Tag: illegal immigration

Preaching the Gospel to all who are here

When I was over missionary work for my stake we would meet with the Mission President quarterly.  The “Spanish Language Initiative” was where the primary missionary success was taking place in an area from Idaho to Wyoming and throughout Utah. The justification for the Spanish Language Initiative was rather an excuse. The stated reason was: “Can you imagine what will happen to the home base of the church with so many moving in if there isn’t an effort made to convert them?”

Criticism has been leveled at the church for the eagerness with which the missionaries are being sent to teach illegal aliens. There are full time Spanish language missionaries being called to teach all over the United States. My wife has a friend living in Texas whose son was recently called to a Spanish language mission in Pocatello, Idaho.

Criticism has been based upon the Article of Faith which states we believe in “honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.” The criticism is that there is some hypocrisy in seeking out and baptizing those who are illegal. The process seems to be lawless rather than sustaining the law.

At one point the church announced that law enforcement officers, judges and State prosecutors would no longer be called to be Bishops or Stake Presidents because it presented a conflict of interest for them to be a presiding church official over those who they were required to enforce the law. I do not know if that policy still exists, but it was the policy for some time while I was on the High Council.

I’ve thought the church’s position was poorly articulated and deserving of criticism. The church ought to make a well-publicized statement justifying what is happening by adopting a straight-forward explanation that everyone can understand and agree is true. I wish they would announce the following, or something close to the following, as the their reason for the Spanish Language Initiative:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an obligation to proclaim the Gospel.  We believe in inviting all to come to the Gospel and be baptized.  We would preach the Gospel to anyone, regardless of their race or nationality, wherever situated.  Today there are millions of people welcomed into the United States by a national government that has refused to enforce any significant deterrent to cross-border crossing.  Although such entry is nominally “illegal,” even the current President of the United States, the country’s chief law enforcement official, has proclaimed it is in the best tradition of the American people to welcome immigrants to the country.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a law enforcement agency.  It is powerless to make or enforce any immigration law or policy.  If the national government does not prevent migration into the United States, we believe it is altogether appropriate to offer all who will receive the Gospel an opportunity to be taught and baptized here, just as we would do for the same people if they were located in another country.

This puts the responsibility upon the Federal government, where it belongs.  It shows the church is powerless to affect the outcome of the migration.  It also avoids the “can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t work to convert them” excuse, and puts it into a positive and reasonable light.

I do not think the church’s actions deserve criticism.  I do, however, think they ought to be more forthright about justifying and defending the effort to convert those whose presence here is nominally illegal.  There’s nothing wrong about preaching to such people.