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Trump’s refugee order could hurt a growing group: Iranian Mormons

First Published      Last Updated Feb 07 2017 08:33 am

If President Donald Trump's ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries is reinstated, it could prevent some Iranian Mormons from fleeing to the United States or to Utah.

That would be unwelcome news for these converts, who are growing in number.

Of all the nationalities in the Middle East, says independent Mormon demographer Matt Martinich, Iranians have been "uniquely receptive to LDS outreach."

That's especially true of Iranian refugees, who live in "Toronto, Turkey, Sweden," says the Colorado-based researcher — "or Los Angeles."

Between 1975 and 1979, the church had a mission in Iran, he says, but withdrew it after the revolution there. Most of the converts — a few dozen — immigrated to countries in the West.



These days, missionary work has been so successful with this population that the Utah-based faith has "translated the entire Book of Mormon into Persian (Farsi)," Martinich says, Iran's language.

Such a ban as Trump has proposed through his executive order would have blocked Mormon convert Mehrsa Baradaran from entering the U.S. with her family in 1986.

"I was a 9-year-old Muslim immigrant from the 'terrorist country' of Iran," Baradaran writes in a recent Slate article, "trying to escape war and a revolution gone wrong."

A young Baradaran grew up shouting "Death to America" with her classmates in a city with men and women on the street "burning the American flag."

But this country took a chance on her, writes Baradaran, who teaches law at the University of Georgia. "I believed in America, and it believed in me."

Her Muslim family members landed in Southern California, where some Mormons helped them out, and they eventually joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baradaran served a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas, later attended LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University and then taught in its law school.

The banking law professor wants other refugees — including Iranian Mormons — to have the same opportunities she has had in the "land of the free and home of the brave."

"This is my home, and I will keep working to make America great," Baradaran concludes, "because I have so much hope in America."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

 

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