Pope Francis’ comments on immigration align with LDS stance

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Migrants demonstrate at the border crossing into Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. The border crossing was closed by the Hungarian police after the Hungarian government declared a state of crisis due to mass migration, meaning special measures to fight illegal immigration, in two Hungarian counties bordering Serbia. (Tamas Soki/MTI via AP)
Migrants demonstrate at the border crossing into Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. The border crossing was closed by the Hungarian police after the Hungarian government declared a state of crisis due to mass migration, meaning special measures to fight illegal immigration, in two Hungarian counties bordering Serbia. (Tamas Soki/MTI via AP)

Pope Francis urged U.S. lawmakers to embrace more immigrants as the pontiff attended a joint meeting with the U.S. Capitol last Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

“We must not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best as we can to their situation,” the Pope said.

Political upheaval in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia has driven immigrants and refugees from their native lands. According to the International Organization of Migration, more than 464,000 Syrian, Afghan and Eritrean migrants have crossed into Europe so far this year.

European Union ministers met earlier this month and agreed to resettle a fraction of migrants seeking asylum. The number of people to accommodate “could further destabilize already fragile states,” as stated on the Council of Foreign Relations website.

The LDS Church has stated its position on immigration, which also focuses on loving one’s neighbor. This has come at a particular time when many Americans believe that the government should secure U.S. borders. Immigration controversy has grown worldwide, especially in the U.S.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family and its commitment to law,” according to Mormon Newsroom.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, and other religious leaders met with President Barack Obama and administration officials in April 2014 to discuss immigration reform.

President Uchtdorf said public officials are responsible for creating and administering laws that are just, from immigration or religious freedom, according to Mormon Newsroom.

The Church’s official statement on immigration states:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints promotes broad, foundational principles that have worldwide application. The Church regards the declaration of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform. It is consistent with important principles for which we stand:
  • “We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The Savior taught that the meaning of ‘neighbor’ includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.
  • “We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.
  • “We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.”

Utah has its Utah Compact, a declaration of five principles created to guide Utah’s immigration discussion. Community leaders, business associations, law enforcement officers and members of Utah’s religious community developed the compact in 2010.

The Pope’s application of religious counsel to political issues is something Utah Mormons are familiar with. According to a recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates, “very active” members of the LDS Church will change their political views to meet those of the church.

Sixty three percent of active Utah Mormons wanted to leave the scouting program after the Boy Scouts of America announced last summer it would allow adult gay male scout leaders, according to Jones. After church leadership decided to remain in Boy Scouts of America, a new poll showed that 81 percent of “very active” Mormons were in favor of staying in Boy Scouts.

“When the brethren speak, loyal Mormons listen,” utahpolicy.com commented.

The pope’s comments aligned with the church’s position and the Utah Compact, according to BYU Law School professor Carl Hernandez. He has also represented clients on immigration issues.

“The U.S. is polarized when it comes to immigration,” Hernandez said, but “compassion and searching for reasonable solutions are important.”

According to the American Immigration Council website, “U.S. immigration law is very complex” and only allows an annual limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants worldwide based on the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA).

“Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity,” the website says.

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