The editors of the Young Woman’s Journal (1928) had this to say about accepting the immigrants among us:
Those who are American born would do well to come into closer relationship with those from other lands who have accepted the gospel message and have gathered to Zion to be one with us. They, more than likely, have made sacrifices undreamed of by some of our young people and which, if known, would excite sympathy and admiration.
The giving up of one’s native land to become a loyal citizen under a new government is in itself no little thing and many of our members would never have done so but for the sake of their religion. While appreciating the glorious privileges of America and knowing it to be the “Promised Land” they nevertheless cherish, as all good people do, the institutions, the customs, and natural attractions of the land of their nativity. All, practically, represent civilizations older than ours; many come from great, populous cities to settle, perchance, in our small rural communities, which, though they offer to us all that is to be desired, must seem tiny and provincial to newcomers in contrast with the homes they have left.
Many, too, of our foreign-born friends represent a higher place in society in the old world than we may realize. We have in mind a good brother who in his native land was well educated and was a skilled bookkeeper, but who, on coming to this country, was compelled, because of his inability to speak the language, to accept a somewhat menial position. Faithfully and efficiently, however, he did his work, although one could but wonder if his heart was sometimes heavy because of his changed condition.
In another instance, an ordinary caretaker was found to have been an expert in a certain line; in his native Holland he had learned the secrets of properly cleaning and preserving valuable oil paintings, and was doubtless well paid for his rare service.
The following incident reveals something of the pleasure that may come through association with these friends from distant lands. [There follows the account of a YLMIA board member visiting a northern Utah community and receiving hospitality from an unnamed Danish family.] … “Oh, we love America,” they said, “and we love the Gospel, but our memories of Denmark are very tender. when we came here we should not have minded so much the change in leaving the old cities for these rather crude conditions if only the people had realized our position; but they appeared to think we were uneducated and uncultured.”
Let us get closer to our foreign-born friends. … Let them participate frequently in our exercises, for in no better way can they acquire our language. Let them join us in our studies and in our recreation, for they need us and we need them.
In some quarters, this would be the signal to complain about illegal immigration, to note that most of the foreign-born coming to the U.S. are not coming because of their acceptance of the Gospel, to assert that many have no intention of becoming citizens or demonstrating loyalty to the U.S., to claim that many won’t ever learn the language and cling too tightly to “the institutions, the customs, and natural attractions of the land of their nativity.”
Not here, okay? Let’s take it for granted that each nation, including the United States, has “the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders,” in the words of the Church’s statement on immigration made late last year. We also have the duty, according to that same statement, to “follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The Savior taught that the meaning of ‘neighbor’ includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.”
Rather than argue the politics, let’s note how long we as Church members have welcomed “our foreign-born friends.” Maybe some of us, or our parents or grandparents, have been those “foreign-born friends.” What successes can you report in welcoming them into our church ranks? What more do we need to do?