The Center For Immigration Studies has just released a paper titled The Mormon Church and Illegal Immigration.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church) regards Christ as head of the church and considers members to be Christians.1 Unlike many religious organizations that clearly and candidly stake out their positions on illegal immigration, however, the LDS Church officially takes no position on this highly divisive issue. This pleases neither those who oppose illegal immigration nor those who support it.
Members who oppose illegal immigration fear that the Church is abandoning its traditional, unwavering support of the rule of law. They also express concern that the Church appears to be biased in favor of illegal immigrants and that it is increasingly taking positions that weaken the rule of law and move the Church closer to a social justice position.
At the same time, the proponents of illegal aliens express frustration over the Church's failure to officially declare its support in favor of illegal immigrants, especially since the Church actively proselytizes among illegal aliens and has a large and growing illegal alien membership.
Part of what makes the LDS remarkable, it has one of the largest gaps between Senate voting record on immigration issues and House voting records on immigration issues-one exceeded only slightly by Episcopalians.
The LDS also had an early history of focusing recruitment on whites and Native Americans-and excluding African Americans. This changed under intense political pressure only in the late 1970's-when the LDS was threatened with removal of their non-profit status by the Carter administration if they didn't change this policy.
I personally think the gap between Senate and House voting records suggests the inner circle of the LDS are hypnotized by money, bought off or blackmailed and are seriously out of touch with the rank of file of the LDS. That may well be less the case in many of the various schisms(some of which have never changed their policies on race since the founding of the LDS movement). This is a situation that may well mean some of the various schisms may do better over time.
Until these contradictions are resolved, no easy resolution to the dilemma exists for Church, which has to carefully weigh a number of options, including:
1. Continue the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Allow the contradictions between official policy and doctrine and the positions espoused and propagated by senior Church officials and the Church's Public affairs and media groups to go unaddressed.
2. Formally announce that the president of the Church has directed that missionary work targeting illegal aliens be ended, that baptisms of people illegally in the United States cease, and that all members illegally in the United States return with their families to their home countries in order to build up the Church there.
3. Formally announce that the president of the Church has determined that the love of God's children surpasses adherence to the laws and borders established by man and that the Church will continue to baptize illegal aliens and grant them full standing in the Church regardless of their immigration situation and ongoing commission of job-related felonies.
4. Quietly suspend all baptisms of illegal aliens until the federal government changes current immigration laws and grants amnesty from all immigration and job-related felonies to all those who are in the United States illegally. Require members who are illegally in the United States to stop committing employment-related felonies.
Of course there are more options, but of these four, options two and three would most readily solve the problem because, once the Church president has spoken, the vast majority of members will accept the decision. Options one and four would serve to extend and increase the discontent that now exists.
I personally tend to think the LDS leadership is caught in a rather difficult situation and will increase discontentment among some group within their church regardless of what path it takes-and this potential for discontentment will become greater the longer they wait. The real question is what constituency is most "expendable" in terms of their long term planning?