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As the immigration debate has exploded into the American political consciousness, so has the internal turmoil for many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormon teachings press the faithful to be both compassionate and law-abiding, while current government policies seem to make the two goals mutually exclusive, a theme struck over and over at Saturday's Sunstone Symposium: "Choose the Right But Which is Right?
Robert Crawford and five other panelists described how they have reconciled the question by applying their personal experiences, church teachings and some critical thought to an issue that defies a simple conclusion.
"The Scripture seems to be telling us one thing," said Crawford, a Provo medical doctor. "Man's laws seem to be telling us another."
Crawford noted that he had been raised to look to LDS apostles and prophets for answers to many of the tough questions. And when LDS leaders began issuing a series of statements on immigration a few years ago, he could not help but take notice.
The leaders urged "a spirit of compassion" in considering immigration. And they advocated a "thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach."
"That," he said, "caught my attention."
For Clinton Joe Andersen Jr., free-market principles are also key in addressing the subject. Having worked as an engineer and in the construction industry alongside many immigrants, this self-described "far right-winger" said he sees current law as a deterrent to a healthy marketplace.
"I see immigration as an issue of black-market labor," he said. While his conservative values also make him support the rule of law, he added, "When the law is stupid, it's got to change."
None of the speakers Saturday specifically endorsed HB116, a controversial measure enacted by the Utah Legislature this year that creates a guest-worker program that allows undocumented workers to pay fines and stay in the state.
The measure is considered an innovative alternative to the approach taken in Arizona. That state's legislation, which sparked a nationwide controversy with its focus on finding, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants, was authored by a lawmaker with ties to the LDS Church.
For Agustin Diaz Jr., a recruiter at Utah Valley University, the focus remains on a federal solution like the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act.
He grew up in New York City, the son of immigrants from Ecuador and Honduras, and he is married to a woman from the Dominican Republic. He recalled how his father would visit excommunicated Mormons and treat them with the same love and respect as members in good standing because that is a central value of his character and of the faith.
"As LDS members," he said, "our standards [in addressing immigration] should be better" than spelled out in the law. "This is a human being; this is a person; this is somebody."
Other panelists included Samuel Rangel, a local Latino activist who said the political debate on immigration has become too shrill; Spencer Morgan, a Bluffdale author and political activist who said current laws are "grossly flawed"; and Matthew Bell, a construction worker who said the path to legal immigration should be simplified so that illegal immigration does not undercut wages.
The 2011 Sunstone Symposium and Workshops concluded Saturday after four days of discussion on topics ranging from mediation to the LDS "meetinghouse culture," gender equality, Mormon humor and the faith in national politics. More than 400 people attended this year's event, held for the first time in the program's 32 years at Weber State University. Next year's symposium theme will be "Mormons and Mormonism as a Political Force."