J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Report of the JRCLS Annual Fireside Featuring
Judge Thomas B. Griffith, January 19

Friday, January 19, 2018, offered a special event for attorneys,
Judge Thomas B. Griffith
students, and many others associated with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society. Judge Thomas B. Griffith, from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was the keynote speaker at the annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society fireside held in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to those that gathered to watch the event in person, thousands more were able to view the event via satellite broadcast at locations throughout the United States and in other parts of the world as well.

Prior to Judge Griffith’s remarks, James Backman, Richard Sheffield, and Susan Griffith were awarded the Franklin S. Richards Public Service Award to recognize the meaningful service provided to the poor, needy, and disadvantaged through the Timpanogos Legal Center.

Dean Gordon Smith, dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, awarded Judge Griffith with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his decades of service to justice and the rule of law. In presenting the award, Dean Smith recalled a depression era painting entitled “Forgotten Man” by artist Maynard Dixon, reflective of Judge Griffith’s determination to remember “the one” throughout his years of service on the bench.

Associate Justice of the Utah Supreme Court Thomas R. Lee
Thomas R. Lee, Associate Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, then provided a brief introduction of Judge Griffith, recounting three specific examples of the type of service offered during Judge Griffith’s long and distinguished career. First, while serving as General Counsel for BYU, Judge Griffith went above and beyond his job description by working closely with the J. Reuben Clark Law School to provide support for law school students, faculty, and events. Second, Judge Griffith has mentored many law clerks and made a special effort to help Justice Lee find a clerkship on the D.C. Circuit Court for one of Justice Lee’s law clerks. Finally, Judge Griffith has also served as a Stake President and, in that capacity, personally ministered to hundreds of people who needed his spiritual advice and love.

During his thought-provoking and wide-ranging remarks, Judge Griffith quoted from a variety of sources to highlight his call for lawyers to be “Heroes of Unity.” For example, he invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln to inspire his audience to seek opportunities for reconciliation saying, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Judge Griffith also recalled an example of building unity from the mission field in South Africa shortly after the end of apartheid. A black woman named “Ella” worked in the mission office and wanted to learn about the church. However, Ella could not read, and that made learning about the Book of Mormon practically impossible. However, the mission cook, a white woman, spent hours reading to Ella and teaching her how to read so that Ella could learn the gospel. This was a powerful example of bringing a formerly divided people together through the application of gospel principles.

Judge Griffith closed his remarks by noting the tension in society today between demands for increased equality and the need for religious liberty. He commented that our Latter-day Saint wards and stakes provide valuable training in the laboratory of Christian living and that by using the skills developed in that laboratory, we are uniquely positioned to teach and model respect and understanding. Judge Griffith firmly believes that a proper combination of respect, flexibility, and humility can do much to build bridges of compromise and accommodation. Lawyers, he said, have an important role to play in this process.

For those who missed the live broadcast, a recording of the fireside will be made available on jrcls.org.

By Mark F. Wright, Media Committee

Posted: January 31, 2018