'Stand on the rock of honesty,' Elder D. Todd Christofferson tells students at Duke University School of Law
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Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a 1972 Duke Law School graduate, repeatedly emphasized the importance of personal and professional integrity to Duke Law students during a "Lives in the Law" event at the law school on March 17.
Before the gathering of law students and guests, Elder Christofferson discussed with Dean David F. Levi the various phases of his legal career and his calling to Church service. He is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Elder Christofferson reviewed the beginning of his legal career in 1972 on the front lines of the case that ended the presidency of Richard M. Nixon (a Duke Law alumnus from 1937). During a two-year clerkship with Chief Judge John Sirica of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Elder Christofferson worked almost exclusively on Watergate-related matters, as Judge Sirica oversaw all the legal proceedings related to the June 1972 break-in at Democratic presidential campaign headquarters at Washington's Watergate Hotel and office complex.
"He had great character and integrity," Elder Christofferson said of the judge with whom he formed a collegial, long-term relationship. "He liked to use his law clerks to bounce ideas off of. It was a great benefit to me and a tremendous education to get the benefit of his years of experience in the law in those kinds of discussions."
Elder Christofferson told the students that he was somewhat surprised to be called to join one of the Church's governing bodies, the First Quorum of the Seventy, in 1993. "It's not something you train for — there's not a career path that leads you there and there's no basis on which you would expect that might happen," he said.
In 2008, he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve, which he explained is a lifetime appointment.
Asked by Dean Levi to offer advice to Duke Law graduates on leading "a moral life" in the law, Elder Christofferson returned to his lasting impressions of the Watergate era.
"As I listened to those hours and hours of the White House tapes and the conversations as they went around and around about how to resolve the morass created by one bad decision after another, I concluded that … the only thing that really is your safety is to stand on the rock of honesty. … If you ever once make an exception, you're unprotected. That's why I'm for being firm on that rock."
That evening, Elder Christofferson and his wife, Kathy, met with a group of about 35 LDS law students, spouses and guests to respond to questions and express their encouragement and blessing.
— Frances Presma, assistant director of communications and editor, Duke Law Magazine, Duke University School of Law, contributed to this article.