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Immigration: LDS Church issues new statement

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 4:50 a.m. MDT

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."

"For those who don't want to understand it, what can you tell them?" he added. "For me, I always understood where the church has been. . . . This is consistent with what the scriptures say."

The entire text of the LDS Church's immigration statement reads:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today issued the following official statement on immigration:

"Around the world, debate on the immigration question has become intense. That is especially so in the United States. Most Americans agree that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants. Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.

"As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.

"What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.

"The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.

"As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.

"The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.

"In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family and its commitment to law."

And the text of the accompanying statement, "Responsibility of Church Members: Avoiding Being Judgmental":

"The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.

"Bishops are in the best position to make appropriate judgments as to church privileges. Meanwhile, church members should avoid making judgments about fellow members in their congregations."

EMAIL: taylor@desnews.com, estuart@desnews.com

LDS Church statements on immigration

The entire text of the LDS Church's immigration statement:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today issued the following official statement on immigration:

"Around the world, debate on the immigration question has become intense. That is especially so in the United States. Most Americans agree that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants. Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.

"As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.

"What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.

"The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.

"As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.

"The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.

"In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family and its commitment to law."

Accompanying statement:

"Responsibility of Church Members: Avoiding Being Judgmental"

"The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.

"Bishops are in the best position to make appropriate judgments as to church privileges. Meanwhile, church members should avoid making judgments about fellow members in their congregations." Heady goes here

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