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Evangelist Franklin Graham urges Christians to pray for U.S. and vote

SALT LAKE CITY — The United States is in trouble spiritually, racially, economically and politically, evangelist Franklin Graham told a crowd of about 1,500 people Tuesday at the Utah Capitol.

"No party is going to be able to turn this system around. I have no hope in the Democratic Party, OK. I have no hope in the Republican Party or any other party for that matter. My hope is in almighty God," the Rev. Graham said during the Utah stop of the nationwide Decision America Tour, backed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

"People have asked me, 'Franklin, are you running for office?' And I've said, 'No, but I am here to run a campaign for God. I want to put God back in the discussion, God back into politics.'"

The Rev. Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, challenged attendees, many of whom waved American flags, to pray for the nation and its leaders, promote Christian principles in the public square and at the ballot box.

He led the crowd in prayer for the nation and to confess to God their sins and the sins of the nation and ask for God's guidance.

Although Tuesday's weather was blustery, the Rev. Graham received a warm welcome from Christians from across the state.

Tami Bridge said she took part in the rally "for one, to give God the glory; two, to join in with my fellow Utahns in praying for our nation and our state, and to see Franklin Graham, quite frankly."

Bridge said she became a Christian at a Billy Graham Crusade as a young girl so the opportunity to see Franklin Graham "was really special."

The Rev. Graham told the crowd that his father, the Rev. Billy Graham, is 97 years old and doing well, although he misses his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007.

Utahn Dolly Goldberg said the Rev. Graham's message resonated with her, too.

"The thing is, this country is going down. And we need God's intervention, that's for sure," Goldberg said. "This nation needs God. We need to go back to God. Political correctness is just killing us, destroying our nation."

The Rev. Graham also encouraged Christians to seek elected office, particularly at the local level. People with Christian values and high moral character are needed more than ever in politics to overcome secularism that has seeped into government, schools and municipalities, he said.

"We've got to get involved. If we don't, I think we're going to lose this country. … This coming election, ladies and gentlemen, I believe is going to be the most important election, maybe, in the history of our nation because our nation is changing so quickly. We're becoming so secular, so wicked, so anti-God. If we don't get involved in the process, we're going to lose," he said.

Pastor Rudy Rodriguez, of the nondenominational Christian church Calvary City on a Hill in Provo, said he took part in the prayer rally because of his deep concerns about the nation.

"Apart from God, I don't think we have any hope," he said.

It was very important "to call us all to come into prayer and repent of our sins and pray for the leadership of this country. I think it's really important because it's so corrupt, even in this place right behind you," Pastor Rodriguez said, pointing to the state Capitol.

"The only thing that's going to fix anything is God. He's our only hope. I'm just praising God we were able to have this here in Salt Lake of all places," he said.

For starters, the Rev. Graham said, evangelical Christians need to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

In the last general election, 20 million to 30 million evangelical Christians stayed home on Election Day, "maybe because Mitt Romney was a Mormon," the Rev. Graham said in a meeting later in the day with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards.

Although he is now politically unaffiliated after leaving the Republican Party late last year, the Rev. Graham said he supported Romney in the last election.

"I think Mitt Romney, by far, was the most qualified candidate running that year. He would have been an excellent president. I may disagree with him on theological issues and we may have disagreement on some other things, but as far as his qualifications, he would have been an excellent president. But there are people out there who don't see it that way," he said.

As Christianity is under attack in the public square in the United States, Christianity and Judaism is disappearing from the Middle East because of persecution of the Muslim majority, the Rev. Graham said, explaining that he has worked in the region for 50 years through the work of Samaritan's Purse, a North Carolina-based nondenominational evangelical Christian international relief organization, which he leads.

"I understand Islam, and I've seen what Islam does to minorities. I've witnessed it firsthand. I've seen this take place time and time again. There used to be large Jewish and Christian communities on the Arabian Peninsula. They're not there anymore. They've all been killed. We're seeing that through the Middle East, the Muslims are slowly killing the Christians," he said.

The goal of Islam, he said, is world domination under Islamic law.

While the Rev. Graham is not endorsing any candidates or legislation on the Decision Tour America, he noted that Republican front-runner Donald Trump had embraced one of his suggestions, "that all immigration — not just Islamic countries — needs to be stopped until we have a proper vetting of people coming into this country."

"I think we need to know who's coming," the Rev. Graham said. "We live in a different world today than we did even 20 years ago, and our immigration policies haven't been changed much in maybe the last 100 years."

Perhaps the discussion would move Washington to "get off its rear end" to reform the nation's immigration system, he said.

"We should certainly should be holding all immigration coming in from the Middle East right now," he said.

The Rev. Graham said he's planning an international conference of Christian leaders worldwide in late October in Moscow on "the persecuted church."

He recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told him that he would support the conference "that he felt it was needed," the Rev. Graham said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com