Saturday, April 4, 2009

Missionary zeal versus Conservative political values

I saw a very interesting article in USA Today, LDS members conflicted on church's illegal-migrant growth. There is a growing conflict among mormons apparently over the issue of illegal immigrants. Even as mormon growth has flattened in America, it has still flourished among the heavily Roman Catholic Latin American countries, and that apparently includes immigrants to this country. The problem is that many of these converts are illegal aliens and if mormons are anything, they are law-abiding and conservative politically...

The Mormon Church is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the country, and much of that growth is coming from an unlikely source: Latino immigrants.

Latinos overwhelmingly are raised Catholic, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is aggressively reaching out to them by touting the religion's heavy focus on family and community, pillars of the Mormon faith that are also at the center of Hispanic culture.

As a result, Latinos are joining the Mormon Church at a greater rate than members of any ethnic group, even Anglos, church leaders say.

But the outreach has created some unusual conflicts because the majority of the Latino converts are undocumented immigrants, which goes against a major tenet of the Mormon Church: obeying the law.

At the same time, some Mormons who say the church teaches compassion are upset that fellow members, including Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, have spearheaded a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

"What has happened among a good number of LDS members is that they have been shaped by the Republican Party of the last 40 years. They gravitate to the Republican Party, and the party has become very anti-immigrant, culture-wars-oriented," said Brigham Young University history Professor Ignacio Garcia

So illegal immigrants are fertile ground but darn it, it really rubs them the wrong way that they are breaking the law. That is a tough one, preaching the Gospel (which these missionaries are not) should be more important than concerns over immigration status. So perhaps they can convert them to mormonism, baptize them and then report them to the INS. The article estimates that 70% of Hispanic converts are illegal aliens. That makes sense, they are probably less likely to come from a church background that is steeped in the Bible, and because they are isolated they are vulnerable to the claims of mormonism.

One of things that really stuck out to me was this section:

"My father died a few years ago in a job accident in Colima," (Mesa Community College student Miguel)Chavez said. "They told me that families can be together forever, and we can see each other after this life. I really want to see my dad again."

Mormon missionaries and marketers use the desire of people to see loved ones again to sell their religion. I have a mormon video that starts off with a family dealing with the loss of a young child, and the point is that if you become mormons you can see family members again. It is a very effective marketing ploy, although it flies in the face of Biblical truth to claim that people who die get a second chance to be in heaven (as long as they agree to convert after death to mormonism). Far easier to sell people a story about seeing loved ones again than to tell people the truth that those who die outside of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are condemned for eternity. But that false hope has lured countless people to join mormonism, people who will later find that it is all a lie, a ploy that tugs at the heartstrings of vulnerable people.

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