SALT LAKE CITY — Sandwiched between Utah's passing of immigrations bills and the ongoing discussion of immigration issues, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a new statement Friday on immigration and a second statement encouraging members of the Mormon faith to avoid being judgmental in immigration issues.
As published Friday morning on the LDS Church's "Newsroom" web site, the immigration statement — seen as reinforcing and clarifying its long-standing position on the issue — underscores the following points:
The LDS Church discourages its members of the Mormon faith from entering any country without legal documentation.
The underlying concern of immigration issues "is how we treat each other as children of God."
Immigration issues need to be resolved at the federal government level.
State legislation that focuses only on enforcement "is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God."
The church supports efforts "where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship."
In a related statement issued simultaneously Friday morning, the LDS Church reiterated the First Presidency teaching that undocumented status shouldn't alone prevent an otherwise worthy Latter-day Saint from entering the church's temple or being ordained to the priesthood.
The secondary statement also underscored each bishop's role in making appropriate judgments regarding a member's church privileges and discouraged Latter-day Saints from judging fellow congregation members.
Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, one of several community leaders reached for comment Friday afternoon, said the new statement makes the LDS Church's position is "abundantly clear" and leaves little room for misinterpretation.
"I think it enhances the dialog in Utah for there to be clarity on where organizations like the LDS Church stand on an issue as complex and difficult as illegal immigration," said Bramble.
"I think that in many ways, organizations have a duty to their members to make their positions clear. The church has never demanded allegiance to a particular point of view or required its members to vote one way or another. What they have done is made their position clear. Now they expect citizens, legislators, delegates or whoever to study the issue, do their homework and make their own decisions. That's fundamental principle within the LDS Church — we call that 'agency.' "
Added Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville: "I think they have a very measured response that, to me, sounded just like what the Legislature has said we wanted all along. We want to have our people here obeying the law, yet we want to be compassionate and be good neighbors.
"This statement will help frame the debate as we go into the county convention and the state convention."
Pamela Atkinson, a Presbyterian philanthropist and longtime humanitarian advocate for homeless and low-income people and other vulnerable groups in the community, said she liked the emphasis "that we are all God's children" and the importance of treating all with compassion and understanding.
"I think this statement reemphasizes the position they have taken all along," said Atkinson, who also sits on the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board. "There are people who keep on saying, 'This is amnesty what the governor has signed.' It isn't amnesty. It doesn't talk about a pathway to citizenship. It doesn't talk about letting people move to this country and become citizens. I think it recognizes we have to have compassion and understanding and also respect the law."
Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, who sponsored Utah's House Bill 116, said the statement is "easy to understand."
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