Interesting questions are being raised among Mormons about SB 1070.
Do they accept Russell Pearce's view that the anti-immigrant law adheres to the "12th Article of Faith, which says Mormons believe in 'obeying, honoring and sustaining the law'"?
Or do they look at some of the more humane teachings of the church?
On the opposite side are Latter-day Saints who argue for a more complex and humane approach to immigration. They point to church teachings about taking care of one's family, being hospitable to the stranger and building the kingdom of God.
"I don't think the intent of the Article of Faith was to make us vigilantes and gatekeepers and create anti-immigrant rhetoric and climate," said Ignacio Garcia, a Brigham Young University history professor.
I don't know much about how this plays out in Arizona, but Utah has a large number of Spanish speaking Mormon congregations. What would happen if the congregants were asked to show their papers, considering it's estimated that 50% to 70% of them are undocumented?
The church takes a sort-of "don't ask, don't tell" approach to the immigration status of its own members. Some estimate that 50 percent to 75 percent of members in Utah's 100-plus Spanish-speaking congregations are undocumented. That includes many bishops, branch presidents, even stake presidents.
The church sends missionaries among undocumented immigrants across the country, baptizing many of them without asking about their status. It also allows them to go to the temple and on missions.
"We're not agents of the immigration service, and we don't pretend to be," LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland told The Salt Lake Tribune last year, "and we also don't break the law."
Utah has its own anti-immigration law, SB-81, which passed last year. I don't know the details of the bill, but it has caused quite a fuss in the Mormon Community.
A columnist in the Mormon Times wrote:
I can only speak from my own LDS experience here, but I hold Utah lawmakers responsible for breaking up good LDS families and forcing young American citizens out of their native land.
Forgive me, but at that moment our flint-hearted Utah legislators looked a lot like those frightened 19th-century Illinois and Missouri lawmakers who drove my ancestors out of Nauvoo. Those politicians didn't understand my people, so -- filled with fear -- they drove the Saints "across the river."
Here in Arizona, there's this letter by William R. Richardson of Mesa, who refers to himself as "the branch president of one of the Spanish language congregations in Mesa":
I am the branch president of one of the Spanish language congregations in Mesa, Arizona to which you made reference in your recent article on Mormons and profiling. I can tell you that there are many in this area (including much of the Anglo population) who truly abhor the things that Russell Pearce is doing and saying to this most vulnerable of people.
I have been the branch President for just about 18 months and we have had over 100 convert baptisms in that period of time. Pearce and his acolytes give the church unwelcomed attention as did ex-governor Evan Mecham. Utah has Chris Buttars and we now have Russell Pearce to thank for giving Arizona Mormons another PR challenge to overcome.
I attach a letter I wrote to Governor Brewer which outlines the shortsightedness of the recently passed legislation. I believe my letter represents the views of the majority of right thinking Mormons in Arizona. We clearly still have some knuckle dragging closet racists in the Church. We pray that they will recognize the evil in their ways.
It's not unusual for members of a church to split on social and political issues. It's heartening to hear these discussions are going on inside Russell Pearce's Mormon Church.