the Church views an undocumented immigrant’s status as a “civil trespass.” There is nothing inherently wrong about it.

    These actions, coupled with the fact that an illegal member can still be baptized and the attend the temple shows a pretty clear “objective stance.”

  9. Chris V,

    Did the Church require such when it was flouting the anti-polygamy statutes in the late 1800’s? Where was the 12th Article of Faith then?

    Really, it’s such a baseless argument to cite the 12th Article of Faith.

  10. The Salt Lake Tribune has had a few articles about LDS missionaries in the US who were not legally in the US; one of them was detained (ie–arrested) about a year ago at the Cincinnati airport as he was heading home after a successful 2-year mission. Google “Cincinnati airport LDS missionary” to find more information about it. Other illegal immigrants have served as missionaries in my current ward. Some great missionaries. The church knows about their legal status, and still sends them out.

    In my opinion, that alone cripples the 12th Article of Faith argument. Technically, the church isn’t actually breaking any laws by knowingly sending out these missionaries–but if God’s personal representatives are illegal immigrants, God must not care too much about their legal status.

  11. I’m re-posting a comment I made on an early immigration thread below because it is relevant to this discussion here as well.

    The Church itself has repeatedly evidenced a preference for a moderate approach to immigration, and it is not hard to see why. The number of Spanish-language LDS wards and branches in Arizona has exploded in recent years, a majority of whose members are estimated to be undocumented. As a result, the Church actually lobbied for the explicit protection under federal law that now insulates religious organizations from prosecution for, among other things, knowingly permitting undocumented immigrants to be ministers or calling them as missionaries. In 2005, the Church got Senator Bob Bennett to sponsor this “narrow exception” to federal immigration law, and he added the provision to an agricultural spending bill that was later signed into law (prompting Rep. Tom Tancredo to lambaste it as the “Bennett” or “Mormon” Loophole). (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/nov/28/20051128-122403-6535r/)

    To kick off the 2008 legislative session in Utah, the Church met with GOP legislators to urge moderation in its handling of illegal immigration: “LDS Church officials ‘used the word ‘call,’ they made a call for humanity in immigration’ debates and legislation, Litvack said. ‘We should not demonize; illegal immigrants. ‘In some cases, the debate has become so ugly, I heard, so hateful and dehumanizing. Let’s bring back the element of humanity.’” (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695245489,00.html)

    In February 2008, Elder Ballard, as a member of the Alliance for Unity, opposed the repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented college students in Utah. (http://utahamicus.blogspot.com/2008/02/alliance-for-unity-speaks-out-on-in.html)

    Also consider the Church’s response to a devastating immigration raid in Lindon, Utah, in 2008. The First Presidency dispatched Elder Marlin K. Jensen to speak alongside Catholic Bishop John C. Wester at Westminster College’s Interfaith Dialogue on Immigration. In his remarks, Elder Jensen, who it should be underscored was formally representing the First Presidency, urged Utah’s legislature to “take a step back” and approach the issue of illegal immigration with a “spirit of compassion.” He emphasized that “immigration questions are questions dealing with God’s children… I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach is warranted, and urge those responsible for [the] enactment of Utah’s immigration policy to measure twice before they cut.” Elder Jensen implored others to “meet an undocumented person” and “come to know their family,” and he noted that “if there is a church that owes [a] debt to the immigrant and the principal of immigration it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Elder Jensen also remarkably stated that “the church’s view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass. There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status.” (See http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_8258646 and http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695253048,00.html and http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695253342,00.html)

