In September and early October republican Representative Russell Pearce from Mesa, Arizona bought himself some trouble A supporter of tougher immigration laws — suggesting the deportation of undocumented immigrants — Rep. Pearce, who is a Mormon, made public comments that caused an outcry calling for an end to racist language and bigotry.
An article in the Arizona Republic reported on October 13th that the religious and community leaders in Mesa held a rally during which they asked
Pearce and all elected leaders to engage only in public discourse that treats all people, including undocumented immigrants, with respect and dignity. They invited Pearce to start a dialogue with those he has “hurt” with his “insensitive” words.
Leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and other churches spoke at the rally; but leaders from the Mormon community did not attend. According to the Arizona Republic, the rally was “too political” for the LDS Church to be involved in.
Today, in the East Valley Tribune, columnist Slim Smith published a commentary he titled “Mormon Church’s silence is a little peculiar.” In the commentary Mr. Smith says the LDS Church has “taken some heat” for not attending the rally.
From LDS officials’ point of view, the rally was a political event and church doctrine prohibits the church from endorsing — or denouncing — candidates…
Still, I believe the church made a mistake in not participating in the rally.
There [are] a few reasons. First, Pearce is a Mormon. If his statements don’t reflect the church’s values, the church should say so. Silence suggests approval, it could be argued.
Second, as a Christian, I know that I am charged to be “salt and light” in a secular society. Maybe Mormons adhere to a different standard. I don’t know. But I do know that history shows that many of the most significant social reforms have their origins in a church pew. People of faith have an obligation.
After citing the fact that until 1978 the LDS Church restricted Blacks from holding the priesthood, Mr. Smith wrote,
The rally was a missed opportunity for the church to clearly express its position. Now, some folks question the church’s sincerity on matters of race.
I would say that “some folks” have never stopped questioning the LDS Church’s sincerity on matters of race, as evidenced by the Church’s prominent clarifications and denials. On Mormon.org, the LDS web site for non-members, the FAQ section includes a statement to the effect that there are no race or color restrictions within the Church. On the main web site of the LDS Church there is a section which deals with the “Myth-conception” that the LDS Church is racist with respect to Blacks:
The Church views all humankind as children of the same Heavenly Father, literally brothers and sisters. As stated by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1987: “We repudiate efforts to deny to any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race or color over another.”
Nevertheless, questions persist. It’s hard to accept the assertion that there are no race restrictions within the LDS Church when, year after year, the General Authority Chart remains almost exclusively “white and delightsome” (pre-1981 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 30:6). The G. A. Chart from October 2006 appears to include only six non-Anglos (Hispanic and Asian) out of 100 men pictured, with none in the highest tiers of LDS leadership. (For more information on this topic see “Non-Anglos Need Not Apply?”)
Columnist Slim Smith suggested the LDS Church should have taken a stand against racism at the rally earlier this month. He wrote:
My take: Stand for your principles and let the chips — political or otherwise — fall where they may…
The LDS church doesn’t have to listen to me, of course.
But it should listen to its conscience.
Perhaps it did.