Bishop Burton’s Public Stand on Immigration

By: Mormon Heretic
March 21, 2011

I’ve always believed the church has a right to make a public stand on political issues.  In protest of the church’s position on Prop 8, gay marriage proponents have floated a proposal that the church should stay out of politics, and should lose their tax-exempt status.  Now that LDS Presiding Bishop David Burton has come out in favor of a guest worker program in Utah (ultra-conservatives call “amnesty”), at least one ultra-conservative is calling for the church to lose tax-exempt status too.  According to Paul Rolly at the Salt Lake Tribune,

“I know in April, I can’t raise my hand to sustain Church leaders after their position…” wrote one well-known tea party activist.

“They (the LDS Church) should lose their tax exempt status,” wrote a conservative Young Republican delegate heretofore loyal to the Mormon Church.

In another SL Tribune article, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote,

Burton’s presence was an extraordinarily public endorsement for the LDS Church, which typically prefers to work in the background. And it has supporters and critics from within the faith scrambling to know how to react.

One thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has abandoned its claims to neutrality on these bills.

And that surprised many who have been told repeatedly by the church’s spokesmen that it had no position and that its lobbyists, Bill Evans and John Taylor, were on Capitol Hill solely to answer questions.

Though Evans and Taylor assured Ron Mortensen, an ardent opponent of illegal immigration, that the church wasn’t actively lobbying on the issue, the two “spent literally the last 10 days in the back alleys of the Capitol, like full-time fixtures,” Mortensen said. “It wouldn’t have taken that much time to say the church is neutral.”

Both supporters and opponents agree that the church’s endorsement of the Utah Compact and its involvement in the legislative process was a game-changer.

If the Utah Legislature had been in session right after Arizona passed its stringent immigration law, the Beehive State “likely would have gotten the same thing,” said Paul Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute.

But with LDS Church support for immigration reform, Mero said, “We’ve had a 180[-degree] turn in this state. Culturally, more and more folks understand how reasonable comprehensive reform is compared to enforcement only.”

So, what’s your take on the immigration issue, and Utah’s repudiation of the Sandstrom Bill (patterned after the controversial Arizona law)?  Did the threat of limiting missionary visa’s have any effect on this legislation?

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29 Responses to Bishop Burton’s Public Stand on Immigration

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 21, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    Heretic, this has been coming. Reminds me of a prior prophet talking about how there needed to be reasonable limits on guns or …

    Everyone wants to take a broadaxe to anyone who disagrees with them politically. /Sigh.

    But there are times where positions can not be avoided.

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  2. Dan on March 21, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    It is a step in the right direction for the church. And it should be a step that all Christians should take.

    http://bible.cc/leviticus/19-34.htm

    But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

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  3. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Let’s face it. It’s a double-edged sword. Looked at in a totally humanitarian way, if makes sense. Looking at it totally legalistically, it does not. The Church puts itself in a no win situation either way.

    You’ll have members pointing one way and members pointing the other way. Both are legitimate positions. They are just on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    In the end, the Church has too large a Hispanic constituency to take the hard line legal position. But also too large a Conservative one to be entirely soft. And they courted both constituencies.

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  4. Tristin on March 21, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    For years liberals in the church have been called out for holding views that don’t mirror those of the majority, and often those of the church itself. What I think is great about this situation is that the roles have reversed. Ultra conservatives no longer have the blessing of the church in their political position and for the first time have to make a choice between the two. Many are finding their politics are more important than their religion, others are sincerely trying to correct their politics for the sake of their religion.

    My hope is that this will create a tide shift within the membership that is more moderate and much more compassionate for those with different political views. Maybe someday it won’t be possible to take church policies for granted.

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  5. Paul on March 21, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Tristin, there’s a third possibility, namely that those who are particularly conservative on the immigrations issue may disagree with the church’s view and still be faithful.

    I happen to be in favor of the church’s stand and am grateful for it, but I will not love any less those brothers and sisters who do not have the same view.

    Is Bishop Burton’s statement a signal that all members must get in line behind it?

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  6. Jacob S on March 21, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Paul is exactly right. It is just an opportunity for conservatives to realize that their politics won’t always line up with the Church’s, and that that is okay, as liberals have found out through tough experience. I hope it is a lesson that church comes before politics, which isn’t always easy to swallow, frankly.