    Let me reiterate that, the Church views undocumented status as a “civil trespass” that neither prevents one from obtaining a temple recommend, serving a mission or serving as Bishop of a ward. This was made painfully clear in April 2009 when an LDS missionary (who the Church knew was an “illegal immigrant”) was arrested as he was boarding a plane to return home from his mission. In the wake of this, Church leaders have since had other undocumented immigrants driven home rather than flown. In response to this, Elder Holland told the Salt Lake Tribune that the Church works with undocumented immigrants who want to serve missions “to have them be constructive, honorable, faithful, spiritual, religious emissaries for that period of service.” In sending undocumented immigrants on missions, Elder Holland stressed that the Church is trying to “be more precise, if we can, about how to help, how to make [a mission] the calmest, most spiritually rewarding experience for everybody.” Holland noted that the Church’s interest was to ensure that young Latter-day Saints of all backgrounds have the opportunity to enjoy the spiritual benefits of serving a mission because “a mission is so fundamental to our blessings.” (http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_12267241)

    In another recent Salt Lake Tribune article, Church spokesman Scott Trotter said “the blessings of the Church are available to anyone who qualifies for and accepts the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and went on to say “Federal law allows undocumented persons to provide volunteer church service, including missionary service, within the United States.” (http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8062989)

  12. Yes the church sends illegal immigrants on missions knowingly. Yes they can have callings too.
    Do I agree on activists wanting President Monson to say something as the Catholic leader has?
    No. I’m pretty sure that he receives revelation as to what to do.
    Then again, President Kimball received tons of letters from Africa asking for priesthood and it made a difference. ?

  13. “There are no borders in heaven” was the claim an area authority told Stake Presidents on my mission in regards to illegals becoming members in a conservative area I served.

    A member once told a missionary on my mission who happened to be illegal, ( although the member didn’t know this) that illegals shouldn’t be allowed to be baptized. The missionary then said ” then I shouldn’t be allowed to preach the gospel then huh .. ? ” the member apologized to tears.
    People talk, but once they get to know the good hearts of many of the illegals, they have a change of heart. Ive seen it over and over again.

  14. if God’s personal representatives are illegal immigrants, God must not care too much about their legal status.

    Don’t you think that is a bit of an assumption there? Do I really need to bring up the obvious counterarguments?

    By the way, I agree 100% that Article of Faith 12 does not apply to debates about what the law should be. But it certainly applies to the question of obeying the law as it is and encouraging others to do so.

    If the leaders of the Church want to get up and give a talk encouraging members in other countries to illegally immigrate to the United States on the basis of some higher principle, that does not mean AF 12 is no longer relevant, it simply means that the leaders of the Church will have decided that there are higher priorities in the matter than obeying the law, and are willing to suffer the consequences.

    However, I have yet to hear a credible report that the Church actually endorses illegal immigration or believes it is an exception to AF 12. Rather, the implicit position is that it is not a particularly serious violation of AF 12, not that Church members have no obligation to obey the law.

  15. So, the Church sends illegals on missions here in the states…I wonder how that squares with the question in the temple recommend interview aboutr being honest in you dealings? Any insight on that would be helpful.

  16. It isn’t necessary that the Church take a stand on particular legislation, but its message of compassion needs to be delivered more conspicuously. I only know about it because I hang out on the Bloggernacle. The average member has no idea that Marlin Jensen delivered such a message to Utah state legislators (and even if they did, might dismiss him as a mere Seventy and a known Democrat). A talk by an apostle in General Conference or a letter read in sacrament meeting asking us to welcome immigrants into our congregations without worrying about their legal status would really help.

  17. I don’t think it makes any sense to claim that any and all violations of the law are forms of dishonesty. Fraud, forgery, identity theft would be. Speeding on the highway or robbing a bank in broad daylight, however, are hardly overtly dishonest.

  18. Mark D., I’d love to hear your “obvious counterarguments.”

    It’s pretty obvious that legal status just isn’t a big deal within the church. That’s not an assumption. That’s just how things work.

    I’m not saying the church should encourage illegal immigration. My guess is that the church would prefer fewer members (including illegal immigrants) move to the Mormon corridor. But the church does realize that legal status is not nearly as black and white as some people believe. And, unlike some of its members, the church doesn’t view being in the country illegally as some big moral sin.

