The church has, however, reserved the right to speak to “issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences.” Over the last couple years, it has invoked its right—duty, even—to speak to issues ranging from the legalization of recreational marijuana and physician-assisted suicide to alcohol laws in Utah to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
It has been outspoken in its support of religious liberty. As far back as 1992, Elder Oaks testified in support of of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and he has continued to emphasize the importance of religious liberty.
Yesterday, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States for the next 90 days, and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely.
This Executive Order is deeply immoral. It violates the fundamental scriptural duty to care for and welcome strangers, to love our neighbors, and to support the vulnerable. And we find that injunction throughout scripture.
In the Hebrew Bible we read that because the chosen people were strangers in the land of Egypt, the Lord forbids them(us) from “opress[ing] a stranger” and, in fact, requires us to “love … the stranger.” In fact, Ezekiel tells us, the sin of Sodom was that its residents lived in their abundance and refused to help the poor and the needy.
The New Testament is similarly resplendent with the mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves, and defines “neighbor” far more broadly than those we love, or those in our immediate vicinity.[fn1]
In the Book of Mormon, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis break from the Lamanites and, in doing so, face death and the threat of death. Ammon leads the people—refugees, all—back to the Nephites, who are at war with the Lamanites. And the Nephites not only vote to take in the refugees, but, in fact, give them land and protect them from their former people.
Banning immigrants, then, is deeply immoral, and un-Christian. And worse, the banning is occurring on explicitly religious grounds. While it doesn’t explicitly forbid Muslims from entering the United States, Trump has made clear that the exemption he has provided for persecuted religious minorities is mean to apply to Christians. In doing so, he rejects the tenets of religious liberty so dear to both the United States and to our own religious beliefs.
I was heartened to see that more than 2,000 religious leaders have signed on to a letter opposing Trump’s immoral attack on the poorest and the weakest. But none of our leaders’ names are on that letter; seeing that brought me to tears.
I know that our church leaders care deeply about immigrants, and about refugees. And I know that they’re willing to stand up and comment on moral matters. I also know the executive order was just signed yesterday, so there’s still time for them to add their names to this letter, or to make their own independent statement.
Trump’s mistreatment of refugees is easily the most pressing moral matter in the United States at this moment. It deserves nothing more than our scorn and our opposition. And if ever there was a moment for the church to use its moral soapbox, now is that moment.[fn2]
Update 1/29/17 12:06 am: The Newsroom has released the following statement. It’s a nice enough sentiment, but it’s oddly passive and even more oddly unspecific. And it’s not attributed to anybody. Which is to say, if it’s better than nothing, it’s only barely better:
In response to recent media inquiries, the following statement has been released:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war and religious persecution. The Church urges all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering.”
[fn1] For more examples of the biblical mandate to receive refugees and help the poor, you can read this.
[fn2] And, for the record, the church can explicitly call out Donald Trump. I understand why it didn’t take a stand during the election: section 501(c)(3) prohibits tax-exempt organizations from supporting or opposing candidates for office. But he is no longer a candidate, and nothing in section 501(c)(3) prohibits tax-exempt organizations from opposing—by name!—government officials who are not current candidates.