Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Mexican first lady Martas Sahagun de Fox and President Vicente Fox wave to well-wishers after visiting LDS leadership.

The LDS Church issued a statement Wednesday rebutting news reports that it was encouraging its Mexican members to immigrate to Utah.

The statement came in response to reports Tuesday on CNN, when business correspondent and commentator Lou Dobbs said the church was encouraging its members to leave Mexico for Utah "irrespective of the cost to taxpayers."

That report followed an earlier exchange Dobbs had with a CNN reporter on his Lou Dobbs Tonight program, where it was reported that "Mormons have converted a million Mexicans to their faith, and many welcome them to Utah with no regard for legal status."

Dobbs later said: "I was just struck by the idea that The Church of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, seems to be looking south just as avidly and aggressively as the Catholic Church to add to a few folks to those pews."

On Wednesday the LDS Church said "such statements are completely without foundation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over a million members in Mexico. It does not encourage them to move to Utah or anywhere else."

The CNN reports were part of its coverage of Mexican President Vicente Fox's visit to Utah, the president's first stop on a tour of Western states as the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on a controversial bill addressing illegal immigration.

Among Fox's meetings here was a courtesy visit to the LDS Church's President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor Thomas S. Monson and Second Counselor James E. Faust. It is common for heads of state and other leaders visiting Utah to pay a courtesy visit to LDS Church authorities.

"We got his blessing, and to me that is very important," Fox told KSL television after the meeting. "I feel fine right now. Strong."

While the church had no comment on the private meeting, Fox said he spoke about education, spiritual values as well as the role of the LDS Church in Mexico and the role of Mexican church members in Utah.

The LDS Church has more than 1 million members in Mexico, and 12 temples. The first LDS missionaries were dispatched to the country in 1875, and a decade later hundreds of Mormons from Utah and Arizona followed, settling small colonies in Mexico to flee prosecution from U.S. authorities for practicing plural marriage.

Fox said the presence of the LDS Church in Mexico is important and he spoke with church leaders about the church's activities in his country, primarily in promoting education.

The Mexican president also said the group discussed Mexican citizens living in Utah.

"We are very pleased at the way they have been received in this land," Fox told KSL. "God will thank this land for receiving our paisanos the way they have received them."


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