Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS official makes plea to Congress
Deseret News 14Apr00 N1
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Calling a U.S. visa program "a vital part of
the missionary effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints," Elder Ralph W. Hardy of the Seventy asked the U.S.
Congress to make the program permanent. Hardy testified before the Senate
Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration in favor of a bill
to make permanent the program, which allows up to 10,000 religious
workers to enter the U.S. temporarily each year. The program is set
to expire in September.
Elder Hardy told the Senators that the program allows non-U.S.
missionaries to learn about the U.S. and allows the U.S. to
reciprocate for the U.S. citizens allowed into other countries as
foreign missionaries. The LDS Church benefits directly from the
program, "The missionaries are able to see how our church, with
its volunteer lay leadership, operates in the United States and they
return to their home countries with this institutional knowledge,
which in turns strengthens the church and its lay leadership in these
countries," Hardy told the committee.
The program, argued Elder Hardy, "allows those of different
nations to witness firsthand the operations of religious freedom in the
United States." This, he said, "strengthened international
relationships and provided education and experience in a setting not
The appearance was unusual because LDS General Authorities rarely
appear before Congress or its committees. Since the 1904 hearings on
the seating of LDS Apostle Reed Smoot as a Senator from Utah, LDS
General Authorities have testified before congress only recently, and
only two other General Authorities have testified. Elder Dallin Oaks
of the Quorum of the Twelve has twice testified before Congressional
committees supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and
Elder Merrill Bateman, then Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church,
explained to a congressional committee how the LDS Church's welfare
The bill, known as "The Mother Teresa Religious Worker
Act," is sponsored by Senatore Spencer Abraham, R. Mich. Abraham says
that he was asked by Mother Teresa to address the issue shortly before she
died. LDS Senator Orrin Hatch, R. Utah, who is chairman of the full
Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsed the bill on Thursday, saying the
program "is critical. Religious organizations need to have the ability to sponsor individuals to provide services to local communities."