Friday, April 3, 2009

Are Mormon Church Members Conflicted by Illegal Immigrant Converts?

This past week the Arizona Republic published an article "LDS Church members conflicted on Church's illegal immigrant growth. Drawing converts vs. Upholding the law". The article highlights the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the fastest growing religions in the country. With a large percentage of this growth coming from Latino immigrants. Does it matter that a large percent of these recent converts are illegal aliens?

Brigham Young University history Professor Ignacio Garcia believes that nationwide in the past 10-15 years 70 percent of all Latino converts to the Mormon Church have been undocumented immigrants. The Arizona Republic article noted that this wave of illegal immigrants joining the LDS Church breaches one major tenet of the LDS Church--obeying the law.

The Twelfth Article of Faith says "We believe in being subject to Kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law". Some argue that it is not the Church's job to inquire of a potential converts immigration status. Mark Basset, President of the LDS Mesa Mission said "Our position is to invite everyone to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his plans for his children independent of national origin. We don't know what their immigration status is we aren't the government or the police." Missionaries and other local LDS Church leaders also mentioned that the Lord doesn't care about a persons documentation status but of their faith.

However, LDS Church members such as Arizona state senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) strongly believe in cracking down on illegal immigrants. Many LDS Church members are members of the Republican Party which has also been leading the crusade to stop illegal immigration. Maricopa county attorney Andrew Thomas released statistics last year that even though Latinos only make up 9% of Maricopa county they were convicted of 19% of the county's felonies. Latinos made up 44% of forgeries and frauds and 85% of false id convictions from the prior year. Because forging and falsifying documents is a felony most Latinos living in the country are committing felonies.

Therein lies the moral dilemma. Should the LDS Church continue to knowingly baptize people actively committing felonies? If so what other people actively committing felonies should be allowed to be baptized into the Church?


  1. Wow. This is a hard one to have an opinion about. On one hand, you don't want to deprive a person of their spiritual connection with God. But at the same time being here in America illegally is clearly against the law, which is something the LDS is strongly against. But at the end of the day I think it is more important to do what you need to do on a spiritual level.

    1. the church is after cheap laber more money they don't obay any laws any where that's why joe smith was killed,,he was a criminal so is Thomas boyd and the rest..lilbern boggs should have killed every Mormon that lived in mo.. and illinios

  2. As with anyone who has had criminal acts in his recent (or past) history, the issue of whether that person is eligible or ready for baptism is a call a Mission President might have to make. In extreme cases, the First Presidency might have to make the call (for example, when someone has previously murdered). And the Church Handbook of Instructions, coupled with the counsel received from the General Authorities, should adequately address any situation where an existing member commits a crime. I would think that would cover the forgeries mentioned by Bro. Dunaway.

    But I've heard many state the viewpoint that being an illegal immigrant is per se criminal. No doubt, I think some would like to see it treated as a crime, but for right now, I would have to characterize it as a common misconception, in the sense that crimes are generally punishable as misdemeanors or felonies. True, laws are broken, but they are federal immigration laws, and generally, the purpose of such laws are to determine whether 1) someone can be allowed to enter the U.S., and 2) whether persons already in the U.S. are allowed to stay. Of course, there's also some overlap with criminal law (for example, it's truly a crime--both for the intending immigrant and for the U.S. citizen involved--to enter into sham marriages for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws), but the typical border-crosser or visa overstay does not involve such scenarios.

    Indeed, I imagine that most illegal crossing situations involve sneaking across or being smuggled across, rather than being inspected at the border with the aid of fake documents. In such cases, a person who is found to be illegally here does not develop a criminal record as a result of being caught. He gets a bad *immigration* record, and he may not ever be allowed back in, but there's no misdemeanor or felony involved. He's detained, he goes through removal proceedings, he's deported, and that's that.

    The doctrine of dual sovereignty may have relevance here also. While difficult to do, a person who's only issue at the federal level is entry without inspection or a visa overstay (and possibly also illegal employment, itself an immigration matter) can still abide by state and local laws and be a productive member of society. If such a person in these circumstances, then, is deemed worthy to receive the priesthood or hold a temple recommend, there is no reason for me to question the inspiration of the Bishop, Branch President, and/or State President to make that decision.

    Ultimately, a person who makes covenants through baptism or later ordinances will remain a member, regardless of that person's immigration status or even whether he is later deported. Bear in mind, the Church is expanding dramatically in places such as South and Central America, regardless of what may happen with immigration policy in the United States. Such members can be expected to remain positive influences in the locale where they ultimately live and serve.

