In light of the GOP presidential race, my sister, who lives in Utah, sent me this article from The Huffington Post in which Latino Mormons speak up against Mitt Romney´s presidential bid. After reading it, I felt offended and baffled, both as a Latino and as a Mormon.
I was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My parents converted when just 12 and 13 years of age, and I have always been a member of the church. As most Mormon young men, I was sent on a Spanish-speaking proselytizing mission to Los Angeles, CA, where I lived between 2003 and 2004. I do not mean to sound proud here, but I think I know something about the beliefs of the Mormon church and about the feelings of the Latino community in the USA.
That being said, I felt slapped on the face when I read the piece in which Latino Mormons slam Romney and other Mormon politicians for taking a tough stand against illegal immigration. They claim, erroneously, that immigration is a pillar of the church, and cite the Book of Mormon as evidence for their claims. Take it from someone who knows and is not afraid of saying so: Immigration is a reality of life, not necessarily an act of God. Throughout history, people have had to relocate due to harsh conditions, whether social or physical, but no more than that. The fact that Latino Mormons are trying to shield their illegal state in the US using religious beliefs is simply outrageous.
As part of my mission in LA, I had to talk to the families and establish relationships of trust. Through doing this, I consistently became confident enough to inquire of them as to their reasons for moving to the US. Some of them said they did it because of the violence in El Salvador back in the 80´s. Some others said they did it because they were pursuing the American Dream –biggest delusion ever, if you ask me-. My question to the latter was always the same: Why exactly come here illegally? They would then normally reply that the conditions in their home countries were too difficult, and that it was not possible to sustain a family in those countries. All was aggreable so far, until they began describing their perils and challenges crossing the border illegally. I heard many stories of families with younglings venturing across the “Rumorosa Mentada” or the “Rio Bravo”, and sat there in horror as I learned the hardships of such journeys.They also told me of the incredible amounts of money the “coyotes” would charge them for helping them cross the desert, and how they sold houses, cars and even livestock in order to make such payments. I was disgusted by both the “coyotes” and the families, who left what seemed reasonable life conditions only to become the outsiders of society. But this was not the people´s case. They told the stories with an aura of victory and heroism. They felt it was the best thing they could have possibly done for themselves and their children. As they stated that, I always looked around and made a mental picture of the surroundings: a single room with bunk beds that scantily accomodated a family of five, whose clothes were normally stored in moist cardboard boxes on the ground. In my mind and heart, such a situation never should have occurred. My question, then, is whether all these Latinos speaking in favor of immigration are aware that they are advocating for those conditions. If we say that God brought them all to the USA, called in the Latino absurd imaginarium the Promised Land, did He intend for them to live like that? What loving God wants His children to barely make it through the day and not live a full life?
The post my sister sent me goes on to say that a certain Ignacio García, from Brigham Young University, quotes the Book of Mormon saying that all who come to the Land are brought by God. The book does say that, but there is no reason at all to think that the Land spoken of is indeed the USA. It makes no sense to imagine the Book of Mormon characters who arrived in the American continent did so to present day US soil. The book does say they traveled south,before they settled, but I live in Colombia, and Mexico is located north of my country, as well as all of Central America. Our cultural and indigenous heritage resembles the Central American one rather than that of the USA. The article itself mentions that Antonella Packard, a Honduran-born Mormon, grew amongst Mayan ruins. If we are talking about history here, as Mr. Garcia teaches, I pity his students.
Another point about the church´s teachings: In 1842, Joseph Smith, restorer of the church, sent a letter to Mr. John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, outlining the church´s basic beliefs. This letter, now known as the Wentworth Letter, contains 13 declarations that summarize Mormon teachings and codes of behavior. The 12th Article of Faith reads literally thus:
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”.
To my understanding, we are bound by this statement to obey the law of the land as members of the church. Illegal immigration is against the law, and no one or nothing is ever above the law. The Holy Bible reads that all authority on earth, even civil authority, is given by God (John 19:11). How, then, individuals who claim to represent a religious organization advocate for illegal deeds? Illegality cannot abide at the heart of any religious organization, and by extension it cannot dictate attitudes or actions, at least not under the umbrella of religion.
As a conclusion, and based upon my knowledge and understanding of Mormon lore and Latino feelings, this fight against Romney is nothing but a manifestation of ignorance and pride in the part of those protesting Mr. Romney´s stance on illegal immigration. I find it interesting that people should have the right to speak up and make their opinions heard, but to say something completely preposterous and removed from the beliefs those very people are supposed to uphold as members of a congregation is a matter of concern.
The opinions of these individuals, such as Mr. Garcia and Mrs. Packard as quoted in the article are contrary to church´s standpoints and foundations. The church has long defended the rule of law and the importance of us Mormons obeying the laws and the rules of the countries where we reside. The Latinos living illegally in the USA are breaking the laws of the USA, and though it is not my country, I can only sympathize with Mormon or non-Mormon politicians´ attempts to protect their country and their land.UPDATE: The LDS Church has manifested its support of the Utah Compact This serves as further evidence of the Church´s commitment to legality.