An LDS Church leader on Wednesday urged Utah's lawmakers to "take a step back" and hold a "spirit of compassion" as they consider a slate of bills aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
"Immigration questions are questions dealing with God's children," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach is warranted, and urge those responsible for enactment of Utah's immigration policy to measure twice before they cut."
As one of three religious leaders speaking at a Interfaith Dialogue on Immigration at Westminster College, Jensen urged people to put a human face on the issue.
"Meet an undocumented person," he said. "Come to know their family."
The forum came as lawmakers this session are considering several measures dealing with illegal immigration in the House. There are also two Senate measures, a comprehensive bill aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from obtaining jobs or public benefits, and another that would create a legislative task force to study the issue.
Also speaking were Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, and Pastor Steven Klemz of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both of those faith leaders come from traditions that have clear-cut positions supporting comprehensive federal immigration reform.
"This is a human issue; it is a moral issue," Wester said. "We must be involved."
Jensen said the LDS church has taken no position on any particular measure on the federal or state level.
"The current debate in our state Legislature is evidence of the very strong feelings that surround this issue," Jensen said. He noted that LDS leaders had recently issued a "very sincere plea" to lawmakers to consider the issue with humanity and compassion.
He said that because of the unique nature and composition of the state, lawmakers' actions this session could have national and international implications.
Jensen referred to his own great-great-grandfather, who was among those who immigrated during the LDS Church's early days.
"If there is a church that owes debt to the immigrant and the principal of immigration it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," he said.