SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the controversy swirling around President Trump's executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim countries, the LDS Church issued a statement late Saturday night urging solutions that relieve refugee suffering.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God's children across the earth," the statement said, "with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war and religious persecution. The church urges all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering."
On Friday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order that suspended the U.S. refugee resettlement program for four months. It also cut the number of refugees the United States will accept this year to 50,000, down from the 110,000 set by President Barack Obama.
A federal judge blocked part of the order on Saturday.
The order barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry to anyone from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. The State Department said those countries are seven predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
That led religious faiths throughout the United States to voice concerns about religious freedom.
This is the second time the LDS Church has responded to a call by Trump to block immigration.
Church leaders issued a strong statement in December 2015 soon after Trump, on the campaign trail, called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.
Like Saturday's statement, the December 2015 statement did not name Trump or refer specifically to the controversy, but it said that while the faith is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns, "it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom."
It drew on two statements by church founder Joseph Smith to reaffirm its longstanding position of support for religious pluralism.
In 1841, Smith was the mayor of the largely Mormon city of Nauvoo, Illinois, when it passed a religious freedom ordinance that protected the rights of all faiths. In 1843, Smith said he was willing to die to defend the religious freedom rights of people of any denomination.
In September, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called for governments to do more to help refugees.
"Governments today are not responding to the refugee problem urgently enough, nor on a large enough scale," he said.
He said the plight of the world's 60 million refugees should generate outrage.
"The world needs to be more outraged than it is," he said, "when we read of the persecution, the violence, the sexual violence, the murder, the rape, the destruction of families and any social structure that these people have had — almost entire cultures being destroyed."
Finally, Elder Holland made a clear reference to the faith's "I Was a Stranger" program, launched last spring. The program called on Mormons, especially the women of the faith's global Relief Society, to help individual refugees resettling in their communities.
"We need to encourage local citizens to welcome (refugees) into their everyday lives," he said.