Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The LDS Church, Civility, and Immigration

A week and a half ago, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the church’s priesthood holders on the topic of kindness and civility (here). He called on church members to turn from the carping, criticizing, negative ways of the world in both private and public behavior to the ways of kindness and love taught by Jesus Christ.

President Hinckley briefly discussed the sin of racial hatred and called on any involved in it to repent. Some have opined (see here) as to what degree President Hinckley was referring to the current immigration debate. Others have called his comments disingenuous given the church’s one-time policy of denying its priesthood to blacks as well as racially insensitive remarks made by past church leaders.

While history can be instructive, I think it’s more important to realize that the principles President Hinckley discussed in regard to racism are proper and just. I didn’t read his statement to refer directly to immigration. Furthermore, I believe it is inappropriate to cast a blanket of racism over every secure borders argument. I believe that is exactly the opposite of what President Hinckley intended.

The day following this speech, Elder Robert S. Wood of the LDS Church’s Quorums of the Seventy spoke more directly on the topic of the prevasive “spirit of mockery and cynicism” in dealing with those with views that differ from our own (here). His speech seemed to refer more strongly to public and political attitudes and discussions, but he also alluded to private behavior.

Elder Wood spoke directly about our current political climate, and said, “Political differences never justify hatred or ill will.” He called for avoidance of demagoguery, saying, “We should avoid caricaturing the positions of others, constructing "straw men," if you will, and casting unwarranted aspersions on their motivations and character.” He called on church members to have a higher standard than that of the world.

In other words, church members are not excused for engaging in the same behavior as everyone else. I know I can make improvements in this area.

On the topic of immigration, I find myself agreeing with California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger (with whom I often disagree politically). He said (here), “Yes, immigration reform is a difficult issue. But it must be guided by a simple goal: compassion for the immigrant, control of the borders. Congress should not rest until it achieves both.”

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