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  7. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I agree that Church should come before politics. I hope this is a good lesson toward that.

    Because they are way too intertwined and jusified.

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  8. mh on March 21, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I hope that conservatives will think twice about assuming the God is always on their side in political discussion.

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  9. Michael on March 21, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Jeff,

    Do you mean the Restored Gospel should come before politics or should the Church come before politics? The Restored Gospel is NOT intertwined with politics (although many members try to make that case). The Church as a legal entity and earthly organization is DEFINITELY intertwined with politics.

    I really wish we would mentally separate the Restored Gospel from the Church. One is Eternal Truth and one is an earthly vehicle to support growth of the Kingdom. If they would do that one simple thing, it would make the upcoming transition to Lamanite/Nephite rule of the Church much easier on their testimony.

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  10. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    “The Church as a legal entity and earthly organization is DEFINITELY intertwined with politics.”

    The Gospel is tantamount, of course.

    But I don’t buy into the Pharisaical hairsplitting of the Church and the Gospel as some have tried to do. The Church is the Savior’s vehicle of transmitting His Gospel to the earth, however imperfect it is.

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  11. Mike S on March 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Whether people agree with the viewpoint or not, I do think this is a better way of approaching the issue than the Church has in the past – which is to basically ignore the law.

    When someone is in the country illegally, they are a) breaking the laws of the land and b) being dishonest with their fellowman. Up to this point, the Church still gives people here illegally temple recommends and lets them serve missions. They even have policies in place to help illegal aliens get home from their missions (ie. sending someone to drive them home as opposed to flying, where INS might get involved).

    Rather than the dishonesty on the part of members and the institutions in disregard of the law, at least this is a more honest way of addressing the issue – use your influence to CHANGE the law. This is how our government works.

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  12. Mike S on March 21, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    I also do find it somewhat ironic that the very conservative people who manned phone banks and donated money to support the Church’s efforts in Prop 8 are now finding themselves saying the Church should stay OUT of politics. :-)

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  13. jmb275 on March 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    As to the issue itself, I have pretty liberal views on immigration, so I think the legislation is decent (though I don’t live in Utah either).

    As to the church’s involvement, I would prefer that they stayed completely out of the political sphere even if they are within their right to be involved. I was impacted greatly by Prop 8 in many different ways, one of which was the unnecessary cultural division it created between those who agreed and disagreed. The use of religion, both doctrinal and cultural, as justification for an ideal which is then used to divide is the hallmark of religious idiocy in our world. We’d all be better off without it!

    No matter what the church does they’ll be crucified for it and I sympathize with that. As a result, I don’t get too worked up over these kinds of things.

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  14. FireTag on March 21, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    MH:

    I wouldn’t think of it. I don’t even get the indulgence of thinking my church leaders are on the conservative side in most issues. :D

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  15. Michael on March 21, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    “The Church is the Savior’s vehicle of transmitting His Gospel to the earth, however imperfect it is.”

    I agree it is His primary vehicle. But it is, in no way, His only vehicle. He uses many means and methods to spread His Gospel, including other Christian organizations as well as technology.

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  16. Michael on March 21, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    However, I concur that the Authority resides within our Church. That is why it is so difficult sometimes to deal with Church culture but still remain focused on the Authority issue. I honestly don’t think anyone outside of the straight, married person with children would voluntarily choose to endure the stifling LDS culture if it were not for the witness of the Holy Ghost and the Authority vested in the Priesthood and in the Temple Sealing Ordinances. It is a culture suited to raising children, but does a poor job of spiritually nourishing one in true discipleship.

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  17. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    “endure the stifling LDS culture”

    Not sure if the Church itself is largely responsible for the culture. Because outside of Utah, the church is not as stifling. Still a ways to go to overlook appearances, but you’d find a much more liberal church outside of the standard hotbeds of conservatism.

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  18. Michael on March 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Jeff, I am in central Florida and it is the transplants from the mountain west that bring with them the attitude to which you are referring. I know that wards in college towns can be more liberal but, even then, it is the mountain west transplants that bring with them the contamination.

