Mormon Newsroom
Early members of the LDS Church were the subject of immigration concerns in the late 1800s.

Last week, University of Utah professor W. Paul Reeve wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News showing similarities between President Trump’s executive order on immigration last week with U.S. Secretary of State William Evarts’ effort in 1879 to keep Mormons from immigrating to the United States.

Reeve said “the rhetoric aimed at Mormons in the 19th century is eerily similar to that aimed at Muslims and other immigrants today,” and he proceeded to cite examples of justification of the Mormon ban interspersed with reasoning for the recent actions made by President Trump.

“They are bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” — a quote used by Reeve in reference to Muslims in the 21st century.

“I found them a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores,” — a quote cited by Reeve referring to Mormons in the 19th century.

Joining Reeve in drawing a parallel between Mormons in 1879 and Muslims today. Monday, CNN’s Hunter Schwarz wrote his own piece comparing the immigration and travel concerns with the two religions throughout history.

Schwarz cites a quote from Harper’s Magazine in 1881 that read: “It is clear that the Mormon Kingdom in Utah is composed of foreigners and the children of foreigners. It is an institution so absolutely un-American in all its requirements that it would die of its own infamies within twenty years, except for the yearly infusion of fresh serf blood from abroad.”

The CNN reporter points out that even Gov. Gary Herbert pointed out the resemblance between the two situations in a 2015 Facebook post: “Utah exists today because foreign countries refused to grant the wishes of a misguided president and his secretary of state. I am the governor of a state that was settled by religious exiles who withstood persecution after persecution, including an extermination order from another state’s governor.”

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have encouraged its members to care for refugees, acknowledging that the church’s early members were refugees themselves.

“As members of the Church, as a people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again,” Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy said in the church’s April 2016 general conference.

One month later, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency spoke to Latter-day Saints in the Czech Republic and expressed appreciation for the people of Quincy, Illinois, who welcomed the early members of the LDS Church when they sought refuge.

“They arrived at the river in the dead of winter with nothing, and there on the other side of the river was Quincy,” President Uchtdorf said. “The city of Quincy had a population of 1,500. The Saints were on the other side of the river with 10,000. What an overwhelming amount of refugees for a community to take care of, and Quincy did it. They helped us. It was wonderful. It was perhaps not always easy, it wasn’t always happy, but they helped us. …

“Sometimes as Church members we have to see where we are coming from before we say, ‘We cannot help everyone. There are too many. That is too much. You cannot ask for so much.’ Fortunately, Quincy did not say that. They accepted us.”

CNN does, however, point out the contrast between the two situations.

“Despite Trump’s earlier call to specifically ban Muslims from entering the US, he said in a statement Sunday his executive order was ‘not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.’ But the Mormon Church still seems aware of any perceived similarities, releasing a vaguely worded statement Saturday ‘in response to recent media inquiries,” the CNN article concluded.