J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Area Legal Counsel for LDS Church Shares Experiences at JRCLS Leadership Conference

Three attorneys from the area legal counsel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Leadership Conference at Aspen Grove on Friday, October 1, 2010.

Dave Barrett, the Church’s legal counsel for the Asia North area, began the session by explaining that he mostly deals with emerging church issues in his Hong Kong office.

“One of the countries that we’re very interested in right now is Vietnam,” Barrett said. “In the spring of this past year, I got a call that said, ‘Elder Oaks wants to visit Vietnam…Would you arrange please for him to have some meetings with the Vietnamese government?’”

Barrett related that being able to help an apostle carry out his responsibilities has been a blessing.

“To help the Church to go forward is a fascinating legal opportunity and one that I’m very glad to have,” Barrett said.

The second speaker, Dave Armstrong, who is responsible for providing legal counsel to the South America Northwest area, shared that his challenges come mostly from intercultural differences.

Armstrong said that he had one situation where the mayor of a town in Venezuela had wanted to expropriate a meetinghouse and repurpose it. Armstrong approached a local attorney who was able to connect Armstrong with a prominent lawyer in the Chavez Administration. This government official eventually persuaded the mayor to leave the building alone.

The final speaker for the area legal counsel’s presentation was Craig Christensen, who supervises the legal affairs of the Church throughout New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

“What could possibly keep you awake at night in New Zealand?” Christensen asked. “Well, for those of you who are familiar with Maori warfare, you understand that there is precedence for confrontation in New Zealand.”

Christensen said that he had one situation where Papua New Guinea placed age restrictions on religious workers, severely limiting the number of missionaries in that country. However, after an inspired meeting between local government and Church area authorities, missionaries were able to proselyte there again.

Posted: 2010-10-07