Jan 012013


DATES: February 22 (Villa Park) and February 23 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to announce that our February 2013 Miller Eccles presenter will be Sarah Barringer Gordon, professor of Constitutional Law and History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Professor Gordon is a widely recognized scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state who has published widely on Mormon topics. Her presentation will focus on how the law was used throughout the history of the Church and especially how it paved the way to statehood for Utah in 1896.


War is sometimes called “politics by other means.” The reverse, however, can also be true—law is politics by other means. Lawyers are often tacticians, who battle through courts and legal arguments to accomplish political objectives. Joseph Smith once said, “Don’t employ lawyers, or pay them money for their knowledge.” Nevertheless, Joseph, Brigham Young, and Mormon leaders who followed, continued to retain some of the brightest lawyers available to help them achieve their objectives.

Professor Gordon will discuss how lawyers functioned in Mormon history. In the end, the development of a talented legal community made a difference to the history of Utah Territory and of the Mormon Church. It was lawyers who negotiated the settlement that led to statehood for Utah, and then they settled in to run the state, just as they did across America.


Professor Sally Gordon is a widely recognized scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state. Her first book, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America, won the Mormon History Association’s and the Utah Historical Society’s best book awards in 2003. Her second book, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Harvard, 2010), explored the world of church and state in the 20th century. She is currently working on a third book, tentatively titled The Place of Faith, about religion and property across American national history. In addition, she has authored a wide variety of scholarly articles and book chapters, many of them having to do with Mormon topics.

Professor Gordon has a distinguished academic pedigree, having graduated with a B.A. from Vassar, a J.D. from Yale, an M.A.R. in religious ethics from Yale, and a Ph.D. in history from Princeton.

Posted by Morris Thurston



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