Home > Uncategorized > Mormons, Immigration, and Deseret News

Mormons, Immigration, and Deseret News

Joseph A. Cannon, editor of The Deseret News. Photo by Djamila Grossman of NY Times

Sitting down in one of the study rooms in ND’s Coleman-Morse building, I found this article on the front page of the New York Times. It details how the Deseret News’ stance on immigration is much more liberal than most of its readers (and less conservative than outsiders might expect of a church-owned newspaper). This has created some dissonance between what you might take as the implied stance of the Brethren (assuming that the paper’s editorials reflect their views, which I doubt they always do) and the majority of Utah residents who want to crack down on immigration, including passing an Arizona-like law. I think the writers try to play up the controversy more than is necessary, but it provides some interesting insight into the dynamics of that paper and about El Observador, a Spanish local newspaper that the church completely subsidizes so that Hispanic residents in the area can have the news in their language for free. Never knew about that before.

A couple of thoughts: will the church take a firmer stance on immigration, especially if another law like Arizona’s comes to Utah? The Times article does point out that this could lead to a huge falling-out with LDS Hispanics (the Arizona sponser was Mormon). And if it does, how will conservative members react? Usually, liberals are cast as the “outsiders” that do not heed the Brethren’s counsel on certain political issues (everything from ERA to same-sex marriage, etc.). Yet here is a case that might challenge the conservative orthodoxy of Utah Mormons: what happens if the Church takes a left-of-center stance on immigration? I found this quote fascinating:

“Obviously, they’re trying to sway public opinion in a big way,” said Stephen Sandstrom, a Republican state representative who is sponsoring a bill that would create a set of strict immigration laws similar to Arizona’s. Mr. Sandstrom, a Mormon, said he was not deterred. “I do have people in e-mails saying, ‘You’d better not back down or I’ll know the church got to you.’ And I just assure them that the L.D.S. church is not directing me one way or another on this.”

What does it mean that “the church got to you?” I am all for Sandstrom exercising his personal opinion on this matter (even though I don’t agree with that position), rather than simply copying whatever the church says, but the quote does suggest that some members might not be so ready to change their political views if the church takes a decidedly liberal, or at least conciliatory, stance on immigration. Ideally, I’m not saying that conservatives have to abandon all their political views if the church comes out against them, but I hope that this would lead to greater understanding of members whose views do not always align with the (perceived) political policies of the Brethren. I doubt this will be the case, but it would be nice nonetheless.

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