A fundamental aspect of the good news of the gospel is the message of liberty. As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of freedom; the gospel of the Son of God is the gospel of liberty.” Men of God, both ancient and modern, have spoken on this issue repeatedly. This book analyzes what liberty is and how it applies to government.
Today, the LDS Church released an updated statement on immigration. A portion of the article seems to support amnesty (which is a good thing) in advocating an approach to immigration in which “undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work…”
This means, of course, that the law must be changed in order to make an illegal person un-illegal. Thus, the primary offender in this relationship is not the individual, but the unjust law.
What’s more interesting, however, is a brief companion article also released by the Church today, which states the following:
The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.
In essence, this basically states that the Church is not troubled with the violation of immigration law per se. Clearly, this is not endorsement of identity theft, fraud, or any other actual crime committed. It is simply a statement that the violation of immigration law does not, in the Church’s view, achieve a sufficient level of severity so as to deny an individual the opportunity to join and participate in God’s kingdom.
Stated more plainly, the Church here has endorsed the violation of a lesser law to fulfill a higher one. Let that sink in for a moment.
Is this a bad thing? I argue that it is not. In fact, I’ve dedicated a whole chapter to this subject in Latter-day Liberty, demonstrating with supporting scripture and examples in Church history the many cases in which this has previously occurred.
Critics point, with fingers and blood pressure both raised, to the violation of the law itself, tautologically saying that “illegal immigrants” are illegal. They then point to references such as the 12th Article of Faith to claim that since we must obey the law, these individuals should be denied Church membership and ordinances since they are not in compliance.
This argument, however, is so extremely full of holes that it is has more holes than substance. It relies upon a narrow and incorrect interpretation of that Article, to say nothing of the related scriptures and historical examples which clearly demonstrate a number of qualifiers involved when considering the obligation to comply with any given law. The subject requires a lengthy treatment to be fully explained, so I’ll hold off here and let the inquiring individual wait for my book.
The Church has, in my estimation, done the right thing here, and has taken a position that is consistent with both scripture and precedent. While immigration is a heated and complex issue, the simple act of living and working without the federal government’s permission does not brand one a criminal unworthy of God’s blessings.