Speaking to 390 members of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, community leaders and guests in Sacramento, California, on Aug. 12, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed “faith, family and religious freedom.”
Elder Cook asked the Latter-day Saint lawyers to place faith at the center of their lives, never underestimate their capabilities or influence, and defend religious freedom.
“Faith and knowledge require equal commitment,” he explained. “For almost all of us increasing faith is a lifelong quest.”
Elder Cook, before being called as an apostle, spent his career in the San Francisco Bay Area as a business lawyer, managing partner of a law firm, and president and CEO of California Health Care System. Following its merger with Sutter Health System (which is headquartered in Sacramento), he was vice chairman of Sutter.
During his address, Elder Cook complimented the law society members for their community influence and outreach.
He asked the group to “set serious goals” to balance their busy professional lives with their faith.
“If we want to have faith and if we want to have balance in our lives, then we have to figure out how to spend more time in doing those things that will build faith. If we want to have successful families, then we have to spend more time with our families. We have to have that kind of balance.”
When individuals move away from patterns that include scripture study, prayer and religious observance in the home, faith weakens, Elder Cook said.
Quoting Elder J. Reuben Clark, who served in the First Presidency, in his April 1960 general conference address, Elder Cook called faith an intelligent force. “It is superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know,” he said.
Elder Cook then spoke of meeting a consultant some years ago. He had a busy career and was serving as a regional representative for the Church. The consultant explained that most people — when categorizing their responsibilities — compare their personal efforts to “A-plus” performers in each category.
“Law and the process of becoming a lawyer are very competitive,” Elder Cook said. “The respect for credentials can reach an inappropriate level where they are virtually idols. In addition, client expectations regardless of the legal specialty often exceed any realistic outcome.”
Elder Cook said in the “hot house” environment of the law there is always somebody who seems to be better in all the categories required to be a lawyer. “Notwithstanding these issues, I would ask, ‘Do we have to be an A in everything to be happy?’ Do we have to be so hard on ourselves? The scriptures of course address happiness, but not in terms of material or academic success or skill or professional achievements.”
Latter-day Saint doctrine is set forth in Mosiah 2:41: “King Benjamin taught, ‘I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.’ ”
Finally, Elder Cook spoke about “religious freedom and the practical participation of people of faith in our system of government.”
Latter-day Saints can help protect religious freedom as they:
1. Become involved. “Get involved in your local school, your community and your local government. When issues of religious liberty arise in a locality, there is no one who is better positioned to provide assistance than those who are already engaged and respected in the community.”
2. Be a watchman. “If you see issues developing in your community that could impact religious liberty for the Church or its members, share that with your J. Reuben Clark Law Society leadership. They can in turn communicate it up the line to national leadership and to Church contacts as necessary.”
3. Be an example of the believers. “The very best way we have to counter bigoted and hateful actions toward the Church and its members is if members of a community are acquainted with a member of the Church and think highly of him or her. It is amazing how quickly negative actions evaporate as community members interact with a member of the Church whom they respect. Thus, often the very best thing is to reach out, be friendly, always be civil and provide a positive example to those who live around us.”
Elder Cook praised the Sacramento J. Reuben Clark Law Society chapter for their efforts to build bridges with other lawyer organizations and becoming more involved in the community.
Chapter members have worked with the Court-Clergy Lawyers Auxiliary, which is comprised of leaders from the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Mormon faith based lawyer organizations. In addition they are working with local civic and pro-bono organizations to provide Church materials and resources to the immigrant and rural populations in Sacramento, said Paul Hoybjerg, the Sacramento JRCLS chapter chair and co-founder of the Court-Clergy Lawyers Auxiliary.
“We intend to work with other groups, in accordance with our beliefs, to help build Sacramento upon principles of fairness and virtue,” said Hoybjerg. “It is our belief that if we can have religious and individual freedoms respected, protected and preserved then each faith’s ability to practice and worship peacefully will exist for many generations to come.”