The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed its support for refugees Monday, encouraging members to “create welcoming communities" for those trying to integrate into society.
“We are deeply committed to living the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor,” the Utah-based faith’s governing First Presidency said in a news release. “We feel tremendous joy in helping all of God’s children, no matter where they may live in this world.”
The release comes a month after Gov. Gary Herbert sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking that more refugees be sent to Utah.
Herbert said the history of the Beehive State — as a haven for Latter-day Saints fleeing religious persecution — informs its approach to refugees, and many Utahns empathize with the plight of those who have been forced from their homes.
The governor’s letter was responding to the Trump administration’s decision to take in 12,000 fewer refugees than the U.S. did last year. Those cuts come as the number of displaced people across the world has ballooned to more than 70 million, according to the United Nations.
In Monday’s release, top Latter-day Saint leaders — led by church President Russell M. Nelson — said they had “great concern and compassion" for the plight of people around the world "who have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war or religious persecution.”
They encouraged Latter-day Saints of the 16.3 million-member church around the globe to “respond appropriately and legally” by “volunteering their time, talents and friendship to individuals and families who are integrating into our societies."
In an October General Conference sermon, Nelson noted the refugee crisis gripping the world as millions try to escape "civil strife, the ravages of nature or religious persecution.”
Last year, he said, "the church provided emergency supplies to refugees in 56 countries. In addition, many church members volunteer their time to help refugees integrate into new communities. We thank every one of you who reach out to help those who are trying to establish new homes.”
Several years ago, the church also launched a refugee assistance program called “I Was a Stranger," which spurred a dramatic spike in grassroots efforts to help migrants.