    Of course, the Twelfth Article of Faith makes no distinction between state and federal law, and the objective is to sustain all of it. That being the case, each member in this situation will have to prayerfully consider whether it would be needful to leave at this time, or to stay and accept the consequence that he could be removed at any time. Of course, a U.S. citizen fudging on his income tax, speeding on the freeway, or pulling the "do not remove" tag from a pillow is faced with a similar dilemma: Whether to obey the law or to accept the consequences for its violation.

    As a final matter, although a family may cross a corder illegally, it does not follow that all individual members are illegal, even under immigration law. Remember that under the 14th Amendment, persons born in the U.S. are citizens, regardless of the immigration status of the parents.

  3. This is a made-up controversy. The Church specifically allows for the baptism of undocumented immigrants and permits them to hold temple recommends. Moreover, the Church even lobbied for legislative protections that would immunize it from liability for sending undocumented immigrants on missions (something it has frequently and knowingly done). For the origins of this policy, see Spencer W. Kimball's biography, Lengthen Your Stride.

    People who get hung up on this need to get over their politics.

  4. I see no conflict in proselytizing or baptizing people who are out of status in the U.S. or any other country. If foreign-born Mormon converts return to their home countries, they will find local Mormon congregations there as well. I can't think of any incentive the Mormon Church has to focus on illegal immigrants or to try to keep them in the country illegally.

    The major issue I see is a purely theological one: there may be an issue with illegal immigrants answering yes to the question, "Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow man?" Can an illegal resident who has falsified work documents answer yes to this question?

    I attended a Spanish-speaking branch in inner city D.C. a few years ago, and it was understood that a significant percentage of the congregation was not there legally. I would guess about 1/3, but I'm not sure. It was sort of a "don't-ask-don't-tell" issue. However, to their credit, the out-of-status people were working towards legal status. Everyone celebrated when a member of the congregation got residency or naturalized.

  5. I worked as a teacher at the MTC and the missionaries always asked me about this one. I always told them to ask their mission presidents, because I didn't know the answer.

    If the Church were some function of the Government, this probably wouldn't fly. Built into the constitution, however, is the establishment and free practice clause. In my opinion, this will relieve the Church of any liability to inquire as to the immigration status of immigrants who wish to be baptized. The Church is simply not responsible in any way to the Government to make such an inquiry. This would probably become an issue were the Church knowingly employing illegal immigrants in church employment, but beyond that, I don't see any real problem here.

    Also, immigration status is not something one is asked in any type of baptismal or any other interview that deals with personal worthiness. To me, this is like a lot of things in the church... an honest self judgment call. (Ex: should I drink a Dr. Pepper? Should I pay tithing on my gross or net income? Should I be going to the temple with this beard on my face? Should I starve to death in my home country, or should I provide for my family by going north to get employment, and thus put my family first?)

    If the Holy Spirit accompanies the interviewer and the person being interviewed and bears witness that the individual is worth do become a member of the Lord's Church, the persons participating in the interview should act on that impression. If the overwhelming feeling is that because of personal worthiness problems (that may or may not include immigration issues) the person should not join the church, then the persons in the interview should follow that impression. For me, in the church, that is where the line is drawn.

  6. I recently went on splits with missionaries teaching someone who wants to be baptized but can't because they are currently on a one year probation for drug possession. I found that ironic, because the only thing keeping her from being baptized was not the fact she used drugs (and has now since quit), but that she was caught by the police and placed on probation. Countless thousands have been baptized in the Church who have "successfully" broken serious laws, but for some reason, if a person has been caught breaking the law, they now have to wait out prison sentences or probationary periods before accepting Christ. I have a hard time understanding the Church's policy on that one, which I think is relavant to the immigration question.

  7. There is no spiritual connection if you're committing felonies and all Priesthood ordinances are likely invalid because the illegal immigrant is violating the sixth, nineth and tenth commandments which are grounds for not passing the baptism interview to begin with. The Church will likely need to cease and desist this practice because it's wrong in many ways. It needs to go back to 2005 policies.

  8. Ah, a bit of the BCC madness comes to our site.

    Let's be clear about a few things: Being out of status does not constitute a felony under U.S. immigration law. Many illegal immigrants -- particularly those young enough to be elligible for missionary service -- came to the country as young children. If someone is "breaking commandments" (an assertion I question) it is more likely the parents, not the missionary applicants. It's still their problem, but it isn't necessarily their fault. I expect that is why the Mormon Church has gone out of its way to lobby for a change to immigration laws for religious entities. And finally, I would be interested to hear a coherent argument as to why the post-2005 policy is wrong. It is not illegal, nor does it encourage or facilitate illegal immigration.

    For a piece arguing that LDS Church members should support comprehensive immigration reform, see Marc Bohn's post on Times & Seasons.

