Apropos of our recent political discussions, the Church released a statement today proclaiming neutrality on a Utah immigration bill and saying “The Church repeats its oft-stated caution to members that they should never infer that the church endorses their personal political positions.”
For those that haven’t been following the story, a Latino advocacy group said that a member of Utahns for Immigration Reform pointed to the 12th article of faith as support for his view that undocumented immigrants be precluded from obtaining drivers licenses and other government benefits. Yesterday, the Latino group apparently met with Church leaders seeking clarification on the Church’s position on undocumented immigrants, and the Church responded with a press conference today. Unsurprisingly, the Church said it did not take a stand on the merits of the issue, and it expressed concern that someone used Church teachings “as apparent justification for their political purposes.” I have just two little observations.
First, setting aside the merits of the political issue, the Church’s statement contains fairly strong language. On issues where Church has not taken a formal stand, it is clearly inappropriate to insinuate official Church support for one side or the other. But today’s statement seems to take things further, saying that even “Church teachings” should not be used as public justification for a political position. This seems to come close to the view that religious (or at least Mormon) discourse has no place in the political sphere, a view that many Mormons reject with good reason. So how should we understand the Church’s statement?
Second, regardless of how one feels about how the state should treat undocumented immigrants, I am somewhat surprised there has not been more discussion of the *morality* of immigration in Mormondom. As I understand, throughout California, Texas, New York, and elsewhere, undocumented immigrants are being baptized daily. Some likely hold leadership positions. Although the Handbook says that “members who emigrate to any country should comply with applicable laws,” and precludes Church employment for undocumented workers, there are no express limitations on, say, callings or temple recommends for such members. And there is not a lot of guidance from Church publications or talks on point. It seems that Church decisions on this issue are made locally, or if centrally then far below the radar. Perhaps those of you that taught immigrants while missionaries can give me a broader background here. It certainly seems right to me that the Church does not condition blessings on members’ immigration status, but I suppose there is a limit to this principle (i.e., I can see problems that may arise if a bishop was an undocumented immigrant). Any views on the morality of immigration?