Friday, April 22, 2011

The Church, Immigration, and the Wrong Side of the Fence

I share the thoughts that follow only because I hope it might be helpful to someone else.

A little over a month ago, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a group of immigration bills into law.  Definitely the most notable and controversial was HB 116, that includes a guest worker program for those not here legally.  I must admit that I wasn't thrilled.  My main issue with the whole thing was that even the Legislature's attorneys admitted there were some Constitutional problems with the new laws.  I felt completely satisfied in my disregard for the bills except for one small problem; one of the local members of the community there to support the signing was Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, David H. Burton.  When questioned by the media for the Church's position on the bills, he said, "We feel that the Legislature has done an incredible job on a very complex issue".

At this point, I had to do some mental gymnastics: well, I didn't hear him say the Church supports HB 116 specifically, I thought.  Another, more insidious thought (I'm ashamed to admit this one), came to my mind.  It was just Bishop Burton.  If it were really important to the Church, it probably would have been one of the Apostles, or even a member of the First Presidency, so I think I'm okay to disagree on this little issue.

Now, let me explain. I've always had an interest in politics and some strong opinions to go along with that interest.  I'd also like to think I've always at least tried to be in line with the teachings and doctrines of the Church.  I believe the fifteen men called to be Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, are indeed exactly that.  While I often fail to follow their guidance, I'm grateful for their words.  But now I had a problem.  What I believed politically did not agree what I seemed to be hearing from my spiritual leaders.  If you've ever had a similar experience, you may be familiar with the knot in your stomach that results when two of your strongly held beliefs do battle.  My mind was lagging behind my heart in readjusting my views to be in line with the Church position.  But as I said, I had somewhat justified my dissension so the issue drifted to the back of my mind.

Then this past week the LDS Church released a statement that reiterated their support for the "responsible approach" of the Utah Legislature, and mentions specifically their appreciation for HB 116.  The statement also lists the basic principles that guide the Church position.

Brought to my mind were some words from Neal A. Maxwell:
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life”. This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!
I remembered loving those words the first time I read them, partly because I felt their truth, and partly because I could never remember disagreeing with any official action taken by the Prophets until that point, so I was feeling pretty good.  But now that an intellectual conversion, at least on this point, was lacking, the words seemed more to condemn than to congratulate.  I also was led to reread President Benson's famous talk, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.  The fourth ("The Prophet will never lead the Church astray") and tenth (the Prophet may advise on civic matters), along with prayer, helped me make the necessary change in my thinking.

I say all of this not to try to change the mind of anyone else.  We all have our personal issues, and at some time or another may find ourselves on the wrong side of counsel from the Presiding Authorities of the Church.  These things can be very personal and individual.  Salvation itself can be a very individual experience.  That's something else I think I'm beginning to learn.  If some other man finds himself on the wrong side of a nation's political borders, that doesn't really affect my salvation.  That's between him and the laws of that country.  But when the Lord, through his servants, gives me posts and markers by which to guide my life, I better listen.  I don't want to be on the wrong side of that fence.

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