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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Immigration and the Church » Immigration and the Church

Immigration and the Church

Don - April 10, 2006

The Church’s policy actually seems to be anti-immigration.  Sure the Church doesn’t get involved in very many political issues but this one is an exception.

The Church has made no public statements that I can find on the issue of immigration, especially as it applies to the current political debate.  But the Church has made it abundantly clear about the attitude of saints immigrating from other countries.  The Church has "encouraged" it’s members to remain in their own countries to help build up and strengthen the Church.

That policy creates some questions in my mind.  Members from other countries want to immigrate to the US for various reasons.  These reasons include a better life for them and their families, more opportunities!  The Church is stonger here, this can benefit them and their families as well.  Getting to participate in all the Church programs, with peers who have similar standards can strengthen individuals and give support when needed.

Sure I’d admit that in small branches, small wards, developing areas, there is great need for leadership and strong members.  There are more opportunities for missionary work and maybe even more service.

But what’s more important here, saving the individual…and the family, or making the Church stronger? Yes, yes, I understand we can’t have all these converts coming the America and leaving the mission field in shambles.  The policy makes sense in a macro viewpoint, but if it were me, and I had to choose—I’m sorry I’d probably choose for my family.


  1. Actually the church may have no stance on immigration law, but they are against punishing illegal immigrants. See http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?nid=5&sid=77613.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — April 10, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  2. From my experience in my mission to California (Spanish), the Church’s position seems to be apolitical – it doesn’t seem to have any position at all.

    It encourages members to stay in their home countries, but willingly looks the other way with the numerous illegals in the Church.

    I’m fine with a no-position, apolitical approach.

    Comment by cadams — April 10, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  3. The Church does not employ illegal immigrants or sponsor non-citizens for immirgration, and fires anyone who is later discovered to be illegal. At least, that was my observation when an African sister was hired at the Church Office Building in the 1990s and then fired when her visa ran out. A few friends wrote on her behalf and the response was a letter from President Hinckley’s office to that effect.

    Comment by Margaret — April 10, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Things may be different for different nationalities and ethnicities, however. Mexican immirgants may have more leeway.

    Comment by Margaret — April 10, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

  5. I just found out last night that the Church is now (it’s been communicated to me that this is a recent development) allowing illegals to go on missions. This is good for us as our ward’s only missionary prospect is (likely) an illegal. Funny thing is that just a couple days ago a friend said that the Church has always allowed illegals to go on missions but keep them in the States.

    Comment by Rusty — April 10, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

  6. The church does encourage members to stay in their native countries and build up the church there. And, it does not hire undocumented aliens or sponsor aliens for either non-immigrant or immigrant visas, except for foreign missionaries and, presumably, General Authorities.

    But, the policy of encouraging people to remain in their home countries does not mean that the Church has an official position on US immigration law and proposed legislation.

    In addition, it would be a huge mistake to suppose that the general church policy you describe means that the church would support the Sensenbrenner-King-Kim Jong Il bill that the House passed last December.

    A good example of the way the church really feels about immigration law in the US is this amendment to the INA, sponsored last year by Senator Bennett (hmmm, wonder where he got this idea):

    “(C) It is not a violation of clauses (ii) or (iii) of subparagraph (A), or of clause (iv) of subparagraph (A) except where a person encourages or induces an alien to come to or enter the United States [the cited clauses make it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented aliens], for a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States, or the agents or officers of such denomination or organization, to encourage, invite, call, allow, or enable an alien who is present in the United States to perform the vocation of a minister or missionary for the denomination or organization in the United States as a volunteer who is not compensated as an employee, notwithstanding the provision of room, board, travel, medical assistance, and other basic living expenses, provided the minister or missionary has been a member of the denomination for at least one year.” (Emphasis added.)

    Gee, I wonder why that sounds familiar …

    Comment by Mark B. — April 10, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

  7. Rusty:


    Comment by Mark B. — April 10, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  8. Maybe someone who served a mission in Mexico could help me out on this one:

    Serving in Guatemala it seemed that not a lot of members were trying to enter the U.S illegally. There were a few kids who tried it, but few adults. In fact I can only think of one member that I had heard of trying to get to the U.S. while a member of the Church. My brother served in southern Mexico and noticed the same thing. I’m wondering if this is consistent with what other missionaries and members have seen in Latin America.

    Comment by Tim J. — April 10, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

  9. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those pillars of the Church in Europe that remain while the exodus continues. That said, my own calculus leads me to a similar place to yours, Don. I would likely gather. Everthing is relative though, I have no religious inclination to move to places like Utah (except for access to the church archives).

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 10, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  10. I’ve never been to Mexico, unless you consider certain parts of New York City to be Mexico (some have begun calling this city “Puebla York”), but in the Spanish language branches here, there are many who were baptized “there” and then immigrated, to join all those who are being baptized here.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 10, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  11. I think its a huge stretch to equate the churches “encouragment” of members to stay in their own country for the building up of the church to an “anti-immigration” policy. It’s apples to pizzas.

    Comment by Ian Cook — April 10, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  12. I served my mission in Tijuana Mexico, which sits right on the border of California. What I noticed were longtime members of the Chruch tended to be better of economically than the rest of the public. Many had good jobs and therefore had no plans on moving to the United States. Converts on the other crossed all the time.

    Comment by Brett — April 10, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

  13. it seemed that not a lot of members were trying to enter the U.S illegally.

    Keep in mind that however many Mexicans and Central Americans there seem to be in the United States, there are far more of them remaining in Mexico or Central America. Migrating the U.S. is still the choice of a minority among all religions.

    Comment by Last Lemming — April 10, 2006 @ 4:35 pm

  14. After the economic meltdown of 2001, thousands of Argentines have come to the US. Many of them are Mormons, and they have overwhelmingly chosen to come to the US. From my former mission alone, there are dozens.

