In 1973, Bob Woodward was a young reporter for the Washington Post when he won a Pulitzer Prize for his pursuit of the Watergate scandal. His influence on the events that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation, the first-ever resignation from a U.S. president, is undeniable. Since Watergate, he has written many books, been portrayed in a Hollywood movie by Robert Redford, and appeared on countless network news programs, but on Monday, he sat down with Elder D. Todd Christofferson. During Watergate, Elder Christofferson was a young law clerk for Judge John J. Sirica and was among the first to listen to President Nixon’s White House tapes. Together, Woodward and Elder Christofferson relived their experiences surrounding Watergate, discussing specifically why integrity and trust matters in government today.
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From presenting at Oxford to posting on social media, Elder Christofferson has often shared how his experience with Watergate taught him life-long lessons.
During his final year at law school at Duke University, David Todd Christofferson applied for a prestigious clerkship with Judge John J. Sirica. Despite there being over 200 other applicants, Christofferson got the job. Little did he know that his new position would plunge him into the depths of one of the biggest political scandals in American history.
Just two weeks after Christofferson started his post as Sirica's law clerk, the men involved in both break-ins at the Watergate Hotel—the site of Democratic National Party Headquarters—were indicted in Sirica’s court on charges of burglary. Christofferson was with Sirica that March when the first man involved in the scandal finally broke the silence and later when Sirica reviewed the infamous Nixon tapes.
In 2015, Elder Christofferson published "Some Lessons from Watergate" that describe the important and spiritual lessons he learned during this tumultuous time:
"[T]he religious voice remains a critical part of the on-going dialogue that establishes society’s foundational values and obligations. . . . Secular and religious citizens of goodwill must work together to affirm the highest and best principles in their respective worldviews—virtues such as honesty, civility, generosity, respecting the law, and doing to others as you would have them do to you. . . . "You and I know that the purpose of life is not to 'while away' our lives in pursuit of pleasure before we chemically expire. We are God’s great work and glory, and so He has much higher plans for our lives if we are willing."
After speaking at Oxford on the topic in 2016, Elder Christofferson later wrote on Facebook:
"The life lesson I took away from this experience [Watergate] was that my hope for avoiding the possibility of a similar catastrophe in my own life lay in never making an exception—always and invariably submitting to the dictates of an ethical conscience. Putting one’s integrity on hold, even for seemingly small acts in seemingly small matters, places one in danger of losing the benefit and protection of conscience altogether. A weak conscience, and certainly a numbed conscience, opens the door for “Watergates,” be they large or small, collective or personal—disasters that can hurt and destroy both the guilty and the innocent."