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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 16, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 19Apr00

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 otherwise available."

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 program functions.

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."


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