  9. Regarding recent stories about the detention of an LDS missionary about the return home the problem as I see it is two fold:
    For the missionary, can you, knowing your immigration status, honestly pass the necessary interviews for mission service including a temple recommend interview?
    The problem for the Church is more complex. Can you, knowing the missionary's immigration status (and aparently they do as Elder Holland appeared to acknowledge the Church was aware and attempted to accomodate the issue) not simply turn a blind eye but actually certify this person to the world at large as a representative of your Church and what it stands for. Can you also then - having ensured your own legal protection - potentially expose that missionary to prosecution whilst on your service.
    It is not about whether the Church has an obligation to enforce immigration law but whether the Church is prepared to endorse breach of that law.
    I accept most of these young men were not active participants in the original illegal act of entering the country illegally but they are complicit in an on-going breach of those laws.

  10. Wow! I am not a logic wizzard or a lawyer,but there is something really wrong with the following comment: "Latinos made up 44% of forgeries and frauds and 85% of false id convictions from the prior year. Because forging and falsifying documents is a felony most Latinos living in the country are committing felonies.
    Even if Latinos committed 100% of all ID fraud (they do not), that would not mean that 100% of Latinos are commiting a felony. I find it hard to believe that most of 44.3 million Latinos in the country are commiting felonies. Just because rain comes from clouds, it does not mean most clouds bring rain. Ask any Utah farmer.

  11. To the last commenter,

    The focus of the article was on latinos who are living in the country illegally, that have joined the Mormon Church. It looks like I left out the word "illegally" in the sentence you highlighted. The point I was making is that if a person is illegally living in this country and obtained a job by stealing another person's identity or falsifying official government documents then they are committing a felony. The question I was trying to raise was, what other criminals who KNOWINGLY, CONTINUE to break the law should be allowed to join the Church.

  12. If the we believe in the keeping of the law we can't baptize illegal immigrants, that's not right. They need to go back to their home countries and receive the gospel ordinances there. No wonder Pres. Hinclkey said we should stay where we've been born. Sometimes isn't possible but breaking the law isn't Christian neither.

  13. Is it just that a person is here illegally or is it that because of their illegal status they are effecting other people in negative ways. For example the construction industry is being hit hard with job loss while at the same time the illegal immigrants are making it nearly impossible for those doing things legal to get work because they can't compete.

    Lets say a member of my ward is my competitor in framing homes or as a mason or drywall. I go about things legally paying my taxes and hiring only those I can E-Verify have a valid SSN. My ward member is hiring illegal immigrants who he never asks for a SSN from because he knows darn well they can't speak english and are illegals. With the exception of the one who does speak english and has a SSN but if it was verified it would be realized this employee is committing a felony.

    So I'm expected to bid against a group of workers who don't pay taxes and who will work for lower wages because they have no voice for fear of being deported, being exploited due to race in other words. If they do obtain a SSN its going to be a fake one and another more serious crime is committed.

    But still this ward member can go into the Bishop and Stake Presidents office and feel guilt free because the Leadership in SLC are advocating this sort of behavior by dismissing the need to keep the laws. One Seventy compared it to a "civil trespass", like walking onto someone else's property. But this to me seems more like a home invasion where my income is being seriously stolen from me by those breaking the laws.

    If I'm loosing tens of thousands of dollars or more than half my yearly income due to illegal immigrants that the Church feels are not doing anything wrong. Then why can't I steel from the Lord by not paying tithes and then go and get a temple recommend? Is it not the same principle. Or why should I pay tithe to an organization that is not keeping with its own beliefs to try and keep the illegal members or potential members from leaving the Church.

    I will not be surprised if over the next year there are not mass protests against the Church during conference due to the illegal immigration stance they are taking. To condone a person while they steal my lively hood and then expect me to keep all the laws including tithes is not right.

  14. That last comment seems to assume that an illegal alien is also working illegally, which is not a given. Many illegal immigrants do work illegally, but many do not, supported by their LPR or citizen family and friends. Your civil trespass/home invasion metaphor therefore seems misguided. My personal opinion is that illegal presence in a country constitutes dishonesty, albeit at a lesser degree than falsifying work documents, etc. But the two are not the same, and the former should not be considered sufficient to prove the latter.

  15. How can a illegal alien work legally? Its not possible. Either they have falsified documents that allow them to get a job with a SSN or they work under the table. I assume you mean they work and pay taxes.

    Last week I was working at a store front. There where about 6 hispanics painting in the store. They worked for the company that planned on moving in. They worked at a warehouse for a well known Utah company. One told me that he use to work construction. I told him I pay 30% taxes and he told me he didn't know how much he paid cause he got cash. Now he's working in a warehouse and he still doesn't know how much he pays in taxes? Something not right there.

    I have other personal testimony and first hand account of such transactions going on. The only way these construction companies underbid legal workers are by hiring illegals. Its written about endlessly in news reports and on the web.

