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The LDS Church, Russell Pearce, and Compassion

How did Russell Pearce become the face of the LDS Church to Hispanics? For those of you who do not know him, Russell Pearce is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and the State Legislator in Arizona (formerly regarded as a extreme but who now has become “mainstream” in Arizona politics), who is responsible for working with Kris Kobach and the folks at FAIR to develop extreme forms of anti-immigrant legislation, including SB 1070. How did a man who is intolerant toward immigrants become the face of the LDS Church in Arizona?
To preface that answer, you have to understand how contrary his stand is to the work the Church is doing with Hispanic. The LDS Church actively engages Hispanic communities in Arizona and throughout the United States through its Spanish speaking congregations and its missionaries. Many Church member give hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer service to help these congregations. The Church’s mission and vision is one of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone, regardless of their immigration status.
Now, Russell Pearce wants the Church the change its “policy” and to now ask all Hispanics their immigration status BEFORE they attend Church or listen to the missionaries. Basically, he is telling the Church not carry out what the Church considers its core mission. Let’s all agree that Russell Pearce’s vision of the Church’s outreach will simply not happen.
The tragic part of Russell Pearce becoming the public face of the Mormon Church to Hispanics is that it is so contrary to what the Church teaches about forgiveness, compassion, and faith. The LDS Church spent the better part of 30 years fighting the Federal government on a law the Church considered not only unconstitutional, but unjust. Yet, Russell Pearce apparently believes that ALL laws, regardless of their original purpose, their relevancy today, or their effectiveness must be enforced to their fullest extent. He sounds so much like Javert from Les Miserables, that it is scary.
In an interview with Univision this week, Russell Pearce expressed his inner soul:
PEARCE: We [Mormons] believe in the rule of law, All I’m gonna say our church teaches the rule of law, absolutely.
SALINAS: It also teaches compassion, no?
PEARCE: Which compassion, what about the child molesters, should we have compassion for them too?
SALINAS: That’s what the church says, that we should not turn…
PEARCE: Hang on, hang on. We should have compassion with child molesters, burglars, rapists, right? They still go to jail. The laws are going to be enforced. You break the law, there are consequences. Don’t have compassion for people who break the law. There are consequences. We are a nation of laws.[...]
SALINAS: Should the Mormon church be criminalized or sanctioned for helping undocumented immigrants?
PEARCE: If they do it deliberately, treat them as you would treat any other person. I do not support law breakers.
SALINAS: Even if they are Mormons?
PEARCE: I don’t care what church they’re part of. Illegal is illegal. The law is the law.
So, you members of the LDS Church who serve in Hispanics congregations where someone might be undocumented, Russell Pearce wants you arrested. He wants you punished for not obeying every law on the books. Does this also sound familiar to you? As Inspector Javert said:
“Right or wrong, the law is the law and it must be obeyed to the letter.”

In many ways I pity Russell Pearce. His demand for justice without mercy speaks volumes about where he is coming from. I don’t know Russell Pearce or what demons drive him to this position, but I do know this, Russell Pearce does NOT speak for the LDS Church. He does not speak for the hundreds of thousands of Mormons who regularly give compassionate and caring service to Hispanics both within and outside our congregations, regardless of their immigration status. And, he does not speak for me.
In a footnote to this blog, I also note that the most stridently anti-immigrant parts of the law drafted and passed through the efforts of Mr. Pearce were struck down today by Federal District Court Judge Bolton. I had to say I told you so, but, I told you so. Chalk this one up as a victory for the Constitution.

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