Thursday, September 06, 2007

Baptizing Illegal Immigrants

I was quite surprised to read the following in an extended draft[1] of a biography of President Spencer W. Kimball.
For Spencer to express an opinion baldly and expect compliance was rare, but years later Francis Gibbons remembered such an incident because it was so unusual. In a joint meeting of the First Presidency and the Twelve to consider whether illegal aliens should be baptized, some of the brethren supported the position of not baptizing illegal aliens. After hearing all the views and the reasoning behind them, President Kimball said, “I think they should be baptized.” That ended the discussion.
I think I would have been among those arguing the opposite position, but an essential part of my faith is seeking to recognize and follow those whose spiritual vision may exceed my own. President Kimball was unquestionably such a man.

[1] Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft) by Edward L. Kimball, chapter 4 page 3. This version of the book is available on the CD that accompanies the printed version of the book and was also distributed to BYU Studies subscribers.


Frank Staheli said...

I agree with President Kimball. I don't think it is condoning illegal immigration to baptize someone who might be an illegal alien. I don't think it is the LDS Church's responsibility to enforce compliance. It would be a huge mess, perhaps similar to--before 1978--Africans having to prove they had no black ancestry before being allowed to hold the priesthood.

It would be interesting to discover if his statement about illegal immigrants occurred around 1978.

Bradley Ross said...

The footnote for the paragraph I quoted above doesn't give much of a hint as to the date of the anecdote.

J. Nicholas Udall, interview by author, January 13, 1994, quoting Francis Gibbons’s statement to him
on January 12. See Carrie A. Moore, “Hispanics Get LDS Assurance over License Bill,” Deseret News, February
27, 2004, A14 (illegal aliens not denied temple recommends).

The surrounding text in the book doesn't provide chronological context either.

Bradley Ross said...

The reason I would have been on the opposite side of the debate is this: I understand the policy of the church is not to baptize people who are in jail, ostensibly because they are still making restitution and thus haven't finished repenting. A person who is still in violation of the law would seem to be even further away from qualification for baptism.

George said...

In addition to being baptized, and I am grateful for that having baptized and or presided at such services a dozen times, they also hold recommends and serve as fulltime missionaries. There is a huge gulf that exists between the inspired leadership of the LDS Church and our nation with its biases and dislike of ethnicity.


Scott Hinrichs said...

It's far more difficult to discover whether someone is in the country illegally than it is to tell whether someone is in jail. More than half of all illegal immigrants once had a visa that has since expired. Should we make the passport and visa check a part of the baptismal interview?

WP asks "WWJD?" Hmmm... how do we know? That's where living prophets come in handy. Jesus lived in a nation that dealt with a confusing mixture of religious, pseudo religious, and Roman laws. While some of Roman law was written down, much was simply arbitrarily implemented depending on which authority was wielding power. Moreover, the practitioners of pseudo religious law wielded a certain amount of power too.

What I am saying is that in Jesus' day, questions of legality were often anything but clear. (I guess if it was so clear-cut in our day, we wouldn't have so many lawyers.) So how does a particular application play out in our day? How do we know what Jesus would do? Answering those questions fits in the job description of living prophet.

Bradley Ross said...

It is surprising that I don't feel as much frustration about people who overstay a visa as those who sneaked across the border. Maybe that is a psychology project for someone.

George said...

I think the answer is obvious, WWSWK do or did he do? He toured one of the Arizona missions back pre 1978 and was asked by the mission president about the success of his missionaries in baptizing so many of the undocumented. His response was very clear and unequivocal to continue doing all they could to bring the restored gospel to all of God's children.

A little more than a year ago Church policy changed and the way was opened for the undocumented living here, if they were worthy, to be sent on fulltime state side missions. They are still subject to deportation and are not immune from ICE, but at least they have an opportunity to serve.

A last question, what difference does it make if someone walked across the border, swam the Colorado, or flew in on American Airlines from Lima Peru on a tourist visa never intending to return?

BTW, the mission president in Arizona... His name was Oscar McConkie, brother of you know who.

Anonymous said...

It is not just a matter of crossing the border. I live in Arizona. Many illegal immigrants here assume false identities in order to secure jobs, by purchasing stolen or counterfeit Social Security cards. They drive without a drivers' license. They don't pay income taxes. In a word, they have to practice deception and break the law every day that they stay in the US illegaly. Doesn't this have a spiritual effect on them? How true can be the repentance of somebody that knowingly does this, yet intends to continue doing it after baptism? In my Branch there have been many such baptisms over the years, but there is almost no conversions. Most of these people drift away from the Church shortly after baptism, they never become true and faithful Church members.

Anonymous said...

I think the question to ask is:

Will the Lord support anyone who before or after baptism continues to practice deception by
a) working illegally
b) Paying tithing off illegal earnings
c) using someone else's social security number
d) Being in consistent, daily violation of the current, approved laws, by his/her presence in the country?

Finally, would we all be justified in doing a little deception to meet our own needs as well?

I believe that the Lords condemns any form of deception, especially if a person is a missionary for him. What is really going here is that the Church is not interested in taking a strong position about Articles #12 and enforcing the "being honest in all your dealings" because of how it would impact its missionary efforts in Mexico, a country with the largest number of members.
I think the Lord has no problem expelleing the money changers from the Temple and I think the Lord would have no problem telling these people who come here illegally that there are no exceptions just for them, in our outside the Church. Nobody is listening though, only a few have figured this out. Deception is deception. How can an illegal missionary teach people about honesty? People are trying to avoid the obvious: these people are committing fraud and deception and getting away with it, regardless if it's to feed their families. Feeding a family via illegal means cannot be a justification. Think about it.