  19. I guess I’d disagree with you on the speeding and bank robbing Mark D.

  20. Joyce,

    How is speeding, or crossing the border illegally, an act of dishonesty?

  21. Not sure if the legal definition of “dishonesty,” is the same as the definition accepted by the general public. I think the common definition is a bit more broad. That might be some of the source of confusion here.

  22. I think that “pleading the Twelfth” [Article of Faith] is a rather intellectually lazy way of supporting whatever laws we happen to agree with. If one is passionately anti-illegal immigration, then it’s easy to say that we should be following the 12th AofF.

    It gets a lot more sticky when one believes a certain law to be unjust. Should we obey laws that are immoral? What about laws in the 1950s that required blacks to give up preferred seating on city buses to whites? Or anti-polygamy laws in the 19th century?

    In fact, there have been times when Church members have engaged in civil disobedience against unjust laws; their reaction to anti-polygamy legislation is a classic example.

    So if I believe that our current immigration policies — with impossibly long waits for many people, and no hope at all for most — are unjust, should I still support them?

  23. “So, the Church sends illegals on missions here in the states…I wonder how that squares with the question in the temple recommend interview aboutr being honest in you dealings? Any insight on that would be helpful.”

    Yes, I too would like to know how members of the Twelve can still get temple recommends while sending out illegals on missions. Shouldn’t they be reporting these young elders and sisters to the authorities instead of sending them out to the mission field?

  24. People, let’s remember that when Brigham Young led the pioneers to the Great Salt Lake Valley he crossed an international border. The place we now call Utah was part of Mexico in 1847, and BY didn’t ask anybody’s permission. We didn’t get visas and we had no papers. To borrow language from that neo-nazi sen. Pearce, we broke into Mexico. Anybody who can trace their genealogy to the Utah pioneers is an anchor baby, it’s that simple.

    Let’s not dismiss our illegal crossing of the Mexican border as inconsequential, either. The U.S. was fighting a war with Mexico at the time over precisely the issue of borders. Brigham Young’s action was an egregious defiance of the law. Any Mormon who wants to get on a high horse about obeying the law has a lot of explaining to do, and it probably ignorant of his own history.

  25. Mark, I’d say it was closer to an act of war than a defiance of the law, especially taking the Mormon Battalion into account. Earlier incursions of Americans into California and Texas make your point better, I think, though I don’t get how those examples are meant to encourage acceptance of illegal immigration.

  26. I think it is possible to read the 12th article of faith as allowing us to engage in civil disobedience, if that is the only way to honor or respect a higher law of the land, and not just the actual law of governments.

  27. What John said. It turns out that migration into a region is not unrelated to that region changing national hands. There were Mexicans who woke up one day in territory of the United States of America. I suspect it might be similarly inconvenient (at best; perhaps much worse) for any white non-Hispanic Americans who wake up one day in Mexican territory. This is pretty much my only concern regarding unrestricted migration.

    On the individual level, as Phillip (#11) indicated, to know an illegal immigrant is to love and admire her.

  28. Mark Brown: let’s remember that when Brigham Young led the pioneers to the Great Salt Lake Valley he crossed an international border. The place we now call Utah was part of Mexico in 1847, and BY didn’t ask anybody’s permission. We didn’t get visas and we had no papers.

    On the contrary. What we now know as Utah was part of Alta California. Alta California was under Spanish/Mexican rule until June 1846, when the California Republic successfully declared independence. Alta California was effectively under U.S. rule when the U.S. Navy arrived a few weeks later.

    Utah was a de facto part of the United States (there were no other authorities to appeal to) for an entire year prior to the pioneers entering the valley.

    Even then, it is hard to claim that the Salt Lake valley was governed by either country when there wasn’t a government official within seven hundred miles. The day the Mormons walked in, they were the government.

