LDS missionary Jose Calzadillas finished his mission to Ohio last month (April 2009). When he tried to board a plane to head for home, he was arrested on the charge of being an undocumented immigrant.
Mr. Calzadillas, like all other Mormons, would have made certain covenants at the time of his baptism into the LDS Church. He would have covenanted to: 1. Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places; and 2. Serve God and keep his commandments.
Before heading out into the LDS mission field, Mr. Calzadillas, like all other male Mormon missionaries, would have received his endowments at an LDS temple. In order to gain a temple recommend, necessary for anyone wishing to enter a Mormon temple, Mr. Calzadillas would have been asked by his ecclesiastical leaders: “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?” “Yes,” would have been the answer required in order for him to be considered worthy enough to enter a Mormon temple and receive his endowment.
After undergoing missionary training at an LDS facility and gaining the higher knowledge bestowed on worthy members in Mormon temples, Mr. Calzadillas began his missionary service to the LDS Church, in which capacity he served for two years before coming to the attention of Customs and Border Patrol officials in Ohio.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Mr. Calzadilla’s arrest,
“The Salt Lake City-based [Mormon] church has taken a don’t ask, don’t tell position on membership for undocumented residents. And it supported a 2005 federal law amendment that gives churches legal immunity for having undocumented immigrants do volunteer service, including serving missions.
“‘We do want to be as responsible, as helpful, and certainly always as legal as the church must be to make sure they can give their service, which the law provides, have a religious experience, and feel like they’re doing good,’ LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune last week. ‘We’re not agents of the immigration service and we don’t pretend to be, and we also won’t break the law.'”
Indeed, on a previous thread here at Mormon Coffee our LDS friends argued for the superiority of the LDS Church’s missionary efforts due, in part, to that church’s self-limitation of proselytizing only when and where the “laws of the land” allow it.
Here, in the case of immigrant Mormons in the United States illegally, the LDS Church seems quite intent on obeying the law of the land that grants churches immunity when pressing illegal immigrants into service. But it does not appear to hold members responsible for obeying the law of the land when it comes to immigration. Or, by extension, for obeying the law of God that requires (according to Mormonism) obeying the laws of the land.
The Salt Lake Tribune said,
“Some LDS members are seriously questioning their faith as the church continues to recognize undocumented immigrants as worthy of baptism, temple entrance and missionary work while one of the faith’s founding principles is to obey all laws, said Eli Cawley, chairman of the anti-illegal immigration Utah Minuteman Project.”
Mr. Cawley is not the first critic of the LDS Church’s immigration policies to bring this up, and he likely will not be the last, for it does raise questions. If the Mormon law of God states that one must be “worthy” to enter a Mormon temple, and Article 12 of the LDS Articles of Faith declares Mormons “believe in…obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” is it consistent to baptize an illegal immigrant and grant him a temple recommend? If the LDS Church has “raised the bar” for missionary service, as explained by Gordon B. Hinckley–
“‘The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called … as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. … We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel’ (‘Missionary Service,’ Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 17).” (Quoted in Ensign, May 2005, 69. Ellipses in original)
–does someone who is in the United States illegally qualify to be an LDS missionary? Is the LDS Church putting a higher value on obeying the laws of the land than on obeying what the Church promotes as the commandments of God?
What do you think?