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  19. Jettboy on March 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    I just find it funny that everyone thinks there are so many conservative members who are “worked up about this” involvement. Yes, there are some like you quoted, but most that I know of simply are shrugging their shoulders and consider it Utah, not Church, politics. Notice there hasn’t been any change in the views of Arizona Republican members.

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  20. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    ” it is the mountain west transplants that bring with them the contamination.”

    I get that.

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  21. Will on March 21, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    First off, there is a difference between prop 8 and immigration laws. Same sex marriage is a moral issue, not a political issue; thus, the church has every right to be involved and voice their opinion.

    As for immigration laws the Church (although I agree it is splitting hairs) is speaking in terms of the treatment of immigrants:

    “We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place
    that welcomes people of goodwill”

    This is not an endorsement of ILLEGAL immigration.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  22. salt h2o on March 21, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I am a conservative, I am proud of Utah- which doesn’t happen terribly often.

    The thing that really really irks me is that ultra conservatives should be excited that another state has challenged the federal government’s influence on immigration. The ultimate conservative’s goal should be for state law to trump federal law, especially when the state alone bears that financial impact.

    I’m embarassed of the short sightedness my conservative brothers and sisters.

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  23. Mike S on March 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    First off, there is a difference between prop 8 and immigration laws. Immigration and the ability for someone to live where they can support their family is a moral issue, not a political issue; thus, the church has every right to be involved and voice their opinion.

    As for same-sex marriage laws the Church (although I agree it is splitting hairs) is speaking in terms of the treatment of same-sex partners:

    “We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of atypical marriage. The way we treat atypical couples will say more about us as a free society and less about our neighbors. Utah should always be a place
    that welcomes people of goodwill”

    This is not an endorsement of homosexuality.

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  24. Will on March 21, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Mike,

    Very clever…

    “Immigration and the ability for someone to live where they can support their family is a moral issue, not a political issue…”

    As long as it is legal, I would agree as would the church.

    “As for same-sex marriage laws the Church (although I agree it is splitting hairs) is speaking in terms of the treatment of same-sex partners”

    As long as it not classified as marriage, I would agree as would the church.

    Again, very clever.

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  25. BeansDude on March 21, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    I heart comment #23.

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  26. Alice on March 21, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    “I honestly don’t think anyone outside of the straight, married person with children would voluntarily choose to endure the stifling LDS culture if it were not for the witness of the Holy Ghost and the Authority vested in the Priesthood and in the Temple Sealing Ordinances.”

    Even if you are a straight, married person with children, it would be difficult without that witness. (actually, I’ve experienced much less “stifling LDS culture” in real life than I’ve read about online. It makes me wonder if I’ve been lucky, or if it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be online.

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  27. shenpa warrior on March 22, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    I think there is a much higher concentrate of examples of “stifling LDS culture” online. Frankly, if all I had about the church was online, I would hate it. It generally seems like an awful culture and organization if I don’t consider the other 90% of my interaction with the church, the culture, and the gospel.

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  28. Geoff-A on March 22, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    Jeff and others, The conservative culture of the Church has been spread throughout the world by the Area Presidencies who invariably come from US, and have great power. In Australia I have not been in a ward with a liberal Bishop since the 80s when Area Presidencies were introduced.

    Our government has a bill to legalise same sex marriage and we have had a letter read over the pulpit asking us to make our views known to our political leaders.

    I had spoken to our stake Pres about the terrible handling of Prop 8 (I was there at the time) and so he had a letter read immediately after the Area Pres letter confirming that we could inform politicans of our views and adding, whatever they might be and that church was not the place to air those views. A great relief.

    Yes the culture assumes that the views of the members is extremely conservative. We had debate about euthenasia a couple of years ago and the person who wrote the Stake newsletter was a “right to lifer” who used the newsletter to promote his views about the bill which bore little relation to the facts. My Bishop attempted to excommunicate me because I pointed out the truth. Stifling?

    For a while in our ward the Bishops wife taught Gospel Doctrine class and if anyone disagreed with her the Bishop gave a talk the next week correcting them. He spoke for 6 weeks in a row. Stifling?

    Good to see the church supporting more liberal views on anything- perhaps the tide is turning- is there a way to tell which of the Apostles is more liberal v conservatice?

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  29. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 23, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Geoff — ouch. I’m so sorry about what happened to you.

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