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Mormon-evangelical detente? Mouw, Zacharias to speak to LDS again

SALT LAKE CITY — Last month, two LDS apostles traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the installation of Russell Moore as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

That is one in a long list of examples that signal a detente between Mormons and evangelicals, according to a comprehensive story published by the Religion News Service.

"Leaders of the two faiths appear to have reached a new juncture, with some on both sides seeing benefits in more public engagement," the story said.

Most of the other examples listed are of evangelical leaders speaking at BYU, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as detailed in a recent Deseret News story.

Two more evangelical leaders are scheduled to speak in Utah nearly a decade after they made national interfaith news in 2004 by appearing in the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Richard Mouw, who retired in June as president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., is scheduled to speak to Mormon college students at Utah Valley University on Nov. 15. The event will take place at noon in the north chapel of the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to UVU's campus.

To better prepare UVU students for Mouw's visit, the school offered a new course this fall titled "Interreligious Understanding: Mormon-Evangelical Dialogue," according to a comprehensive story in the school newspaper, the UVU Review.

“It seems pretty messy,” Matt Tait, a junior, said to UVU reporter Nicole Shepherd about the relationship between the faiths. “I’ve never gotten the vibe that evangelicals like Mormons much. And probably vice-versa; there is a lot of distrust there.”

The chill seemed to begin to thaw for some in 2004 when Mouw introduced Ravi Zacharias at the LDS Church's Salt Lake Tabernacle. Mouw spoke for seven minutes and apologized for evangelicals who had "misrepresented the faith and belief of Latter-day Saints."

"Let me state it clearly," Mouw said. "We evangelicals have sinned against you."

Mouw didn't flinch despite criticism of the apology by other evangelicals and published a book last year titled "Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals." He practices “convicted civility,” which he says is different from what he calls the “ ‘anything-goes’ compromised relativism so popular in American religion.”

Zacharias followed Mouw to the Tabernacle pulpit and delivered the first lecture by an internationally renowned evangelical leader in the Tabernacle in 105 years.

The Deseret News first reported earlier this month that Zacharias is scheduled to return to the Tabernacle in January at the LDS Church's invitation. He also will speak at BYU as part of a "Faith, Family and Society" lecture series that brought both Moore's predecessor, Richard Land, and Assemblies of God general superintendent George Wood to BYU in September and included an October address by Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Please see the Deseret News Q&As with Land, Wood and Mohler.)

Mohler is scheduled to return to BYU to speak at a nationally televised campus forum in February.

What is motivating the dialogue?

Mormons and evangelicals agree on issues like religious liberty, humanitarian aid and the importance of families.

Talking to Religion News Service writer Adelle M. Banks, the LDS Church's director of interfaith relations, John Taylor, said, “There’s a realization among faith groups generally that despite doctrinal differences — and we have doctrinal differences, there’s no question about that — we do have areas of commonality."