Gayla Sorenson, dean of admissions of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, spoke about advocacy at Tuesday’s BYU Devotional.
Sorenson idolized Rex Lee and Dallin H. Oaks for their expertise in law and their moral character. Their lives inspired her to pursue becoming a lawyer.
“For me it was not enough to defend a position and be thought reasonable; my highs came when I persuaded someone to think about an issue or another person in a way they had not thought about before,” said Sorenson.
Sorenson persuaded the audience to become advocates for others.
“I want to encourage your advocacy in public settings, advocacy that is directed toward authority figures, legal systems, and institutions,” said Sorenson. “But I also want to encourage your advocacy in less visible ways.”
Sorenson described that family members and friends advocate for each other. She said she has benefitted from her family’s advocacy on her behalf.
“If you take nothing else away from my remarks, please think about those who advocate for your success in less visible ways and express your gratitude to them,” said Sorenson.
Sorenson then gave three guidelines for advocates.
“First, recognize we are all called to be advocates.”
Jesus Christ, our greatest exemplar, is an advocate, Sorenson said.
“(Christ) has placed people in your life who you are called to love and circumstances that you are called to support or change—both will require your advocacy,” said Sorenson.
Sorenson said she notices more critics than advocates, and she said that needs to change. She said civility in advocacy is crucial.
“Second, determine some key elements of what being an effective advocate means.”
She said people can get distracted by trying to rally supporters for the cause, which is not the end goal.
“Effective advocates present their case to the party who has authority to grant the relief sought,” said Sorenson.
Take the case to those who have authority to change it or can at least take it to the next level, said Sorenson.
Sorenson also said effective advocates are knowledgeable.
“Passionate support can be part of the equation, but passion without knowledge carries little weight,” said Sorenson.
An effective advocate gains the trust of those whom they are appealing to. Sorenson said that people will listen to those whom they trust and like. To gain trust, get to know those you are seeking to persuade.
“Dialogue is enhanced and understanding is increased when underlying relationships are strengthened,” said Sorenson.
Acknowledging the strengths of the opposing view and being respectful also earns trust.
“Effective advocates can still ably represent their client’s strengths while conceding that the other point of view is not entirely devoid of merit, and their credibility is significantly enhanced as a result,” said Sorenson.
“Third, contemplate for who and what we should advocate.”
Sorenson said each person must discover this for themselves, but she offered guiding principles.
Remember that you are advocating for an individual child of God, and don’t get caught up in mass advocacy, said Sorenson. She reminded the audience that Christ told those in early restoration days that he was their advocate.
“(Christ) is not an advocate in some abstract, theoretical sense but on a very personal, individualized basis,” said Sorenson.
Sorenson also advised to start advocating for those whom God places in your life. If you find them hard to advocate for, get to know them first. You will also know what to advocate for as you accept people God puts in your life, said Sorenson. If you still don’t know what to advocate for, follow Christ’s example.
“As our advocate, he pleads with the Father that we will be kept from evil, develop unity, and that we will know we are loved,” said Sorenson. “We will never go wrong when we advocate for these results.”
Next Devotional: Elder Lynn G. Robbins
The next BYU Devotional will be held during Education Week on August 22 at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center. Elder Lynn G. Robbins will deliver the Education Week Devotional address.
Elder Robbin’s remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio, and will be archived on speeches.byu.edu.