J. Reuben Clark Law Society

"A Chilean in my Heart": Jim and Marianne Holtkamp Reflect on their Mission as Associate Area Legal Counsel to the South America South Area

James (Jim) Holtkamp is a 1975 graduate of George Washington University School of Law. His areas of expertise include Environmental and Natural Resources, Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, and Government Affairs. He remains active in government affairs in the Utah Legislature and various foreign, federal, state, and local government agencies. He served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (Watergate Committee) and as an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior before entering private practice. Brother Holtkamp has served as an adjunct professor of law at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah where he taught the Law of Air Pollution Control and the Law of Climate Change. He served as Associate Area Legal Counsel in Santiago, Chile, and his wife Marianne served as an ordinance worker in the Santiago Temple from March 2015 to September 2016. They currently reside in Salt Lake City, Utah where Jim maintains a practice at Holland and Hart. JRCLS Newsletter (JRCLS) thanks the Holtkamps for their time.

JRCLS: How did you come to be an Associate Area Legal Counsel (“AALC”)?

JH: My wife and I had planned on serving a mission. When the time came, individuals in the Office of General Counsel whom I have known for many years encouraged me to consider an assignment as an AALC in South America.  

JRCLS: Could you describe more about the geographical area for which you were responsible.

JH: The South America South Area covers four countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. We spent a couple months in the Area Office in Buenos Aires, a few months in the Office of General Counsel in Salt Lake City, but mostly resided in Chile. (There are 77 stakes and 10 missions in Chile, with approximately 3 percent of Chileans being LDS.)

JRCLS: What are the general duties of an AALC?

JH: The AALC is a coordinator of legal work for the Church in the area, under the direct supervision of the Area Legal Counsel, who in turn reports to the Office of General Counsel in Salt Lake City.  

JRCLS: What was your typical day like as AALC?  

JH: My office was in the Chile Service Center in Santiago, so I was in the same building as the Church employees. I met with various department managers as appropriate on a regular basis, and often attended meetings with our outside counsel in their downtown offices. I also spent a lot of time reviewing and drafting documents.

JRCLS: How would you describe the percentage of time you devoted to each of your responsibilities (missionary work, litigation, government contacts, etc.)?  

JH: I spent about half of my workday on government relations, with the rest roughly equally divided between real estate, claims litigation, contracts with suppliers and builders, and a smattering of tax issues. I was also a temple worker in the Santiago Temple a couple evenings a week serving in the baptistry and as a veil worker for MTC sessions and other sessions as needed.

JRCLS: Did you ever have the occasion to travel as part of your AALC responsibilities?

JH: Yes, I traveled to other cities in Chile to meet with

Santiago, Chile Temple
our lawyers, to deal with missionary legal infractions, and to attend hearings on a significant case involving the Church. My wife and I also visited other areas in Chile when the Santiago Temple was closed for cleaning and maintenance. Patagonia (southern Chile and Argentina) is spectacular. Glaciers, the Andes, llamas and guanacos and volcanoes make for a wonderfully scenic place to visit.  We also visited the Atacama desert and Easter Island.

JRCLS: Does an AALC have to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the law in the region they are serving?  

JH: The Church has very good outside counsel in Chile (and in the other countries in the Area), so we relied on them for legal advice on anything dealing directly with local law. I familiarized myself with applicable law as the occasion demanded, sometimes relying on web-based resources when I needed to actually read some aspect of Chilean law, but our lawyers really helped us in dealing with a local legal issue.

JRCLS: What legal expertise did you need in order to fulfill your responsibilities?

JH: My experience in forging and maintaining strong client relationships was invaluable. The turnover in the AALC position is constant, and so it was imperative that I reached out to the managers so they would have confidence to come directly to me with an issue rather than trying to resolve it themselves without the benefit of counsel (which had been a bit of a problem).

JRCLS: Did you receive any additional legal training in order to be effective as AALC?  

JH: We received orientation at the Office of General Counsel in Salt Lake City before we moved to South America.

JRCLS: Was any of your time dedicated to creating goodwill with government officials, and if so, how?

JH: We dealt directly with the National Office of

Area Legal Counsel Brent Gardner, Walter Gonzalez, Jim Holtkamp
Religious Affairs in the Office of the President of Chile, the Ministry of Defense, and the National Congress. We had strong relationships with government officials, so much so that the President and the National Congress invited us to make a presentation on our views of religious freedom as part of the stakeholder input for a new national constitution. The Church is coming into its own in Chile and is given a “seat at the table” on a number of issues, including the new constitution and the administration of the military conscription laws (which affect young Chilean missionaries).

JRCLS: What was your experience with doing legal work in Spanish?  

JH: I have been fluent since I was a boy, I served a mission as a young man in Central America, and professionally I have done some work in Latin America. There were also times when I was more articulate when I was acting as AALC than I might have been otherwise, and I am sure I had some divine help.

JRCLS: What was your greatest reward as AALC?

JH: I learned that there are miracles even in legal work when the Lord wants something done, ranging from tax exemption issues for the new temple in Concepcion, to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of missionaries who had been wronged, to facilitating religious leaders in Chile to band together to protect religious freedom in the formation of a new national constitution. But as much as anything else, being a missionary was an extraordinary experience because we saw the hand of the Lord in our lives each day. Since we got back, life has crowded in a bit and we have to work a bit harder to see those daily miracles, but they are still there. As Elder Wickman has commented to us, “The Lord is a micromanager.” That is true and is a great comfort.

JRCLS: What was your greatest challenge as AALC, and what did you do to overcome it?  

JH: My greatest challenge was to gain the confidence of the managers so that we could operate as a team in dealing with Church legal issues. I made sure that I got out of my chair in the office and went around the building visiting with people and doing my best to facilitate the resolution of their legal issues.

JRCLS: Was there a particular experience when you felt Heavenly Father’s hand in your work as AALC?

JH: One of the sister missionaries in a town south of Santiago had been hit by a bus coming around the corner while riding her bike across an intersection. Fortunately, she was not seriously injured (she said that at the moment of impact she felt someone embrace her and move her out of the way) although her bike was flattened. She got the ticket (!!) because of a local ordinance requiring cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through an intersection. I went to the proceeding before the local police court judge, which was also attended by the bus driver, who was nervous because a gringo lawyer had showed up to help the missionary. However, the bus driver was curious about the Church, and when we finished, his parting words to me were “I think I ran into the Gospel when I had the accident.”

JRCLS: What did you love about the people whom you served?  

JH: There are no more faithful saints than the folks I worked with. I became a “Chileno de corazón”—a Chilean in my heart. I learned to be more compassionate and to be less concerned about the trivialities of life.

JRCLS: What did you do in your leisure time (if any)?

JH: We enjoyed finding unique restaurants on Saturday afternoons. Because of the temple schedule where my wife, Marianne, was an ordinance worker, we didn’t have a lot of leisure time during a typical week, so Saturday afternoon was about it. When the temple was closed, we spent a few days sightseeing in different parts of the country.

JRCLS: Did you experience any “culture shock”?

JH: I had spent so much time previously in Latin America that there really wasn’t a culture shock, although the absence of central heating made for cold winter nights. But the seafood is really good.

Thank you to the Holtkamps for sharing insights about their AALC mission in Chile. If you are interested in using your legal skills for similar service, please contact Brother Bill Atkin of the Office of General Counsel (AtkinWF@ldschurch.org). He will work with you to find the right mission for you and a meaningful missionary assignment for your spouse.

By Danielle Dallas, Media Committee

Posted: September 26, 2017