    Last but not least, the United States did not have any immigration laws until 1875, and I seriously doubt the Mexicans did either. In fact, the 1917 Constitution of Mexico explicitly states:

    Everyone has the right to enter and leave the Republic, to travel through its territory and to change his residence without necessity of a letter of security,
    passport, safe-conduct or any other similar requirement.

    That doesn’t sound like the fundamental law of a country that was big on visas and passports.

  29. Mike P: So if I believe that our current immigration policies — with impossibly long waits for many people, and no hope at all for most — are unjust, should I still support them?

    A more serious question is that if you believe the immigration policies of a foreign country are unjust, should you move your family there where they are subject to summary deportation, and further commit several criminal offenses including forgery and identity theft in order to escape detection by the authorities? Even if the laws are unjust?

    If you are on the verge of starvation, absolutely. Otherwise, perhaps not.

  30. To Mark Brown 1:38 P.M. – Try checking your facts before you post. Senator Russell Pearce is NOT a neo-Nazi. He once had a political relationship with J.T. Ready, who turned out to be a neo-Nazi. Pearce severed the political relationship at that point. Defamation of character is still civilly actionable, last time I checked. Maybe you ought to get off your own high horse, sunshine.

    And holding us hostage to history is invalid and intellectually dishonest. 1847 was 163 years ago – different time, different rules, different mindset. If you’re going to play the history card, at least be smart enough to ensure it’s a face card.

  31. That’s right, because it’s silly to try to learn anything from history.

    It’s especially silly to pretend that history is repeating itself in regards to how quickly immigrants integrate into the rest of society. The Catholic Irish, the foreign Japanese, and all the rest integrated almost immediately; everyone loved them immediately, and everything was rosy for them. Our ancestors were never discriminated against for being immigrants because they were so much better than the immigrants today. They were never blamed for crime levels or anything else because they were such perfect angels.

  32. Any evidence of Pearce severing ties with neo-Nazis? All I could find was articles about how Pearce forwarded white supremacy emails, etc. And about how he was physically abusive to his wife. I agree that people shouldn’t be judged by a single connection to a single friend, but Pearce has said enough things and forwarded enough emails that we don’t have to look to his friends to get bad vibes.

    In any case, Pearce is a public figure, so he’s going to have a real hard time suing anyone for defamation. What he’s gotten in the media has been pretty mild compared to, say, what a particular political candidate in South Carolina has gotten from her opponents. When someone with views like his endorses a bill like that and thus steps prominently into the sunshine, he should be prepared to become reviled.

  33. Mark D. – It sounds you are overlooking the leaders of sovereign tribal nations who were within or close to Utah when Brigham Young and the Saints arrived.

  34. Jack Mormon,

    If the lawbreaking done by Brigham Young and the pioneers was the only instance of lawbreaking in our history you might have a point. But it isn’t, so I don’t know what your point is. When my son got his mission call 4 years ago he also got instructions, on official church letterhead, instructing him to tell the customs officials of the country he was entering that he was only planning to be there for 3 months. Learn some facts before you lecture me, sunshine.

    Sen. Pearce is a tool and an embarrassment. He is free to hold whatever views he wants to hold, but when the swastika-wearers show up to his rallies we are entitled to make our own judgements. His disgusting remark about women who “drop anchor babies” is egregious enough to deserve our ridicule and contempt.

  35. Sterling F: It sounds you are overlooking the leaders of sovereign tribal nations who were within or close to Utah when Brigham Young and the Saints arrived.

    The first function of government is to protect the innocent against the crimes of others. If party A kills party B and the friends of B appeal to party C several hundred miles away and the latter says that’s your problem, party C is not acting as a government over the area and any claim to sovereignty is a sham.

    In this case, for much more practical reasons the native tribes simply didn’t have the resources or the inter-tribal coordination to act as a sovereign government anywhere away from they were settled.

