Obey, Honor, and Sustain the Law

by Mark Krikorian

My colleague Ron Mortensen has published a paper on the Mormon Church’s stance on illegal immigration, focusing on its lobbying for the guestworker-amnesty bill signed by Utah’s governor last month. (Earlier papers by other writers have examined Evangelical, Catholic, and Jewish perspectives on immigration.) One of the core concerns cited by Mortensen (a retired Foreign Service officer and a Mormon) is the apparent contradiction between the religion’s 12th Article of Faith (“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”) and the church’s sanction and even encouragement of illegal immigration. The report appears to have touched a nerve; the Salt Lake Tribune story featuring it has so far garnered 684 comments.

I’m not a member of the LDS Church, so I’m just viewing this as an outsider, but what really struck me was how things had changed in just a few decades. Mortensen writes:

At the same time, in spite of their abhorrence of communism, senior Church leaders, including the Church’s current Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, continued to show unwavering support for the 12th Article of Faith by encouraging members in communist countries to remain in their homelands and to obey, honor, and sustain the laws of those countries in spite of the restrictions on free agency, severe economic hardships, and regardless of whether the laws were just or not. In 2007, President Monson wrote:

“For many years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I had responsibility for East Germany, also known as the German Democratic Republic. In this assignment, my knowledge of the Articles of Faith was most helpful. On each of my visits throughout the 20 years I supervised this area, I always reminded our members in that area of the twelfth article of faith: ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.’

“Our meetings behind what was known as the Iron Curtain were always monitored by the communist government there. In the early 1980s, when we sought approval from the government officials to build a temple there, and later when we asked permission for young men and women from that area to serve missions throughout the world and for others to come into their country to serve missions, they listened and then said, ‘Elder Monson, we’ve watched you for 20 years, and we’ve learned we can trust you and your Church because you and your Church teach your members to obey the laws of the land.’” (emphasis added)

So, the church that required obedience to East German law is now subverting American sovereignty?