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Mohler returns to BYU, says Mormons, evangelicals 'may go to jail together' sooner than he thought

Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Courtesy Albert Mohler

PROVO — Four months ago, Albert Mohler spoke at BYU and said Mormons and evangelicals "may go to jail together" defending religious liberty.

The president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler returned to the flagship Mormon university on Tuesday to deliver a nationally televised speech and said, "We may go to jail sooner even than we thought" in what he called "the age of the advanced meltdown" of traditional values.

Mohler spoke energetically at a much-anticipated campus forum assembly that drew 2,731 students, faculty and staff to the Marriott Center. He expressed alarm at the speed of developments since his first visit to BYU in October.

Mohler specifically mentioned separate federal court rulings striking down Utah laws against same-sex marriage and polygamy, as well as a summons issued by a magistrate in a secular court in London seeking the appearance of President Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"This is why our conversation is really important and why we need to stand together on so many urgent concerns," Mohler said. "Most importantly, we are now called to defend religious liberty for each other, so that when they come for you, we are there, and so that when they come for us, you are there. We are learning anew what the affirmation of religious liberty will demand of us in this dangerous age."

Mohler again mentioned friendships he has developed with LDS apostles. In his two BYU speeches, he now has mentioned Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

"I am glad to know these men as friends," Mohler said Tuesday. "We face many challenges, and we face many of those challenges together."

Mohler structured his speech around challenges to human dignity, human rights and human flourishing.

"I come (to BYU) in what can only be described as a dangerous moment for us all and for the culture and civilization we commonly love," he said. "The most fundamental values of civilization itself are threatened, and we are witnesses to one of the most comprehensive and fast-paced moral revolutions ever experienced by humanity. The velocity and breadth of this revolution are breathtaking, and the consequences are yet incalculable. This society is dismantling the very structures that have allowed for the enjoyment and preservation of human liberty and respect for life. We are engaged in a headlong effort to replace the convictions that gave birth to democracy and ordered liberty with a new set of convictions that will lead to the emergence of a very different culture, society and civilization. We cannot pretend that this is not happening. We cannot delude ourselves into believing that it will not matter."

Mohler said the meltdown of values is explained by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's statement that “Men have forgotten God.” He argued that unless human dignity is rooted in a belief that mankind is created in God's image, it cannot survive as a concept.

Similarly, he said, "The affirmation of human rights is claimed to be the great moral achievement of the modern age. But this affirmation was based in the belief that those rights belong to every human being by virtue of divine creation. How can those rights survive when the foundation is destroyed?"

"There is no secular ground," he added, "that can support and defend human rights."

Finally, Mohler addressed human flourishing, which he described as human development, liberty, enterprise, happiness and fulfillment. The key to human flourishing, he said, is family and marriage, which he defined as "the lasting, monogamous union of a man and a woman."

"Every other structure, from government to schools to corporations to volunteer organizations, stands upon the foundation of marriage and the family, and no structure can fully replace what is absent if the family fails or if marriage is not fully respected," he said.

Mohler said people of all faiths must act.

"The task of those now living is to defend these truths in a time of danger — and defend them we must and we will. But we are not called merely to defend them, but to fulfill them and to receive them and to find our joy in them. This means that our task is not only to defend marriage, but to live that commitment before the watching world. Our task is not only to point to the dignity due every member of the human family at every stage of development, but to defend the defenseless and to work for the affirmation of this dignity in everyone — from the elderly to the infirm to the child with Down syndrome. We are not only called to defend human rights but to contend for them, and to insist that these rights are non-negotiable only because our creator endowed us with these rights, and allows no negotiation."

As he did in October, Mohler clearly and vigorously expressed the doctrinal differences between evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. He ended with a lengthy witness or testimony of his beliefs.

Despite doing the same in October, Mohler has drawn criticism from some evangelicals who say engaging with Mormons at all is "crossing Biblical lines" or is "Al Mohler madness."

However, Mohler is one of five major evangelical and Christian leaders who have visited BYU and LDS Church leaders and spoken in Utah in the past five months. Each called for the need to work together, a call reciprocated by LDS leaders.

In September, Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, and George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, spoke at BYU as part of the "Faith, Family and Society" lecture series that Mohler joined in October.

Land told the Deseret News, "I think that evangelicals have got to accept the fact that the LDS Church is a tremendous ally ... When it comes to religious freedom, we all hang together or we all hang separately."

In November, Richard J. Mouw, president emeritus of the Fuller Theological Seminary, spoke at the LDS Institute of Religion at Utah Valley University and said, "We need to figure out how we can work together in the battle to maintain our religious rights."

In January, Ravi Zacharias, leader of an international evangelical ministry, spoke at the Mormon Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City and at BYU.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, another LDS apostle, said at the event that "there are doctrinal differences," but "We are witnessing a diminution of religious expression that is unprecedented in Western culture and certainly in American culture. ... The very least we can do is know and understand each other better than we do."

Mohler's speech was titled "Strengthen the Things that Remain: Human Dignity, Human Rights and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age." The full texts of both of his BYU speeches are posted on his website,