Latter-day Saints’ greatest contribution to the world is our ability to build community and unity, declares Judge Thomas Griffith in his Constitution Day presentation on Sept. 17 on BYU campus. The event was a Q&A between Judge Griffith and Justin Collings, professor of law.
Thomas B. Griffith has enjoyed a varied legal career for several decades. From general counsel for BYU to federal judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to Senate Legal Counsel, his experiences give him a deep understanding of the judicial branch. Currently, he lectures at Harvard Law School and is special counsel at the international law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden appointed Judge Griffith to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court.
While serving as a missionary in South Africa, Judge Griffith saw the devasting impacts of apartheid. Even more powerful though were the hands of both black and white community members that he saw stretch across barriers to fellowship loved ones and strangers. This gave him an optimistic view of the role of politics. Judge Griffith recognized that politics are for the reconciliation of men. He shared that, “this may be impossible, this may be a pipe dream” but compromise and unity are what make politics work.
Through serving for many years on different courts and in various positions, Judge Griffith has studied the Constitution backward and forwards. He has recognized that the Constitution, our basis for all this country’s laws, depends on two things that it cannot guarantee: civic charity and bonds of affection. No law can force us to show kindness and this is why it can be so hard to see it in the political sphere. An important consideration about the men who produced the Constitution and is that they spent time getting to know each other well, outside of politics. They had bonds of amity, or friendship, that allowed them to compromise while making laws.
While we may not be able to ensure that our elected officials get together on the weekends for family dinners, Judge Griffith suggests that we build bonds of friendship in our own community by getting to know those who disagree with us. He shared the admonition from President Dallin H. Oaks in the April 2021 General Conference of the Church that “On contested issues, we should seek to moderate and unify.”
“We are in the most perilous times because of lies and mistrust,” says Judge Griffith. “If you can’t stand the idea of living in the same country as someone who has different ideas than you, then you are a huge part of the problem.”
In this time of distrust and division, Judge Griffith encouraged the audience that we can do our part to create “a more perfect union” by fostering collaboration and a feeling of unity.