  36. I believe that comparisons to 1840s immigration patterns are problematic because the territory was so open and there really were no authorities to appeal to over much of the western U.S. However, to back up Mark Brown’s point, it is clear from documents back then that Brigham Young thought he was moving to Mexican territory when he set off from Nauvoo. During the time it took to get there, the Mexican-American war made Utah United States territory, but BY’s intentions certainly were to move en masse into a foreign country (at least partly because the country he was in (the United States) was doing nothing to stop the slaughter of the Mormon people).

    But again, the situation was very different except for the point that the Lord does not recognize borders the same way we do, which is a valid point even today and perhaps one of the reasons Church leadership is rather casual about immigration status on occasion.

    A much better point, and one that Pearce and his ilk need to think a little bit more about, is the LDS reaction to anti-polygamy laws. Clearly the 12th Article of Faith is a good general guideline, but Church history and U.S. history have both shown that there are times when one is justified challenging laws rather than blindly following them. I think the recent health care law — which I personally consider to be unjust and unconstitutional — may be one that Pearce and his ilk want to challenge someday. What about the 12th article of faith then? Makes you think, duddinit?

  37. The pioneers intended to move into Mexican territory, yes. That is immaterial here, however, unless the Mexican government did not want anyone to immigrate.

    The Mexican attitude to peaceful immigration for decades after that seems to be rather the opposite. Porfirio Diaz encouraged the later Mormon settlers of Mexico, visited them, and inquired after their leaders by name, for example.

    I like the idea of relatively open borders. However, as Milton Friedman said, open borders are not compatible with a welfare state. If we eliminated progressive taxation or any number of other welfare programs, we could sustain more immigration than otherwise.

  38. “. . . the Lord does not recognize borders the same way we do . . .”

    His thoughts are not my thoughts, and his ways are higher than my ways. Since we’ve already gone back to Brigham Young, though, I’ll top that and go back to Moses. Remember chapter two from Deuteronomy where the Lord instructs how to enter Canaan, and specifies certain lands that they are not to possess or meddle with because they have already been given to other peoples.

  39. Far more could be done to curb illegal immigration if INS stopped arresting illegal Hispanics – cold turkey – and simply fined the crap out of companies like Tyson (does almost all the meat packing in America) that actively advertise and arrange for illegal immigrant labor.

    But unfortunately, Hispanics don’t have much of a lobby in DC.

    Tyson does.

    Last I heard, the “gentleman’s agreement” between Tyson and the INS in one major factory town, was that Tyson throws about 15 of its own hired workers under the bus each month (while importing more than enough new illegals to offset the loss), and in return, the INS doesn’t raid the place.

    And the conservative bloggers don’t seem to give a flip.

  40. Welcome back, Seth. There are plenty of C of C conservatives who are all for companies hiring all the illegal workers they can find, but it is also easy to find other conservatives who want a system of employment eligibility verification that actually accomplishes something.

  41. I think it has been a long time. I spend most of my blogging these days fighting with critics of the LDS Church. I’d kind of gotten to the point where I’d said most of what I wanted to say on the bloggernacle already. But I turn up from time to time.

  42. And the conservative bloggers don’t seem to give a flip.

    I doubt you could find a conservative blogger in the country that wouldn’t consider what you describe an outrage.

    It is my understanding that meat packers and the like have become enthusiastic users of E-Verify, but that illegal immigrants continue to get thousands of jobs at such facilities through forgery and identity theft.

    There is an easy way to fix that though – require employers in affected industries to take a digital photo of everyone they hire and submit it electronically to the federal government, along with other pertinent information.

    Then the federal government can conduct periodic audits to see if the submitted photo is of the same person as the photo from the appropriate state driver license division / identity card database.

    The other alternative is making driver’s licenses much harder to forge. An effective means of making an identification card unforgeable is include an internal digital certificate that is cryptographically signed by the issuing authority. That requires an electronic connection to check, of course.

    Alternatively, you could just give every identity card holder a USB flash drive that contains the same information. Employer software then reads the file, verifies the digital signature, and displays the same information as on the front, with authentication from the issuing authority that it is legitimate.

Comments are closed.