While working for a Democratic member of Congress, I met a co-worker who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We became close friends. I was about to start graduate school at the University of Virginia, and he offered to give me a ride to Charlottesville to help with my arrangements. During that trip, we talked about religion, and I agreed to attend church with him on the following Sunday. I cannot remember when I did not believe that Jesus is the Christ, and I wanted to better understand Mormonism. I had known a number of Latter-day Saints, and I found them to be strange in a pleasant sort of way. My willingness to attend services that Sunday and learn more was a sociological exploration, at first, for me. As I prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, however, a great feeling of assurance and peace swept over me, and I knew it was true. In that very instant, I said to myself, “Oh no, bring on the sackcloth and ashes, now I am a Mormon.” For me, in that instant, I knew that the Book of Mormon and the Church were true. From that simple act of religious conscience, when I agreed to follow that special prompting from on high and become a Latter-day Saint, I have had much joy in the gospel and have come to know very powerfully that Jesus is in fact the Christ, the anointed one, my Savior and friend. I have also dedicated much of my professional life as a professor of constitutional law to ensuring that the right of religious conscience, as found in our First Amendment, remains vibrant in this country and spreads throughout the world. It is my humble prayer that every child of God will have the opportunity that I have had to be free to follow the promptings of his or her religious conscience and do that which God would have them do with their lives.
Rodney K. Smith received his B.A. from Western Colorado State College, his J.D. with honors from Brigham Young University, a master’s and a doctorate in law from the University of Pennsylvania, and an honorary doctorate from Capital University. He currently serves as President of Southern Virginia University, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Academy of Liberal Education, has served on the International Board of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, and is a Visiting Professor at the Washington and Lee College of Law. President Smith previously served as dean of the schools of law at Capital University, the University of Montana, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He also taught at the University of North Dakota, Widener University, Brigham Young University, and the University of San Diego. Dr. Smith held the Herff Chair of Excellence in Law and was serving as interim dean at the University of Memphis immediately prior to his coming to Southern Virginia University. President Smith has authored or co-authored four books and over twenty-five scholarly articles and is recognized for his scholarship in the freedom of religion and sports law areas.
President Smith is quick to note, however, that his greatest accomplishment is that he married well and that he and his wife, Danielle, are the parents of eight children and the grandparents of eighteen grandchildren.
Posted July 2010