Ravi Zacharias discusses the Bible, his life, families and religious freedom

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 8:40 a.m. MST

DN: You have titled your remarks at the Tabernacle, "Lessons from history and building a nation under God." What makes this topic so relevant and timely right now?

RZ: The problems we face are not new. What has happened in North America with the strident secularization that has taken place has been a loss of absolutes, a loss of moral underpinning. Relativism is just another word for autonomy. It sounds very good, but it is just, "I am my own lawgiver and lawmaker." You cannot but end up on a collision course with that. Just as tolerance sounds like a good word, but what it really means is I want you to be tolerant of my belief, I'm going to be intolerant of yours if you disagree with me.

When Manasseh, the Old Testament king, severed the knowledge of God from the people, it ended up with sacrificing his own children at the altar. How instructive that is for today. The biggest price we pay in any civilization is what we do with our children. That's what has happened in our time.

How did Josiah come and turn that cultural trend around? He turned it around by setting the house of God in order. That's where we begin. Rather than continuing to throw stones upon fingers, we set the house of God in order.

DN: How would you define religious freedom and why is it important today?

RZ: Religious freedom is the allowance in academic settings and the marketplace to not have a privatized faith but a faith you can present with impunity. Not enforcement, but with impunity, that you can discuss it. What has happened in the academic arena, in a total disingenuousness and a total hypocrisy toward the nature of truth, we have evicted the very worldview that made a nation like this possible. What brought this nation into being is the freedom to believe and to disbelieve, but living under the illusion of neutrality now, we have blocked discussion in the academy and mocked it. … The public setting and the academic settings should allow for a free exchange of ideas with the knowledge that truth will win out in the end.

DN: What message would you give to parents and families about the importance of rich moral soil?

RZ: What we need to understand more than anything else is if our children and young people don't hear our voice, they will hear someone else's. The multiple highways into a person's heart and soul today are almost too numerous to counter because they invade the imagination and violate reason at ages in which our young people are most vulnerable. The younger they are, the more wrong-headed they become, the salvage operation is more difficult. Don't wait until they are reaching 16 or 17, but start off young in teaching them how to think things through — critical thinking — that's the best gift we can give them. I don't mean thinking that criticizes, but thinking that learns how to evaluate truth.

The means of electronic communication today are reaping a huge harvest on their way of thinking. We need to be alert to all of this.

DN: What do you do to relax?

RZ: In my teens and 20s, I was an avid tennis player. Before I came to Canada, I was an avid cricket player. I used to love getting up in the morning to play racquetball. I was very athletic. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had major back problems. I've had two major back surgeries … and that changed my life. To be honest with you, what I love to do most is be with my family and go out for a nice dinner, or put up my feet at home and see our children and now our three grandchildren having a wonderful opportunity in life to live and enjoy. That is the most therapeutic for me.

If you go ...

What: Ravi Zacharias at the Tabernacle

When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Tabernacle on Temple Square

Web: www.lds.org/church/events/temple-square-events

Tickets: The event is sold out; standby seating may be available on a first-come, first-served basis; the standby line is formed at the flagpole on Temple Square

Notes: Event is for those 16 and older

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