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The Utah Compact, a declaration of five "principles" whose stated purpose is to "guide" Utah's immigration discussion, was introduced on Nov. 11, 2010, and signed by a number of civic, state, business and religious leaders. Simultaneously, the Public Affairs Department of The LDS Church issued a "statement of support."

Several benedictions followed, including a reiteration of the church's support on the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the compact. A "balanced," "civil" approach, one that eschews "extreme" positions and embraces "compassion," was enjoined.

The Utah Compact has been the subject of much discussion and considerable controversy. Some allege that it contains deliberately misleading language intended to subtly promote tolerance of illegal immigration, opposition to enforcement of immigration and other laws, and amnesty, in various guises, for individuals who flout the law.

To the surprise of some and the contempt of others, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have disregarded their church's virtual consecration of the Utah Compact. This has been variously attributed to solipsism ("False virtue," Forum, Jan. 14), inhumanity, political extremism, insubordination and apostasy.

Perhaps there is another explanation for their recalcitrance and intractability: the complete absence of the required, express invocation of the specific authority of the church's governing First Presidency.

That's not solipsism; that's doctrine. Based on official canon and policy, only the First Presidency has the right to specify whether the church supports, endorses, or otherwise sanctions an instrument like the Utah Compact, and then only with the unanimous approval of the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The church "statements" of endorsement of the Utah Compact do not bear the signature of the First Presidency. In fact, they bear no signature at all. They carry no name, nor the name of any priesthood office. Nor, significantly, did any official church priesthood representative actually sign the Utah Compact itself.

Similarly devoid of the required priesthood authority, incidentally, is the church's statement of "appreciation" for House Bill 116 — and the other statements which essentially advance a new, false doctrine that the 12th Article of Faith ("We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.") has been trumped by the biblical commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Not only is authority and its proper authentication and invocation a basic cornerstone of LDS doctrine and policy, it also is a standard convention of society. Surely the lawyers, both active and retired, who work directly with the church's Public Affairs Department, understand this perfectly well, and so do many church members.

Church scripture warns that false doctrine occasionally will originate with the most unlikely — and trusted — of sources. That is why official church teachings suggest a variety of keys for the use of the saints in verifying authenticity of authority. One of these is the First Presidency signature. Mere assumptions and "hints" from spokesmen that statements are "approved at the highest level" do not count.

The late LDS President Ezra Taft Benson prophetically warned: "Sometimes from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our Council meetings and in our church publications we hear, read or witness things that do not square with the truth. ... The Lord is letting the wheat and the tares mature before he fully purges the Church."

Mark Terran grew up in Southern California. He is the assistant organist for his LDS ward in Salt Lake City.