Thursday, April 2, 2009
Mormons Perplexed by Undocumented Immigrants
Proselytism is not new to Hispanic neighborhoods. Protestant, generally Evangelical or Fundamentalist, have been rather successful. Each neighborhood has its share of store-front churches. Among the proselytizers, incongruously, are short-haired Anglo teams in white shirts and ties pedaling the born-in-the-USA Mormon faith. Little in the belief system of the Church of the Latter Day saints would seem to appeal to immigrants from a culture in which the Virgin of Guadeloupe and the Day of the Dead loom large, but the appeal to family and upright living seems to have attracted Mexicans in large numbers. The growing attraction of Hispanics to the faith has also created a dilemma for the Mormon Church -- or at least for many Mormons. The young missionaries knocking on doors in Hispanic neighborhoods are persistent and they don't ask questions about immigration status. As a consequence, many converts to Mormonism are undocumented -- as many as 70% according to a Brigham Young University history professor. In the west, however, the Mormon Church is often viewed as the Republican Party at prayer. Many Mormons share the anti-immigration bias of most Republicans and, according to the Arizona Republic, lead the get-tough campaign against the undocumented in western states. Officially, the Mormon Church has no policy on immigration and preaches family unity and compassion. State of Utah has often a contradictory response to the undocumented.