My proper name is Morris Ashcroft Thurston—quite a mouthful. If you’ve navigated to this page I’ll assume you want to know more.
I considered describing myself as they do in the personals section of a magazine. You know, something like, “Sixty-something professional man, physically fit, enjoys hiking in the Lake District, Claude Monet paintings and John LeCarre novels, seeks ….”
But there I’m stumped. Seeks what? I’m already “with” a beautiful, intelligent, slender woman who also enjoys hiking in the Lake District and Claude Monet paintings, and although she would substitute Jane Austen for John LeCarre, that’s not a problem because I too love Austen. Dawn and I have been together for over 40 years and I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather be with. (Actually, we’ve been married all that time, but it sounds more trendy to say “been together.”) We both love literature and history—especially family and personal history. Dawn teaches life story writing and we often lecture together on that subject. We even jointly authored a book, one of Signature Books’ bestsellers, called Breathe Life into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read.
I’m also a student of the history of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I have served as a contributor to the Joseph Smith Papers (Legal Series) and an assistant (part-time) professor at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. I often lecture on aspects of the legal history of the Mormon founding prophet and had an article published in BYU Studies titled “The Boggs Assault and Attempted Extradition, Joseph Smith’s Most Famous Case” that was awarded one of the J. Talmage Jones Article Awards of Excellence by the Mormon History Association. I’m Chair of the Board of Directors of Dialogue Foundation (publishers of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought) and I host the Dialogue Podcasts. I’m a member of the board of the Miller Eccles Study Group, which holds monthly meetings featuring speakers with expertise in various subjects relevant to Mormonism. Dawn and I host the Orange County, California section in our home.
I have written and published a biography of my great-great-grandfather called Tora Thurston: The History of a Norwegian Pioneer. I’ve also edited and published my father’s memoirs titled Long Trail Winding: The Personal History of Morris Alma Thurston. I currently have several family history projects I’m working on, including biographies of a paternal great-great-grandfather, Edson Barney, and a maternal great-grandfather, William Griffiths Reese. I wish I had more time to spend on these.
My formal education consists of a bachelor of arts degree from Brigham Young University (Political Science) and a juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School. I practiced law for 37 years with the global law firm of Latham & Watkins, where I was a partner specializing in copyright and trademark litigation until I retired several years ago.
During 2008 I received a certain degree of notoriety during the California campaign for the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned gay marriages. I wrote a commentary on a campaign document called “Six Consequences if Prop 8 Fails” that was being distributed by the proponents of Prop 8, in which I pointed out that the document contained many untrue or misleading statements. My analysis was later corroborated by the Los Angeles Times board of editors and a group of distinguished California constitutional law professors, though I received quite a bit of flack from some members of my own church (and support from others).
I was also quoted several times in the Salt Lake Tribune (here is one of the articles) and later in a retrospective on the Prop 8 campaign in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought called “Six Voices on Proposition 8: A Roundtable.” In 2009 I was invited to speak in a symposium at Utah Valley College on “Mormonism in the Public Mind” that included a number of other prominent LDS scholars and writers. Here is a link to a video of that presentation. In 2010 I participated on a panel at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on the subject, “Is Marriage a Right.” (I have included a transcript of my remarks in a blog entry.) While I do not purport to have received revelation for the LDS Church on this subject, of course, I hope that my analysis will be useful to the church and others as we grapple with how to deal with the issue of homosexuality and how to incorporate our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into our faith community. Whether you agree with my view or not, it is worth discussing honestly and openly. I am pleased, by the way, that in recent years the leaders of the Church seem to have softened their stance on homosexuality a bit (acknowledging that gays and lesbians generally do not “choose” their sexual orientation and that it is not an “illness” subject to being cured). A new website called MormonsAndGays.org is a promising first step and was the subject of one of my Dialogue podcasts.
In my free time I enjoy to playing basketball (and watching Lakers’ and Clippers’ games), photography, travel, and doing things with our family—four children and five grandchildren.