On a cold and blustery evening reminiscent of the winter of 1838-39, the Liberty Missouri Stake of the Church and the Alexander W. Doniphan Community Service and Leadership Foundation honored a Church leader on Feb. 14 with the Alexander W. Doniphan Community Service Award.
The award was given to Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus General Authority and general counsel for the Church. It was presented at a special dinner held in connection with the 2014 annual conference of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.
In introducing the award, Clinton E. Patterson, president of the Doniphan Foundation Board of Directors, said, “We find in Alexander W. Doniphan a model of courage. ... In a moment of great hostility and hatred expressed through violent words and deeds, Doniphan stood boldly for the rule of law and for the protection of the rights of the oppressed and unpopular.”
A friend of and an attorney for Joseph Smith during the turbulent Missouri period of Church history, Doniphan as a militia officer refused to carry out an illegal order by a superior to execute the Prophet and his associates.
Mr. Patterson noted that Doniphan’s life could be divided into five areas of excellence: education, law, business, statesmanship, and patriotism in defense of country. Those serving on the board look for candidates who exemplify excellence in these areas.
He remarked, “Elder Wickman has demonstrated his capability and dedication to his fellow citizens in each of these areas.
“He is a student of the law. He served two tours in Vietnam, where he received several awards for his leadership and courage, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He has been awarded the Silver Beaver and the Silver Buffalo by the Boy Scouts of America for his work in the community. He worked many years as an attorney in Los Angeles and San Diego with the law firm of Latham & Watkins. And he has served in many leadership positions in the Church, ... including 10 years in the First Quorum of the Seventy. ...
“As a board we felt that Elder Wickman should be honored with this award and [he] would, in turn, bring honor to it.”
After receiving the award, Elder Wickman said, “I am deeply honored by the bestowal of the Alexander W. Doniphan Award. This bust is an honor in its own right, but the even greater honor is to have my name mentioned in the same sentence with his.”
In his remarks, titled “Love, Law and Liberty,” he said, “Alexander W. Doniphan was a man of principle, but he was not the only man of principle in western Missouri that desperate fall of 1838. Tonight I would speak to you of another. I would speak to you of Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord.”
Doniphan’s courageous actions saved the life of the Prophet and other Church leaders, but they did spend more than four months in the dismal conditions of Liberty Jail. Of this period, Elder Wickman said, “Like a caterpillar entering its cocoon and emerging sometime later as a magnificent butterfly, the youthful prophet who walked into the dark and filthy confines of the Liberty Jail dungeon — emerged four and one-half months later — as a more mature, more seasoned, more Christ-like prophet of the Lord.”