Sunday, June 6, 2010

Preaching the Gospel to all who are here

When I was over missionary work for my stake we would meet with the Mission President quarterly.  The "Spanish Language Initiative" was where the primary missionary success was taking place in an area from Idaho to Wyoming and throughout Utah. The justification for the Spanish Language Initiative was rather an excuse. The stated reason was: "Can you imagine what will happen to the home base of the church with so many moving in if there isn't an effort made to convert them?"

Criticism has been leveled at the church for the eagerness with which the missionaries are being sent to teach illegal aliens. There are full time Spanish language missionaries being called to teach all over the United States. My wife has a friend living in Texas whose son was recently called to a Spanish language mission in Pocatello, Idaho.

Criticism has been based upon the Article of Faith which states we believe in "honoring, obeying and sustaining the law." The criticism is that there is some hypocrisy in seeking out and baptizing those who are illegal. The process seems to be lawless rather than sustaining the law.

At one point the church announced that law enforcement officers, judges and State prosecutors would no longer be called to be Bishops or Stake Presidents because it presented a conflict of interest for them to be a presiding church official over those who they were required to enforce the law. I do not know if that policy still exists, but it was the policy for some time while I was on the High Council.

I've thought the church's position was poorly articulated and deserving of criticism. The church ought to make a well-publicized statement justifying what is happening by adopting a straight-forward explanation that everyone can understand and agree is true. I wish they would announce the following, or something close to the following, as the their reason for the Spanish Language Initiative:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an obligation to proclaim the Gospel.  We believe in inviting all to come to the Gospel and be baptized.  We would preach the Gospel to anyone, regardless of their race or nationality, wherever situated.  Today there are millions of people welcomed into the United States by a national government that has refused to enforce any significant deterrent to cross-border crossing.  Although such entry is nominally "illegal," even the current President of the United States, the country's chief law enforcement official, has proclaimed it is in the best tradition of the American people to welcome immigrants to the country.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a law enforcement agency.  It is powerless to make or enforce any immigration law or policy.  If the national government does not prevent migration into the United States, we believe it is altogether appropriate to offer all who will receive the Gospel an opportunity to be taught and baptized here, just as we would do for the same people if they were located in another country.

This puts the responsibility upon the Federal government, where it belongs.  It shows the church is powerless to affect the outcome of the migration.  It also avoids the "can you imagine what it would be like if we didn't work to convert them" excuse, and puts it into a positive and reasonable light.

I do not think the church's actions deserve criticism.  I do, however, think they ought to be more forthright about justifying and defending the effort to convert those whose presence here is nominally illegal.  There's nothing wrong about preaching to such people. 


  1. You make a good point, this immigration problem should be placed upon the Federal Government.

    But I sense that many people are more concerned with the 'worthiness' issue of these so-called illegal converts & members to even join the Church.

    But the way I see it is that the current immigration laws we have, even if they were enforced, are unconstitutional. For it should not take 10-20 years to gain access legally to our country. My ancestors 100 years ago were just allowed to walk off the boat & live & work whereever they wanted & were given citizenship as time went on.

    I don't believe God or our Founding Fathers would want us to make it so hard & take so long for immigrants to come here, as our present laws do.

    Thus, I do not believe Heavenly Father considers good self-supporting immigrants as 'illegal', at least not according to 'his laws', which are always 'supreme' to any that men may make. Our laws must be just & fair to really be legal, according to God. Otherwise God does not obligate us to usually follow them. Thus I believe these immigrants are worthy & even 'legal' in God's eyes.

    Of course, what I do have a problem with & who I would wonder about their 'worthiness' & consider 'illegal', are those who come here (or any US citizen here) & take what is not there's to take (even that which is not the governments to even give) & that which they have not paid for like education, food, medical, etc. or those who commit crimes & do not respect our good laws. These people are in a different group than the good immigrants that come as my Ancestors did, who are willing & able to take care of themselves & work hard to support & better themselves & our country.

  2. You used the phrase nominally illegal. I guess the sense of this is that it is not really illegal or trivial at best.

    I think the experience in Arizona, for example, shows that the problem of illegal immigration is not trivial, but real and potentially deadly, both in a physical sense and in the financial one.

    Regardless if the one who nominally occupies the seat of the president enforces the law or not, it is still a law. And should missionaries be baptizing those who are known law breakers before they repent of their wrong doings - in other words at least leave the country?


  3. That's the whole issue. Since the Church CAN'T enforce the law, and the national government won't; the burden to forge a checker-work attempt to compensate for a national failure really should not be shouldered by the Church.

  4. My personal musings on the subject.

    There are many scriptures which can be quoted. But is is all summed up in Lehi's prophecy found here in The Book of Mormon.

    This is much like the Garden of Eden, where Satan, an unwanted guest ended up being part of the plan whether he liked it or not.

    God is bringing his people here to the promised land, including those who are unwanted (drug dealers and the like) as part of his plan.

    We may not understand it, and we may not even like it, yet it is all unfolding before us and is part of his Grand Plan to bring about the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

    I see what is happening in Arizona and throughout the United States as the beginnings of another fulfillment of prophecy as State wars against State, neighbor against neighbor, family against family... including Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints against Member. Causing a great division upon the land.

    Could the law and the governments roll in all this be Satan's attempt to thwart God's plan?

    Will you be divided?

  5. Of course the church can't enforce immigration law, but the church does have the ability to deny baptism and temple blessings to lawbreakers. Those who jump the line, use forged documents to get employment, take the jobs of those who are her legally and use the schools and hospitals without paying their fair share are not being honest with their fellow men. If you're going to turn a blind eye to these infractions how can you require honesty of others who come seeking church blessings? Yes, immigration law is broken, Yes, it should be fixed. The tax code is broken too, does that give me license to cheat on my taxes? If we abandon the rule of law when it's convienient, as a society or as a church, we lose the moral authority to institute laws. Illegal immigrants should be treated with kindness and respect but they shouldn't be treated as moral imbeciles. If you are knowingly engaged in a dishonest activity you should not be able to claim gospel blessings. If and when the church announces that it is breaking away from the United States and becoming its' own sovreign entity and will henceforth welcome all and sundry of whatever nationality, then I will stand up and cheer. BUT UNTIL THEN we cheapen the ordinances by allowing this dishonesty.

  6. It is worth considering that the very first illegal immigrants to the Salt Lake valley are still celebrated every year in Utah with parades on July 24th every year.

    [When Brigham Young & co. came in July of 1847 what is now Utah still formally belonged to Mexico.
    The United States did not formally gain sovereignty until the signing and ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.]


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