Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hispanic Church Growth and Illegal Immigration

An article was recently published at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University describing LDS missionary activities in and around the city of Chicago. [The article can be found here] In particular, the article focused on missionaries called to serve in Spanish-speaking areas. Although there were a few things in which the writer erred, overall it was a fair article.

Of interest to me, however, were the following quotes:

"In Chicago, Hispanics, which account for about a third of the population, make up more than half of converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as more missionaries are reaching out to inner-city populations in Spanish. About a quarter of the 32 congregations on the city’s North Side are Spanish-speaking."
"The number of the Spanish-speaking Mormon congregations in the U.S. has grown by more than 80 percent in the last decade, now up to around 700."

Amazing! Spanish wards have grown by 80% since 1999! Living in Texas, I can see how this is possible. It is inevitable as the stone that is cut out of the mountain continues to roll forth until it fills the whole earth.

The Seer Stone recently discussed Predictions of Globalization of the Church. Part of that globalization must, of necessity, be related somehow to the various cultures and laws of each nation involved. Here in America, there is the ever-growing debate about illegal immigration from Hispanic nations and the effect it can have on our society. My questions are three-fold:

1) How should the Church deal with "illegal" immigrants that desire baptism? How does this coincide with the Church's admonition to be "subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law"?

2) Should the Church be actively concerned about the legal status of its members?

3) Should the members of the Church be concerned about the legal status of the members of their Ward/Branch?


Mosiah said...

1) Baptism is not breaking the law. What law makes it illegal to be baptized, regardless of immigration status?

2) As a practical matter, yes, in some few circumstances and NO in the vast majority of circumstances. Many members, undoubtedly, regardless of immigration status, share houses where only single families are allowed by code. Should the Church be actively concerned about the legal status of its members?

3) No, never, under any circumstances. Should you be concerned about the legal status of your neighbor? If you presume that your neighbor or ward member is not here legally, on what basis do you make the presumption? If you don't ask, you won't know. And why would you ask?

I can imagine a circumstance where one could offer assistance, but to actively concern oneself with finding out the immigration status of ward members for the purpose of assisting them in being removed from the country seems, to me, to be digging a pit for a brother or sister. Their relationship to the laws of the land is their business, just as your relationship to the laws of the land is your business. If you feel compelled to turn in your brother or sister, lay off!

Anonymous said...

If your neighbor is robbing stores or murdering people you should not turn them in because it is not your business.

Come on! If you see a law being broken you should report it, regardless of how serious you think that crime is. The law is the law, period.

Russ said...

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Jeremy said...

Good comments.

We are also under commandment to not allow someone to partake of the sacrament who we know is actively sinning, for they would be eating a drinking damnation unto themselves. Do we take it that far for those who refuse to obey the laws of the land, of which we presume to obey?

FesterBesterTester said...

Should you stop taking the sacrament if you get a speeding ticket? What if you aren't caught?

Anonymous said...

wow I'm speechless, I can't believe y'all are considering turning in your fellow ward members, and going as far as preventing them from taking the sacrament just because you "assumed" them to being talk about racism, unless you are planning on standing at the church entrance and asking members for either their birth certificate or their permanent resident card, there is not way on knowing without a shadow of doubt who is and isn't an illegal. Is not a matter of being dark skin and speaking with an accent,
No wonder my mom who btw is hispanic and perfectly legal thanks to political asylum has gone inactive.
with members like y'all who needs opposition.!!!

Maria Camila Rojas-Davenport

Hillary said...

I'm sick and tired of people crying racism every time a subject like this is brought up. That is what prevents us from having an honest discussion in this country. No matter how you feel about it, the law is the law. If you are going to take upon yourself the covenants of baptism, do you not have to first (REPENT)? To me, that would encompass not breaking the law by being in a county illegally. No, I will not be ratting out my fellow ward members and no, I will not be asking them if they are breaking the law. I would however, hope that the missionaries and the bishop would step in to help this person take the necessary steps towards legal citizenship.

Jeremy said...

Hi Maria,

I'm afraid you may have misunderstood the tone of the questions posed in the post. It was clearly not the author's intent to draw racist lines. Instead, these are honest questions in view of current events and well-known gospel principles.

No one is "considering turning in your fellow ward members, and going as far as preventing them from taking the sacrament just because you 'assumed' them to being illegal," as you suggest. The questions obviously do not suggest that. Rather, this forum is designed for open debate regarding topics of interest to its authors.

Whichever way you look at it, I'm sorry to hear about your mother's inactivity. I hope she realizes that it is the Church that is perfect and true, and not its members (including myself). A testimony should be founded not in ward members, but in the principles taught within the walls of the chapel.

Russ said...

I fail to see where race even enters into the debate. It seems that Maria is the person with the grudge to prove. If a person is in this country against the law then they should be deported and told to get in line like the millions who follow the law. If that is a burden on their family then there is only one person responsible for that and it is the law breaker alone. Follow the law and be left alone, break it and suffer the consequences.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

What comes to my mind is in the baptismal interview that the missionaries give. One of the questions is about repentance and if that individual has repented fully of their sins. We know repentance would be making what´s wrong in our lives right.
Obviously the spirit will dictate to each person what they should do. I imagine God will bless the person who goes the extra mile of doing all they can to adjust their legal status in that country (we´re not only talking about the U.S here) which could result in deportation etc. But I also believe that if a decision like that would separate a family that this would be understood. I don´t believe the church will be active in pushing this requirement unless it becomes a very sensitive topic politically with the church. I think the church is able to get by without saying anything for now.


PA Coug said...

I personally don't hold it against a missionary who in all likelihood was brought to this country illegally by his parents.

I have family photos of ancestors in their prison stripes, jailed for violation of the Edmunds-Tucker Act.

Clearly, we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. Except when we don't.

Remember how upset the Pharisees got because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, in clear violation of the law?

We risk forgetting who owns the law, the church, the earth and has bought and paid for the souls of even those whose parents brought them to this country illegally.

I'm all for obeying the law. But if the law is broken, I'm for punishments that fit the crime in question.

If the illegal in question is using a stolen social security number, for example, then you have issues of SS fraud and identity theft that are serious felonies, on whose grounds a temple recommend or mission call should be withheld.

But your average 19-year-old son of illegals isn't perpetrating crime, and he didn't put himself in the situation he finds himself in. There are not a lot of Mormon teenagers illegally entering the U.S. on their own initiative, then trying to go on missions.

The Church recognizes the vast majority of young men whose illegal immigrant status throws their missionary service into doubt are in this position because of their parents' actions, not their own.

So let's do remember another Article of Faith:

"We believe that man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."