At BYU, Baptist says Mormons and evangelicals 'may go to jail together'

10 years later, Ravi Zacharias to speak at Mormon Tabernacle again

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 8:20 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, Feb. 24 2014 12:09 p.m. MST

PROVO, Utah — LDS Church apostles and leaders of other faiths increasingly are cultivating relationships with one another, a process recently accelerated by shared concerns over religious liberty.

Mentioning what he termed his "friendship" with LDS officials, a Baptist leader on Monday gave what once might have been considered a unique speech at BYU, saying that while Mormons and evangelicals are divided theologically, they share "common concerns and urgencies" about "unprecedented and ominous" attacks on religious freedom.

"I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together," said R. Albert Mohler during a speech to nearly 400 students and faculty in an almost-full Varsity Theater in the Wilkinson Student Center.

He later added, "… only those with the deepest beliefs and even the deepest differences can help each other against the encroaching threat to religious liberty, marriage and the family."

The president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said after his speech that "I wasn't exaggerating, I was speaking honestly when I said we may go to jail together. I don't necessarily mean going to prison together, but I think we're going to suffer the coercive power of the secular state together."

He said religious people already have seen rights eroded by legislatures and court rulings about contraception, traditional marriage and family.

Mohler said Mormons and evangelicals "share love for the family, love for marriage, love for the gift of children, love of liberty and love of human society. We do so out of love and respect for each other and out of the gift of a growing and genuine friendship."

"It has been my great privilege to know friendship and share conversation with leaders of the LDS Church, such as Elder Tom Perry, Elder Quentin Cook and Elder Todd Christofferson," he added.

While Mohler's noteworthy speech once might have been considered rare, today it fits within a larger framework of interfaith outreach.

In 2004, evangelical leader Ravi Zacharias, introduced by Richard Mouw of the Fuller Theological Seminary, spoke at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the first time in 105 years that an internationally renowned evangelical leader stood at that pulpit.

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George spoke to 12,000 people at a BYU campus forum about the need for both Catholics and Mormons to stand together to protect the ability of individuals and groups to practice their religion in the public square.

Last month, BYU separately hosted prominent Christian leaders Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, and George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. Both met with LDS Church officials and each spoke as part of the "Faith, Family and Society" lecture series that Mohler joined Monday. Land told the Deseret News: "When it comes to religious freedom, we all hang together or we all hang separately. We are common targets in this." Wood's lecture was attended by another member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

"I believe it's the year of the evangelical at BYU," said Greg Johnson, president of Standing Together, a ministry that seeks unity among Utah's evangelical churches and facilitates evangelical/LDS dialogues. "These three are nationally known, highly regarded opinion makers. What excites us is these lectures arose from institutional invitations. This was done by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the highest levels. As a former Latter-day Saint who had a brother-in-law graduate from BYU, I say these are very much new days and good days."

In January, the Deseret News has confirmed, Zacharias will return to Temple Square to speak from the Tabernacle pulpit again. He also will appear at BYU as part of the same lecture series as Land, Wood and Mohler.

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