My daughter's second-grade class put on a short musical before the end of school titled: “We come from everywhere.” Each child stated his or her name and briefly told of an immigrant ancestor.
Here's a few of the stories my daughter could share: A great-great-great-great-grandmother who came as an indentured servant from Denmark to escape the constant border wars with Germany. A great-great-great-great-grandfather who came from England, seeking religious sanctuary after being disowned by his family for joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dutch ancestors who came from Holland in the 1600s to New Amsterdam (now New York) for economic opportunity, desirous to develop their talents and improve their skills.
But my daughter is adopted, so she has a double inheritance, tapping into her birth parents' ancestors as well: From Mexico, from Western and Eastern Europe, from the Middle East, from Asia, from Africa, from the native peoples of the Americas. Her DNA report confirms it: She comes from (just about) everywhere! Aztec rulers, Jewish rabbis, West African queens and Palestinian shepherds all may call her their progeny.
I'm a historian and an educator, and if there is one thing apparent from studying and teaching world history, it is that people — always striving for a better life — roam. They migrate. They fall in love regardless of nationality and language and skin color. They work hard and they dream that their children will live a better life than their own. And those children repeat the pattern. We, every one of us, come from everywhere.
It’s not surprising, then, that the scriptures spill over with stories of migrants, refugees and foreigners. One Old Testament scholar notes that “welcoming the stranger … is the most often repeated commandment in the Hebrew Scriptures, with the exception of the imperative to worship only the one God” (quoted in "Seeking Refuge"). In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus holds up as the hero a hated foreigner, a Samaritan. The Book of Mormon is a chronicle of migrants and refugees and the God who loved and watched over them (see also here).
Similarly, the strength of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — today and in the past — comes from people willing to leave their comfort zones in search of safety for their families and freedom to follow their beliefs. A statement released by the church on Jan. 26reads: “Most of our early church members emigrated from foreign lands to live, work and worship, blessed by the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation.”
More than any other country of the world, perhaps, Americans come from everywhere. This has been our strength from the beginning. I hope it will always remain our strength.
Through immigration, our country gained my forebears and my daughter’s.
Through immigration, America gained my closest Stanford friend and his wife, brilliant minds who could have taken the best that American universities had to offer and then returned to their homes in India and Australia. But they stayed, committed to the principles of freedom upon which our country was founded.
Through immigration, we also gained the Dreamers, those brought here as children, through no fault of their own. As LDS Church leaders have stated, “(W)e call upon our national leaders to create policies that provide hope and opportunities for (the) ‘Dreamers,’ who grew up here from a young age and for whom this country is their home. They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place. These individuals have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.”7 comments on this story
I hope that we, a nation built on people who come from everywhere, will find solutions that preserves the families, the contributions and the dreams of our immigrants. In doing so, we will preserve the strengths upon which this country was built.
We will show our commitment to our shared humanity.
And we will remember that our most important heritage is not national or ethnic or even religious, but eternal and divine in nature, coming from what Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, called ina tweet, “the spiritual DNA of your Heavenly Father.”