The Law Society began its annual leadership conference on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at BYU Conference Center. Outgoing International Chair, Annette Jarvis welcomed attendees recalling that service in the Law Society may come in times and seasons where we volunteer more or sometimes less, but we always build bridges, take opportunities to mentor others, and practice gratitude. As leaders, our service to the Society is a manifestation of love for one another. Following her remarks, Jared Ormsby, Area Seventy, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the importance of understanding why we got involved in the Law Society and why we stay so that we can be purposeful in what we do and know how we can get
Following committee meetings and new Area meetings, attendees traveled to Aspen Grove where David Moore, BYU Law School Dean spoke briefly about the school’s new mission statement and focus on expanding the LLM program, increasing both work opportunities and the global reach of the law school, and through scholarships helping those who are vulnerable. David Channer, Office of General Counsel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delivered the keynote address. He shared his personal thoughts on the role that Law Society members can play during today’s perilous times. He emphasized the distinct nature of the Law Society not as an alumni association, but rather an association encompassing all who strive to practice law in a way that aids those who suffer, and to take a stand on morals, liberty, truth, decency and family.
Mr. Channer noted that the prophet Mormon, in the Book of Mormon summarized why the government was in shambles saying that “they saw that their laws had become corrupted” (Helaman 4:22). Mr. Channer discussed how members of the Law Society can help prevent or mitigate corruption of law in their own communities. Referencing Elder Boyd K. Packer’s remarks at BYU, Mr Channer closed by reminding attendees to “feel things through” in addition to “thinking things through” as we move into a world where fewer people think deeply about issues. He noted that prioritizing concern for the protection of the young and vulnerable necessitates paying attention to the “cadence, direction, and destination of the march” of society.
Friday’s dawn hike to Stewart Falls showcased the autumn splendor of the area and kicked off the second day of the conference. David Garner, incoming JRCLS International Chair welcomed attendees to the first plenary session. He compared his via ferrata climbing experience in Switzerland where steps allow those less experienced to navigate what would otherwise be an impossibly exposed and difficult climbing route, to the role that leaders in the Law Society can play in supporting chapters and sharing enthusiasm for the work. Forrest Hansen, executive Director, JRCLS and Angel Zimmerman, Chair, Chapter Relations Council, introduced the recent website changes and encouraged all members to update their profiles and use the event features now accessible to Chapter and Area leaders. In addition, they discussed the newly implemented Area Chair Model that should improve communication and interaction in the Society.
The Law Society continues to expand and develop as attendees heard about forming new chapters from Matthieu Manga, the new JRCLS Area Chair for Central Africa. The presentation of the 2023 Chapter Awards for excellence included: two Bronze Awards, one Silver Award, and eighteen Gold Awards. This year’s conference saw many Student Chapters represented and Shannon Howard, Student Board Chair explained some of the initiatives that the committee is taking to activate and support student chapters of the Law Society.
Following lunch, Sam Morales, Region Chair, Latin America, moderated a panel of Latin American JRCLS leaders discussing multi-faith efforts in Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia. The strength of the Latin American chapters comes in part because of the efforts they have taken to make those of diverse faiths welcome in Law Society events, including varying the locations of events, focusing on themes in common especially where people of faith are vulnerable. The excitement with which the announcement was received that the 2025 Annual Conference will be held for the first time outside of the US, in Mexico City, shows the warmth and strength of our Latin American Chapters.
The Leadership conference ended with a report from the Area Legal Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Robert Lang of the Central American Area, Lee Wight, Africa South, and John Catron from the South America Northwest Area spoke about witnessing the hand of the Lord, feeling the grace of the savior, and acknowledging earthly “divine angels” in their service efforts. Speaking specifically of actions taken by members of the Law Society in Colombia, Catron stated, “you are the hands of the Lord when you serve.”