We can debate the morality, the legality and the political merits until we are exhausted, but I have been pondering what the gospel perspective on all this might be, absent the political calculations.
Many years ago, beginning in 1982, I started a compilation from the scriptures on the topic of Zion, because I was curious to know how the revealed word described it. At the end of that compilation I offered a summary, little realizing how it would play out in future events. Here's what I said then:
"Ephraim's descendants will figure prominently in the leadership of the House of Israel in the development of Zion, but it would be a gross error to assume that Zion is the private domain of Ephraim. The scriptures speak plainly of all the tribes coming to their inheritances in their various lands. We are witnessing the emergence of all these long-lost cousins in Israel in our day, as adversity, lawlessness, and political upheavals continue to drive them to our borders of freedom. They come because of wars, famines, diseases, natural disasters, and the love of freedom, but whatever the reasons they are coming to claim their promised blessings at the hands of Ephraim. Let us never be so surfeited by the things of this world that we cannot embrace them, when they come with little more than the clothes on their backs."
On the political front we can argue, as many conservative elements in our society do today, that securing the borders and enforcing our immigration laws is essential to our survival. We currently have a POTUS, however, who has willfully chosen NOT to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books and routinely blames Congress for its failure to give him enough money. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) declared he would protect his own border. The voices from the states against the federal government become more strident with every passing day. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's (R) bitter indictments of Barack Obama are well-known on this issue.
I understand all the political arguments quite well, so thanks in advance for not reminding me about all that. However, these circumstances are foretold in scripture and should not alarm us when we put it in the larger picture frame of latter-day prophecy. The events leading to the eventual establishment of Zion are well-documented in scripture.
I find it ironic that it is the more conservative elements of society who are beating the drum for tougher border security and are taking such a vehement stand against illegal immigration. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with the Catholic Church and many other religious organizations (and what could be more conservative than these?) has maintained a humanitarian position for many years. Without discrimination about how they got here the churches have taken the position they will succor the weak, lift up the weary arms of the immigrants, and do all they can to provide the care and nurturing the immigrants need.
Political calculations in the give and take of the debate are on constantly shifting sands. People forget under George W. Bush statements and policies were put forward promoting an open border policy. This empty rhetoric didn't start with Barack Obama, as much as I am inclined to blame him for everything wrong with America today. On both sides of the political divide the lust for ever more voters picking them is what has driven the response to immigration. Make no mistake, the dirty little secret is neither side wants to turn away potential voters in such large blocks, notwithstanding the downside of perhaps a few terrorists leaking through the border with the legitimate "Dreamers" seeking a better life in America.
Seeking to set an example before the whole nation for thoughtful consideration of the immigrant crisis back in 2010, a group of citizens, churches and government leaders put forward what came to be called "The Utah Compact" to give some guidance to the debate:
THE UTAH COMPACT
A DECLARATION OF FIVE PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE UTAH’S IMMIGRATION DISCUSSION
FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.
LAW ENFORCEMENT We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
FAMILIES Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.
ECONOMY Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.
A FREE SOCIETY Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill. (Emphasis is mine).
That's as good a summary as I can think of to help us think through what we are saying in our political debates. We are being told there will be no comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year. The politicians simply don't want to handle the hot potato. But keeping in mind the principles cited here will help us think through the reasons so many are flocking to our borders.
The prophetic Book of Mormon offers additional insights:
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. [Read that verse again, could there be a more apt description of elements of American society today?]
And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.
And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.
But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me — that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance. (3 Nephi 16:10-16, emphasis mine).
Please note that always and forever, if Israel covenants to repent and obey, the doors of forgiveness are perpetually and eternally open to all who will walk through them.
The events swirling today in Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Afghanistan, added to those in South and Central America only serve to remind us of the upheaval and lawlessness spoken of in the prophecy on war. It seems there will never be peace on earth, for so it has been decreed. Nation against nation, brother against brother, family against family. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ offers true brotherhood and unity. Our political institutions no longer seem capable of offering true asylum from the chaos. Indeed, the government solutions seem worse than the problems government creates. There's now a $3.7 billion solution being proposed to house the immigrants. Um, good luck with that. Until Christ comes again to rule and reign, there will be no peace on earth.
We are blessed in our ward to have a new member, President Ronald A. Rasband, the senior president of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He just returned from visiting congregations of the saints in Russia and Turkey. He reports there are three thriving branches of the Church in Turkey, a nation of 74 million, 98% of whom are Muslim. There are only twelve full-time missionaries serving in Turkey. Those three branches represent the hope of that region of the world. They are a melting pot of every faction of Islam from all the surrounding countries. There are no government-sponsored reparations against those who have fled to Turkey for asylum and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who have become Christians are left alone in peace to practice their religion as they choose. They have embraced truth and light and chosen unity and peace. It is a model for the other nations in that region of the world to follow.
Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ is there sufficient light to extinguish the gathering darkness around us. All other government solutions will fail.