    Comment by Capt Jack — April 10, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

  15. I think it is important to state that the Church also encourages its members to obey the laws of the land. In one ward where I was a member of the Bishopric, illegal members who were otherwise worthy were denied temple recommends because they were, in essence, in the act of committing a crime.

    Comment by Craig S. — April 10, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

  16. Craig,

    I think that is contrary to standard Church practice. Was this a mandate of the Bishop or SP or higher? I’ve always been under the impression that the Church has had a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” type policy in regards to illegal immigration.

    And re: obeying the laws of the land, does that mean if you get a speeding ticket, you can’t go to the temple either? Where is the line drawn?

    Comment by Tim J. — April 10, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

  17. In some ways the policy is don’t ask/don’t tell, in other ways immigration status is simply ignored. You can get baptized if you are illegal. You can work with ward/stake employment specialists if your status is unknown, but you can’t if you are known to be illegal. In general, leaders are not going to ask if you are illegal, especially if you need job placement help, because knowing that you are constrains them.

    Comment by a random John — April 10, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

  18. This was mandated by the SP. In this brother’s case, he was a HP and yet was seeking assistance. Because he was unable to work legally, we knew his status.

    Comment by Craig S. — April 10, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  19. I don’t think denying a temple recommend on account of being an illegal immigrant is part of church protocol. The SP is definitely implementing his own doctrine.

    Comment by Brett — April 11, 2006 @ 12:05 am

  20. Denying a temple recommend in such cases is almost certainly not Church policy, but is probably considered to be within the stake president’s legitimate discretion. I know of cases where a temple recommend has been withheld where it was the Bishop’s opinion the person was not being honest in regards to paying a debt to former roommates, for example. On informal appeal to the Stake Presidency, the response was that it was pretty much the Bishop’s prerogative to do that according to his own inspiration.

    As to whether withholding recommends in this case is a good idea – probably not. But for the Church to take a positive position in favor of illegal immigration, or even strongly in favor of non-enforcement, without a clear doctrinal explanation would put the Church in the position of contradicting long established doctrine, church policy, and public statements on similar issues.

    For example, President Hinckley stated on the Larry King show in regard to polygamy: “I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.”

    He also said, when asked if he thought the state should clamp down on the practice, “I think I leave that entirely in the hands of the civil officers. It’s a civil offense. It’s in violation of the law. We have nothing to do with it. We’re totally distanced from it. And if the state chooses to move on it, that’s a responsibility of civil officers.”

    Now clearly the illegal immigation issue is much more sensitive, but one can hardly expect the Church to give explicit sanction to an illegal practice.

    Comment by Mark Butler (the non-"Mark B." Mark B.) — April 11, 2006 @ 1:51 am

  21. YOU got a speeding ticket and you STILL go to the temple?! You bad bad man…

    Comment by Bret — April 11, 2006 @ 4:11 am

  22. So if I speed and don’t get a ticket I’m ok? By the same reasoning if I’m illegal and don’t get caught I’m also ok, right?


    Comment by a random John — April 11, 2006 @ 10:12 am

  23. That’s right, arJ!

    The main thing is, don’t get caught!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 11, 2006 @ 11:46 am

  24. I think the church policy (stay in your own country) comes by way of advice, not by commandment. It’s somehing any member sould serious concider before they move to the States, but is not binding in an eternal sense.

    Comment by N. Tolman — April 11, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

  25. I would say that it is really important for these individuals to stay in their country and work on making where they live a better place.
    I know that seems idealistic, but what good will it do the nations of the world to only have hard working and proactive citizens all in the U.S. Every country needs to have this kind of support.
    At the same time I realize that it’s not easy to be in a place that you don’t feel safe and comfortable, so I can see thier argument as well.

    Comment by Elbow — April 11, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

  26. Elbow, If staying in your own country to build up the church is a good idea what about the individual’s eternal perspective? Do I stay and take the likely chance my son or daughter will marry outside the church. Do I stay and have my children grow up with 99% non-member friends. Do I stay and have my son or daughter be the only deacon, or mia-maid? Or do I immigrate and give them a chance to marry in the church, associate with members and have real quorum and class activities.

    I think I would choose to immigrate, if I could.

    Comment by don — April 12, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

  27. Oh, and I’d do it in spite of the church’s “policy” or “recommendation”. My family is more important to me than making sure my local branch is strong.

    Fortunately for the church there are better/stronger member than me and they stay put and build up the church.

    Comment by don — April 12, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

  28. In one ward where I was a member of the Bishopric, illegal members who were otherwise worthy were denied temple recommends

    Craig S., that is an outrage, and flagrantly contradicts instructions from SLC. I have seen at least two priesthood bulletins addresses to leaders instructing us NOT to interpret their illegal status as a disqualification for a recommend. Your SP was very definitely way, way out of line.

    Comment by Mark IV — April 13, 2006 @ 7:14 am

  29. As a newly appointed Branch President over a Spanish-speaking branch, I have come to learn that the policy of the Church seems to be none other than “Don’t ask – don’t tell.”

    Comment by Trix_Rabbit — April 14, 2006 @ 1:32 am

  30. I think valid points for both sides (staying or immigrating) are made. Here is another point to consider: My wife grew up in Oklahoma (not a large church presence), and she has told me that she is SO glad that she grew up away from a lot of members so as to have more opportunities to share the gospel. She feels like she grew more that way.

    I think you can develop spiritually in different environments equally as well, and the Church does have a valid point in wanting to have members “out there” growing things.

    As far as marriage in concerned, why not strike a compromise? Stay non-immigrated, and when the young ones grow old enough, send them to Utah for school!

    Comment by Adam — April 19, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

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