By Tyler Bushman
Opinions of members of the LDS church concerning immigration range all across the political spectrum. However, in light of our doctrines regarding individual families and the eternal nature and equality of the human family, it seems that the issue becomes a little clearer. Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke on the need for an eternal perspective when considering the world situation: “If we are determined to live by Heavenly Father’s plan, we will use our God-given moral agency to make decisions based on revealed truth, not on the opinions of others or on the current thinking of the world.” Considered from an eternal perspective, we realize that borders are simply man-made artifices. Separating families through immigration laws, promoting pride under the guise of nationalism and creating insurmountable economic restrictions, borders take away our agency and thwart God’s plan.
The very concept of borders creates false divisions that segregate the human family, cultivating an attitude of prejudice toward those who would otherwise be neighbors. No vast moral discontinuity occurs when we step from one side of a boundary to the other…in fact this kind of fear and isolation is what inevitably starts wars. By amplifying our cultural, economic and racial differences, our brothers and sisters become “wholly other.” Just as sexism, racism, and classism force us to segregate ourselves into hierarchical ranks, nationalism becomes yet another tool of discrimination. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).” In the scriptures, we are taught that divisions and inequality do not come from God, who is the father of us all. “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord…he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female…and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne. 26:33). Indeed, the Book of Mormon shows us the kind of society that was built when physical and psychological borders were destroyed. “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people…and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings (4 Ne. 1:15-18).”
Leaders of the church have repeatedly spoken about the importance of the family unit as the primary component of society. Conversely, immigration laws (which are one of the fruits of international borders) have divided millions of families. Jim Reed from the Tampa Tribune reported last year, “No one knows how many immigrant families in the United States are divided because a parent was forced to leave the country. The National Immigration Forum, however, reports that 3 million children born in this country have at least one parent who is undocumented and at risk of deportation.” The Proclamation on the Family, issue by the First Presidency states the church’s stance on the evil of breaking up the family: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another [...]The family is ordained of God. Children are entitled to [...] be reared by a father and a mother. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
Ultimately the Christian, eternal perspective of borders is epitomized in the oft-repeated verse to “love one’s neighbor as oneself.” We, as Latter-Day Saints should strive to build a world where we can work and live with our neighbors, where no human is illegal, and where families are not separated because of imaginary lines drawn in the sand. Seeking to build Zion, we strive for justice and equality for all of God’s children.