Edwin B. Firmage

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Courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune

Edwin Brown Firmage was a lawyer, advocate, and pacifist who was influential in his counsel to the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to oppose the MX missile project coming to Utah.

In the late 1970s, when the U.S. and Russia were amassing nuclear arsenals, Congress and the Air Force were pressuring leaders of the Church to endorse deploying the missiles in Utah’s West Desert. Firmage was asked to explain the issue to the Brethren. His son Ed Firmage Jr. recalls, “In one early-morning meeting, President Spencer W. Kimball turned to him and said, ‘Eddy, you have to understand we are all nearly blind. I want you to take as long as you need to tell us what we need to know.’”[1] In 1982, the First Presidency issued a statement that said in part, “Our fathers came to this Western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace to the peoples of the Earth. It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization.”[2] The U.S. later abandoned the project.

Firmage graduated with high honors in political science and history and also received a master’s degree in history from Brigham Young University. He was a National Honors Scholar at the University of Chicago Law School, and served on the editorial board of the Chicago Law Review. He received Doctor of Law, Master of Laws, and Doctor of Jurisprudence degrees from Chicago. While in law school, he participated in the civil rights movement.

After obtaining his degrees, Firmage taught for a year at the University of Missouri Law School then was a White House Fellow on the staff of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, with responsibility for civil rights. He also served as United Nations Visiting Scholar and attended sessions of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and the arms control negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1970–1971. He was a Fellow in Law and Humanities at the Harvard Law School. He taught constitutional and international law at the University of Utah’s College of Law and received the U. of U.’s Distinguished Teaching Award and BYU’s Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. He was named Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law by the U. in January 1990. He was a Hinckley Fellow at Brigham Young University.

Firmage was born on October 1, 1935, in Provo, Utah. He was very close to his maternal grandfather, Hugh B. Brown, who had served in the First Presidency of the Church.

At one time, Firmage ran for Congress in Utah but lost. He worked for equality rights in numerous ways,

Although he remained a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout his life, as a spiritual seeker, he drew on other faith traditions. He died on October 3, 2020.