WASHINGTON D.C. Speaking before Congress April 13, Elder Ralph W. Hardy, an Area Authority Seventy, endorsed a U.S. Senate bill that is of "vital importance to the continued success of the Church's missionary program."
Joined by Roman Catholic Archbishop Adam Cardinal Maida and Jewish Rabbi Steven Weil, Elder Hardy testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration supporting a bill that "would ensure the continued calls of young Latter-day Saint missionaries from foreign countries" to the United States.
Of the Church's 60,000 missionaries serving worldwide, 25 percent are from countries other than the United States, said Elder Hardy. An estimated 1,700 of the missionaries currently serving in the United States are from foreign lands.
Sponsored by Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., the bill would make permanent a now temporary program that allows up to 10,000 religious workers to enter the United States each year but does not allow them to immigrate permanently.
Elder Hardy testified that the Church is in favor of the bill called the "Mother Teresa Religious Worker Act" because Mother Teresa wrote to Sen. Abraham on the topic before her death. "The religious workers visa program is a vital part of the [Church's] missionary effort," Elder Hardy said.
He explained that the act also gives the Church, which sends missionaries around the world, the opportunity "to reciprocate by inviting citizens of these foreign countries to perform their missionary service in the United States."
In addition to discussing the advantages to individual missionaries and to the Church of having religious worker non-immigrant visas available, Elder Hardy assured the senators of the measures the Church takes to ensure strict compliance with the rules governing the missionaries.