Hispanic political leaders met Thursday with representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for assurance regarding the church's neutral position on a bill dealing with illegal immigration.

Tony Yapias, director of the state's Office of Hispanic Affairs, said he and other Hispanic leaders met for two hours with public affairs representatives of the church after a firestorm of accusations erupted earlier this week on Capitol Hill.

Some conservative lawmakers have been pushing passage of a bill that would limit the ability of illegal aliens to get a Utah driver's license. A member of one group pushing the measure said earlier this week that illegal aliens are breaking the law, and as a result those who are members of the LDS Church should have their recommend to attend LDS temples taken away by their church leaders.

"We were assured by the church that the members don't need to worry about temple recommends, that they're issued on the basis of personal worthiness and not nationality," Yapias said. "This won't be something bishops or stake presidents are going to be asking about" regarding immigration status.

The remarks made on the Hill sparked anger and fear among some Latinos that somehow the church was involved in the legislation or was trying to send a message through informal channels. A press conference called Thursday morning by the Mexican Consulate at the State Capitol on the issue included a statement from an LDS spokesman, who clarified that the church is not supporting the bill.

Yapias said he was gratified by the symbolic nature of the move. "We have the utmost respect for their courage. That in itself was a tremendous boost for morale, making the statement the spokesperson made. We couldn't have asked for anything more."


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com