J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Report on the JRCLS 2016 Annual Conference in San Diego, February 11-13

During President’s Day weekend, over 400 participants at the Law Society’s Annual Conference were treated to uplifting and educational messages while basking in the beautiful San Diego sun.  The conference started off with tours of the historic Mormon Battalion,  which included commentary from Lt. Col. Sherman Fleek, USA (Retired).

Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Senior President of the Seventy and General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opened the conference in the Peace and Justice Theatre at the stunning campus of the University of San Diego. Through scriptures and stories Elder Clayton expounded on the application and importance of the two great commandments—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  He concluded with a call to action to stand as disciples of Christ and reminded attendees that “[t]he relevance and importance of the Law Society will become more convincing, it does make a difference.”

Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo of the University of San Diego School of Law welcomed conference attendees, mentioning that as a Roman Catholic at a Roman Catholic University, he also subscribes to the Law Society’s mission of “affirming the strength brought to the law by a lawyer’s personal religious conviction.”  As a native of Palmyra, New York, Dean Ferruolo jokingly relayed that his association with the LDS Church as a youth included running to and from the Joseph Smith farm as punishment in cross-country.  

The conference treated participants with numerous plenary and breakout sessions, many of them focused on religious freedom.  Other topics included but were not limited to“Recognizing and Treating Substance Abuse and Addiction,” “Values of Biblical Law Today,” “The Confidence Gap and Leadership,” and “J. Reuben Clark: Conflicted Patriot.”  

James R. Rasband, Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, spoke on how he believes a lawyer’s personal religious conviction strengthens the law. Dean Rasband liked a Canadian description of being “called” to the bar, which suggests a higher purpose to lawyering. Accordingly, “understanding the nobility, the obligation, and the duties associated with lawyering is something that those of religious conviction are better situated to do,” suggested Dean Rasband. Medieval and modern traditionrecognised only three true professions, law, clergy, and medicine. Society expects professionals to use their privileged position and specialized knowledge for all. These professions expect its members to be healers, and this responsibility, suggests Dean Rasband, “might be more readily understood by those who have long been taught corresponding religious duties.” Certainly, an LDS attorney who honors the baptismal covenant to “mourn with those who mourn,” and “comfort those who stand in need of comfort” might have the obligations of a lawyer a “bit more firmly” in mind, according to Dean Rasband, which should strengthen the law.

Dinner was a visual and culinary delight, as attendees toured the San Diego Air and Space Museum and feasted on legendary Phil’s BBQ. Keynote speaker Jeff Benedict, author of The System, The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, recounted compelling experiences of shadowing various athletes and coaches for the book, including Washington State Coach Mike Leach and former BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall.


Hon. J. Clifford Wallace, Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, spoke on “Establishing the Rule of Law and Independent Judiciaries Across the World.” Through stories from his varied travels and experience he taught the profound effect one faithful person can have 

for good in the world.

During the conference, the 2016 J. Clifford Wallace Religious Liberty Award was presented to Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Church, and the the 2016 JRCLS Women In Law Leadership Award was presented to Hannah C. Smith.

The conference concluded with a report from three lawyers from The Office of General Counsel for the LDS Church: Mike Jensen (Area Legal Counsel - Europe), Arlen Woffinden (Area Legal Counsel - Europe East) and David K. Armstrong (Regional Legal Counsel - Caribbean, Mexico and South America South).

Attendees left the three day conference feeling edified, informed, and with a desire to stand a little taller. Next year’s Annual Conference will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over President’s Day weekend.

For readers who would like to learn more about a specific session or obtain CLE materials, visit  www.jrcls.org/annual_conf/conf.php#CLE.

By Media Committee Members Gordon Foote and Julie Smith

Posted: March 28, 2016