    Its a given that if some one is underbidding by an amount that any other all legal company can't compete with then its being done by hiring illegals and paying them cash. They are paid less hourly but not having to pay taxes helps to off set low pay.

    I approached a member of the Church who is also a contractor. I asked him if he would ever join a movement of contractors who use only subs that e-verify their workers. He told me he wouldn't be interested. He told me the same drywall company he uses works on the LDS chapels nationwide. This company is one of the low bidders around Utah and they use illegals. I doubt the Church would care that they are supporting illegal activities that are taking from the incomes of legal workers who are members of the Church.

    Its not honest and its not right that these practices go on while others are kept from the Temple for breaking the same principles. It is like a home invasion, they invaded our country and took my possessions. Same exact thing happens when someone enters your home and takes what isn't theirs to take.

  16. I have to agree with the last post. I'm not aware of any scenario in which someone illegally living in this country can legally work in this country.

  17. God can do whatever he want with this world, what about faith? for some reason god let this to happen, that is why i don't go to the church for people like you, you don't have to look color or where the other person come from, GOD look your heart and not your status. God bless you

  18. God can do whatever he wants but as members of His Church we are asked to obey the "laws of the land."

  19. Just to clarify my comment above, I didn't mean to say that some illegal immigrants somehow work legally. Rather, they don't work at all and are supported by family. My experience with immigrant communities in several states indicates that this is fairly common for immigrants seeking legal status through family-based immigration.

  20. I wrote the "no illegal can work legally work in this country".

    At the end of the day I support the higher law. To love my neighbor and to love my enemy. I don't see if at all possible to deport everyone, the government doesn't have the money. Either companies using illegals and unfairly competing in ways that have hurt a particular industry by exploiting the immigrants with low pay should be broken up or those who have kept the law should be given the first right to hire "guest workers" who are here illegally already, needing to show proof they lived here keeping the laws other than citizenship.

    I think if those who negatively effected an industry, the actual businesses or business owners who illegally gained over their competition with the use of illegal immigrants, should be fined by having those employees taken from them and hired by one who will pay the same as any other American Worker. Of coarse if there wasn't a US Citizen who applied for the job.

    That way those negatively effected would be put first because they kept the law. They would be first to benefit with the access to "guest workers". Who are already trained in that particular industry. Or make it so difficult for those hiring them to actually get away with hiring them that they all head back to the home country.

    I mean during the marches around the nation a couple years back they held up the right flag first. They are proud to be from Mexico and should be able to show that openly. Give them a wage that will enable them to save and invest a lump sum into Mexico's local economies. We should be just as concerned for all the rest of the citizens in Mexico if we are going to be concerned about those who left out of economic hardship.

    The factory jobs in Mexico pay about $1 a day, so I'm told. The jobs the NAFTA agreement sent from the US since the 90's. The jobs that use to pay 15 to 20 times that amount here in the states. I'm complaining about workers here getting 1/2 or 1/3 what I make an hour when corporations are not helping their economy any more than they have to?

    Anyways, I don't want to sound senseless and angry. The laws of the land at times are no more than eating pork.

  21. there's this temple recommend question... "have you been honest in all your dealings" that is NOT intended for illegal immigrants to answer honestly... the bishop is EXPECTING to be lied to so that he can issue a temple recommend. the promoting of lying runs contrary to the 10 commandments.

  22. I simply don't believe the figures in the story: "....70% percent of the Latino conversions nationwide in the last 10-15 years are illegals" No way.

  23. the morman church is false untrue..its all about money jose cortez

  24. If an "illegal" comes to my mormon church(ward) and I find out they are illegal, I will report them to ICE.

  25. CONFLICT IN INTERESTING left church !!!!!

  26. I am now currently inactive because of this issue. Shortly after my mission in South America I began to participate in a Spanish speaking branch. I quickly stopped as my "fellowshipping" and "home teaching" quickly began to feel like aiding and abetting. There is no rationale for this. And all this talk that illegal immigration is akin to speeding is wrong. The maximum you get for "just crossing the border" is 6 months prision time. You dont get that for speeding. The fact of the matter is illegal immigration is dishonest and wrong. I grew up in the church, went to seminary, became an eagle scout, and served a full time mission for 2 years.

    If the Church wants to baptize illegal immigrants then whatever thats fine with me. But it can't ask me to be involved with them.

  27. Baptizing illegals is wrong. Wrong because it is against the law. Wrong because illegals know nothing about American culture, standards and history and care not to. Wrong because they eat up resources. Wrong because they take jobs from legals. Wrong because they would vote for socialism (plunder) or will do so when eligible. Wrong because this is the policy of moralistic intellectual do gooders not god.