Third-degree burns threaten to prematurely end a semester as a visiting scholar at BYU for an Oxford theologian and Anglican priest, but not before he delivers the campus forum address Tuesday at the Provo, Utah, school.
The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal suffered the burns when he walked barefoot onto an Orem patio with heat-reflecting shingles. He was hospitalized for most of a month while doctors conducted multiple skin grafts, first taking skin from a cadaver.
“I walked around in someone else’s soles for a while,” the Rev. Teal said with a smile and good-natured laugh during an interview Monday.
He is spending the fall at BYU at the invitation of his friend, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of BYU’s sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Rev. Dr. Teal will speak at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center. He said he will talk about how the Church of Jesus Christ and its scriptures have blessed his life and how he has committed himself to standing up for the church.
“I’d just like people to come along and to be open minded,” he said, “to listen to this heretic from England offering and asking that we travel together with integrity and with honesty, but most of all with love.”
His burns upended his plans as a visiting scholar at BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. He has been to the institute’s offices just a handful of times.
Doctors now have grafted skin from his own thigh onto his feet, but he said he still walks with pain, his feet wrapped in white bandages and snugly tucked into velcro medical sandals.
The injuries waylaid his expectation that he would write a couple of chapters for a book about the early Latter-day Saints. He said the work is intended to be an outsider’s look at Joseph Smith as an outcast, and then at the outcast’s outcasts — “in other words,” he said, “the people he drew to him and what happened to them after his martyrdom.”
He will return to the book later, he said, but he does not harbor a sense of loss. Instead, the Rev. Dr. Teal said his injuries and time in bed and at the mercy of the care of others transformed the process of his desire to journey alongside the Latter-day Saints.
So, he has focused his time in Utah more on an idea for a center for theology, religion and constitution at Oxford University. He hoped such a center would increase the partnership between BYU and Oxford’s Pembroke College, where he is a chaplain and theologian specializing in early Christian church history.
He said he hoped the center could be a way to address what he said is ongoing intolerance for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among otherwise good people in academia and other churches.
“The academy can be quite negative about the Latter-day Saint community, and what I am absolutely committed to is standing alongside this community, standing to admit out loud that since meeting this community, Elder Holland, the Oxford Ward, the London Mission and also coming here and connecting with the university, my love of and discipleship of the Lord Jesus has rocketed.
“People who know me best know that that’s a serious thing. I’ve been a priest since I was 23; I’m now 57; it’s been a long time, but these last five years, that discipleship has taken on a fruitfulness that’s come through the proximity with the church, without me stopping being an Anglican priest or a chaplain or a theologian, but part and parcel of it. So I need to say that out loud, and I need to say, ‘Therefore I want to stand with this community,’ and actually be a conduit to bring other people from other religious streams, beautiful people from different traditions, so that they, too, can find the power, and the liveliness and kindness and the presence of God in this restored community.”
The forum will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM, and SiriusXM 143.
After the forum, the Rev. Dr. Teal will try to remain in the United States until at least Nov. 11, when he and Elder Holland tentatively are scheduled to speak together for BYU’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, before returning to England for additional care.
“You can make that the headline,” he joked. “‘Let him stay! Don’t extradite Teal!’”