Lessons on Freedom and Patriotism
Lesson No. Nine

Immigrants Strengthen Our Nation and Our Freedom

The Lord brought immigrants and refugees to the United States – In 1987, as the chairman of the Utah State Republican Party,  I accompanied William Bennett, then Secretary of Education to a meeting with President Gordon B. Hinckley then a member of the First Presidency.  Secretary Bennett described to us a history book, widely used in elementary schools in the United States, which described pilgrims as people who take long trips.  The text book does not mention that the reason the Pilgrims came to our land was for religious freedom. 

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

The Book of Mormon confirms that the Lord brought Columbus, the Pilgrims, and a multitude of other "gentiles" to America.  These gentiles “did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance….They did humble themselves before the Lord….and they were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations” (1 Nephi 13:12-19).

 A gentile, as used in this scripture, refers to people from many nations, races, cultures, and religions that the Lord brings to the United States.  It includes those who today we would describe as immigrants and refugees.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." (Inscription on base of the Statue of Liberty)

The United States is a nation of immigrants, a melting pot - We have assimilated more immigrants than any other nation in the history of the world, and these immigrants have come from every nation.  Most immigrants, like the Pilgrims, come to this country for freedom and opportunity.  Much of our national strength has come from successfully integrating immigrants into society.   

A majority of Americans are just a few generations from immigrant ancestors.  There has never been a nation that compares in this demographic.  Not only is the United States very diverse, it is one of the most populous nations on the earth.  Our birth rate is the highest of any developed nation.  The United States is one of the least racially prejudice nation in the world, and each succeeding generation seems to be less prejudice still.  These factors will allow the Lord to continue to use the United States as a source for good throughout the earth.

The history of the LDS Church is full of immigrants and refugees – A dictionary definition of a refugee is “a person who flees for refuge or safety.”  As a result of local persecution and government hostility members of the LDS Church fled from New York to Ohio then to Missouri then to Illinois, and finally west to Mexican Territory in what is now Utah.  All eight of my great grandparents were among the LDS pioneers/migrants/refugees who came west.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as an institution has a strict policy of neutrality with regard to partisan politics, but the LDS Church speaks out on issues of moral importance.  The following makes it clear what the leaders of the LDS Church believe the Lord would have us do concerning the treatment of immigrants and refugees.  I agree with and support these statements:

Handcart Pioneers Arrive in Salt Lake, by Clark Kelley Price

The Church called for “immigration reform” that adopts a “balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family, and it commitment to law.”  The Church believes that people should obey the law and refrain from "entering any country without legal documentation" or "deliberately overstaying legal travel visas" (Official Statement 2011).

The Church “supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.”  This is because “how we treat each other as children of God” is “the bedrock moral issue" (Official Statement 2011).

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that “immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together” (Official Statement June 2018).

Concerning "Dreamers" who are brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents the Church declared that they “have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so” (Official Statement February 2018).

The Church began “I was a Stranger” relief effort which coincided with the Syrian refugee crisis.  It encourages members to seek out and assist refugees in their local communities.

Our personal experience confirms that most immigrants to the U.S. are Christian, family oriented, work hard, desire freedom, and contribute to society –    

  • Nguyen Bay is one five young men we sponsored when the communists took over Vietnam.  Their only possessions were the clothes they wore.  They worked hard and went to school at night to learn English.  Each earned a college degree in engineering and have good jobs.  Bay has a top-secret security clearance.  He visits Vietnam regularly to help his family  
  • Yee Wong immigrated from China and was impressed to settle in Utah even though she did not know anyone here.  We met Yee when we were ward missionaries.  Yee joined the Church and is temple endowed.  She is well educated.  We helped her get a job and her employer told me she is the best worker he has.  She sends a lot of money to her family in China.
  • Myrta Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico.  She managed our apartments in Miami for many years and was one of our best.   She is a devoted Christian.  She nurtures her large extend family and many other people. 

These dear friends are citizens, and like millions of other immigrants they love their country and make a valuable contribution.

Testimony – With immigration, as in other issues, our society will be strengthened if we follow basic truths such as strengthening families.  The Lord has said, through our Church leaders, that we should be compassionate.  We need a wise and orderly process which secures our boarders and effectively deals with criminals.  There should be a reasonable way to citizenship for those who are already here.  Our policy should recognize the need for workers in some areas of our economy and welcome gifted people who come looking for freedom and opportunity.   If guided by correct principles immigration will continue to strengthen our nation and be a force for freedom.