The LDS Church declared its support yesterday for the Utah Compact on Immigration Reform, a five point statement that acknowledges the contributions of immigrants to the American economy and Utah communities, opposes the separation of working families, expresses support for the education and well-being of all children (regardless of immigration status), and characterizes immigration as a civil matter requiring compassionate and humane policy reform, not a criminal matter to be pursued by local law enforcement.
In an additional statement issued yesterday, Church officials urged legislators to adopt immigration reforms that “balance love for neighbors, family cohesion, and the observance of just and enforceable laws.”
Over the past year, the Church has been building toward this open declaration of support for humane treatment of immigrants and immigration reform through a number of quiet moves designed to promote a more informed and compassionate conversation on immigration among LDS people. These efforts have been spurred by the high visibility of LDS legislators like Stephen Sandstrom in Utah and Russell Pearce, author of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, as well as by firm pressure by LDS Latino immigrants. Today, Latinos make up the largest proportion of converts to the LDS Church.
Thursday’s Compact and statement is one further bit of evidence that as it faces tensions between protecting the political interests of the most conservative members of its multi-generational ethnic Mormon core and honoring the ethical demands of its status as a worldwide Church, Church officials are choosing the latter. That’s good news for twenty-first century Mormonism.