Immigrants and Strangers

When I read the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats recently for Gospel Doctrine class, I realized it was relevant not only to our treatment of the poor generally, but very specifically to the recent discussion on immigration which has been such a hot button issue in our nation over the past few years.

“I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” The Savior didn’t specify “a stranger who is a lawful citizen of your particular nation or a legally processed foreign national.” Nor did he specify “a stranger who speaks your nations language and who holds job skills highly attractive to employers in your community.” No, the Lord simply says “stranger.”

Might it then be that he might judge us for how we treat those “strangers” who immigrate into our land for the greater opportunities available here, or how we advocate that our nation treat them?

The Hebraic law of Leviticus is very direct about how Lord would have his followers treat immigrants.

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:33-34).

As was Moses in his final messages to the Hebrews.

He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

As the scriptures refers to the children of Israel as “strangers in the land of Egypt” in both verses, it is clear that they are using the term “stranger” to mean “immigrant, foreigner” (note also that footnote c in verse 18 explains that “stranger” could be translated as “alien”). We are warned specifically not to vex (oppress, trouble) the stranger, but rather to love them as one of us, help them find a place among us (“food and raiment”).

Doesn’t exactly sound like a call to evict them, criminalize them, or denounce them as Marxist Satanists who hate us and are out to destroy “Christian America.”

Let us put aside the provincialism and fearmongering when considering immigration. Instead, remember the counsel of the scriptures. These people are children of God looking for a better life, just like us and our forefathers who came here in the first place. We should craft a moral, charitable immigration policy which will help them do so.

7 Responses to “Immigrants and Strangers”

  1. Rob Miller Says:



  2. Ben Says:

    What an astute observation. I hadn’t thought of it like that before!

  3. Wordsfromhome Says:

    Have you sent this to our illustrious Mormon Senator Orrin? I think he is probably tired of hearing from me on the issue, and you have expressed it in a wonderful way! Also to Rep Bishop. Those guys ought to be ashamed of themselves for their anti immigrant stances.

  4. jennifer Says:

    Thanks Derek. I’m teaching primary these days and miss out on Gospel Doctrine. Why is it human nature to look for villians? People sure seem to want scapegoats and enemies!!

  5. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I am with you all the way on this. I couldn’t believe how sadistic the far-right was on this issue, even with their stubborn history, and their refusal for any compromise. Now when a more liberal stance is adopted when the issue is revisited in a couple of years (most likely under a Democratic President) and the problem has gotten worse, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

  6. adam Says:

    I think some people feel that if they do not denounce illegal immigrants then they themselves are somehow sinning, which is a paradox. How do you love a “stranger” and feel like you’re upholding the law? This type of situation is one thing I love about Mormonism. I think God allows for these conundrums to see what we’ll do with it.

  7. Frank Staheli Says:

    I fear that some people think upholding the law at all costs is most important, even if it turns them into haters of other peoples and cultures. This probably also explains why so many Utahns developed a follow-the-king mentality in following George W. Bush on the Global War on Terror.

    In reality, however, the problem is with the law itself. If some families are waiting 10 and 20 years to immigrate legally, and paying legal fees the whole time, something is way out of whack. In cases such as so-called illegal immigration, we need to do a better job of understanding the concept of civil disobedience–that when a law (in this case immigration law in general) is highly flawed, we are duty-bound to agitate against it in order to get it fixed–and be willing to suffer the consequences of our civil disobedience if necessary. When “positive law” contradicts “natural law” we are duty bound to be civilly disobedient.

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