Man's laws and legal systems should be tied to and reflect the same purposes of God's laws, said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the ninth annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society Fireside Friday night.
"We honor Elder D. Todd Christofferson for his years of service to society and his example of integrity and commitment to the highest ideals of the legal profession," said James R. Rasband, a professor of law at BYU.
Elder Christofferson was awarded the J. Reuben Clark Society Distinguished Service Award for his contributions in the field of law.
Speaking to an audience in the Conference Center Little Theater in Salt Lake City, as well as via broadcast to throughout the world, Elder Christofferson said that the law is vital in the eternal potential of men and women and what they may become.
"In speaking of law I want to reference not only matters of our codes and courts, but also the laws of God," Elder Christofferson said. "Our choices will always be critical to what we become. ... The capacity and power to choose are dependent on laws instituted by or under the authority of God. Such laws link particular actions to fixed outcomes."
Recognizing the importance of establishing laws and codes for society to live by, Elder Christofferson spoke of the need for individuals to use their agency and be accountable for their actions in relation to the laws. Laws are made for the good and safety of society, he said, as well as for securing each individual the rights of life, property and conscience. It is through this stability, individuals are able to exercise moral agency.
"The submission to the laws of man will offer very real protection providing in effect a safe haven within which we can act to obey and serve God," said Elder Christofferson.
Because the laws are meant as a protection for individuals, Elder Christofferson encouraged listeners to take part in raising man's laws to match the laws of God.
"I will not pretend that an individual group may not participate in the debates and process that shape our laws simply because their arguments are based on moral norms or because their moral vision is not shared by all citizens," he said. "Since all legislations is based on moral judgement ... it is not an imposition of religion or religionists to take part of discussion. There is no justice in one side of deeply held values sinking to silence the other because it espouses different values."
It is in those times, Elder Christofferson said, individuals must "fight the good fight," as Paul declared in the New Testament.
Elder Christofferson said that individuals must uphold critical concepts that protect legitimate individual action, but also oppose the theories and schemes that exert injustice in the stability and consistency in the operation of law. It is an individual's responsibility to be involved to raise man's laws as close to God's laws as they can.
"All man made systems are imperfect and include elements of injustice," he said. "Still, you can strive to make the legal system in which you live and work come as close as possible to the perfectly just legal system of God. "
With more than 11,000 members of the society in 18 countries throughout the world, the annual event is held to encourage "public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law," as it says in the mission statement of the society.
"If each of our members is known for his or her personal religious conviction, and seen as one promoting fairness and virtue, what a great influence for good we will be worldwide," said Nancy Stevenson Van Slooten, international chair for the society.
During the fireside, Cynthia J. Lange, Silicon Valley Chapter Chairperson, was presented the Franklin S. Richards Award for her work.