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H.B.116, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Me!

The debate over H.B.116 in Utah is one of the most volatile I have seen in this state in my time. Prop 8 was, without question, also volatile, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clearly took a strong position on it. However, with H.B.116, contradictory statements within their own news releases have caused a great rift to arise in the party and the state, not to mention the Church.

Today, as Tim and I were doing our radio show, we had a caller who demanded we both boycott the Church because of their stance on H.B.116. He demanded the Church lose its 501c3 status as a protected religion and went on, and on, and on, and railed on us because neither Tim, nor I, would turn on the Church.

Let me see if I can help people understand where I am coming from on this horribly flawed legislation and the Church's perceived stance on it.

H.B.116 is a mishmosh of legislation all crammed together from the 2011 Spring Session of the Utah State Legislature. It provides guest worker permits for illegal immigrants issued by the State, a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Republican Party Platform. I mention the platform because the bulk of the legislators who voted for this legislation were Republican, violating the very platform they agreed to uphold. Despite the fact that Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Jason Chaffetz have both stated that federal waivers will not be granted, the intrepid moderate Republicans of the Utah State Legislature pushed forward and passed H.B.116 and Governor Gary Herbert signed it into law.

Prior to the passing and signing, the legislature and governor's office were swamped with phone calls and emails begging them not to turn their back on the citizens of Utah in favor of those who reside here illegally. The wishes of the bulk of Utah citizens were ignored. Then a firestorm grew into a conflagration.

First, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement:

17 MARCH 2011 — POSTED by PUBLIC AFFAIRS STAFF

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the fact that the Church’s Presiding Bishop, H. David Burton, attended the signing of a comprehensive set of immigration reform bills passed by the Utah legislature. The article said: “One thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has abandoned its claims to neutrality on these bills.”

This needs a clarification.

While the Church does not endorse or oppose specific political parties, candidates or platforms, it has always reserved the right to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that have significant community or moral consequences. Immigration is such an issue.

Before the 2011 Utah legislative session began, the Church announced its support for the Utah Compact . Our hope was that lawmakers would find solutions that encompassed principles important to Mormons and other people of goodwill:

We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The Savior taught that the meaning of “neighbor” includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.

We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.

We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.

Our focus during the legislative session was to encourage laws that incorporated these principles. The Church did not dictate what kinds of bills should be proposed. Like many others on Capitol Hill, Church officials voiced their views and trusted the state’s elected officials to do their job. We consider the comprehensive package passed by lawmakers to be a responsible approach to a very complicated issue. Bishop Burton was invited, along with other community leaders, to witness the signing of a series of immigration bills by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and to show support for the diligent efforts of lawmakers in this area.

We expect that our country will continue to struggle with this complicated issue, which the federal government will have to address. Our hope is that good people everywhere will strive for principle-based solutions that balance the rule of law with the need for compassion.

# # #

This was a very clear statement, in my opinion. They would not endorse or condemn H.B.116. The family is paramount. And nations could defend their borders.

Somehow, this very clear statement caused a brouhaha. In the newspapers, on the television, on social networks it raged across the state. National media picked up on it and labeled Utah a sanctuary state, much to our current and future detriment. Everyone weighed in, and yet the battle here at home grew more personal.

The Church issued a second press release, which I am having trouble finding. I've scrolled through their news releases, but can't find it. They felt, I'm sure, they had clarified the matter. But as I read the release I didn't get from it what everyone else did. However, I do think it made their stance slightly muddy, as in it was no longer clear. Were they reversing what they had stated before, which I included for you above, or were they trying to reiterate, very clumsily, the Church's stance.

Here is how I see the Church's stance:

1. The Church has no borders, nor should it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global church and is more concerned with the salvation of souls rather than the protection of borders.

2. They want us to have compassion. I have no problem with that. They do not want families separated, and I understand that is well. That is why the entire family should be deported and the children given dual citizenship until the age of 18 when they must declare a nation.

3. They very clearly stated, in both statements, that nations have the right to protect their borders.

In a further conversation with a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Public Affairs Department, I confirmed the following:

4. The Church wants members to remain in their own nations and build up the Church there.

5. The Church DOES honor the rule of law as is stated in the 12th Article of Faith:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
6. And last, but certainly not least in my mind and heart, I confirmed that I could continue to fight H.B.116 without losing my Church membership or my temple recommend. I was also told that the Church does not censor its members and they needed us out there standing up for what is right.

I am part of a statewide effort to let our legislators and governor know how very unhappy we are with H.B.116 and their actions. One group has decided to back off and work to get the legislation rewritten. That is certainly their right. Having read H.B.116, I have to say the best way to rewrite that law is to throw it out and start over from scratch. Hence, repeal it and start again. And this time, try to stay within the bounds of constitutional law.

Now to bring this back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My testimony is not wavering in the slightest. Why is that you ask? The Church is well within the bounds of the law to express its opinion on absolutely anything.

For me, I am not a Mormon because it is politically expedient, popular, or because my parents raised me in the Church. I am a Latter-day Saint because I have spent my lifetime studying the scriptures, poring over the words of the prophets and apostles and spending my time on my knees in prayer asking for my own confirmations of the truth. Over the course of my life I have been the recipient of many confirmations of these truths and I have never abandoned my quest for knowledge in the Gospel. Because of that, there is nothing that could happen that will cause me to lose my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or turn my back on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To sum it up, I do not find any part of this situation, in regards to the Church, troubling. Politics has no place in religion, although religion does have a place in politics. The very values religion teaches us should enable us to make good decisions, and that includes our legislators. And last, but in no way least, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not tied to man, but to God.

Consider, if you will, the wheat and the tares of New Testament fame. Remember the lesson taught in that parable and do not, under any circumstances, be one of the tares.


Copyright 2010. All rights reserved by Candace E. Salima.
H.B.116, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Me! H.B.116, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Me! Reviewed by Candace Salima on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 Rating: 5