The LDS Church has no formal position on illegal immigration. "We leave those matters to civil authorities," spokesman Dale Bills said.
"This isn't the church's issue," said Elder Pingree, who served as a mission president in Mexico City. "This is the government's issue."
Some Latter-day Saints question the church's baptizing converts and issuing temple privileges to members who are in the country illegally. Potential templegoers must avow to a bishop that they are honest in their dealings with others. Some members can't reconcile church membership and illegal status.
"It's not a problem for me," Pingree said. He made clear that immigration enforcement "is not the role of the church."
Church leaders do not ascertain potential converts' citizenship prior to baptism or temple attendance. They look for commitment to live the tenets of the religion, Pingree says.
The church, he says, does everything it can to encourage its members to stay in their home countries to strengthen local stakes and wards. "But once they're here, we want to make them feel like part of the community, a valued part of the community," Pingree said.
To that end, the church formed a Hispanic Initiative several years ago to help members adjust to life in America. It provides for English classes, helps fund a free health clinic and facilitates pro bono legal services through a law society.
"There's a huge unmet need in this community," Pingree said.
Solorzano applauds the church's efforts in those areas, but some things still gnaw at him.
As a native Mexican, he has trouble with the Mormon Battalion monument at the state Capitol. The statue commemorates the 500 Latter-day Saints enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War.
"That is a sensitive issue for us," he said.
Solorzano hesitated to bring up another sensitive issue but says after thinking about it for two years, he can't hold it in any longer.
The state of Illinois formally expressed regret to the LDS Church last year for the expulsion of Mormons from the city of Nauvoo nearly 160 years ago. Solorzano says some Mexicans are waiting for the church to do the same for settling on their land.
"Somewhere in the back of Mexican people's minds, they fantasize about the idea that the LDS Church will apologize for taking the territory," he said.
Pingree didn't disagree that Mormon pioneers settled on what was Mexican ground. But that is now past."That's an issue that none of us is going to solve right now," he said. "So, let's get on with the future."
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