War, peace, gay marriage…whatever…lets talk about something important and interesting: My great, great grandfather.
My great, great grandfather was Justin David Call. He ended his life as a circuit court judge in Brigham City, Utah. The story of how he got there is an interesting study in the concept of “missions” in the church. Grandpa Call grew up in Davis County, where his best friend was the stake president’s son. From him he learned that the Church had a secret plan afoot. At the time, the People’s Party (Mormons) and Liberal Party (Gentiles) were battling for control of Salt Lake City. With the assistance of federal officials, the Liberal Party had control of the city election machinary and had begun the wholesale purging of Mormon voters. The Church responded by bringing in young Mormon men from outlying settlements, providing them with jobs, and getting them registered to vote. The word went out to the Stake Presidents of Zion: “Pick a few trusted and discrete young men and send them to Salt Lake.” When Grandpa Call heard about this he thought it sounded like a pretty good way to go to the big city and to get a job. He talked with his friend’s father and got himself called on his first mission for the Church. He was sent to Salt Lake City as a voter.
In Salt Lake he was employed by the Church Historian’s Office, which at the time was run by Elder Franklin D. Richards. Family lore does not record any details, but I think that this association later proved decisive. Many years before, Franklin D. Richard’s son, Franklin S. Richards, was walking down the streets of Salt Lake City when he was stopped by Brigham Young. Brigham asked him what he was doing with his life. “I am training to become a doctor,” young Franklin S. replied. “You should quit doing that and study law,” counseled Brigham. “The time will come when the Latter-day Saints will need lawyers of their own to defend them.” Franklin S. dropped medicine and studied law. He later became the Church’s general counsel and the legal master-mind of Mormon litigation strategies during the Raid. Hence, Franklin D. Richards was the apostle who was the GA link to the legal profession. And he got to know my Grandpa Call.
Fast forward a couple of years. Grandpa Call has been studying at the University of Deseret and teaching school in southern Utah. He gets a summons to the office of President Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff informs young Brother Call that he has a mission for him. Grandpa Call needs to become a lawyer. The Church has just finished suffering through the ordeal of the anti-polygamy battles and the Brethren feel impressed by the Spirit that there need to be more Mormon lawyers and (more importantly) more Mormon judges. So off to Cornell Law School goes my Grandpa Call with the blessing and on the errand of the First Presidency.
He returns to Utah and sets up to practice law in Brigham City. He does well and gets elected Circuit Judge. He is active in Democratic Politics and is nominated for governor in the first ballot of the Democratic Convention that ultimately picks Bamberger as their candidate. (Bamberger became Utah’s first — and to my knowledge only — Jewish governor.) He lives his life out as a judge. My father has the book cases that he kept his law books in, and I have elaborate plans about how I will steal them as soon as my wife and I own a home.
Do I have a point here other than the mindless recounting of family history? Probably not. On the other hand, when I was in law school surrounded by fourth generation law students, I took a secret pride in the fact that what thin legal heritage I had (most of my progeniturs were farmers and ranchers) was tied up in this odd Mormon tradition of calling people on missions. It is also a fact that I take solace in every time people launch into the how-could-a-good-Mormon-be-a-lawyer routine. Brigham and Wilford evidently thought so, despite the fact that you can find in Brigham’s sermons the harshest anti-lawyer polemics in all of Mormon literature.